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Sesame Asian Kitchen serves dishes to satisfy all appetites

Going the extra mile since early spring to reassure customers in trying times, Ashland’s Sesame Asian Kitchen has affirmed its staying power.

Offering takeout, online ordering and its own delivery service within Ashland, Sesame even provides picnic mats for dining on the Lithia Park lawn directly across from its front doors on Winburn Way. More recently, Sesame set up a beer garden in the Plaza as neighboring restaurants served patrons at tables on cordoned-off sections of the street Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Sesame has long boasted more streetside accommodations than other eateries in the vicinity. In addition to umbrella-topped seating prominently positioned at Sesame’s main entrance, there are several prime spots on Calle Guanajuato, overlooking Ashland Creek. Securing one of those on a recent weeknight, friends and I enjoyed a meal that satisfied our appetites for both meaty, savory flavors and lighter, vegetable-driven specialties.

Owners Tom and Lisa Beam, who also operate Ashland’s Pie + Vine, have perfected Sesame’s Pan-Asian menu since its 2009 debut. Diners can select from 10 dishes inspired by Thai, Vietnamese,

Japanese, Korean and other Asian cuisines, as well as Latin and American fusion dishes, such as shrimp tacos with flying fish roe and the Kobe burger topped with bacon, kimchi and yuzu aioli.

Slight adjustments for the season keep Sesame’s menu fresh and interesting. Winter’s deep-fried Brussels sprouts with red miso, for example, have given way to broccoli tempura with ponzu sauce. Lettuce wraps recently have been reinterpreted with Napa cabbage, which holds up much better in takeout containers. And a plethora of produce can be had in the Imperial Palace salad, mingling cabbage, carrot, apple, orange segments, scallions and toasted almonds with tangerine vinaigrette.

Priced at $14.95 with chicken or shrimp or $13.95 with tofu, the salad aligned with the eating ethic of my friend’s dad, just without dressing and the request of lemon wedges on the side. Palates primed to indulge, my friend and I requested bao buns stuffed with honey-Sriracha pork ($8.95), duck potstickers ($8.95) and broccoli tempura ($7.95). The condiments and seasoning of each suggested pairing with a lemongrass margarita ($9.50).

Specialty cocktails range from $8 to $10. Beyond the predictable IPA and lager, beers include Maui Brewing Co.’s coconut porter and Oakshire Brewing’s cucumber Berliner Weissbier ($5 each). Sesame’s carefully curated wine list features labels from Italy, California and the Rogue and Willamette valleys, as well as the Beams’ own Vine + Yard pinot gris and tempranillo, from $6.75 to $8.50 per glass. Four varieties of sake also are available.

Craving an alternative to the richer dishes, we added the cabbage wraps with tofu ($13.50). Anticipating a superior peanut sauce as the wraps’ accompaniment, we hoped for the dish’s redemption, since remarking several months ago that the former vehicle of lettuce leaves hopelessly wilted in to-go containers. We did, however, relish Sesame’s gourmet interpretation of pad Thai ($16.95) with duck confit, crispy onions and a sunny-side-up egg, which lends itself well to transporting home from the restaurant.

A sucker for almost any preparation of duck, I recalled the potstickers among the first items I ordered at Sesame more than a decade ago. Maybe the meat was somewhat novel in Southern Oregon at that time, but the dumplings made a more favorable impression in the past compared with the present. While their concept is solid, the potstickers would have benefited from longer or higher-heat cooking to crisp and caramelize the exterior, perhaps with a bit more fat.

Fried to a crunchy golden brown, the broccoli’s batter wasn’t strictly speaking a classic tempura but nevertheless delicious. Detecting just a few doughy spots hiding among the crowns, I could have eaten twice the portion, if only I wanted to spring for another cocktail counterpoint to the vegetable’s distinctive note.

