January 11, 2015 by Susan Murray
I’m sure you’ve heard me say this at least a dozen times but things slow down at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, our inn in Asheville, during January and February each year. But that doesn’t mean things slow down in Asheville or for James and me. Some how Asheville keeps presenting us with new restaurants, music and things to do while the inn, itself, also keeps us on our toes.
The week we found a new restaurant to love and talk about.
James and I spent 17 years in Asia where we ate some of the finest food in the world. In Singapore and HongKong the locals take their food seriously, from the simplest of street food to the most high-end of restaurants. So it was a great loss to us when we moved to the United States. Not that there isn’t Chinese food in the United States. There is. But it is American Chinese Food which has evolved over time into an entirely different cuisine. And because American Chinese Food is so popular in the United States it predominates in the market. Traditional Chinese Cuisine is hard to find outside of major cities and even then it can be a search. But hope springs eternal and when we heard there was a new Asian Restaurant opening on Charlotte Street just off Chestnut, we bundled up the whole family (It is January!) and went to try Gan Shan Station.
And I mean the whole family: Sarah, Emily and Abby were with us. A tougher set of critics would be hard to find. Two of them were born in Hong Kong and all three spent 11 years in Singapore where some of the best Asian food around was served in their High School Cafeteria.
But while we might have been in a slice of Asian Heaven, we were still in Asheville. So before we got to the food we sampled some of the house cocktails. The Gan Shan Sling featured a lemongrass infused gin and szechuan peppercorns (among other things) while the Manwha Lady is a lovely (and dangerously smooth) concoction of cognac, rum, lime, coconut , ginger, mint and chamomile. These are only two of the collection. We left the rest to try for another day.
On to the food. In classic Murray fashion, we over-ordered because we wanted to try everything! One of the biggest hits was Crispy Salt & Pepper Tofu. “Tofu!”, I hear you cry (or is that my family I hear?). Yes, tofu. It was delicious with a light coating on the outside giving a slight bite before you reached a meltingly soft interior. This was coupled with a slightly spicy dipping sauce and was a great way to start our meal.
We had the Som Tam (green papaya salad), Shui Jaio (housemade dumplings which this evening had dumpling skins made with carrot) , Mapo Doufu ( a sort of Chinese Chili with tofu, pork, mushrooms and beans), Spicy Lemongrass Soup and Coconut Squash. Everything was perfect with the delicate, clean flavours we loved in Asia, where each ingredient can be distinguished and yet the whole of the dish has a distinct taste of its own. The only dishes that need improvement were the sides of Gai Lon (Chinese Broccoli) and Bok Choy. They were a little stringy and tough which could be a failing of the ingredient rather than the cooking.
The real show-stopper however was the Deep Fried Whole Fish on a bed of rice noodles, Thai tamerind sauce, cabbage and fresh herbs. We cleared the plate.
You would think we would be full, wouldn’t you? We were but that didn’t stop us. Our delight in finding this restaurant was so great that we headed on to dessert sharing Coconut Black Rice with Fresh Mango and a dish of Tapioca Pearl Pudding. Truly it is amazing that Chef Patrick O’Cain has no Asian roots!
Come and stay at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast and we will set you on your way to one of the best meals in Asheville at Gan Shan Station.
Posted in Restaurants | Tagged Asian Cuisine, Cocktails, Gan Shan Station, Whole Fried Fish | Leave a comment