See lively lion dance bring Sunderland restaurant to a standstill: Review of Asiana Fusion

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What better way to mark the Year of the Pig than by pigging out at arguably the city’s finest Asian fusion restaurant?

Each year Asiana Fusion marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations with an evening of feasting and entertainment to honour this most colourful of dates on the lunar calendar.

The lion dance at Asiana

The lion dance at Asiana

It’s one of the prettier restaurants in the city anyway with its contemporary take on classic Asian motifs, with a subtle leaf design on feature walls and chairs, punctuated with a bold orange and green palette. But it’s given extra oomph at this time of year with strings of red lanterns festooned along the site.

We took our seats in one of the window seats that hug the panoramic window and its uninterrupted views of the Wear as it meanders out to sea, but there’s also a series of booths for those wanting a cosier pew. Our spot gave us a prime view for that evening’s traditional entertainment, but before that we had a taste of the Orient to tuck into.

As the name of the restaurant would suggest, its menu takes inspiration from across the Asian continent, with nods to Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Thailand and beyond.

There’s plenty of choices from which to choose, but we went for the easy option: a banquet. The Oriental Banquet offers good value for money at four courses for £22.90 per person, with a minimum of two people.

Asiana Fusion Restaurant - Echo 24, West Wear Street, Sunderland...

Asiana Fusion Restaurant - Echo 24, West Wear Street, Sunderland...

It’s classic Chinese food, done well, and we started our feast with a chunky chicken soup, which was thicker and more flavoursome than your bog standard take away offering. Next up: aromatic crispy duck which is shredded at your table. A notoriously greasy meat, this version was less so and devoured with ease.

Earlier in the evening we were wowed by the sleight of hand of magician Ryan Phelps who did card tricks at the table, and in between courses it was time for the star of the show: the lion dance.

Kids excitedly jumped out of their seats and adults whipped out their smartphones as performers from the UKCLF Dragon and Lion Dancing Club weaved their way through the tables in a spectacularly vibrant costume, accompanied by drummers, before the lion ‘eats’ a lettuce and showers diners with leaves in an act of good luck. It’s great fun to watch and really gives diners visiting at this time of year extra bang for your buck.

For mains we chose three dishes from six options: a golden brown crispy beef in a satisfyingly sticky Peking sauce, which was just the right blend of salty and sweet; sizzling king prawns in a sweet black bean sauce, which were given extra texture with chunky vegetables, as well as a tender stir-fried chicken in a satay sauce.

Crispy beef in Peking sauce

Crispy beef in Peking sauce

We also ordered a side of salt and pepper chips (£4.50) which are not for the faint-hearted with their spicy kick. There was plenty to go round, but we managed to shoe-horn in our fourth course of a retro banana fritter with ice cream.

Considering everything also going on, service was attentive and well-timed - front of house can’t be easy on this night of the year.

Drinks-wise, there’s a better choice of wines than most restaurants in the city and you can pick up a house Pinot Grigio or Merlot for a reasonable restaurant price of £15 a bottle.

Pints are a fair price too at £3.50 for Stella Artois on draught. Cocktails and mocktails also take their inspiration from around the globe with options such as Singapore Sling and French Martini (£6.70)

Sizzling King prawns and a side of salt and pepper chips

Sizzling King prawns and a side of salt and pepper chips

For those not drinking, and driving, there’s no restaurant parking, but St Mary’s car park is a stone’s throw away, as is St Peter’s Metro.

With a tip and plenty of drinks, our bill for the banquet with sides came to £50 each, which was great value considering the sizzling entertainment is free.