- Food: ***
- Service: **1/2
- Atmosphere: ***
- Overall: ***
- Address: 8511 Kingston Pike
- Phone: 865-670-9858
- Hours: 5-10 p.m. Mondays; 11 a.m-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays
- Seating: First come, first served
- Beer and wine service only
Multi-cuisine Asian restaurants do certainly seem to be a trend these days, as I’ve noticed several spring up around Knoxville over the past few years. After hearing that Asia Kitchen, on Kingston Pike, offers up Cantonese, Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese food under one roof, I decided to bring The Grub Spouse along for a look-see.
Interestingly, Asia Kitchen shares its shopping-center location with two existing Asian-food restaurants, which is either a sign of extreme confidence or foolhardiness. We kept our eyes on the target, however, and took the table of our choice early on a weekday evening. At that point, only a few other patrons were on hand.
The menu’s salads emphasize the Japanese fare, with selections that include seaweed salad, kani salad (with crab meat and cucumber), squid salad and the octopus-seaweed-based tako sunomono. Of course, the Japanese influence is also prominent in the sushi section, which features a representative variety of sushi rolls and sashimi.
You’ll find Vietnamese cuisine most strongly represented by the selection of pho soups, but the main entrees are the most ethnically diverse, ranging from pork with Peking sauce and Cantonese roast duck to lemongrass chicken, General Tso’s chicken, and chicken teriyaki. A selection of hibachi-style dinners is also available.
Although appetizers like ahi tuna, fried wontons, chicken takitori and shrimp tempura are served, I ordered a caterpillar roll as an appetizer. For our entrees, I decided to get a lamb and beanstick hot pot served with rice, while The Spouse got the honey sesame chicken, which is served with a choice of steamed or fried rice.
Our server, who was new on the job, hovered as we spent time sorting out the menu, but we eventually got our orders in. While waiting on the food to start arriving, we were unsettled by the fact that children in the restaurant’s office were practicing the violin (which drowned out the ambient music) and, later, scampered unsupervised about the dining room.
Considering there were virtually no other customers in front of us, our food took longer than average to arrive, and when it did, it arrived in shifts rather than being served all together, which has always been a restaurant pet peeve of mine. The caterpillar roll was a visually stunning creation, with the eel and crabmeat-filled sections arranged in the shape of a caterpillar and topped with colorful slices of avocado and drizzled with eel sauce.
The roll was enjoyable in the eating, and The Spouse’s chicken, though not particularly noteworthy, was still worth the effort. The hot pot, however, was a clinker. The lamb tasted nothing like lamb, and in fact, the soupy creation overall tasted more like the Sterno-fueled heat lamp underneath the boiling pot than it did any kind of recognizable food.
Once the restaurant got busy, our server never revisited our table, although the other server on the floor, who seemed more experienced, finally got around to clearing our plates and getting us our check.
Although my particular selection may not be representative of the food’s overall quality, there are just too many other choices around — in that one shopping center alone — for me to bother with a repeat visit.
© 2010, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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