A fusion of flavors
The word “fusion’’ doesn’t quite describe the surprise-filled menu at Blue Asia Cafe. Better put, this new Taiwanese-Japanese-Korean eatery is serving up attitude. “Most of the Taiwanese food is authentic street market food,’’ says Julie Feng, who opened the Allston restaurant with her family in January. “But the rest is what we like, how we like it. It’s not fusion, and it’s not trying to be 100 percent Japanese or Korean. It’s just what we want to eat.’’
It’s what we want to eat, too, whether it’s the inventive “rice roll creations,’’ delicate dumplings, monstrous rice plates, or the fluffy, snow-like shaved ice desserts.
The fun starts with rice rolls, a popular snack in Taiwan. Like Japanese maki rolls, rice rolls wrap seasoned rice and other fillings into savory sheets of nori seaweed. But at Blue Asia, any filling goes — even hot dog. Our favorites are Korean-style rice roll ($6.95), which bulges with sliced sweet grilled beef, fluffy scrambled egg, and spicy pickled cabbage kimchee. Crispy chicken ($5.95) pairs warm fried chicken and meaty shreds of dried pork with cool lettuce, a slather of spicy mayo, and a tuft of eggs.
The decor has the mod, light feel of a space designed by Ikea, but the kitchen’s roots lie in Taiwan, the Fengs’ native country. About half the menu offers Taiwanese street market fare. We try a springy egg pancake dotted with sweet corn ($4.25) and tender, homemade steamed vegetable dumplings ($5.95) with a cilantro-rich dipping sauce. Chilled wakame seaweed tossed with garlic, ginger, and sesame oil is as light as a sea breeze ($3.50).
Heaping rice plates form the heart of the menu. Each includes lu rou fan, an addictive minced pork gravy over rice. Then come two sides, a main dish, and a crowning fried egg. Grilled chicken (pictured, $7.95) is crispy outside, caramelized with sugar and soy sauce at the edges, and flavorful to the bone with hints of Chinese five spice. Fatty, fried red-wine pork belly ($7.95) dusted with star anise is the definition of mouth-watering umami, the rich “fifth taste.’’ Japanese-style apple curry dotted with soft chunks of carrot, potato, and apple is warming over pork tenderloin ($8.50). A teriyaki vegetable plate ($6.95) is too sweet.
The Fengs also like instant, super spicy Korean shin ramen noodles, so they serve them jazzed up with homemade broth, fresh veggies, meat, and a secret creamy ingredient: American cheese ($5.95). It’s a popular item, as are the shaved ice desserts ($4.75), which top a cloud of finely shaved ice with homemade brown-white-and-red sugar syrup, condensed milk, and a choice of sweet toppings. It’s just what we want to eat.
Denise Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org