Setting the Table
The location of the bistro isn’t ideal, smack in the hubbub of U.S. 501, across from Tanger Outlets. But inside, it’s a nice surprise. The modern décor glitters with colorful waterfall features. Shiny tiles and glass line the walls. The lights of the room alternate colors, giving off the soft hues of reds and purples and blues. The bar is separated from the dining room. The backdrop of the bar is lit up and topped off with TVs and Katana swords.
This blazing bistro has only been around for two months. The site has gone through a short list of Asian fare. It was Explore Asian Bistro and Grill for a short time. And before that, Ichiro's Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi had a run at the location.
The trick would seem to be about getting customers through the traffic and into the doors. Because once they sit down in the intimate setting, there’s an immediate sense of warmth.
Down the Hatch
For drinks, my wife went with the martini special and chose a mango martini ($3). My eight-year-old son wanted a good old Shirley Temple, and I ordered a Thai sweet tea ($3) – it’s like a sweet tea milkshake. There’s also a nice selection of signature drinks, $5 Daiquiris, and some cool non-alcoholic options such as bubble tea (iced or hot), which is another type of milky tea that comes in a list of fruity flavors. There’s also a nice selection of beer, wines and sake.
The menu is filled with a beaucoup of choices. There’s an “Asian Cuisine” section, where entrees range from $9 to $23. There’s “Authentic Chinese Cuisine,” ranging from $13 to $21 to market price for the Hong Kong Style Crispy Fish. There’s “Vegetarian,” ranging from $9 to $11. There’s “Hibachi,” ranging from $10 to $25. There’s a “Noodle and Rice” section, where items range from $10 to $12. There’s even a section for the “Green Diet,” which is steamed and prepared without MSG, sugar and starch, from $9 to $18.
There are two separate sections for appetizers as well. Names such as Mango Tuna Wrap ($8) and Flaming Cheese Rice Ball, with Thai sweet chili sauce ($5), and Jalapeno Yellowtail – six pieces of yellowtail topped with jalapeno and wasabi yuzu sauce. To start, we chose the Ban Ban Tuna, seared tuna in a pineapple, teriyaki sauce ($7).
For a meal, we decided to order from the sushi portion of the menu and share. We felt compelled to order the signature Flaming Roll ($11). It’s a shrimp and crab roll wrapped in lettuce with spicy mayo, topped with chopped tuna and a bunch of other great stuff. To keep with my wife’s mango theme, we also ordered a Mango Tango Roll ($10), a roll stuffed with tuna, salmon, crab and cream cheese. Just to round out the platter, we also ordered a Spicy Tuna Roll ($6) and a Yellowtail Roll ($5.25).
Our platter came out full and brimming. All of the rolls were great. The lettuce of the Flaming Roll made it distinct and a bit of an acquired taste. But the Mango Tango Roll and The Ban Ban Tuna were our clear favorites.
Around us, waitresses sailed boats with flashing lights past our table. Come to find out, if you order one of the bigger sushi or sashimi entrees, such as sushi or sashimi for two ($37 and $39), it’s delivered to the table in an ice boat lit with LED lights. It looks like a delicious spectacle.
Regretfully, we were too full for dessert. That didn’t stop our son from getting a whopping bowl of chocolate ice cream. But we declined. Not that we weren’t tempted by the Rose Angel Roll with kiwi, strawberries and pineapple ($8) or the fried cheesecake ($6).
Because we enjoyed the food, the price ($58) and the atmosphere so much, we took note that the lunch menu is just as full as the dinner menu and the prices are a bit cheaper. You can order a choice of two sushi rolls for $7 or three rolls for $10 during lunch. Monday and Wednesday are also half-price sushi and sake nights.
Happy hour runs from 4 to 7 p.m. with $2 house liquor and draft, $3 house wines and $5 Absolut Vodka drinks. There’s a plentiful selection of half-price sushi/sashimi. And there’s a list of discounted appetizers, ranging in price from $3 to $5.