Somedays the mmm-yoso blog is cooked up by Kirk (our head chef), somedays Cathy serves the daily special, but today ed (from Yuma) is dishing up something different.
Last winter a new restaurant opened in the Big Curve shopping area called Asian Star:
Owned and operated by a group of experienced Mandarin speaking Chinese mostly from the Fujian region of China, this place is pretty stylish for an eatery in Yuma:
The major shortcoming of the restaurant can be seen in the background of this interior shot:
Once a customer is seated in the restaurant, service tends to be friendly and professional – if a bit hurried and harried. Getting seated, on the other hand, is often a serious problem. There appears to be no one in charge of customer management. Sometimes we have had to wait in the vestibule for five or 10 minutes even though plenty of empty tables and seats are clearly visible. The same thing has happened when I have had a reservation. Some friends of mine will not return because they were forced to wait standing up for 20 minutes because one member of their party was delayed. At busy times, the line of waiting customers extends out of the door. In fact, two of the first four times Tina and I tried to go there, we looked at the line and said, "no restaurant in Yuma is worth waiting half an hour."
It reminds me of the famous words of baseball philosopher Yogi Berra: "nobody goes there anymore because it's too crowded."
So why is it so crowded? The rest of this post should begin to answer that question.
First, the restaurant serves many of the usual and standard Chinese/American restaurant dishes at prices a little better than those at Grand China down the street. Most of the lunch specials ($5.95-$6.55) come with a complimentary cup of soup, such as this wonton soup:
Though the broth is very light, the soup as a whole is okay. Similarly, the hot and sour soup is equally adequate:
As are the eggrolls (2 for $2.95):
The filling was good, but the skin seemed too thick.
Several of us enjoyed an order of barbecue pork in honey sauce ($5.95?) without being truly wowed:
Other items can be quite good. Charles, who loves spicy kung pao chicken, ordered his lunch special ($5.95) extra hot and pronounced this version the best he's had in town. Very fiery with tender chunks of chicken:
I am not as impressed with what they call shumai (6 for $3.55), which do not seem homemade:
And while meaty, the pork dumplings (6 for $4.95) were also boring, dense and flavorless:
Once I ordered two of my standard favorite dishes for takeout. Both were ready on time and securely packaged in plastic. The shrimp in lobster sauce ($10.95) was very standard and gloppy:
While certainly not cutting-edge (notice the once frozen peas and carrots), the shrimp were well-prepared, tender and moist:
The double cooked pork ($8.55) was a good version of the dish for my tastes. The pork was tender and was not barbecue pork as in some local restaurants. There was also a greater range of vegetables than this photo would indicate:
Next time, I will probably emphasize spicy when I order, because this dish was only marginally picante.
Chinese dinners I have had at the restaurant have featured an interesting range of dishes, some very tasty and interesting. Listed on the menu, as "Crispy Roast Duck" ($13.95), this duck was not especially crispy, although it had a nice flavor, not too gamey, and moist tender meaty flesh:
On another evening, David wanted to try the M00 shu pork ($8.55), one of his favorites, and we all agreed that the pancakes and the filling were as good as you can get in Yuma:
That same evening, we had a wonderful dish called Eggplant Szechuan style ($13.95):
For someone used to Ba Ren in San Diego, this dish does not seem very authentic. Nonetheless, the combination of perfectly cooked Asian eggplant, abundant tender pork slices, and mildly spicy sauce rang my bell.
We also enjoyed the seafood bean curd pot ($15.95) that evening -- served bubbling hot as you can see:
In fact, the combination seafood dishes here are very good. Even though krab is used, the shrimp, scallops, and squid are of good quality. Here is the combination seafood served on panfried noodles ($15.95):
While I found the texture of the pan-fried noodles to be inconsistent, with some noodles crisp, some soft, and some in between, I was pleased to find a slice of lobster tail as part of the combination of seafoods:
In fact, all the seafood combos at Asian Star include some lobster. While this is not like having real lobster dishes on the menu, it is pretty good for Yuma. And the lobster meat (what there is of it) tastes fresh and sweet.
What is even more surprising to me is that three of the restaurant's "Asian Star Specials" are said to have a "Szechuan Ma-La" sauce. I was truly amazed to read that. Here is one example called "Double Happiness" ($13.95):
The shrimp and scallops were perfectly cooked, still moist and tender. Truth be told, however, there was not a lot of ma-la flavor. Even though the sauce was different than another spicy dish we ordered that evening, with more of a front-of-the-mouth heat, no discernible numby tingly feelings touched my lips or tongue. Still, the restaurant deserves some credit for listing ma-la on the menu, even if they use very little Szechuan peppercorn in the dish itself.
Since I have begun eating at Asian Star, I have dined there by myself, with Tina, and with other friends as well. One great thing about sharing dinners with other people is that I get exposed to dishes that I would not have ordered on my own. For example, Tina and I went to Asian star with Penny and Earl recently, and one of them really wanted to try Fruit Shrimp ($12.95). I must confess I had visions of some poor shrimps drowned in a sickly sweet sauce with a consistency somewhere between paste and glue.
Each of the shrimp was perfectly fried, and their crunchy crusts crackled when you bit into them. The sauce was not sickly sweet at all, but nicely balanced with some (citrusy?) tang. While the cherries, pineapple chunks, canned lychees (?), and coconut were not especially memorable, they certainly did not detract from the dish.
That evening the four of us had a very good time. Instead of beer or a cocktail, we ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio and another bottle of Riesling (Glen Ellen from California, each $18). Not distinguished swill, but certainly fine with the food.
If memory serves, the flavors were vanilla, green tea, mango, and strawberry. As well as being a pleasant conclusion to the meal, it was a reminder that the service at Asian Star – once one gets seated at a table – is actually very professional and friendly.
This post only presents about half of the reasons why this new restaurant is so busy. In the future, another post will focus on the other cuisines served at the restaurant – Thai, Japanese, and even one dish prepared "Korean style." So be sure to stay tuned to this spot on the Internet. Don't move that mouse!
Asian Star, 276 W 32nd St, Ste 1, Yuma AZ 85364, (928) 317-9888, open daily 11 AM-9:30 PM.