Not long ago, venues featured Chinese cuisine only. Eventually, Japanese restaurants began to flourish, then Thai restaurants were added to the scene.
Because of similarities among many of the dishes, combining the three ethnic cuisines under one roof became popular. Some creative chefs even melded the Asian ingredients and renamed the collective result “Asian fusion.” Because this approach has become common, the “fusion” has been dropped, and generally “Asian” alone is used — as in Yang’s Asian Bistro.
Ting-Ting (aka “Angel”) showed us to our booth, which was hung with a curtain of Swarovski crystal balls. With a grateful sigh we snuggled in for a warm winter’s dinner.
The restaurant was elegant but not overly embellished. Eighteen tables and booths were well-spaced under glowing Japanese lanterns. Sake bottles displayed in wooden cubbyholes lined one wall. A small beverage and sushi bar occupied the rear. In the dim light, the walls appeared to be a soft aqua. An impressive floral arrangement in a large maroon urn at the center of the room evoked the calm and precise presentation associated with oriental dining.
While the menu was extensive, I found little listed that was unusual with the exception of the rolls, which had exotic names and ingredients, and took up nearly half the menu. For example, some of the more imaginative rolls were named Sweet Heart, Candy Cane, Angel Hair and Two Thumb. One of my favorites, Alligator Roll ($13.25), was “generously covered with smoked eel and eel sauce,” but contained no alligator. Many of the Chef’s Special Rolls contained a favorite ingredient of mine, avocado, in various combinations and permutations.
When it came down to ordering, we each opted for an appetizer and an entrée. Happy Guest ordered Thai Crab Cakes ($9.25, crab salad wrapped in tofu skins, deep-fried and served with Thai sweet chili sauce). Eight separate “cakes,” each topped with a small pineapple chunk, were topped with neon red-orange sauce. The dish itself was garnished with curly endive and slivers of carrot curls. Although he envisioned New England-style patties, Guest noted the crunchy fried tofu skins were a nice foil for the mild-flavored shredded crab, and was pleased with the appetizer.
His entrée, Pineapple Shrimp ($17.50), was ordered from the “Special Entrees from Yang’s Kitchen” section of the menu. Described as “fried jumbo shrimp mixed with our chef’s sweet mayonnaise sauces and fresh pineapple,” crunchy bright green broccoli complemented the otherwise neutral-colored dish. The bright flavor of pineapple complemented the sweet mayo, but did not diminish the crispy coating of the shrimp.
I ordered one of my all-time favorites, Chicken Lettuce Wrap ($9.55). One of the reasons I love this dish is that I get to “play” with my food by making my own rolls. It’s fun, and the construction forces me to slow down my eating. I’ve enjoyed many variations of this dish. Yang’s featured sautéed diced chicken with pineapple, bell peppers, Thai basil and red onions. Large leaves of iceberg lettuce were neatly trimmed into near circles so that a spoonful or two of the chicken mix could be dumped in the middle, the leaf neatly rolled and enjoyed.
My Spicy Basil Fried Rice ($12.50) was another winner. My only regret was that I ordered it with chicken instead of beef or shrimp. I was becoming “over-chickened.” But my miscalculation in no way interfered with the dish. A huge mound of rice was sautéed with thinly sliced chicken and polka dots of diced onion, sweet peas and carrots. The addition of Thai basil leaves added both color and flavor. The Thai version of this dish includes a scrambled egg in small bits mixed into the rice while still slightly runny (“khao phat,” pronounced “COW-pot”).
Dessert was not an option. We departed happily sated.
Yang's Asian Bistro:
WHERE: Newton Plaza, 594 New Loudon Road, Latham 12110;
(518) 785-2626; www.YangsAsianBistro.com
WHEN: Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 11 a.m-10:30 p.m., Saturday 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $49.80 for two appetizers, two entrees, two teas, but without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Large mall parking lot, accessible, major credit cards, quiet, kids menu, light and healthy dishes, takeout, delivery via Mealeo, gift certificates.