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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Happy Hour at Thom Pham's Wondrous Asian Kitchen

Oxtail Steamed Buns
Shrimp and Chicken Spring Rolls
 Ever since Thom Pham opened up his new mega-Asian restaurant, Wondrous Asian Kitchen on Hennepin Ave in downtown Minneapolis, I have been curious to check it out. Thom Pham, a well know restauranteur in the Twin Cities closed down his popular restaurant Azia and the combined Caterpillar Lounge on Eat Street recently and opened up a much bigger operation on the infamous Hennepin and 5th corner (no restaurant has lasted in this location more than a few years!). Upon entering my eye caught huge poster sized photographs of dragons on one side of the bar wall. The decor I read, was inspired by American influenced Asian stylistic themes. The bar chairs are all upholstered with glitter sprayed red, shiny vinyl and the ceiling-high bar has been detailed with a mirrored backsplash. Maybe it was the light in the spacious room, but the decor was a bit tacky in my opinion. The restaurant felt a little too Uptown Cafeteria ish versus an upscale Asian fusion restaurant reflected in the menu (and the prices!). Our server came around and swiftly dropped off the menus and politely greeted us. The happy hour menu is almost the exact replica of the happy hour menu at the old Azia with the addition of steamed buns. I have had many of the same appetizers at Azia, but I decided to try them anyway to size up the new digs. Adam (my fiance) and I ordered up two Singapore Slings which is a gin cocktail with white cranberry, lime, cherry juice and fresh pineapple juice. Our server brought up the cocktails quickly (and refilled our water a dozen times) and took our food order. The cocktails were quite delicious and refreshing for a thrifty 6 shmackers during happy your. For apps, we decided on the philly roll, oxtail steamed buns, oyster wings and shrimp and chicken spring rolls. First arriving were the philly roll and spring rolls. The philly roll was made with smoked salmon instead of raw sushi grade salmon, but worked nicely with the cream cheese. The spring rolls came with a wonderfully nutty and sweet peanut sauce I could have eaten alone. The rolls on the other hand could have used more fresh herbs such as basil and mint and decreased the quantity of rice noodles which took up 90% of the roll. Next arrived the wings and steamed buns. The buns, a play on the American slider were great, tasting almost like a BBQ sloppy joe. The wings available with the option of sesame, oyster, teriyaki and curry and are fabulous! I have gone to Azia in the past just for the wings and I am not traditionally a wing girl. The wings I imagine are deep fried slathered in sweet, sticky sauce to die for. Eating more than a few may land you a heart attack but man are they worth it! Overall, I would come back for a Singapore Sling and wings but probably not for dinner. Let it be known that I am rooting for them and hope that their infamously jinxed location will serve Pham well.  
A Nice Touch for the Sticky Wings!
Philly Roll
Oyster Wings

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