East Asia – Yum!
East Asia is Elysabeth and my neighborhood Chinese-American spot for an inexpensive, comfortable, and above all else, tasty meal. The restaurant is a known staple for those in the area, and their success can mostly be attributed to word of mouth and incredible food. The restaurant is owned by two business partners (Kevin Leng & John Zhang) who opened East Asia after moving locally from Dalian, China. Their effort has paid off, as they’ve been open and running strong since 1996.
Most nights, upon entry, one’s eyes will be delighted to see Kathy Leng (Kevin’s sister) assembling fresh dumplings (the house specialty) at a table near the counter. Elysabeth and I have never begun a meal without ordering these little pockets of amazing flavor. Each bite bursts with a salty-sweet flavor accompanied by a rush of ginger and a healthy dose of scallion. The dumplings are available both steamed or pan-fried, and in meat-filled and vegetarian versions.
We have a few favorite main courses as well. My personal favorite is their Shrimp & Lobster Sauce, which is a nice light color, compared to the usual dark brown slop that can be found at most places around here. The sauce has a very thick texture, but is not overly heavy. Bits of egg and ground pork add some flavor, and the shrimp is cooked to perfection. Elysabeth’s favorite is the Mongolian Chicken. This dish brings a bit of heat, and features a dark, complex flavor along with crunchy noodles for some texture. They also offer a few specialties, such as homemade tofu, and an incredibly flavorful sauteed chinese vegetable, which changes daily and is tossed with a healthy dose of garlic.
I think I could sum what I like about this place into two categories: freshness and friendliness. On the freshness front, East Asia is unique for a Chinese-American restaurant in that their staple items (fried rice, hot &sour soup, etc.) are extremely light in both flavor and texture, never weighing you down. On the friendliness side, we’ve never felt more at home than when we dine at the restaurant. The service is incredibly attentive, with water glasses and tea cups refilled before they’re even empty, and a nice bowl of crunchy noodles with duck sauce and mustard is provided upon seating. It certainly helps that they deliver from Somerville to our little corner of Arlington.
Elysabeth and I don’t eat as much Chinese food as we used to, since it’s not entirely conducive to weight loss. When we do, however, and want a comfortable and tasty meal that’s close to home, East Asia fits the bill perfectly.