Claudia Kwan/for Metro Vancouver
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990 Smithe St. (and Burrard)
Open daily for lunch and dinner
Dinner for 4, including tax, tip, and drinks: $105
Dinner for 3, including tax, tip, and drinks $95
*** 1/2 (out of 5)
If you want to have your restaurant appeal to the widest possible customer base, it makes sense to make the food as diverse as possible. Azia takes the concept to new lengths with more than 100 menu items from East and Southeast Asia.
The expansive loft space is accessibly stylish. Chocolate and honey-toned woods combine for comfortable seating, with a rippled golden wall competing for attention with three flat-screen TVs at the bar. Tourists, moviegoers, and families are all checking out what’s on neighbouring tables as a guide to making their own selections.
Service is very good, and the nicely presented food arrives like clockwork. The shiitake mushrooms are plump and juicy atop some palate-refreshing baby Shanghai bok choy, and beef and black bean sauce is a savoury treat on the flat rice noodles we ask for instead of chow mein.
Roti canai pan bread, Kobe beef carpaccio, and Peking duck spring rolls are good, but not remarkable. After we’re foiled in our attempt to order the Mandarin smoked tea duck, we settle for a repeat of Peking duck, served with rice flour pancakes. The duck is sliced too thick for my liking, with big hunks of meat attached to the crispy skin, and even though it’s called “Mini Peking duck” in the menu, the dish is a little too small for $18.95. We fill in the tummy gaps with some mango pudding and deep fried banana.
A menu this big demands a second go-round, and in Dinner 2.0 we tackle crispy Mongolian beef strips that get my friend’s enthusiastic stamp of approval, very good honeyed Sichuan barbecue spareribs, sambal okra, eggplant, and green beans that need more kick, and greasy and bland wok squid. The ‘Red Dragon’ sushi roll is a failed $10 experiment with the seafood drowned in hot sauce.
Don’t be afraid to make some trial-and-error visits. Not every dish is a slam-dunk, but it’s a good bet everyone can find something they’ll enjoy at Azia on their next evening out. After all, that’s what a menu this vast is designed to accomplish.