This week’s hunt takes us to the Far East, for a culinary peek at Stratford’s Asian food scene. Do you know your way around the Asian restaurants in town? Whether you’re looking for a lunch special or takeaway for the family, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Stratford.
East Cafe -- 3698 Main St.
I stopped into East Cafe first for some Thai food. Specializing in both Chinese and Thai, East Cafe has a great lunch menu that is worth checking out. I went straight for the Thai coconut chicken curry, which for only $5.50 came with a generous amount of soup as an appetizer -- you are allowed to select from a list that includes wonton, egg drop and hot and sour.
East Cafe had a quick turnaround. After only 10 minutes I was staring at a piping bowl of hot and sour soup as I waited for the chicken dish to arrive, which did shortly after digging in. This was a very hearty soup, and hot and sour lovers will appreciate the fresh vegetables laden throughout the red broth. But the real treat was the chicken.
This colorful composition, bouncing off of the white rice on the platter, was very spicy, while also light and filling. The sauce was not syrupy and did not blanket the chicken, but rather clung to it. There was no unnecessary dripping involved. And interspersed throughout the chicken were crunchy red and green peppers, asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, onion and peas.
East Cafe, in business for two years now, is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. Seating is available for dining in.
Main Wah -- 1345 Barnum Ave.
From Thailand, I made a trip north to China with a trip to Main Wah. In business for over 20 years, Main Wah serves Hunan, Szechuan and Canton-style Chinese food for both eat-in and takeout purposes.
Like East Café, there was a quick turnaround here, and so I waited on the seats by the window for my shrimp lo mein -- a suggestion by the chef. And I was not disappointed. This dish had everything you would expect from a traditional lo mein. It was well balanced, if anything even heavy on the shrimp, and the sauce was enough for me to get my fix while, like the chicken at Cafe East, maintaining a low profile. The shrimp was tender and bursting with flavor, and the vegetables added a nice balance to the mixture in the noodle bed.
I left China for a brief sojourn to Japan, heading down Barnum Avenue until I came to Hong Kong Tokyo, located right next to the Stratford Post Office. I needed to eat sushi, and as Stratford diners are aware, this is not an easy thing to come by in town. It’s a good thing I stopped here.
I glanced at the menu, unsure of what to order. And while they didn’t have a Patch.com roll, there was a Stratford roll offered from the 21 specialty rolls available -- in addition to the hand rolls, sashimi a la carte, combos and sushi bar. Other intriguing titles included the Spider King Roll, the Volcano Roll and the Godzilla Roll. Nonetheless, I chose Stratford.
The Stratford roll included spicy tuna, mango, shrimp tempura and avocado with yellow soybean seaweed and mango sauce. The mango really made this sushi “pop,” and for someone who might be just warming up to this delicious food, I recommend it. It’s not terribly fishy, and the shrimp-tuna combination is a certain winner.
Plenty of seating is available at Hong Kong Tokyo so you can enjoy the food fresh from the kitchen or order it to-go. Delivery is available for orders with a minimum of $15.
China House -- 1056 Stratford Ave.
My last stop of the day took me to China House, where I sought the one item that had evaded me thus far all afternoon -- beef. I promptly ordered beef fried rice from the counter and waited the short distance at a table for it to arrive. Like every place I had been in today, the service was very quick.
The menu was very similar to Main Wah's. It was extensive, covering all of your basic Chinese food necessities from appetizers such as spring rolls and boneless barbecue ribs to favorites such as General Tso’s and beef with broccoli. There is also an extensive lunch speciality menu available until 4 p.m., so if you miss any of the others there is still time to get a deal on some cheap and tasty food. The lunch specialites are served with pork fried rice, white rice or brown rice, as well as a choice of wonton, egg drop, hot and sour or an egg roll.
I was impressed at how fluffy the rice was when my order came. This was not a heavy, fried rice but rather an airy bed for the beef and pea-carrot combination to rest placidly on, almost delicately. And rather than cubes of beef, the chunks were sliced into strips which made spearing it with my fork much easier.
China House uses one hundred percent vegetable oil, has free delivery and caters for parties.
Now, do yourself a favor -- it's be a long four-day workweek, right? -- and order you and yours some takeout tonight. If you are craving pizza, check out our Stratford pizza article, which was published in July. Either way, let someone else do the cooking.
Where do you go to get your Far East food fix? Tell us in the comments section below.