Riding the Asian Wave and the Pacific Rim
Longtime residents remember when Asian cuisine was a synonym for Chinese food, usually takeout. If you got lucky, you stumbled upon a sushi spot. Now you’ll find sushi in Korean restaurants and General Tso’s chicken in sushi spots. Add a little pad Thai or Vietnamese pho to the mix? Why not!
Known for: Changing its name from Padi, which made news when an employee’s negative social media posts went viral. The new restaurant loses the Google-search baggage and presents a fresh face.
Insider tip: Many favorites made the transition from Padi to Asian Kitchen, especially on the sushi side. The “Dirty Pop” roll, with king crab, asparagus, cucumber, avocado, salmon and caviar is still finished off with a blowtorch sear. But the kitchen has added more Malaysian and Thai fare, with noodle dishes like mee Siam (Siamese noodles), drunken noodles, and signature dishes that start with Thai crispy fish.
704 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 239-1800, asiankitchenhockessin.com
Known for: Authentic Chinese cuisine, including soup dumplings, the Shanghai specialty that chef Ding W. Lu added to the specials menu.
Insider tip: Takeout classics like orange chicken and Szechuan beef are well-executed, but regulars turn directly to the “Chef’s Authentic Dishes” on the menu’s back, where crispy whole fish is a favorite and the chicken with basil comes to the table sizzling. Ask owner Shuwa Chen to translate the daily specials, often written only in Chinese at the entrance. They frequently feature fresh Chinese vegetables.
721 College Square, Newark, 368-9933, bamboohouserestaurant.net
Known for: Thai food—no sushi, no moo shu—and friendly founder Tom Chotikaweckul, a Thai native, who opened the Union Street restaurant in 1988.
Insider tip: Develop patience. Food is prepared to order. Opt for the crispy duck with red curry or Thai basil sauce. The whole fish is almost always pompano. If you get the squid salad, order lots of Singha beer. Very spicy. Coconut ice cream is made onsite.
104 N. Union St., Wilmington, 654-8555, thebangkokhouse.weebly.com
Bangkok Thai Cuisine
Known for: Service with a smile from two sisters, owners Sopita Limphong and Pattareeya “Jang” Finger. “We try to serve our customers ourselves as much as we can,” Limphong says. “We want to hear what they like or don’t like, and we can advise new customers.”
Insider tip: The restaurant is best-known for drunken noodles, Thai fried rice and pad Thai, which Limphong says has “secret ingredients” that separate it from other versions. Also try the papaya salad, sticky rice with mango and “curry puffs,” a small pie packed with meat, curry and vegetables— similar to an empanada.
266 S. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 736-1606, thairestaurantindover.webs.com
Known for: Satisfying beachcombers’ cravings for crispy Peking duck and Hunan-style spicy dishes since 2004.
Insider tip: On Sunday, Peking duck is $19.95 for half, and $33.95 for whole. American favorites include General Tso’s chicken and shrimp, but why bother when there are dishes such as pan-seared salmon marinated in ginger, garlic, lemon and cilantro?
57 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3848, confuciusrehobothbeach.com
The Crownery Chinese Restaurant
Known for: An early outpost of Chinese cuisine in Hockessin, this traditional spot resisted the pan-Asian trend of recent years.
Insider tip: It’s easy to wade into the “secret” Chinese menu, which can be found in English on the back of the takeout menu. Chinese patrons adore the crispy pork chop, pan-fried noodles and braised pork with salted dried cabbage.
228 Lantana Drive, Hockessin; 239-3825, thecrownery.com
The Cultured Pearl
Known for: Being the first to offer sushi by the sea.
Insider tip: Shrimp tempura, Korean BBQ and Thai green curry scallops are must-dos from the main menu. For sushi, try the “Cultured Combo,” tuna tartar and chirasi. Rob Wood, who owns the restaurant with wife Susan, recommends the age tofu appetizer. 301 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8493, culturedpearl.us
Hibachi Japanese Steakhouse
Known for: Tossing food at your face. No kidding. Sit around the hibachi grill and the talented chef will flick a shrimp or two in your direction. The aim is usually good, but don’t wear an expensive shirt to dinner.
Insider tip: Frequent customers bypass the hibachi tables for a seat at the sushi bar. Multiple locations throughout the state.
Known for: Bringing sophisticated sushi to the Concord Pike corridor.
Insider tip: Whole fish, fried crisp and topped with mango sauce, isn’t on the menu, but it’s a big hit when it’s offered, says owner Tammy Wang. She’s revamping the menu, but the spicy tuna rocket appetizer and sunset sushi roll should make the change. Another suggestion: the Korean BBQ short rib taco.
3618 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 479-5618, jasminede.com
Kahl-Bee Korean Restaurant
Known for: An unassuming atmosphere with food that surprises, whether the kitchen cooks or the diners try their hand at the table grills.
