CLOSED: Dinner at Aja Asian Bistro, 4/18/09
Friday, April 24, 2009 at 9:07AM
The Lady Who Lunches in RIP: NYC restaurant cemetary

~Cuisine: Pan Asian
~Scene: Trendy; young; modern and dramatic
~Occasion: Romantic date; small/large group dining; birthday/bachelorette-party dinner
~Must try: Bangkok Basil Jumbo Shrimp
~Price: Appetizers, all under $10; Entrees, most under $20
~Reservations: Accepted by phone or via: http://www.opentable.com/
~Phone: (212) 253-7100
~Website: http://www.aja-asianbistro.com/
~Location: 432 6th Avenue, (Btw 9th & 10th St.)

“We’ll meet you at 8:30pm at Aja. See you on Saturday!” In preparation for my dinner date with Megan and Hung, I did some research on this mysterious “Aja Asian Bistro.” The reviews on menupages.com were both sweet and sour, and I got no response when I inquired with the board on chow.com. Honestly, my expectations were low (I’m always weary of a place that serves both sushi and Pan-Asian).

Saturday marked the first “sunny and 70-degrees” day in Manhattan, and the abundance of people in the parks and outdoor cafes was overwhelming. Even at 8pm on my walk to the restaurant, the temperature remained warm and humid. Upon my arrival, Megan and Hung were already at Aja enjoying a pre-meal aperitif. Within minutes, a hostess whisked us away to our reserved table. My first visual impression of the restaurant’s dimly-lit, dramatic interior was how much it reminded me of Kittichai in Soho: Modern and tranquil aesthetics; dark-chocolate colored furniture and Asian woodwork; tall ceilings strewn with chic lanterns, etc.

Shortly after the dinner/nightly specials and cocktail menus were dispersed among the table, our adorable waitress took our drink orders. She smiled when I asked if Aja had plum wine. “Of course we do! Would you like a glass?” I was presented with a goblet-sized glass filled to the brim with the sensually sweet wine. At this point, nothing could make me happier.

 

The table chose to start with three appetizers: Aja Baby Ribs; Thai Special Lettuce Wraps with Chicken; Fried vegetable spring rolls. Besides their gorgeous presentation, I found each dish to be quite tasty:
The baby back ribs were a bit too fatty, but I did love their rich and subtly sweet marinade.
I would have preferred more chicken to vegetables in the lettuce wrap filling, in addition to iceberg leaves instead of romaine.
The vegetable spring rolls were great, but you really can’t mess up anything fried.


Upon a waiter’s recommendation for the restaurant’s best shrimp entree, I ordered the “Bangkok Basil Jumbo Shrimp.” A shallow bowl arrived that was nearly overflowing with marinated and sautéed: Okra, asparagus, cauliflower, eggplant, sweet peas, yard-long beans, mushroom, Asian gourd, and most importantly…Jumbo shrimp. For $18, I felt that I received more than my money’s worth of delicious, good-quality food. The vegetables were crispy and perfectly cooked, and the shrimp were plump and fresh.

 

With the exception of the numerous amount of cocktails ordered, I found Aja’s pricing to be quite reasonable (even in these tough times) and I look forward to a return visit.

 

Article originally appeared on The Lunch Belle (http://www.thelunchbelle.com/).
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