Asian Kitchen – Arlington

25 10 2010

“Sushi /n./ Known to the rest of the world as ‘Bait’.” – Author Unknown

 

The Bar

 

I eat most of my sushi at a buffet. There I said it. Sushi like many things highly enjoyed by white people is fairly expensive and to be honest I don’t really have sushi money, well at least not enough money to get full off sushi. That’s where the buffet comes in, sure you’re sacrificing quality for quantity but it’s a mini-event going to the sushi buffet. But the past couple times I’ve gone to Matsutake in Ballston their sushi offerings have been moving away from my tastes. Driving around one Saturday we were unable to think of a place to eat until my friend suggested this place. I was incredibly hesitant and for good reason, Asian Kitchen is the latest tenant in the cursed location that used to be Charley Horse Grill, Cafe Milan, some vegetarian Indian place, a few other restaurants but most importantly a Pizza Hut.

The exterior is fairly generic (there’s not much that can be done with the location) but the paint is fresh and the sign is new so that’s good. The interior is very similar to the outside in that its very simplistic but it creates this rather nice peaceful ambiance. This place is the opposite of the P.F. Chang’s with it’s modern design and flashy colors and trust me, that’s a good thing. Having gone to lunch at 2:30 on a Saturday the place was fairly deserted, therefore our service and food was very prompt with no delays in the dining process. I’d also like to take time to thank the staff for providing us just the proper amount of service, everything was quick, my water glass was never empty, and yet the same time they left us alone and didn’t hover over us like some waiting staffs do at other establishments that are empty.

 

Dude, where's my tortilla?

 

We ordered the calamari ($6.50) as an appetizer. It was a fairly solid dish, reminded me of what calamari fajitas would contain. The onions and peppers were cooked very well so they still had some snap to them, which I quite enjoyed. The calamari was also cooked quite well so it wasn’t overly chewy or rubbery. The chilis in it provided a nice light head to both the calamari and the vegetables. I’m not a huge fan of appetizers, but if you are a fan of overpriced mini-portions than this one should be up your alley.

 

The Spread

 

I went with their Grand Opening lunch special (which lasts until 4:00 PM unlike some places where lunch ends at 2:30). I got 3 rolls of sushi and miso soup or a salad for $12. I opted for the soup and selected the spicy tuna roll, shrimp and mango roll, and a salmon and cucumber roll to round off my trio. The miso soup was pretty good, although my bowl seemed to lack the vegetables in it that my dining companion’s bowl had. Not a huge complaint, but still. I’ve had a fairly wide range of miso soups in terms of quality, from expensive Japanese steakhouses to my room mate attempting to make it. The miso at Asian Kitchen was definitely in the middle towards the upper end. The broth was just fantastic and incredibly soothing as it warmed my insides. If I have a cold, this is what I want, not chicken noodle.

The sushi at Asian Kitchen definitely made me realize how inferior the quality of buffet sushi is, I guess ignorance is bliss. The sushi at the buffet is rolled very tightly and is prepared in large batches to put forth before hungry lunchtime diners in Ballston. This sushi was much fresher, rolled a bit less tight, and much more flavorful. I quickly developed a good system for eating my rolls: Spicy Tuna, Shrimp Mango, Salmon Cucumber. Spicy, sweet, cool was the rotation on deck for today. The fish/seafood for all three rolls was fresh and delicious. The spicy tuna roll provided this fantastic blast of heat as the fish almost dissolved in your mouth. The sweetness of the mango was this refreshing blast of flavor that worked great to contrast the blazing heat of the previous roll. The salmon cucumber was perhaps the freshest of them all. That’s why I chose to use the coolness of the cucumber to act as a palette cleanser before the next round of pieces.

I was wrong to judge the Asian Kitchen due to its location and it’s previous inhabitants. The staff is really nice, the food is good, the prices are decent, it’s just an overall very pleasant experience. I highly suggest their lunch specials, even their Chinese Food is a good deal. I just don’t see any need to go to Sushi Zen down the road, when Asian Kitchen does it quite well for much less.

5731 Lee Highway Arlington, Virginia 22207 (Google Maps still has it listed as the Charley Horse Grill – so no link)

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