Falling Short on Flavors and Focus
Too many items, not enough expertise
The first time I went to StreetFood Asia was about a year and a half ago. A friend and I dropped in because we got some coupons while we were at ABQ Pride Fest and decided to give it a try. It was memorable because of what we talked about, but that was it. I realized that I had high hopes for the restaurant because when I went there with my friend, it was great because I was spending time with a loved one. Although, I did remember that there were plenty of options for the both of us.
The menu at StreetFood Asia is expansive, there are at least four options to change any of the main dishes, plus they advertise being able to cook a lobster a million (or 18) different ways. I like the idea of having plenty of options but after they’re presented to me, it gets overwhelming. Growing up in a world with too many options has taught me how to be decisive and firm, so I had no problem choosing what I wanted for my meals.
I sampled a lot of starter, or small plates, as they call them at StreetFood Asia. The beef bulgogi ($10) was contained in a beautiful, sticky and doughy bun, the beef medium-well done and kimchi dressing sweetly topped the small sandwich. I had the pineapple and mango stuffed tofu ($10) next and I've got to say, it could have been better. The tofu was grilled on the outside to a near crisp and the inside was soft and rubbery, as if it hadn't been cooked at all. The mango was sliced, you can't go wrong there, but there was no pineapple to be found. There may have been a spicy pineapple sauce that decorated the bottom of the plate with the expectation that it would be absorbed into the tofu, but it couldn't because the outside was too crisp. Nothing was seasoned in the dish, so the mango had to provide all the flavor.
After that I decided to try the small plate sampler ($20) which seemed like the best option to try as many appetizers as possible. The cream cheese wonton was very crispy and the cheese delightfully soft. Next I sampled the Kuala Lumpur Street coconut chicken satay, which reminded me of a small-town diner's chicken fried steak, only cut in half and put on a stick. It was elastic, difficult to pull apart and had no seasoning. After that I decided to just go through all the stick foods on the plate; the Kuala Lumpur Street tofu satay was cooked much more evenly than the other tofu dish I had and was covered in a spicy pineapple sauce and the Kuala Lumpur Street portobello satay was dripping with how much liquid it held, but was otherwise unremarkable. The Bangkok Street grilled pork spare ribs were difficult to get all of the meat off the bone but were decent because they were slathered in a mostly sweet sweet and sour sauce. Finally, the pork bao bun was what I expected, the surrounding bun soft, stretchy and sweet, and filled with a sauce containing bits of soft pork.
Next I sampled the Kuala Lumpur Street coconut chicken satay, which reminded me of a small-town diner's chicken fried steak, only cut in half and put on a stick. It was elastic, difficult to pull apart and had no seasoning.
I tried two main dishes—the Seoul Street chap chae and Saigon Street crispy noodles, both amply portioned with the house meats, which happened to be shrimp and beef. The chap chae was drenched in a watered down soy sauce and peanut butter sauce. The vegetables were steamed well and bursting with juices in each bite. The beef was wonderfully tender and the shrimp was conveniently de-tailed and deveined and surprisingly fibrous. The cellophane noodles were long, tender and plentiful. The crispy noodles were just that—crispy. I loved the crunch, but aside from that I found the whole dish very bland—from the steamed vegetables to the gravy-like sauce. My partner confirmed my thoughts with his observation that nothing was seasoned, making each part of the meal quite dull.
The service, though, was fantastic. The hostess and waitress were incredibly personable and excellent in their service. We talked about school and the hostess told me that in addition to working on her Bachelor's for political science, she's working two jobs. I remember when I went there with my friend a year and a half ago, I thought the service was rather remarkable then, as well. Our server, though not talkative, was attentive and brought us free sweets after our meal.
After having been around for so long and having such an expansive menu, one would think that the food would be prepared better, or at least with more expertise. Perhaps StreetFood Asia should consider whittling their menu down a bit, if not for the ease of the average customer, then to give their cooks a chance to really master more than a couple of dishes.
3422 Central SE
Hours: Sun-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm
Vibe: Colorful and family-friendly
Alibi Recommends: Vegetable bao, any sampler plate and plum oolong tea