Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, April 26, 2006
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Eden Bistro’s tuna dish isn’t the only deep-sea threat on the table. The accompanying drink is called a Shark Bite.
Eden Bistro
Tuna tartare salad $7.75
Crispy beef in black
pepper sauce $13.95
Sweet chili red snapper $17.50
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Heavenly

If Southlakers can locate the intestinal fortitude to try Eden Bistro, they’ll find some awesome pan-Asian cuisine.

By JIMMY FOWLER

Eden Bistro

480 W Southlake Blvd, Southlake. 817-748-0028. Mon-Thu 11:30am-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-10:30pm. All major cards accepted.

orth Texans may demand their freedom of choice, but it seems that many of them don’t like their beloved categories blurred. Such is the lesson learned by the owner and manager of Eden Bistro, the recently opened Southlake eatery. With cream-colored walls, bamboo cane partitions, and metal bead curtain that weighs about 400 pounds and separates the bar from the restaurant, Eden Bistro calls its fare “modern Asian,” which might be another term for pan-Asian or “Asian nouvelle,” the mix-and-match approach to Eastern-ethnic flavors that peaked as a hot trend a few years ago. But faddishness be damned — a smart, skillful chef who knows how to blend countries and cuisines can underscore the endlessly diverse palate of what used to be called “the Orient” at the same time that he or she creates a rarity: a truly memorable meal, one that you will remark about to friends and colleagues a week after it’s been consumed.

Eden Bistro conjures such dishes, but their uniqueness has so far been a bit of a stumbling block. Or so said the manager, a Hong Kong native, who also happened to be our server last Saturday afternoon. (The owner is Malaysian, and the chef is Taiwanese.) She said people call or walk in looking for specifically Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or Vietnamese food and are confronted by a menu that may incorporate sauces and spices from two or three of those nationalities in a single entrée. When newcomers see such apparently unholy alliances, they run like scaredy cats — sometimes to Sushi Sam, the traditional Japanese joint next door.

A pity, because last weekend’s lunch in the near-empty space was, from precise presentation until a final fork-scraping that made sure not a drop of the tingly black pepper sauce remained on the plate, a divine experience.

First up was an appetizer of roasted duck soft tacos with a small side bowl of slippery mango wedges. The moist-but-not-greasy fowl was shredded and mixed with scallions and a wonderfully prickly house-made hoisin sauce, the dark, plum-sweet stuff that sits in a squeeze bottle on many Vietnamese tables. The mango had a touch of melon with a vaguely sugary aftertaste. All of it went so harmoniously inside a flour tortilla, you have to wonder why duck burritos don’t appear more often on New Mexican menus. Probably that fear factor again.

On the menu, the tuna tartare salad sounded like your garden-variety dinner-greens jumble with fish chunks, but it arrived as an architectural feat — a tower of stacked avocado, cucumber, tomato, and sushi-grade ahi tuna layers with a thatched roof of bitter arugula leaves on top. A mayo wasabi and red pepper sauce was generously squeezed in crisscrossing lines over the plate’s surface. Consuming this “salad” amounted to a demolition job on a noble-looking structure, but the cucumber was so crisp, the avocado so meltingly smooth, the pink nearly raw fish so tender, there were no regrets in bringing the whole thing down.

As for two entrées, the crispy beef in black pepper sauce was superior to the sweet chili red snapper but mostly based on looks. The red snapper filets, lightly breaded, rested atop a pool of thick, seed-flecked sweet-hot sauce and looked disconcertingly like something that Captain D’s would’ve dished out “for a limited time only.” Still, the snapper was reliably lean, mild, and broke into chunks at the mere suggestion of a fork.

The crispy beef in black pepper sauce was also lightly breaded, but the chef pulled off that very difficult trick of making the breading seem like the top texture of the beef rather than the ill-fitting sweater that it often turns out to be. Mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers shared the sauce. The pounded beef pieces were succulent and quite firm but didn’t require too much jaw work. The black pepper was intense enough to light a small flame on the tongue but didn’t linger too long.

Truly, there is nothing scary about the medley of Asian flavors that Eden Bistro so expertly plays. It’s a downright tragedy that more Southlakers haven’t gathered in this simple, elegant spot, though theme nights devoted to wine- and spirit-tasting ought to help start some word of mouth. (The manager showed us a menu boasting 50 different kinds of martinis.) Eden Bistro stands tall on the merits of its food alone, but if booze works as the flash of ankle and garter that pulls the yokels in, then so be it.


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