For me, there is something inherently masochistic about experiencing and writing a bad brunch review. Like the asshole boyfriend you just can’t quit, or that fabulous skirt that makes your ass look enormous but you wear anyway—a bad brunch is pleasure-yet-pain.
Remember that awful brunch at Mei n Yu in 2010? Yes, well, Asia 9 is the 2012 version. The folks at Asia 9, that random but enormous Asian fusion restaurant in Metro Center, sent us numerous persistent e-mails inviting us for a complimentary brunch.
Fine, I acquiesced. I’m a poor non-profit employee and graduate student. I’ll go. Let’s see what this Asian brunch is all about. I took along Amanda Jean, our Baby Bitch, for the ride.
I arrived hungover, part of my whole I’m-single-and-irresponsible-yet-responsible December bender.
Upon arrival, Amanda Jean was seated at a table in the very empty restaurant. There were perhaps six other diners this morning (bad sign). A cherubic, rotund little Asian man leapt upon me as I walked in the door and led me to our table, handing me a press folder along the way. This little man would soon become my worst enemy.
I sat down, politely requesting a glass of water and a Thai iced tea. Then, said Asian chap opened the press folder and began a history lesson on China (in case you missed class in middle school, China has a very, very long history), and eulogizing the Chinese empire. Carrying on, he says, in a thick accent, “PAN-ASIAN means cuisine that goes from Thailand across Southeast Asia to China.”
“Yes,” I said. “I am aware of the definition of Pan-Asian.” My eyes bulging out of my head. This is going to be a long brunch. Amanda Jean looked at me, terrified.
Asia Nine’s brunch menu is as such: five dim sum choices for $25 plus $1 mimosas and Bloody Marys. Amanda Jean’s mimosa was heavy on un-fresh orange juice and low on the champagne. Additionally, at the bottom was a Maraschino cherry. (Who does that?)
My Thai iced tea was delicious—but saccharine—sweet and milky (as is the M.O. for Thai iced tea).
The first dish was the best, and it wasn’t that good. The shrimp shumai, a deep-fried shrimp dumpling topped with spicy mayo was yummy and tasted like shrimp—only there weren’t any inside.
Then, on to the traditional Thai rice wraps, what we know as dim sum dumplings, which came in three flavors. The rice wrapper was (a) coated in slime, (b) stuck to the dish, and (c) fell apart.
Says Amanda Jean, “Now, I’m no stranger to different cuisines, but I had yet to try dim sum, and I was actually pretty excited. That was until I tried Asia 9’s dim sum. The noodle outside of the dumplings clung to the tray like a needy boyfriend, and by the time I was able to hoist the dumpling onto my plate there was nothing left but a lifeless noodle carcass and strewn about insides.”
The first flavor, shrimp with bamboo shoots, again, didn’t contain any shrimp. The second, taro roots with peanuts with carrots and Chinese celery, was all peanuts and swimming in a thick dark-red sugary Cantonese sauce that is bound to give you a stomach ache. The third, sweet turnip and peanut, again, was all peanuts.
Then arrived the sesame tempura, which was extremely oily and lacked any sesame to be found. Sweet potatoes, zucchini and taro root were deep-fried and served with a crusted peanut sauce.
“The vegetable tempura was tasty, but was unfortunately a little too greasy and oily for my taste. Simply pressing the grease out would have made the dish much better,” says Amanda Jean.
On to the crispy rice cracker, a chicken and shrimp dish served in Thai red curry peanut sauce over crispy rice crackers. The rice crackers were, hard, stale and yucky. Again, you could hardly find the shrimp between the chicken. Most importantly, the sauce tasted nothing like Thai red curry.
Later, the chive pancake, chopped chives mixed with korean flour and fried, was undercooked and mushy. Yes, I said moosh-y.
The excruciatingly awful experience continued as such—the waitress would bring out an oily, un-fresh awful dim sum dish. The cherubic man would scuttle over and launch into a two-minute tirade, defining the dish, which encompassed reading the ingredients off the menu that was already sitting in front of both Amanda Jean and I. Then, he would stare at us while we took our first bites. Ignoring my clearly aloof and disapproving eyes and Amanda’s looks of horror that read “Ew” and “Eek” throughout the process.
At one point, he sat down in the empty chair next to poor little Baby Bitch. Shooting him looks of death, I said, smiling through my teeth, “Are you joining us?”
He hopped up, nearly knocking the next atrocious dish out of the waitress’s hands. “Oh. Oh. No, no,” he chirped.
Before we moved on to the noodle dishes, I’m told the pork pot stickers (gyozas) were pretty decent, as non-vegetarian Baby Bitch gave them a try. “Luckily the tasty dumplings made up partially for the poor dim sum experience. They had just the right dough to meat ratio, and were served with a classic dumpling sauce which made for an overall delightful taste,” she says.
After this amalgamation of grease and horror, we were on to noodles and dessert. The paid Thai was edible, bordering on good: chicken, bean sprouts, scallions, peanuts and noodles. Hooray! If you’re at Asia 9, you can eat something!
The other noodle dish, the rice noodle, was served with chopped frozen vegetables, like the kind you get in a cafeteria. Need I say more?
For dessert, Chinese donuts arrived. Chinese donuts are Malaysian-style deep fried strips of dough (like a Chinese churro) served with condensed milk. Again, too oily, and hard on the outside. Hard and oily. And the condensed milk frightened me.
Lastly, the jackfruit bread pudding, served with Indonesian jackfruit, sliced almonds and a creme anglaise. One of my pet peeves is when the accoutrements listed aren’t presented, and such was the sitch with this dish. Pray tell, where is the Indonesian jackfruit? Then, more condensed milk, more fear.
In conclusion, if Asia 9 put one iota of energy into creating decent cuisine, rather than overly unenthusiastic (and undeserved) public relations, perhaps their brunch would stand a chance.
The Bitches say: F. Awful ingredients. Disgusting flavors. Poor preparation. Bizarre menu. Painfully strange and socially awkward service. Stay away.
915 E Street N.W.