A Very Mixed Grill
Asian Grill House
9643 107 Avenue
Recently, my friend and I popped into the Asian Grill House in Chinatown. I knew it had been here for just about forever, but I never actually went there. Huge to the point of overbearing, it exuded old world Asian charm. The matching patterned upholstery and stylized chair backs certainly conveyed the idea of old China, but the lack of padding on the chairs just conveyed “old” as did the Strauss waltzes on the Muzak. Open for dinner only (5:00-10:00 p.m. daily), there were only two patrons (us) from 6:30-8:30.
The menu was simple: barbecue or hot pot. Whatever you chose, it was $21.99 per person (or $11.99 for under 12). There were two types of barbecue: Thai and Singapore style. We opted for the former. Full drink service was available at additional cost, but we just stuck with water.
While the gentleman that waited on us was pleasant enough, we still had to do some sleuthing to figure out how this all worked. You have to pick up sliced raw meat from the large “salad bar” and try to flatten it out upon the golden grill and you can also pick up vegetables or frozen balls to put into the soup that surrounded the grill. It took a bit of balance to use different plates, bowls, and utensils for uncooked and cooked foods.
The meat was the standard beef, pork, lamb, and chicken. The first three worked well, but the chicken’s texture just felt wrong. The taste of the meat was certainly perked up by a number of sauces, from spicy chili to mild peanut. I enjoyed the variety and taste of the fish, pork, lobster, shrimp, and squid balls. However, it took a while to both thaw and cook them in the broth, in part due to the fact that they didn’t quite fit into the small ring of soup. In addition, there were mushrooms, spouts, and many types of green vegetables, as well as noodles and tofu, most of which weren’t really “barbecue-able,” so the ring of broth was always overfull. (I tried barbecuing the tofu and failed.)
The buffet also included some cooked food – the normal Asian spring rolls, chicken wings, pot stickers, and such – but that kind of food loses its appeal after sitting in a buffet for an unknown period of time. Alas, since there were only two customers, we never saw the buffet being refreshed. Similarly, the desert buffet was rather unappetizing. I would have had just soft ice cream, had the machine worked. Instead, I opted for a small dish of hot taro root tapioca. The few spoonfuls I took were plenty.
I can imagine that in its day Asian Hot Pot was busy with patrons enjoying a constant flow of fresh food, but it seems that I missed those days. With the number and variety of Asian restaurants in the area, I suspect that I’ll just be popping into another one the next time.
John lives in Boyle Street.