Tenka Asian Bistro
Westborough – Tenka Asian Bistro lights up the local restaurant scene with beautifully crafted sushi and a deft hand with entrees from China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.
This sleek restaurant opened Sept. 12, sharing the building with Boston Interiors on Route 9. My husband and I visited on a weeknight right after the opening, and business was already brisk, so reservations would be a good idea on weekends.
Metallic accents and interesting, colorful lighting in the lounge area and at the sushi bar brighten the interior's warm brown tones. There are four distinct seating areas – lively lounge, main dining room, sushi bar, where you can watch the chefs work their magic, and grill-topped hibachi tables.
Kevin Shi, Tenka's manager, noted his family operates two other restaurants, in Auburn and Hooksett, N. H.
The sushi menu is extensive and reasonably priced. Sushi, two pieces, or sashimi, three pieces, runs $4.50 to $5, and most rolls are $3.95 to $6.95. There's a large selection of special rolls and platters.
The Japanese entrees include teriyaki, tempura and udon noodle dishes. Nine diff erent hibachi entrees, plus another dozen combination possibilities, come with soup, salad, vegetable, shrimp appetizer and rice. The Chinese section in- cludes basic stir-fries and a dozen house specialties. On the Thai side are curries and noodle dishes such as pad Thai. Most entrees are under $15.95, though the hibachi meals are a bit higher.
We started with an order of edamame – salty, hot soy beans, and my husband had a bowl of miso soup with seaweed, delicate tofu cubes and enoki mushrooms that was delicious.
We wanted a sushi appetizer, and Shi suggested having the chef prepare one of his specialties. I recommend asking your server to do the same thing and let the chef decide.
The presentation was absolutely beautiful, and the sushi tasted even better than it looked. Thin sticks of mango combined with shrimp paste were wrapped in delicate tuna slices. The flavors together were something special, each perfectly complementing the other.
A second exquisite sushi presentation followed: balls of ground salmon, wrapped in impossibly thin slices of avocado, topped with jewel-like black, green and red caviar – almost too pretty to eat, but melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
We tried two Chinese dishes from the list of house specials – wok basil with shrimp in a ginger sauce, and Szechuan peppercorn crispy chicken. Both dishes were generous, enough to share with some left to take home. The shrimp were perfectly cooked in the basil dish. Slices of chicken breast with a crispy coating came in a sauce that was spicy, but not overpowering.
We were surprised at the quantity and variety of vegetables in these dishes. Too often, Chinese entrees include very few veggies. These dishes had large slices of what I think was bok choy; Shi called it Shanghi greens. And there
were mushrooms, thinly sliced red bell peppers, onions and asparagus. "We use fresh vegetables, nothing canned," Shi said.
While we certainly did not need dessert after this wonderful meal, Shi urged us to try a house specialty, tempura ice cream. A ball of vanilla ice cream covered in tempura batter is very briefly deep-fried to produce a crunchy coating without melting the ice cream. The same technique is used with quartered bananas. Our server then flambéed the dessert at the table – dramatic and delicious.
In short, my husband and I agreed Tenka served one of the best meals we've had in a long time, and we can't wait to go back.
At lunchtime, Tenka off ers Japanese lunch boxes, sushi specials and Chinese dishes. There's also a children's menu featuring chicken, steak, shrimp or vegetable entrees.
Tenka Asian Bistro is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. For more information, call 508-366-7799 or visit the website, www.tenkama.com.
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