Tour of Asia

AMONG THE VAST VARIETY OF LAKELAND’S EXCELLENT RESTAURANTS ARE THOSE THAT SERVE DELICIOUS DISHES OF ASIAN ORIGIN. FROM THE SOUPS TO THE SPICES AND FROM THE RAW TO THE COOKED, THERE’S SOMETHING FOR EVERY PALATE TO ENJOY ON THE LAKELANDER’S WHIRLWIND TOUR OF ASIA.

Photography by John Kazakalis

01

NEW MOON SUSHI – SASHIMI

4231 Florida Avenue South

The atmosphere at New Moon Sushi is akin to many Japanese restaurants. Each dish is as much a work of art as anything else. New Moon’s large bar seats about 15.

Sashimi lovers will certainly be satisfied with generous portions and striking flavors, paired with any number of cocktails or a Kirin Light, if you’re so inclined. New Moon might just make a fan out of someone who never thought they’d find raw fish delicious.

Sushi is primarily a dish of vinegared rice; most rolls contain raw fish. Sashimi contains raw fish cut into a rectangular portion, a hira-zukuri cut, served on top of rice. New Moon’s Sashimi Deluxe dish is a sight to behold. Eighteen colorful pieces of seafood, including tuna, smoked salmon, escalar, shrimp, scallop, and yellowtail, each artistically arrayed on the plate and practically begging for consumption.

02

THE RIB HOUSE

2918 Florida Ave S

The name may appear deceiving, but actually it paints the picture perfectly for this Thai and American fusion restaurant. They’re clearly not shy in displaying what they do best. A unique spin on Thai, they also offer succulent ribs and American classics like their black and bleu bacon burgers, and eggs and pancakes.

Since reopening earlier this year, the restaurant’s recent addition includes a full line of fresh, sushi-grade seafood and an expanded selection of sake. Their rounded menu serves from breakfast to dinner, offering American barbecue, Thai-American-fused dishes, and traditional Thai platters and starters.

In addition to their several rib platters dressed in barbecue sauce and served with baked beans, traditional Thai dishes include Tom Yum Goong, Prawns in Chili Sauce, and Woosen Pad Thai. Best topped off with their dessert offerings, such as coconut ice cream and Thai donuts.

03

PEKING HOUSE

2411 Florida Ave S

Welcome to the solely authentic Chinese restaurant in town. You’ve likely passed this gem on a daily basis without even realizing it. Though you will be disappointed if you arrive seeking out a buffet line of stocked Chow Mein and General Tso Chicken, because here each individual dish is served fresh.

Within these walls are the nostalgic cultural aesthetics of a traditional Chinese restaurant. The menu lists classic staples for Chinese cuisine, each dish a true re-creation of your favorites. 

Typically, regulars start out with a Pu-Pu platter, serving chicken wings, egg rolls, beef sticks, crab rangoon, and shrimp. The fried rice is a staple and longtime favorite of locals, ideal to accompany any other chicken, beef, or seafood dish. Peking House’s several varieties of Lo-Mein are favorites as well.

04

CAFE ROTI

200 Parkview Pl

No tour of Asian cuisine would be complete without the savory and spicy flavors of the Indian subcontinent.  Cafe Roti has welcomed its visitors with the authentic foods of Indian-Pakistani origin since 2003. It’s casual yet classy, and the aroma of the curries fills the dining area.

The menu offers a hearty lunch special as well as a full dinner selection, ranging from Tandoori Chicken, to beef, lamb, vegetarian selections, and masala and madras options.

Above all the Chicken Madras since it is the epitome of Indian cuisine. A red curry characterized by a relatively high degree of spiciness, Madras is tempered by yogurt or coconut milk, which adds a smooth creaminess to the dish. Served  with a vegetable soup, tasty naan, and a side of coconut-flavored onion. Flavors of this curry that will whet your appetite for more

05

CAFÉ  ZUPPINA

4417 Florida Ave S

Yes, often classified for its European location, in actuality, geographically Turkey sits alongside the outskirts of both Europe and Asia, making it uniquely qualified as a part of Eurasia.

Known for her authentic Turkish organic meals, Owner/Chef Berna Nar has been serving up the freshest of Mediterranean (or Eurasian) dishes likely in all of Central Florida. Café Zuppina’s succulent lamb dish ideally features the country’s affinity for this delicate meat. Cooked to a sublime tenderness, still it rivals the cafe’s most raved item — the Brussels sprout. You won’t find a soul alive who wouldn’t want to consume every last leaf of this prized, perfectly caramelized sprout, accompanied on nearly every dish Berna serves. Or any vegetable this café turns to gold, for that matter.

06

THAI OISHI

1535 Town Center Dr

Stepping into Thai Oishi feels like stepping into an eatery in a bustling market, though this diminutive restaurant makes for a cozy atmosphere. The selections range from over 70  choices, from edamame to the King & I — a spicy pan-seared salmon and grilled shrimp creation.

The Miso Soup almost warrants another bowl. Served piping hot, it’s delicious, but you will want to be sure to save room for the main entree. If you’re a fan of salt, you’ll especially appreciate the excellent miso at Thai Oishi. The Panang Curry arrives steaming and fragrant. With high-quality, large-grain, nutty-brown rice, it’s a perfectly spicy balance of coconut milk, basil, and crunchy, fresh vegetables.

07

GIGI’S ORIENTAL MARKET

1751 E Edgewood Dr

This truly unassuming gem of a market (and its owner, Gigi, with her infectious ever-present smile on the brink of laughter), is known for its endless array of soba noodles, its well-stocked elusive Asian vegetables, and above all, for Gigi’s kimchi. Why the city hasn’t long been singing Gigi’s praises for this canned, pickled, spicy treasure, we’re not sure. But we felt it was well overdue.

On any given day you will find a broad variety of well-fermented kimchi (yes, all that good-for-the-gut tasty bacteria). Gigi’s offers homemade varieties  such as green onion, radish, and the traditional napa cabbage.

08

SAIGON BISTRO

1554 Town Center Dr W

The bright and modern space of Saigon Bistro is home to an extensive menu of soups, rice- and noodle-based dishes, with plenty of fresh vegetables and tasty meats.

Whereas the other dishes on the Asian Tour are a couple millennia old, Pho is a youngster food, having only become popular in Vietnam around the beginning of the 20th century. But the dish gained popularity so fast that it’s not synonymous with the country’s cuisine.

Saigon Bistro offers many types of Pho. Hours of simmering preparation result in a warm, rich aroma, accompanied with bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, and lime before the main dish of broth, noodles, and meat is served in a generous bowl. Add a squeeze of fresh lime, red chile sauce, or traditional fish sauce, depending on your tastes.

For those palates unfamiliar with Vietnamese cuisine, Pho is a wonderful introduction.