118 Pearl Street, Essex 288-9996
It used to be China King restaurant, but with a name likeAsian Cuisine, who knows what's for dinner? Probably another cookie cutter sesame chicken andchow mein dive, right? Wrong.
The vague name intrigued me, so I checked out this little box of a place, located in the Essex miracle mileof fast food joints. I’m grateful I did. In two visits, I've triedVietnamese, Thai, Korean and Burmese specialties. Cambodian is still on my list.
My favorite dish so far is the BBQ Pork Patties & EggRolls ($6.99). Cha gio (or pork and vermicelli egg rolls) are one of my favorite foods, though they’re often heavy on cabbage andcarrots and light on pork... and flavor. Not so at Asian Cuisine. The rolls arefilled with densely-packed cigars of ground pork redolent of ginger, withthe veggies as well as taro adding texture. The meatballs were tangywith a strong flavor of lemongrass. Fresh lettuce, carrots and cucumbers mixedwith the vermicelli beneath benefitted from a full-flavored,chili-spiked sauce. I also like the Vietnamese Golden Noodles($7.50), another unique item — crispy fried pasta, softened in places with a sweet and nutty coconutsauce.
Both dessert choices ($2.99) are worth exploring: Mangosticky rice — a wad of coconut-sweetened rice colored Easter-grass-green withfresh mangoes and sesame seeds — is great, but I prefer the banana fritters. Fivetiny egg rolls come sitting in a pool of honey. Chocolate and vanilla swirl icecream sits on the side with Mickey and Minnie Mouse spoons. The whole thing isdelicious and thoroughly, weirdly Asian.