Alan Jonesâ€™ favorite Asian restaurant, if not favorite restaurant period, was Tea Station Bistro, in the heart of Norton Commons. So when he heard they were closing, he was naturally upset. Not wanting to see his favorite hangout gone forever, he did what most of us wouldnâ€™t doÂ â€“ namely, buy it â€“ all so that he could keep on enjoying his favorite dishes.
With a few partners and long-time manager Roland Wong, Tea Station Bistro has continued putting out some of the cityâ€™s best Asian fare. Itâ€™s one of the cityâ€™s best kept secrets â€“ until now, that is.
Naturally, we wanted a sample.
Right off the bat, it proved a delight to visit. Norton Commons Boulevard is a quaint, tree-lined street, where street-side tables are covered perfectly with delightful shade. Inside, wooden features and soft lighting make for a relaxed atmosphere. But outside is best, because whatâ€™s better than kicking back, enjoying some fine food and engaging in a little bit of people-watching, as more and more residents of Norton Commons start to make their way around the neighborhood?
For an appetizer, we started off with something very simple yet scrumptious: spring rolls â€“ cylindrically wrapped cabbage and carrot in a fried pastry. What could go wrong? Well,Â nothing,Â because they were delicious. The dish is served with two sauces, duck and a hot mustard â€“ which works especially well at opening up your sinuses and gutting your palate wide open, ready for the courses on their way.
Another appetizer â€“ and one that can also be made up as an entree â€“ was the shredded chicken, lightly boiled and served with onion, carrot and celery. The absence of fat or oil in this dish made it exceedingly light, perfect to fill you up on a hot summerâ€™s day without the heaviness.
Next up was the braised flounder. It came with a tomato-based hot sauce (a mild, smoldering kind of heat), while also served with carrots, ginger and spring onion. The fact that the flounder, already a gentle and soft white-fleshed fish, was breaded, made it even better. Lightly fried, the dish ended up taking on the soft texture of a freshly made donut, but fishy of course.
A real highlight of the meal was one of the bistroâ€™s specialties: pineapple chicken. â€œWhat is this?â€ I hear you ask. Well, imagine a pineapple cut in half, gutted, and then its sweet and delicious contents cooked with chicken and served inside the pineappleâ€™s husk. It looks spectacular and tastes phenomenal. The breaded meaty and fleshy chicken strikes a perfect balance with the sweet sauce that lathers it.
One more traditional dish was the Mongolian lamb: thin strips of lamb gently coated with a soy sauce-based brown sauce that hasÂ bean paste thrown in for good measure. Served with sauteed onions and whole dried chili peppers, the meat has a healthy kick to it. Exceedingly thin rice noodles that are tossed inÂ add a soft and succulent starchiness to the composition, which, while Mongolian, almost has elements of a Thai Pad Kee Mao.
What Jones and Wong have managed to do is keep the menu of old pretty much the same, all while boosting foot traffic through a renovation that gives the restaurant a more nighttime quality. With outdoor live music soon coming to the restaurant, thereâ€™s never been a better time stop by Tea Station Bistro. T
hat, and the fact that they have bubble tea in a plethora of flavors and serve up generous double shots of Woodford Reserve for $5.50 during happy hour.
Hard to find a better deal. So run on down to Norton Commons.
Tea Station Bistro is situated at 9422 Norton Commons Boulevard in Prospect. For more information, call 502.423.1202 or visit www.teastationbistro.com.