A Five-Day Dinner Journey to Experience Five Different Asian Countries
When you think “Asian” food, a dozen common flavors and dishes probably come to mind, but lumping them into one food group is definitely a mistake. Eastern cuisine runs the gamut from Japanese sushi to Korean barbeque to Thailand’s famous curry dishes, and trying them all is a must for audacious eaters. After all, the continent’s many regions each boast their own traditional approach to cookery. Understanding these subtleties can make or break your perception of the norm, as well as open your mind to a realm of tasty possibilities. Whether you’re a gastronomist looking to indulge your taste buds – or just new to the game – finding the best spots in town is seldom an easy task though (even with the advent of Yelp and other such websites). The culinary traditions of five different countries, however, are just a drive away, as you’ll see during this five-day, culinary odyssey of Gwinnett.
DAY 01 | JAPAN
Helmed by Chef Lee, Sushi Niko Niko is a modern Buford restaurant for those looking to escape fast food boredom. Discerning diners may indulge in everything from artfully prepared sushi rolls to sizzling hibachi entrees that are more than just hype. Served up amongst glittering lights and gold-colored accents, the restaurant’s indubitable delicacies reflect Lee’s penchant for expressive presentation and theatrical preparation. Menu offerings stand apart from run-of-the-mill alternatives with quirky and locally inspired names, such as the Mall of Georgia and Buford Dr. sushi rolls. If you’re looking to try a house favorite, go with the Siesta Roll, which tantalizes with a unique blend of shrimp, crab meat, avocado, cucumber, and both teriyaki and crab chipotle sauce.
DAY 02 | THAILAND
Siamese Basil Thai
Founded by Chatchai and Jirawan Sawaengsuk in 1995, Siamese Basil Thai Restaurant is now a Norcross staple for those seeking flavorful Thai cuisine. Think heaping portions of familiar favorites, such as Pad Thai, Massaman curry, and coconut soup. The casual atmosphere means you can feel comfortable in any attire, yet still enjoy niche entrees typical of 5-star establishments. Like the name suggests, basil features strongly throughout chef specialties like deep fried Thai basil frog legs, as well as a crispy catfish filet sliced and sautéed with bell peppers, onions, bamboo, and basil leaves. If you have a taste for the finer things in life, go with the crispy honey duck, which kicks it up a notch with sweet-yet-tangy honey glaze and a side of hot sauce.
DAY 03 | Vietnam
Finding authentic Vietnamese food stateside is like looking for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. However, you won’t need a leprechaun to help with this search – we’ve got you covered. Tucked away in Suwanee, Green Basil packs a wicked punch with mouthwatering culinary concoctions that are as generously sized as they are visually appealing. Guests will find a dimly lit dining area that also contains a bar (for all your happy hour needs) and slated partitions, which convert high-backed booths into a series of enclaves. Expect to enjoy excessively spicy fare, seafood galore and the restaurant’s signature pho, an oversized bowl of rice noodles, herbs and meat doused in piping hot broth (yes, vegetarian options are available too). A compelling assortment of bubble tea also blends flavors like coconut, taro, honeydew, mango, peach and lychee with tapioca pearls or fruit-based jellies to please both adults and kids alike.
WHAT ON EARTH IS BUBBLE TEA?
Though culinary trends rise and fall, this frothy beverage isn’t disappearing any time soon. The shaken, tea-based infusion hits the sweet spot, so do yourself a favor and try it at least once. Though the two most common varieties contain either milk or crushed fruit and syrup, hybrids of both have also risen to popularity in recent years. The (usually) cold drink’s most unique feature has to be the sunken tapioca pearls or fruit jellies, which set it apart from other milkshake-style beverages. A fat straw ensures that these spherical ingredients reach you palate in their full glory.
DAY 04 | CHINA
Chinese Market Place
Though restaurant fare is a bona fide temptation (who wants to cook every night?), it’s safe to say that eating in has its perks too. If you have a penchant for cooking out of the box, however, run-of-the mill grocery stores aren’t likely to stock everything you need. Duluth’s Great Wall Supermarket, an ethnic vendor that debuted in 2001, was founded with this exact sentiment in mind. The grocer seeks to provide Asian immigrant families with traditional and emerging foodstuffs popular throughout the Eastern market, but anyone looking to prepare genuine Chinese food is more than welcome. Expect a whopping stockpile of products along neatly organized aisles and displays, as well as a food court (if you can’t wait until you get home). The butcher also offers a wide variety of fresh meat – like live conch and duck still available with the head – that is difficult to find anywhere else.
DAY 05 | Korea
Breakers Korean BBQ
Forget pulled pork for a minute and venture out to Breakers Korean BBQ in Duluth. Critically regarded as a first-class dining experience, this restaurant was showcased on “Atlanta Eats” last November. What suits your fancy? Marbleized slices of pork belly marinated in wine? Slow-roasted short ribs smothered in sweet and savory galbi sauce? Breakers serves it up. Draped in casual sophistication, this social experience is both ideal for a low-key night out with friends or suited up business functions with the boss. While large groups may converse around an array of barbeque profiles, individuals will find respite within intimate settings course after course. Main entrees are pre-cooked with lump charcoals and include thinly sliced beef bulgogi, a traditional Korean barbeque dish, which pops with a sweet soy sauce that is prepared in-house. To satiate even the most voracious of appetites, a sampling of all-you-can-eat selections is also available.