Reflections on Stripmall Eating

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

New Haven

Name: Wasabi
Location: 350 Boston Post Road, Orange, CT
Personnel: Jesse, Me
What We Ate: Green Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing; Oshinko; Spicy Crab Roll; Wasabi Roll; White Tuna roll
Condiments: Soy Sauce, Wasabi
Bill Total: $50
Observations: This is the first in what I hope will be a series of summer road trip restaurant adventures. We were en route to Cape Cod last week when we stopped at Wasabi, a spare little eatery tucked in between a nail salon and a tanning salon, just a couple of miles off of I-95, and close to New Haven. The lunch actually broke up the drive very nicely, like a crisp slice of pickled ginger on the palate between bites of fish. (It's an especially great find since all the official reststops are monopolized by McDonald's.) On the day we visited there were shamefully few customers lunching (none, actually), despite some generous midday specials. Surely the crowd picks up for dinnertime: The sushi is impeccably prepared and gorgeously fresh, with a long list of creative rolls throwing flavors like kiwi and peach into the mix. My only regret is not delving into the dessert offerings, like the sticky black rice pudding or the green tea mascarpone cheesecake that sounded a lot like a recipe I tried from last January's Bon Appetit magazine. Mine didn't come out very well, due to the fact that I mistakenly bought gluten free shortbread at Whole Foods, which made the crust all gray and gummy. Wasabi probably does it much better.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ladies' Night

Name: Royal Orchid
Location: 370 East Windsor Plaza, Rte. 130, East Windsor, NJ
Personnel: Jon, Nicole, Jesse, Me
What We Ate: Complimentary Rice Crisps and Chili Sauce; Tom Yom Koong; Duck and Pineapple Salad; Thai Chili Shrimp; Bean Curd in Ginger Basil Sauce; Vegetable Green Curry; Chili Lamb; White Rice; Thai Iced Tea and Coffee.
Condiments: None
Bill Total: $73
Observations: I always assumed Ladies' Night was a way for bars to level the playing field and distract their male patrons from getting in brawls. Royal Orchid in East Windsor, NJ, however, is hardly a sausage party. On Mondays entrees are half price for the fairer sex, and you don't even have to wear a skirt. Apparently Royal Orchid's owner operates a gaggle of restaurants in the region, and his suburban empire managed to attract the attention of The New York Times. (Though it is unlikely, as the window posting suggests, that the 2003 review of Royal Orchid appeared on the front page.) The tabletops are glass, and beside each one is a wall-mounted mini-fountain, water running in a perpetual trickle over faux pebbles. Fully engaged paper umbrellas hang suspended from the ceiling. Even the menus are embellished with the three dimensional metallic elephants. It's all very pretty, very dressy. The offerings, ranging from escargot and frogs' legs to tamer noodle concoctions, are notated with warnings of pork (P) or nuts (N) or meatlessness (V). Everyone seemed to enjoy what they had. The shrimp, shellacked with chili glaze, were plump and luxuriant, though the duck in a pineapple sweetened salad was a little dry and chewy. In and of itself the food isn't front page material, but the deep discounts are certainly newsworthy.