Cafe Asia: New location, same great taste

Caf? Asia
1720 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 659-2696
http://www.cafeasia.com

The mourning period is over. All of you who have been lost since Caf? Asia closed its doors at its 19th Street location now have a reason to celebrate-a new and closer one has opened. Since the Caf? Asia in Rosslyn is too far, the newest location on 17th and I streets is perfect – just a short walk away from campus. This new site is bigger and better than before, but brings along the Asian food that customers have always loved and surprises customers with some fresh and very unexpected twists.

The new ultra-trendy, ultra-chic location welcomes you into an all-white mod-style environment. Take the stairs down to the cocktail lounge, which is filled with little white stools that look more like marshmallows than seating. The only color in the room is from the bright martinis served to the young crowd just getting off work. They aren’t just enjoying martinis, though. These young professionals take advantage of the sushi happy hour with a piece of sushi for $1, and half-price saki.

Caf? Asia is known for its sushi. It serves the traditional favorites of maki sushi like the California roll, spicy tuna and even smoked salmon and cream cheese. There is also a wide array of nigari sushi for the happy hour special. This sushi is also available with a bed of white rice topped with shrimp, different kinds of raw fish and eel or octopus. But beware of the reduced sushi hour price-the price isn’t the only thing reduced. The sushi served seems to be only three-quarters of the normal size you would expect.

Still, the price is cheap, so you can afford to fill up. Be adventurous and try the sweet shrimp. It’s definitely sweeter than regular shrimp and also more slimy. Another unusual try is the tamago sushi. It has a rectangular piece of sweet egg over a bed of white rice. If you have a more hearty appetite but a slimmer wallet, try the maki sushi which comes in a roll cut into six pieces, all for only $3.50 to $5.50. While the California roll usually reigns as the most frequently ordered, other favorites include the Caf? Asia roll, comprised of tuna, crab and avocado; the crazy Rock ‘n Roll filled with salmon, smoked salmon, eel, tuna and avocado and the delicious salmon skin roll.

If you don’t like raw fish or just want to try something new, there are vegetarian options as well. The yellow radish roll has a center of crunchy pickles. The shitake mushroom roll gives a nice spin on the old sushi favorite. Beware of the Caf? Asia special rolls; they cost around ten dollars.

If you are going for a real sit-down dinner and are planning on staying for a while, ask to be seated upstairs and give your back a break in the full chairs. But while your posture may get a break, your ears won’t. Don’t expect a quiet dinner because even though Caf? Asia has moved, the noise has followed it through the city blocks of D.C. into the cocktail lounge and up the stairs to be served with your dinner. The walls, decorations, tables and chairs are still mod and all white, but the dim lighting gives it a more relaxed feel.

There is also a good menu of appetizers if sushi doesn’t suit you. Arguably the best of the variety is the crab wonton which is a blend of crab meat and cream cheese wrapped within a fried wonton. Six of these are served with a delicious white sauce to dip them in. Spend the $4 to get an order for yourself because after trying one of these, you won’t want to share.

When it comes to a main course, the vibrant colors of the fresh vegetables seem even more luminous when positioned against the all white background. While the all-white environment is serene, the craft put into the preparation of the dishes is lost because of the low lighting of the restaurant. Lucky for you that low lighting doesn’t diminish the taste as well, because the entrees are great.

Caf? Asia serves a variety of Chinese, Japanese and Korean dishes. For the not adventurous, there are the safe chicken or beef teriyaki and Chinese chicken fried rice. The General Tsao chicken is a safe bet, but it packs heat that can make your lips burn. Try the lemon grass chicken or beef. The meat is marinated in lemon grass and garlic, then grilled and covered with nuts. Entrees range from $7-$15.

The super trendy art deco theme runs straight into the restroom. There is only one restroom for all you boys and girls and it’s all the way on the lower level to the right of the bar. The days of the all-ladies trips to the bathrooms for gossip are over, because now the boys are free to walk in and hear it all. After the initial shock of this bathroom, the next shock is that both sexes share the same stalls. Not to discriminate, but a shocked female customer exclaimed, “They want me to use the same stall as some dirty drunk boys? That’s just disgusting.” Luckily the stalls are more like little rooms, so the sexes will get the most interaction at the trough-style sink. It still might be awkward, so skip the saki.

Even though the unisex bathroom, all-white environment and trendy furnishings might bring a new twist, the new Caf? Asia is still the old favorite of so many GW students. Grab a $20 bill and take the short walk over to the restaurant. If you still crave the delicious sushi but can’t seem to make it out of your dorm room, don’t worry. Caf? Asia also delivers.

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