Have you ever experienced the feeling where you crave something to eat but have difficulty boiling the desire down to one specific cuisine? That very thing happened to us not long ago: We had a yen for Asian food, but could not decide whether to go for Chinese cuisine, a favorite, or for Japanese creations, which we find endlessly fascinating?
In the end, the choice was simple: Some will call the Route 46 restaurant Ashia an emporium of Asian fusion cuisine. That is not quite true. The eatery presents Chinese and Japanese cuisine side by side throughout its extensive menu. Patrons can order one, the other or pieces of both—and that makes for a memorably individualized dining experience.
Of course, this is Bites Nearby, so our concern here is not so much the leisurely sit down but rather the quick grab and dash. Happily, the restaurant does both well, but for our purposes today, it's the Chinese and Japanese bites we enjoyed that caught our attention and made Ashia the perfect choice for this week's Bites Nearby.
Each week, Patch picks a great restaurant either in town or nearby that is worth checking out. Here's this week's choice:
brings you a world of Chinese and Japanese flavors, and there is no better road map to guide you than the eatery's voluminous menu. The document breaks down a wide variety of items into a not-quite-so-large number of categories, among them Japanese appetizers, sushi and sashimi, noodle soups, Chinese entrees, special rolls, light cuisine and combination platters.
Whatever you order, expect the food to be fragrant, fresh and flavorful. We decided to try a variety of quick items so as best to try out Ashia's mettle as a quick-bite venue.
We started with two soups, Chinese egg drop and Japanese miso. The egg drop was just what an egg drop soup should be, delicate and warming. The Japanese soup was a more than decent miso, gingery and appropriately assertive in taste, with fresh, meaty cubes of tofu and generous bits of seaweed.
Next, we had to try the sushi, which is freshly made on the premises. Ashia's sushi chef is skilled to be sure—our spicy tuna, eel and yellowtail maki rolls were expertly prepared and simply delicious, literally bursting with flavors.
We also had to try the shrimp toast appetizer. Frankly, we tend to be wary when it comes to upscale restaurants' treatment of what a restarateur from New York City's Chinatown once described to us as "low-class Chinese food." Our experience tells us the best shrimp toast comes from Chinese takeout dives. Usually. Ashia's version of the deep-fried treat was crisp, not greasy, and the taste was light and pleasing.
The entrees were well done too. We tried one from each column: From China, we sampled the mighty Peking duck ($16.95 for a small portion), and from Japan, a tofu and vegetable combo. The duck was perfect, with its crispy skin, fluffy pancakes and fruity Hoisin sauce. The combination of light tofu and steamed mixed veggies in a light sauce was also a welcome choice.
The food, which we took to go, was prepared rapidly and was still hot by the time we returned home to eat. And musing on the prices after the meal was done, we were pleased to realize how affordable the experience was. Ashia charges less than $3 for first class a la carte sushi, and more elaborate creations that comes with miso or a side salad are only $8.95 or $10.95. Appetizers range in price from $1.35 to $5.75, with a for-two pupu platter running $12.95. Entrees start at just over $6 and the most elaborate dishes can run close to $20.
We were stuffed by the end of the meal, so dessert was not an option. We did, however, plan a return trip. Ashia does uptown and downtown Chinese and Japanese like nobody's business. And we also learned that the eatery offers Thai specialties too, which should provide tasty bites for the future.
Ashia, 1460 Route 46 West, 973-334-1917. Open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. Major credit cards accepted.