Insider tip: Get a primer on Korean barbecue before you go in case there’s a language barrier. Expect to smell like grilled meat when you leave—that’s part of the, um, charm. Try the silken tofu soup, short ribs, scallion pancakes, pork belly, and the spicy pork and kimchee stir-fry. Don’t forget the ban chan (side dishes).
2011 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 998-4310
Kyoto Sushi Japanese Cuisine
Known for: Being the neighborhood sushi joint in Pike Creek, where creative rolls and impressive appetizer dishes are the main show.
Insider tip: Gyoza and shu mai dumplings are well-made, and grilled calamari is a showstopper. Don’t leave without sampling some of the more outrageous (and delicious) house specialty rolls, including the UFO roll.
4563 New Linden Hill Road, Wilmington, 368-9882, kyotojc.com
Le Shio Asian Fusion Cuisine
Known for: Hip on the strip, in this case Fairfax Shopping Center on Concord Pike, with a menu covering Japanese, Chinese and Eastern Asia.
Insider tip: With dishes like pumpkin soup and lobster bisque, Le Shio shakes up the usual fusion menu. Wok creations put you in control. Select a protein, choose up to four veggies and pick a sauce. Feeling adventurous? Leave the menu choices to the executive chef, who will prepare a five- or seven-course meal for the table.
2303 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 888-0145, leshio.com
Lily Thai Cuisine
Known for: Good genes. Chef-owner Lily Thamibutra worked at her sister’s restaurant, Seaside Thai, now closed. Some claim Lily Thai is an overlooked gem amongst the flashier Rehoboth restaurants.
Insider tip: Sure, they have pad Thai, but try the spicy catfish, spicy noodles or, if it’s available that night, the “golden pillows,” the Thai version of dumplings.
10 N. First St., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3348
Known for: Fresh, fresh fish. Sushi fanatics rate Okura as one of the region’s best, well worth a trip to the Pennsylvania border.
Insider tip: Ask about sushi specials. Depending on the week and time of year, you’ll find live scallops, toro (fatty tuna), uni shooters and baby octopus. The sake menu is extensive, from organics to unfiltered to fruity sake. Try a selection of five sakes for $9.
703 Ace Memorial Drive, Hockessin, 239-8486, okurara.us
Masamoto Asian Grill & Sushi Bar
Known for: Being a BYO right over the Delaware-Pennsylvania line and featuring the talent of sushi chef and owner Johnny Cai.
Insider tip: Bring your own corkscrew so you can pop your top without waiting. The pepper tuna tataki is one of the best versions in the area. The cucumber around the Masamoto roll, which includes tuna, salmon and avocado, is a refreshing change from the usual nori. Those in the know ask if the monkfish liver, a terrine, is available.
1810 Wilmington Pike, Chadds Ford, Pa., (610) 358-5538, masamotosushi.com
Mikimotos Asian Grill & Sushi Bar
Known for: High energy, background music with a beat, cocktails and some of the best sushi in Delaware since maverick Darius Mansoory opened the stylish restaurant in 2000.
Insider tip: Don’t be afraid to mix it up in more ways than one. Start with Kobe beef sliders or beef tataki, a novel alternative to the usual tuna tataki. Add some pop beans—warm or chilled. Consider the Thai “paella,” made with lobster, shrimp and scallops in a green curry-coconut sauce. Rolls offer creative names and ingredients. The Kraken contains crispy Chilean sea bass, avocado and a Hawaiian crawfish salad, all studded with sesame seeds.
1212 Washington St., Wilmington, 656-8638, mikimotos.com
Pinang Asian Cuisine
Known for: Creating a warm welcome with hot tea on every table to start the meal, and offering a variety of Malaysian specialties you won’t find elsewhere—for a reasonable price.
Insider tip: Order roti canai for the table—light, chewy flatbread that you’ll dip in the curried dipping sauce. Adventurous eaters will zero in on any part of the menu that says: “Please ask server for advice before you order.” Note that the Pinang curry fish head dish is made with actual fish heads. Squeamish? The lengthy menu has options for everyone, including the deliciously simple Hainanese chicken.
218 Louviers Drive, Newark; 368-2298, pinangcuisine.com
Potstickers Asian Grill & Sushi Bar
Known for: Euro-Asian cuisine. Chef Li Shih, who opened Potstickers with wife Elizabeth in 2006, studied at the Sushi Chef Institute, as well as the Culinary Institute of America.
Insider tip: Potstickers, pan-fried or steamed, come five different ways. Chilean bass with balsamic-red wine reduction is a menu mainstay. At the request of Chinese students and UD faculty, the restaurant introduced a traditional Chinese menu featuring 11 dishes, including beef tendon and tripe with anise and peppercorns.
