Vickie Aldous and Angela Howe-Decker, who take turns writing the Quills & Queues column, recently tried out Sesame Asian Kitchen.
Located at 21 Winburn Way, across from the entrance to Lithia Park, Sesame serves up food inspired by the cuisine of Thailand, China, Japan, Mongolia and other Asian locales.
Prices on appetizers and salads range from $4.25 to $9.50, while entrées start at $6.95 for Beijing Fried Rice with vegetables and Chinese sausage and go up to $16.95 for Lo Mein, a dish with scallops, lobster, shrimp, chili peppers and scallions. The extensive beverage menu includes cocktails, wine, beer, sake, tea, soda and concoctions such as Lemongrass Cooler and Tropical Punch Spritzer.
Vickie: I've been wanting to try this restaurant for a while now, mainly because of the decor. The ceiling of Sesame Asian Kitchen is hung with white paper lanterns and the pale wood furnishings give the interior a light, fresh look.
The restaurant staff members instantly showed that they would be helpful and attentive by rushing to open the door when Angela and I approached.
Spicy dishes are marked on the menu, so I honed in on those choices and ordered the Bangkok rice bowl for $8.95 with beef skewers on the side for $4.25. Soon our waitress delivered a white bowl filled with thinly sliced eggplant and assorted vegetables in steaming red curry coconut broth. Cilantro and chopped nuts were sprinkled on top. A mound of rice and two beef skewers were on the side.
The dish was delicious and perfectly spiced, especially since American restaurants tend to tone down spices too far.
I didn't care for the meat skewers, which were too fatty for my taste. But the Bangkok rice bowl was hearty enough on its own to be satisfying. The curry mixture, combined with the mound of rice, equalled a generous dinner with enough left over for lunch the next day.
I appreciated that the meal was served with metal chopsticks instead of wooden ones that would be thrown away. Diners also get a fork and knife — a convenience for diners like me with rusty chopsticks skills.
Some of my friends who have eaten at Sesame said it was too loud for them to hear their dinner companions. Angela and I didn't have that problem, although we did ask to be seated away from a large party of people near the front of the restaurant.
Sesame does offer outside dining on the sidewalk that faces Lithia Park for people who want a quiet spot, or who just want to eat alfresco.
Angela: I, too, liked the bright, open space and the cheery staff. While the menu descriptions sounded fairly traditional, I noticed the dishes going to other tables were artfully presented and the portions were huge.
I was in the mood for something simple, so I ordered the special — beef chop suey for $10.95. I can't remember the last time I actually saw chop suey on a menu. I usually think of it as one of those Americanized dishes that only my grandparents would order, full of bland and overcooked vegetables. I wagered I could expect better from Sesame, and was not disappointed.
When my food arrived, I was delighted to see an architectural wonder of Chinese-style food. A round platform of fragrant rice supported a tower of stir-fried slices of beef, broccoli rabe, mushrooms and water chestnuts in a garlicky sauce crowned by a nest of crispy rice noodles. The beef was lean and thinly sliced, unlike Vickie's skewers. While I know chop suey should be mild, not spicy, I would have preferred some depth of flavor beyond garlic, maybe some more ginger or something to brighten it up.
Nonetheless, it was good and I left happy. I like restaurants with service that doesn't interrupt the flow of the meal or the flow of conversation with dining companions. The staff at Sesame were friendly and helpful, but not overly so. Sesame gave me just what I wanted that night: a comfy booth, a tasty meal and space for conversation with a good friend.
Tidings staff writer Vickie Aldous and Tidings correspondent Angela Howe-Decker alternate as author of the weekly column Quills & Queues.