OFTEN restaurants that open to much fanfare can lose their shine once they’ve been in business for a while.
Not so with Asiana. I first visited in its opening week a couple of years back when it wowed with its mouth-watering food, sleek fittings and spot-on service.
I’m glad to say that a visit this week showed that standards haven’t slipped.
I visited on Tuesday night with pal Laura. Now Sunderland is not exactly known for its mid-week vibrancy: there has been times I’ve gone into town for an meal on a Tuesday or Wednesday only to met by closed signs.
But even on a slow night, Asiana was busy with diners who all bagged window seats to take advantage of some of the best river views in the city.
For larger parties though there are more private leather booths which I’ve heard are popular with Black Cats’ players.
I’m not surprised that Asiana is capable of attracting a “Sunderland celebrity” clientele. With its contemporary decor and sublime food it stands head and shoulders above some of the city’s other Oriental restaurants.
As the name would suggest, fusion is key here and the menu is a melting pot of Far East flavours – Thai, Malaysian, Chinese, Indonesian and Vietnamese.
As such, the menu is vast – with pan Asian combinations, curried dishes, sizzling plates, birds nest dishes and more – so be prepared to take your time salivating over the options.
The chef’s specialities caught my eye, particularly the exotic sounding Mongolian crispy lamb served with chilli dip (£10.80). The cost in Asiana can soon rack up so we went for the more purse-friendly banquet option.
The banquets are for two or more people and you can choose a main course each or, if there are six or more in the group, all main courses will be served.
Prices range from £45 per person for a five-course seafood banquet to a more frugal £19 for the vegetarian option.
We went with the Oriental banquet which is just short of £20 each for four courses.
Service was prompt and friendly and soon after ordering we were presented with course one: chicken and sweetcorn soup with prawn crackers.
The soup bowl was full to the brim with huge chunks of chicken and was delicious, setting the standard for some sublime dining.
Up next was the aromatic crispy duck which is carved in front of you – a nice touch. Not too greasy, but rich enough to have an impact this course was superb. My waistband was already starting to feel the strain but the best was yet to come.
There’s a choice of six main courses. We went for the sweet and sour chicken and stir fried king prawns with garlic and chilli sauce.
The prawns were huge and meaty and the dish had a real kick to it. The chicken was a milder option but equally lip-smacking with a tasty tangy sauce.
We had no room for pud which is a choice of banana fritter or ice cream, but the four courses are certainly value for money.
Instead, we finished out bottle of house white looking out over the river – a nice end to a gorgeous meal. Next time I won’t leave such a gap between visits.