Centre Point Plaza II, 1247 New Churchmans Road, Newark, 731-0188, potstickersasiangrill.com
Known for: Adding Malaysian and Indonesian cuisine to what’s become an ethnic hub in Independence Mall in North Wilmington.
Insider tip: Some like it hot? You’re at the right place. There’s a red dot for “hot” next to many dishes on the menu. Take the stir-fried noodles with shrimp and calamari or mee goring, stir-fried egg noodles in a dried squid sauce with tofu, potatoes, shrimp, eggs and ground peanuts. (The kitchen can adjust the heat.) Cool off with coconut pudding or fried ice cream.
1601 Concord Pike, No. 73, Wilmington, 543-5286, rasasayangusa.com
Known for: Putting a twist on Chinese and Japanese cuisine in the state capital.
Insider tip: The newly created Peking-style roasted duck eggroll is a pancake packed with duck, onion, scallion and lettuce. The kitchen uses sushi-grade salmon for the teriyaki. Lunch specials are offered Monday through Saturday. With seating for 45, it’s an intimate experience.
45 Greentree Drive, Dover, 678-1328
Known for: Giving Rehoboth a fashionable sushi bar and chic lounge. (Saketumi is Jasmine’s sibling in a larger space.
Insider tip: Newbies should try the Sunday brunch, which offers a sampler of the menu for $18.95. On Wednesdays, themed bento boxes are $15. Roast duck and Korean barbecue are a tasty break for those experiencing sushi overload.
18814 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 645-2818, mysaketumi.com
Satsuma Kitchen + Bar
Known for: Occupying the old Del Rose Café location, a landmark since 1962. (The restaurant’s big sister is Moro.)
Insider tip: Expect the untraditional. The Cubano roll is a marriage of tuna, crisped pork belly and crispy onions. Ramen noodles tumble around pork belly, not chicken. Satsuma opened in September, but the duck fries with pulled duck and black truffle gravy are already the shared nibble of choice for the happening Trolley Square crowd.
1707 Delaware Ave., Trolley Square, Wilmington, satsumakitchen.com
Known for: Offering cuisine from such Southeast Asian countries as Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Insider tip: Banh mi (Vietnamese hoagies) and pho (beef noodle soup) are the stars. Others love larp, a minced meat salad from Laos. The list of daily specials and eat-in-only dishes are on the chalkboard near the register. (They’re not on the takeout menu.) Take bo luc lac, Vietnamese “shaking beef,” which is seared and tossed around in a wok.
1901 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 691-7728, southeastkitchen.net
Stingray Sushi Bar + Asian Latino Grill
Known for: Mixing two popular but very dissimilar concepts. Where else can you get teriyaki with a side of guacamole?
Insider tip: Stingray is also owned by Darius Mansoory of Mikimotos fame, so the sushi is stellar. But why not go with the flow and also try empanadas with a teriyaki dipping sauce or a trio of ahi tuna tacos? This is one of the few spots where you can have Vietnamese pho and your dining partner can dig into a New York strip with chimichurri sauce and kimchi fried rice.
59 Lake Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6476, stingrayrestaurant.com
Known for: Being far more than its popular lunchtime buffet would suggest (though if you’re in the mood for that, get the crispy chicken with peanuts and hot and sour soup).
Insider tip: Yep, there’s an authentic Chinese menu, with items drawn primarily from northern Chinese cuisines. There’s nothing like their authentic weekend dim sum brunches, where carts of food roam around the dining room and you can choose among the dumplings, spare ribs, pork buns and (for the adventurous) shredded pork stomach. Don’t miss the youtiao (Chinese crullers).
3615 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 999-0286, szechuanwilmington.com
Known for: Good food at decent prices. Locals or nearby workers in the know make it a lunchtime destination.
Insider tip: Lunch specials come with crispy spring rolls that become addictive. Hungry? Upgrade to the entrée size portion of some meals (like the ka prow chicken, spicy but set off with the fresh flavor of basil), or the thick and filling noodles of the pad see ew.
287 Christiana Road, New Castle, 322-1306, tastithai.com
Known for: The culinary collaboration between Head Chef Hideyuki Okubo, who is from Japan, and wife Jessie, who is Chinese. The couple met while working at Utage, which once occupied the same corner space in Independence Mall.
Insider tip: The chicken teriyaki is the best in Wilmington, especially when it’s part of a lunchtime bento box. You could say the same about the tempura; the batter is made in-house and not prepackaged. As for sushi, try the orange blossom, spicy tuna, crab stick and avocado draped with salmon and accented with spicy roe and eel sauce. On the Chinese menu, share the sautéed string beans happily strewn with finely minced pork.
1601 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 658-8887, besttakumi.com