The Bar Belle: Asia Bistro

Asia Bistro
Army Navy Drive and South Joyce Street
Arlington, Virginia 20036

Pentagon Row – that corporate-tastic row of food and drink traps you might have seen on your trek from the Fashion Centre (they actually spell it like that, I looked it up) at Pentagon City to the various stores sprawling out from Pentagon City proper – offers a variety of restaurant-bar flavors for you to choose from, each offering a different blend of booze and food to soak it up with. All in all, the place houses 18 places to dine, from Spanish (Tapeo) to Sports (Champps), Irish (Sin? Irish Pub) to non-alcoholic Noodle (Noodles & Company).

Usually, shopping malls don’t come up at the top of anyone’s list of nightlife destinations, but with Pentagon Row’s onslaught of drinking holes, that trek from FCUK to DSW makes ducking into a bar so easy – especially in the winter months, when outside, a small skating rink offers a crowd of squealing families with really sharp knives attached to their shoes.

Last Saturday, I ducked the sharp children and sampled Pentagon City’s “Asian” flavored restaurant at – they really make it easy for you – Asia Bistro. Just like the wine bar and the pub it’s nestled between, Asia Bistro (not to be confused with I Street’s Caf? Asia, 19th Street’s Singapore Bistro, or L Street’s Asian Bistro) is as much of a booze hole as it is a restaurant. When I went in for an afternoon sushi snack last Saturday, I had to wade through the menu’s half-dozen pages of booze specials – from 22 oz. Kirins to fruity martini concoctions – before hitting the actual food – a standard mix of Asian fusion.

I ordered some okay avocado rolls and listened to the Adult-Contemporary-Popular-Soft-Rock-Smooth-Jams blasting from the stereo, like the lyrical stylings of Daniel Powter’s 2006 super-hit, “Bad Day” (“You had a bad day” / “You had a bad day”). The white pod chairs in the back are kind of quirky, and the happy hour specials are fine – two-buck Bud bottles and three-buck wine glasses – but doesn’t three dollars for a glass seem pricey when you know you can pick up a bottle of Chuck at Trader Joe’s, six glasses for the same cost? And while the food was fine, the spot’s mall location pushes prices higher to take advantage of those getting their first taste of freedom after escaping the onslaught of overpriced stuff-you-don’t-need in the Centre.

Don’t get me wrong, Asia Bistro isn’t bad, but there’s a reason malls aren’t known for their nightlife. No matter how much it plays up the drink factor, I can’t imagine actually going there on a Friday night. Asia Bistro is no Caf? Asia; hell, it’s no Asian Bistro, where the strongest drink is a mango smoothie (delicious).

So if mall people drive you to drinking – or if you’re just on a cash-wasting kick – you might try hitting up one of the restaurant bars on Pentagon Row. I’ve only tried one place there, but I imagine they’ll all rate about the same: not unpleasant. But if, like me, you’re just looking for some sushi, I’d suggest waiting out the metro ride back to Foggy Bottom, heading to One Fish Two Fish, and fishing a Tsingtao from the bottom of their refrigerator. If you’re lucky, they won’t even card you.

Bar Belle Rating

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.