Offering a tender contrast, the bao buns were steamed until pillowy, each cradling a generous portion of succulent shredded pork, a few toothsome morsels interspersed with piquant sliced scallions and earthy crushed peanuts. The well-balanced presentation needs no additional sauce.

And the tofu wraps’ peanut sauce didn’t disappoint. Whether ordered as an entree or shared as a starter, the wraps are a dish to entice vegans and vegetarians. Gluten-free but carnivorous diners also would enjoy them with chicken. I appreciate the minimal treatment of fresh and lightly pickled vegetables assembled more purposefully than in most salads.

Desserts, including a chocolate cake and pineapple upside-down cake, didn’t tempt us to indulge further. But lingering alongside the creek concluded our meal in fine fashion. For diners who choose canine companions, Sesame welcomes dogs who content themselves tucked underneath creekside or streetside tables. The restaurant also will supply water and paper bowls for pets’ portions of the feast.

Located at 21 Winburn Way, Sesame Asian Kitchen is open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 541-482-0119. See sesameasiankitchen.com.

Tempo Tidbits

Private dining accommodations for groups as large as 10 are available at Naumes Suncrest Winery in Talent.

Winery chef Ryan Wojt creates five-course menus to pair with the estate’s wines. Since offering such dinners as auction items at local fundraising events, winery owners expanded the format to the general public amid social distancing at food-service establishments statewide.

Dinner preparations begin with a survey to determine the group’s favorite wines and food, as well as allergies, other dietary restrictions and dislikes. Using that information, Wojt and winery director Corey Schultz create a custom menu featuring fresh, seasonally available ingredients, often with such local specialties as Naumes pears, Rogue Creamery cheese, locally sourced salmon and more.

Some of Wojt’s recent dishes are grilled peach salads with curried hazelnuts and basil vinaigrette, house-smoked steelhead with caviar on potato gaufrettes and braised lamb shanks with Oregonzola polenta cakes and roasted summer squash.

For pricing and availability, email CSchultz@NaumesSuncrestWinery.com. See naumessuncrestwinery.com. Call 541-608-1755.

The tasting room at 150 Suncrest Road is open from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, from noon to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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Sakana Co. in Ashland has reopened for dine-in service.

The sushi restaurant at 145 E. Main St. cited limitations of its bar and dining room layout that prevented welcoming customers back inside until last week. Outdoor seating also was reinstated in front of Sakana’s main entrance.

Sakana has offered takeout, online ordering and limited delivery since mid-March. The eatery relocated from Medford to Ashland last year and cemented a following for Japanese-style small plates, including salmon cakes, short ribs and fried chicken, along with classic maki rolls, sashimi and nigiri sushi.

Owners describe the establishment as an “izakaya,” a type of informal Japanese pub, popular for after-work drinking in that country. Hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Call 541-708-0901. See sakanaco.com

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The following Central Point restaurants in July received perfect scores of 100 on their semiannual inspections by Jackson County Environmental Public Health: Corner Club, Central Point Senior Center, Little Caesars Pizza, Mazatlan Grill, The Palms Cafe, Purple Parrot (East Pine Street), Purple Parrot (Plaza Boulevard), Tamale Factory.

The county’s searchable database of restaurant and food service inspections is at healthspace.com/Clients/Oregon/jackson/Web.nsf/home.xsp

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Have a Tempo tidbit to share? Email news about the local dining, food and beverage scene to: thewholedish@gmail.com

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Sarah Lemon has relished the Rogue Valley’s dining scene for nearly two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s dining column. Her palate has helped to judge some of the region’s culinary competitions and festivals. The former editor of A la Carte, the Mail Tribune’s weekly food section, she writes a biweekly column, The Whole Dish, and blogs and podcasts under the same name. Listen at mailtribune.com/podcasts and read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow thewholedishblog on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.

Cabbage wraps come with a choice of chicken or tofu.{ }Photos by Sarah Lemon
Broccoli tempura numbers among several vegetarian options at Ashland’s Sesame Asian Kitchen.{ }