Monday, August 20, 2018
Bars & Spirits

At Asie Pan-Asian, cocktails take you on a global tour

I know it may seem odd to hit up an Asian restaurant for cocktail kicks, but you’d be surprised what’s out there. I got my start doing this column by reporting on the cocktails at Zom Hee, a Chinese restaurant in Pinellas Park that I still visit. Sure, the food’s great, but I love the kitschy cocktail-bar component even more.

Asie Pan-Asian, the third installment in the prolific Thuy Le’s restaurant portfolio — she’s also behind Thuy Café and La V — has racked up high marks for creative fusion fare in its first six months. But its globe-trotting cocktail menu is more than an afterthought, and curious drinkers should take note.

Although Asie is a restaurant first, it has a substantial bar in the center of its long dining room. That’s where you’ll find the modest but well-picked bottle selection, featuring some more uncommon spirits, such as Tanduay rum from the Philippines and Japanese whiskies from Suntory (Toki, Hibiki, Yamazaki). The bar even stocks Kikori, a Japanese rice whiskey — whiskey with an "e," as it’s produced specifically for the U.S. market — that has more in common with higher-end Korean soju than it does with its countrymates from Suntory.

These fun, colorful touches are a nice complement to the food, a collage of fresh and flavorful elements from Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Korean cuisine. Separate menus for vegetarian and gluten-free dishes are available upon request.

Right in the middle of the main menu, you’ll find some fun cocktail photos to accompany a list of six signature drinks. The cocktails are regionally themed: the Tokyo Old Fashioned uses Suntory Toki as its base, while the Manila Mojito uses Tanduay rum and fresh ginger for a Filipino twist.

Some incorporate regional influence more obliquely, like the Beijing Collins, which adds hibiscus to the classic, adding color and a light floral quality to the drink. The Saigon Sunset is effectively a foam-topped Cape Cod and is garnished with an edible flower.

The Seoul Sunrise, curiously, uses mango juice and Lebélula tequila as its bases, served in a chili salt-lined glass and garnished with a shiny red chili pepper. Nothing about this drink says Korean, but it’s tasty. Ever try one of those pickled mangoes in chili paste that you can get at the Vietnamese market? This is the cocktail version of those.

My favorite, however, is the Bangkok Unknown-Date. Langley’s gin is the base, but the combination of lychee fruit and fresh basil provide a wildly exotic aromatic quality that takes the drink to another level. This drink alone is worth a visit.

If Zom Hee is the Chinese restaurant with an old-school cocktail lounge, Asie is the modern take, with fresh and exciting cocktails to match a menu influenced by regional Asian cuisines. In both cases, it’s unlikely that I’ll visit with no intention of dining, but it’s equally unlikely that I’ll skip the cocktails.

— Contact Justin Grant at [email protected] Follow @WordsWithJG.

Comments
Restaurant review: Haveli Indian Kitchen brings a solid, well-priced Indian buffet to Carrollwood

Restaurant review: Haveli Indian Kitchen brings a solid, well-priced Indian buffet to Carrollwood

CARROLLWOODI was curious. I looked up "haveli." It’s an Indian word that means mansion, usually one with historical and architectural significance. Huh. That doesn’t exactly describe the building in a shopping center off Dale Mabry Highway in which H...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Taste test: hazelnut coffee pods

Taste test: hazelnut coffee pods

While I was enjoying a croissant at a local French cafe this summer, a family from Wales walked in and asked for a strong cup of coffee. Luckily, the bakery sold a bold, locally roasted blend that hit the mark. They reminded me of the coffee drinkers...
Published: 08/20/18
Tampa gets its own Bodega in Seminole Heights

Tampa gets its own Bodega in Seminole Heights

St. Petersburg eatery Bodega has built a reputation for its Latin street food and now the fast-casual concept has expanded to a second location in Seminole Heights.Its name Bodega, which means grocery in Spanish, represents the owners, George and Deb...
Published: 08/16/18
Local Craft Beer of the Week: The Falcon Brett IPA, Flying Boat Brewing Co.

Local Craft Beer of the Week: The Falcon Brett IPA, Flying Boat Brewing Co.

Just in time for its first anniversary on Saturday, St. Pete’s Flying Boat Brewing Co. has tapped a beer that pushes the envelope by combining two trends — New England-style IPA and Brett IPA — into one unique brew: The Falcon IPA.By now, you probabl...
Published: 08/16/18
South Tampa’s Village Inn features a family affair

South Tampa’s Village Inn features a family affair

How Emma Walker spent her summer vacation:Visited Chicago.Gymnastics.Went to the beach.And, by taking a summer job as a hostess at the Village Inn at 215 N Dale Mabry Highway, carried on a decades-long family tradition."I just wanted to make money," ...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/19/18
Dining events: Bolts Brew Fest, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

Dining events: Bolts Brew Fest, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

BOLTS: BREW FESTI was going to list all the craft brewers whose wares will be on offer at 7 p.m. Friday at this year’s Bolts Brew Fest, a Tampa Bay Lightning benefit for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. But with 50 local breweries alone, and another ...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18
Expert advice on baking classic French tarts: recipes, tips and tools

Expert advice on baking classic French tarts: recipes, tips and tools

BELLEAIR BLUFFSTim Brown was dead right. It was time for tough love, right at the beginning of class: Most of us entertain, most of us can get our act together with some hors d’oeuvres, an appetizer and an entree with appropriate side dishes. But whe...
Published: 08/15/18
It won’t take long to fall in love with this fool

It won’t take long to fall in love with this fool

"Fool" might be an odd name for dessert, but it has been served for centuries, and no one is quite sure why it is called that. Making it, though, is a pretty smart thing to do considering how easy it is and the reward of doing so: a delightfully crea...
Published: 08/15/18
Amalie Arena tries to lure millenials to its Firestick Grill

Amalie Arena tries to lure millenials to its Firestick Grill

TAMPA — How to attract the cool kids? This is the mantra for so many restaurants these days: That huge generation of millennials eats differently, thinks differently and spends differently than their parents. So how do you reel them in and make them ...
Published: 08/14/18
Put old bread to good use in a Peach and Mozzarella Panzanella Salad

Put old bread to good use in a Peach and Mozzarella Panzanella Salad

It was a pilgrimage I had long wanted to make, but the timing was never right: Saturday mornings at Born and Bread Bakehouse in Lakeland. I had tried Born and Bread’s bread once before, slathered in some house-made ricotta cheese that sent me on a ri...
Published: 08/14/18