The story below is from our May/June 2015 issue. For the full story download our FREE iOS app or view our digital edition for FREE today!
Department of Tough Job/Somebody’s Gotta: dining your way across all of the national flavors at the valley’s most eclectic Asian restaurant.
Most evenings when I go out to dinner, I crave something specific – fried chicken from Lucky, a Pop’s grilled cheese, a gyro from Zorba’s (which is in Bobbi-Jo’s on Lynchburg Turnpike in Salem, in case you were unaware). These cravings all have one thing in common: a restaurant that excels in promoting its specific, geographically-centric or genre-tight cuisine.
One restaurant that turns this type of craving and exceptionalism on its head is Café Asia in Bonsack and its daughter-restaurant, Café Asia 2 on Electric Road in South Roanoke.
Specializing in neither Chinese nor Thai, Korean nor Japanese cuisine, Café Asia, opened in 2008 by Feng Chen, proves that offering a little of almost every kind of American-recognized Asian cuisine results in a winning formula. The success of the Bonsack restaurant led to a second location on Electric Road in Roanoke, Café Asia 2, which opened in September 2013 in The Shops at West Village. It’s consistently packed with a queue at the door waiting for a table or a spot at the small sushi bar.
On a recent rainy Friday evening visit, I decided go wild and order a dish representative of almost every country’s cuisine that I could find on the menu. Although there were a few repeats if drinks are factored in – cold house Sake for me (Japanese) and a can of Sapporo (also Japanese) – my date and I attempted to eat our way across Asia, starting in Japan and ending in Thailand.
To start, we ordered a simple, classic Spicy Tuna Roll from the sushi bar. Though not nearly as extravagant as the special rolls Café Asia is known for, what we were served was delicious, if not flashy like the specialty maki, and obviously fresh and prepared with care – exactly what I want from a piece of sushi.