I made a trip to Gray on a recent Saturday evening for a meal with a friend at Yong Asian House. This great Asian eatery, which opened in 2007, has been one of my favorite Asian restaurants since my very first visit.
According to the restaurant’s website, Choon Fah Yong and his wife, Adeline, always had a dream to own their own business. That dream became a reality when the couple, originally from Malaysia, opened Yong Asian House. As the only chef at Yong Asian House, Choon Fah stays busy creating new tasty dishes, preparing lunch and dinner for guests, and ensuring that each meal is a special dining experience. Adeline, previously a children’s art teacher, frequently serves as host and server and she made a permanent contribution to the design of restaurant through her creative artwork and decorative touches.
Something that the restaurant didn’t have when it first opened is an attractive sushi bar that is enhanced with a line of recessed lighting, as well as an extensive selection of sushi offerings, including Yong Signature Rolls and Deep Fried Rolls.
Some diligent planning went into creating the restaurant’s relaxing and welcoming interior design. Everything about the design of the restaurant’s dining area enhances a leisurely meal. The inviting decor features red sheer fabric draped over the windows and walls sponge-painted in rich reds, golden-orange and green. Illumination is provided by sleek track lighting and trapezoidal hanging lamps. The interior design feature that commands attention is the use of beautiful batik fabric prints to enliven the walls.
After being shown to our table, a server arrived promptly. She provided a menu, quickly took our drink orders and then, upon request, helpfully provided some recommendations for items on the restaurant’s diverse menu.
She also brought to the table a small dish containing a container of shredded carrot and sliced cucumbers. The thin carrot strips and sliced cucumbers were given some extra zest from a tart vinaigrette. From a previous visit, I knew that these offerings are intended to whet the appetite and also cleanse the palate.
We wanted to enjoy a sampling of appetizers, so we carefully considered the options. The choices included Spring Roll, Crab Rangoon, Thai Herbed Calamari and Roti Canai, a crispy and doughy Indian-style pancake served with a house curry sauce. I’ve had this last item on previous visits, and it quickly became a favorite.
However, on our recent meal at Yong Asian House, we wanted to try a different appetizer and considered some items that had eluded us on earlier visits, including Hot and Spicy Clams, Coconut Shrimp and Edamame.
My friend ordered the Coconut Shrimp while I chose the Lettuce Wraps, which feature thinly sliced sauteed chicken, Chinese mushrooms, green and red bell peppers, onions, bean sprouts, water chestnuts and snow peas, all tossed in a light and sweet homemade sauce. This mixture of ingredients, which is topped with crushed peanuts, is meant to be eaten by being rolled or folded into a wedge of crisp, fresh iceberg lettuce.
The portion size for this appetizer was impressive, and the Lettuce Wraps could easily serve as a meal in itself. I shared a couple of wedges with my dining partner, who also praised this flavorful appetizer.
His Coconut Shrimp, served with a sweet chili dipping sauce, feature a half dozen medium-sized shrimp, dipped in a coconut-enhanced breading and deep-fried to a crunchy, golden brown. These wonderful meal-starters certainly got us ready for what was to come.
Before moving directly to the main course, we also decided to each enjoy a bowl of soup. The options include Wonton Soup, Hot and Sour Soup, Spinach Tofu Soup, Shrimp Tom Yum Soup, Egg Drop Soup and Mushroom Soup.
The Shrimp Tom Yum, a Thai-inspired soup that has always been a personal favorite, called to me. My friend chose the Hot and Sour Soup. The soups arrived quickly, accompanied by a bowl of crispy wontons. My friend enjoyed his Hot and Sour Soup, which achieved a nice balance between tangy and spicy.
I enjoyed the Tom Yum Soup, which featured two plump shrimp in a rich, tangy and peppery broth. This bold soup was good to the last drop.
After we had finished the soups and appetizers, our server arrived to take our meal orders. The menu offers dishes from Thai, Malaysian, Chinese and Japanese cuisine under five basic categories: Yong Traditional Entrees, Yong Specials, Yong Noodles, Yong Teriyaki Entrees and Yong Rice Dishes. The already-mentioned sushi selections are also available for dinner.
We had so many tempting possibilities it was truly a challenge to narrow our focus and select an entree. Among the options I considered were the Sweet and Sour Tilapia, Yong Special Duck, Sesame Chicken, Nanyang String Beans with Chicken and Shrimp, Thai Seafood Eggplant, Kong Pao Chicken, BBQ Pork Fried Rice and the Singapore Rice Noodles. Some of the Yong Signature Sushi Rolls also appealed to me, including the Black Forest Roll, which offers crispy shrimp tempura, cucumber and avocado topped with spicy tuna and finished with a creamy sweet unagi sauce, as well as black and red tobiko. The Kiss of Fire also got my attention. This roll features white tuna and salmon with spicy mayonnaise, a homemade spicy sauce and a wasabi tobiko, topped with spicy tuna and tempura flakes, finished with eel sauce and more of the spicy mayo.
From previous visits, I can highly recommend the Clay Pot Asam Grouper. On this occasion, I also ordered one of the clay pot dishes — the Clay Pot Kimchi Delight.
My dining partner chose to try the Malaysian Kari Chicken and Shrimp, which features a blend of fresh mushrooms, green peppers, onions, green beans, carrots, bamboo shoots, okra and potato, all served in a spicy coconut curry sauce.
My Clay Pot Kimchi Delight, while I loved it, might be a dish that is a bit of an acquired taste. This dish steams hot and spicy Korean-style kimchi with tender slices of marinated beef, tofu and green and red bell pepper in a small, clay pot. The cooking process holds in the very spicy, strong flavors. Kimchi, which is sort of a spicy Korean version of sauerkraut, may not be for everyone. If you’re a fan, however, this is definitely a dish you’d want to try.
My dining partner also enjoyed his Malaysian dish, which was served with an ample amount of Fried Rice and garnished with an exquisitely carved carrot rose.
Some of both our meals went home with us in carryout containers to enjoy later, but we were both delighted with our latest experience at Yong Asian House. For fans of Asian cuisine, this restaurant definitely offers something for almost everyone. Consider a visit soon and, when you go, be sure to let them know they were highly recommended.
AT A GLANCE: Yong Asian House, 405 Roy Martin Road, Suite 106, Gray. 232-1268. Closed Mondays. Lunch, Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner, Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday, 5-9:30 p.m.; and Saturday, noon-9:30 p.m. Entrees range from $8.99-$14.99. Credit cards accepted, checks are not accepted. Brown bagging permitted. Carryout available.