An Attractive Amalgam Of Asian Influences
By Patricia Brooks
New York Times – Reviewed Aug. 12, 2007
TENGDA ASIAN BISTRO, at the far left end of Goodwives Shopping Center in Darien, is the latest in a trio of Tengda restaurants in Connecticut, each slightly different from the others (there is a fourth in Katonah, N.Y.). The first of the Connecticut group, in Westport, is predominantly Japanese with a sprinkling of Chinese and Thai dishes; the Greenwich Tengda marries Japanese and European dishes.
The Darien Tengda, opened in April, is really an amalgam of the Greenwich and Westport restaurants, with a large sushi-sashimi menu and sushi bar, a few Thai and Chinese dishes and some European entrees with hints of Asia.
It was a pleasure to find a sushi menu with enough intriguing alternatives (not just teriyaki and tempura) for those who prefer their seafood cooked. One such was an expertly roasted Chilean sea bass (moist, fresh, full of flavor, With grilled asparagus spears, sesame soba noodles and a chunky miso sauce). Asian-spiced glazed breast of duck was another terrific entree. Remarkably tender, subtly seasoned slices of breast came with a tangy tamarin glaze, asparagus and two tasty little potato-pumpkin cakes.
The steaming Tengda curried seafood hot pot was abubble with shrimp, giant scallops, salmon, asparagus and succulent lavender-skinned Asian eggplant.
Accompanying a roasted salmon filet (cooked lightly and perfectly) were so beans, red onions and baby bok choy in a honey yuzu sauce. The sauce, unnecessarily embellished by orange marmalade, was a tad too sweet.
Each dish, sushi or Western, is an eye-pleasing picture, proof of an artist in the kitchen. An example: In a soft shell crab roll, the sushi segments were beautifully arranged at one end of large white plate, with a honey-wasabi-mango-eel sauce forming decorative loops on the rest of the plate’s surface.
The menu features a number of sauces and you may choose which meat, chicken, seafood or vegetable combination you wish to mix with them. At one lunch I chose spicy mango sauce, with chicken. The dish contained strips of crunchy jicama, bell pepper, crisp vermicelli noodles and lots of mango slices. All the ingredients tasted fresh, and the dish arrived sizzling hot. In an entree called wok basil, shrimp and scallops commingled happily with mushrooms, onions, bell peppers and herbs.
What surprised me most about Tengda was its use of unconventional dips and sauces. Shrimp and vegetable tempura (in a crisp, light batter) bore two dips: the usual soy-
ginger and a fragrant ginger aioli (a refreshing twist on a classic). Thai crab cakes (lightly browned and crunchy-edged), ornamented with fresh mango strips, came with a tantalizing chili crème fraiche dip. Crispy calamari salad, full of crackling squid rings on a bed of fresh baby greens, sparkled with a Thai chili dressing that was both sweet and peppy.
The sushi-sashimi menu is a knockout. While the special rolls allow the sushi chefs to show off their creativity, purists can delight in the many regular rolls and hand rolls, such as sea urchin, fluke, amber jack, red clam, yellowtail, sweet shrimp and Spanish mackerel. The eel was the best I’ve had in ages. My only disappointment was the bland black tuna in the sashimi platter.
Tengda offers Western desserts that are top-notch, including a tangy Key lime tart, a brownie-ice-cream-honeyed-walnut-amaretto cookie fantasy, lightly deep-fried crispy coconut cream, and the “chocolate delight” (a round individual cake with a seductive soft center).
The name Tengda in Chinese means ‘long life” and “prosperity.” With food and presentations this attractive, and a staff as attentive as ours have been, this newest Tengda should thrive and prosper as mightily as its older siblings.
Tengda Asian Bistro – Goodwives Shopping Center
25 Old Kings Highway North, Darien
THE SPACE Large, softly lighted dining area on two levels, with sushi bar in the rear. Ground-level entrance; two steps up to second dining level.
THE CROWD Couples and business groups at lunch; families, couples and foursomes at dinner. Professional, upbeat service.
THE BAR Full bar, with a sizable sake selection ($13 to $16 by the glass, $21 to $80 by the bottle). A well chosen, medium-size wine list begins at $31 by the bottle, with many available by the glass ($8 to $14). There is also a small Asian beer and micro-brew ale selection.
THE BILL Lunch: entrees, $8 to $21. Dinner: appetizers, $5 to $12; entrees, $10 to $30; desserts, $7 to $8. Sushi by the piece: $2.25 to $22 (for special rolls). American Express, MasterCard and Visa are accepted.
WHAT WE LIKE Thai crab cake, crispy calamari salad, shrimp and vegetable tempura, spicy mango chicken, “wok basil” shrimp and scallops, roasted Chilean sea bass, Tengda curried seafood hot pot, roasted salmon, Asian spiced glazed duck breast, house sashimi, sushi variety; all desserts.
IF YOU GO Lunch: Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner: Sunday to Thursday, 4:30 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4:30 to 10 p.m.
Reviewed Aug. 12, 2007