414 University Avenue, Hillcrest
Though I appreciate many of this town’s 24-hour taco shops, it’s nice to have options for when David and I — hungry after a long event — are looking for late-night dining. Plenty of events provide food, but I tend to miss the offerings — either I’m too busy talking, or I don’t want to deal with juggling a drink in one hand and a napkin or plate in the other.
Having an agreed upon go-to place in advance allows us to skip that tedious and time-consuming back-and-forth: Where do you wanna go? I don’t know, where do you wanna go? If it’s after 11 p.m., our latest go-to for a late dinner is The Asian Bistro. Despite the hour, the kitchen doesn’t slack when it comes to generating fresh Thai dishes. The official “late-night” menu, which has plenty to choose from, doesn’t begin until 1 a.m.
I always order a glass of white wine, the Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc ($8 each), and David tends to go for sake, either Yuki Nigori or Kikusui ($12). We begin with the Yummy Sticks ($7), which are fried veggie egg rolls served with a plum sauce. David, who has a tongue made of asbestos, takes a bite immediately while I chide myself yet again for ordering a lava-hot appetizer that I must wait on to bite. Still, once it cools, I’m glad for the satisfying crunch and flavorful vegetable mixture.
My two favorite items on the menu are the Yellow Curry and the Tangerine Chicken, which is among the chef specials. This is the only place I have ever eaten the curry sauce like a soup, just the spicy, savory sauce itself by the spoonful. It’s a classic style, with giant hunks of potato and carrot, along with onion and my choice of chicken, which is tender and white.
But more often than not, when it’s late at night I go for the Tangerine Chicken ($13). With both dishes, the white rice is served in the shape of a heart and garnished with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds. My favorite thing about the tangerine chicken is how — unlike many similar, orange- or lemon-flavored entrées elsewhere — this one is not overly sweet. There’s a light citrus acidity and a perceptible crunch to the breaded and fried meat that is satisfying.
Of the two of us, David is the most likely to order something different upon a return visit. The Asian Bistro is an exception. Once he tasted the BBQ Chicken, another of the chef’s specials, he was ruined for anything else. He likes everything about this dish, from the sticky rice to the black char on the grilled chicken, which is glazed with the house teriyaki sauce. It’s served with a red pepper sauce into which he dips each forkful.