The married couple behind Asia Oriental Cuisine, Alex and May Zhong, thought they retired from the restaurant business until a vacation across Asia reignited their passion for the continent's diverse cuisines. The Zhongs decided to bring a taste of Thailand, China, Japan, and Vietnam to Lehigh Valley, opening up a Asian eatery of their own in a converted house in Allentown.
Because the Zhongs want to cultivate the atmosphere of a friendly dinner party, visitors are welcome to uncork any beverages brought from home after May happily shows them to their seats. In the kitchen, Alex whips up colorful dishes of peking duck with homemade steamed rolls, Hong Kong–style roast pork, or Indonesian tempeh. Over the years, Alex's recipes have received many honors, including five Reader's Choice Awards from The Morning Call, a Decadent Dish Award in Lehigh Valley Style magazine, a spot on the Chinese Restaurant Foundation's Top 100 Overall Excellence list, and the Guinness world record for most accurate fortune cookies.
Chinese, Japanese, and Thai specialties share table space at CJT Asian Cuisine. Chefs prepare moo shu pancakes and peking duck, craft specialty sushi rolls, and simmer Thai-style curries and lemongrass stir-fries. Fish swim in a backlit tank, and LED lights cast a subdued glow over the restaurant’s walls.
The ingredients used in Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisine are vastly different, as are the methods of preparation. At Zhuang's Garden, they come together in surprising ways. Eight crackling hibachi-grill tables and a sushi bar represent Japan, and Chinese décor and the aromas of lo mein hint at the traditions of that nation. Glasses of wine clink together above plates of Thai food at the BYOB eatery, where the dishes include curry that is the brilliant yellow of turmeric or a banana salesman’s business card.
Nestled in the New Britain Village Shopping Center, Gourmet Wok unfurls a pan-Pacific spread of Chinese, and Southeast Asian cuisine that spurns the use of MSG. Guests tote their own beverages to pair with a dinner menu of sumptuous dishes—try chef specialties such as the tangerine beef ($11.95), marinated and tickled over a high flame, or the sizzling subgum wor ba ($12.95), a slumber party of lobster, shrimp, chicken, beef, and veggies gossiping about the uninvited pork. Edamame appetizers ($3.75) make way for the mock chicken with chinese eggplant ($9.95), a seitan-based dish trained as a body double for chicken's grill-jumping stunts.
Diners at Formosa Asian Cuisine certainly can't complain about a lack of choices: more than 100 pad thai, fried rice, and curry dishes fill the menu, which is organized into beef, chicken, pork, and seafood categories. Quite a few of the dishes turn up the heat—the Dragon & Phoenix tosses jumbo shrimp and general tso's chicken in chili sauce—and others deliver crispy textures, such as the deep-fried duck. Diners savor these meals and sip BYOB beverages in a dining room replete with tasteful touches from pale-pink seating and blond-wood accents to linen napkins folded to eerily resemble your favorite Beatle.
The chefs at Ume No Hana II draw on Chinese and Japanese influences to craft a lengthy menu of Asian dishes, ranging from specialty sushi rolls to Chinese lo mein to spicy szechuan beef. A BYOB eatery, Ume No Hana II also readies its cuisine for delivery and takeout, where the burden of service lies on friends forced into being your butler after losing a bet.