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Reservations Recommended

Restaurant Review ~ Satay Club / 4654 Wisconsin Ave., NW

Yum, yum.

Looking for good Asian food in DC challenges many foodies: DC is the global melting pot for gastronomy, and possibly nine-tenths of every type of food gets cooked somewhere within the District. So what’s good and what isn’t?

If you are a sucker for Asian flavors and can’t find your way, head to the Satay Club Asian Restaurant & Sushi Bar on upper Wisconsin in Tenleytown. It’s name may not be on the city’s top 10 restaurants radar, but by all appearances, plenty of folks have discovered that this tiny Tenleytown location offers a robust menu that scans many Asian cuisines: rendang from Malaysia, gado gado salad from Indonesia, and red curry shrimp from Thailand are just a few of the temptations.

Obviously a hit with local college kids and neighborhood residents, the Satay Club can be rather crowded at lunchtime. But no worries: with 90 or so seats available chances are in your favor that you can claim your table. Why? It seems that a good portion of the restaurant’s business is take-out.

Where to start? Appetizer choices are numerous — and the Vietnamese fried spring roll, as skinny as a slender cigar, sadly misses top marks —- so you can enjoy a flavorful bowl of miso soup, have a Peking Duck crêpe or two, and enjoy an order or two of the rote canai, an Indian-influenced top seller in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Because roti canai —- a fried, pancake-like bread served with curried meat or chicken pieces —- is a bit tricky to make at home, be sure to sample this version. Then dream of a field trip through Asia, sampling treats from sidewalk vendors.

Picking out the entrée can challenge your Asian wits. If you are at all familiar with Malyasian or Indnesian rendang, this kitchen’s version is pretty authentic. A rich, spicy beef stew cooked in coconut milk, this robust offering may seem suited to chilly winter nights. But it is a dish from the tropics, and people love it year round in dripping heat. It is so good you may want to take home seconds.

Indonesian gado gado is a splendid salad composed of potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, green beans, bean sprouts, fried tofu, and assorted other boiled veggies at hand. The best part of this Asian treat is the thick, chunky peanut-based dressing, slightly sweet and slightly hot with a boost of ground chilies. The Satay Club kitchen does not disappoint, though maybe the chefs might toss in more tofu.

The restaurant offers a completely different set of dishes —- sushi, sashimi, and maki rolls. That would require another trip or two to fully explore. But sushi is so much more readily available citywide than rendang, so guess where my orders will be?

Desserts are very limited: fried bananas, mango and sticky rice, lychee fruits, cheesecake, and mochi ice cream are the key players here. Of course, you could make do with Thai iced tea and call it a day, or night.

Satay Club Asian Restaurant & Sushi Bar / Mon.-Thu. 11am-10pm, Fri. to 10:30pm, Sat. noon-10:30pm, Sun. 3-10pm. Entrée price range: $8.95-$18.95. 4654 Wisc. Ave., NW; (202) 363-8888. www.asiansatayclub.com/index.html.

 

Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.