Dining Spotlight: New Asia

Serving up 'authentic' is restaurant's story

New Asia Restaurant chef Yong Hu prepares braised whole cod fish with meat.

Photos by Dave Darnell/The Commercial Appeal

New Asia Restaurant chef Yong Hu prepares braised whole cod fish with meat.

We were enjoying our dinner at New Asia in Germantown and simultaneously getting free entertainment from the little girl sitting behind me. Her story was a modified version of the tortoise and the hare, peppered with insights and wisdom from Aesop.

The beaver told the turtle to move out of the pond and the turtle suggested that the pond was big enough for both of them, and, by the way -- welcome, neighbor.

Shrimp with spicy salt at New Asia.

Shrimp with spicy salt at New Asia.

New Asia Restaurant chef Yong Hu prepares braised whole cod fish with meat.

Photos by Dave Darnell/The Commercial Appeal

New Asia Restaurant chef Yong Hu prepares braised whole cod fish with meat.

Shrimp with walnuts from the New Asia menu.

Shrimp with walnuts from the New Asia menu.

The New Asia Restaurant on Exeter in Germantown draws a loyal following for its 'authentic' fare, and the best way to sample it is with the authentic Chinese menu.

The New Asia Restaurant on Exeter in Germantown draws a loyal following for its "authentic" fare, and the best way to sample it is with the authentic Chinese menu.

Tue, 7 Oct 08 (ddasia1)  Photo by Dave Darnell.  New Asia Restaurant, located at 2075 Exeter, Suite 90, is the subject of a restaurant review.

Tue, 7 Oct 08 (ddasia1) Photo by Dave Darnell. New Asia Restaurant, located at 2075 Exeter, Suite 90, is the subject of a restaurant review.

"What??? I'm not going to live with your kind! Live with a turtle!" the beaver (oh, maybe it was a badger) said.

Two things struck me. The first is that I felt for the poor turtle, feeling a little profiled myself because I had had to specially request the Chinese menu instead of the American-Chinese menu both times

I went to New Asia.

The second was that there was no duck in the girl's pond, and I knew why: Mr. Duck B. Delicious was on my table.

But first to the menu issue. I'd heard good things about New Asia from several people and all used the word "authentic." We decided to swing by one Sunday for lunch and found ourselves looking at a menu that looked the same as most other Chinese restaurants. We ordered, ate, pronounced it good enough but nothing exceptional, and left.

Still, people kept telling me about it, and I finally realized there are two menus. Back we went. Again, we weren't given a Chinese menu, so I asked for one. Then, as they say, I saw the light. Instead of generic Kung Pao and General Tsao, I was presented with a multipage menu of hot braised this, fragrant that, and both Peking and Cantonese duck.

Know the difference? Peking duck is the "production" duck. It comes to the table in segments with the skin, fat and some of the bone removed. The fat is discarded and the skin, crisp and delicate from having hot air forced beneath it during cooking, is served alongside soft buns, slivered green onions and, at New Asia, a plum sauce. You assemble your own little sandwiches.

Cantonese duck is your basic roast duck, served cut but with the skin and layer of fat intact.

Both are superb at New Asia: Deep, earthy, a little musty. The Cantonese duck is served on a bed of fresh and crunchy pickled cucumbers, cabbage and carrots. It's addictive, and I found myself poking around under the duck for more pickle.

The fragrant eggplant is a standout dish, as are the hot braised sole in a chili sauce and the deep fried sole in spicy salt (the pork in spicy salt is also excellent).

The eggplant dish is tender, slender, just barely purple squash cut lengthwise and sauteed until tender in what is probably a simple sauce but tastes as if it were composed of a thousand spices.

The hot braised sole was something of a surprise. We ordered from the Chinese menu, but the fish was covered in a neon red sweet and spicy sauce. I won't vouch for authenticity, but I didn't care. The fish was delicate in texture and taste, fried(not braised) in a light batter. While the sauce was sweet, it had enough of a bite to compensate.

The deep fried sole in spicy salt appeared to be the same delicate chunks of fish, but served clean of sauce and on top of deep fried fins. You can leave them on the plate if you want, but at least try a nibble. They're a bit tougher than catfish tails, but along the same line.

Numerous noodle soups are available, and fresh lobsters and Dungeness crabs are in a tank, ready for the picking. No turtles, though; they're busy teaching a lesson to the snooty beaver.

New Asia

Address: 2075 Exeter, suite 90; Germantown

Telephone: (901) 751-8889

Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Price: $$

No smoking.

Handicapped access: Yes

Alcoholic beverages: Limited wine and beer

Don't miss: The Cantonese or Peking duck; the fragrant eggplant.

What's hot: The menu items with a pepper next to them...

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Comments » 1

Joshua2 writes:

Thank you for this review. I've read other individual's blog postings about them and have wanted to try them for some time.

However, I've just recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, meaning I have zero tolerance for gluten from wheat, rye or barley. I'm researching feverishly and it's astounding how few prepared or restaurant foods I am able to eat.

On reading your review of New Asia I gave them a call to ask if they knew if any of their menu items were or could be prepared gluten free. They didn't know what I was talking about. I tried another restaurant you had reviewed and which I hoped to try before I found out about my condition, Thai Bistro. The young lady who took my call asked the chef and he told her that he could prepare almost any of their items so that it should be safely gluten free. I'll go by and try them next time I go out to eat!

I have found out, for example, that real Thai soy sauce is gluten free, where all others are not, but that most "Thai" restaurants don't bother and use what's most readily available. All Asian MSG is forbidden, as well,and only select American MSG is to be trusted. Finding a restaurant that really understands is incredibly valuable.

Near Thai Bistro is Bonefish and, according to their web site, they have an extensive list of items on their menu that are gluten free (though they are a bit pricey for me). Olive Garden maintains a few items (currently 3 entrees) that they have had dietitians certify as gluten free. Yesterday, when a group of us went out for lunch from my office, I had their Salmon and herbed broccoli and it was excellent.

Gluten intolerance is not the only dietary restriction out there, though it's the only one I know I have to worry about. It would be extremely helpful if you would add a standard question about food allergies (or other restrictions, such as being Kosher or Halal) to your restaurant visits. It would be a great service. In the meantime I'm personally collecting what I can find about safe restaurant dining in Memphis and will start posting it on my personal blog. If I gather a sufficient amount (and actually get around to posting it) of useful info I may ping you with the web address FYI.

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