MIDVALE Asian Star is a couple steps away from the expected.
For starters, the architecture of the restaurant's new location in Midvale is blatantly modern, a thin wedge of metal and glass that's all intersecting angles and reflecting views. There are traditional Chinese sculptures and art (and tanks of fish) inside, but a clean-lined, modern sensibility reigns.
Also, there's the menu, a two-page, large-type list that seems to promise quality above quantity. Entrees on the first page are all $11 (a la carte with white rice) or $13 (as a dinner, with soup, fried shrimp, egg roll, wontons and rice); items on the second page ("Chef James' specials") are between $12 and $16.
These surprises are intriguing but wouldn't mean much if the food sank to the greasy, everything-tastes-the-same level of all too many Chinese places I've tried. Fortunately, though, that's not the case at Asian Star, where despite all the unique trappings, interesting food really is the center of attention.
I was intrigued by the number of sauces on our table during our visit to Asian Star. At one time, when the five appetizer sauces remained and our entrees were set out, there were at least seven distinctly different flavors on display, everything from a bowl of ketchup with sinus-clearing Chinese mustard to the typical brown, garlicky stuff you find over egg foo young, and a pink, tangy, applesauce-like pineapple sauce.
We started with the potstickers and appetizer combo featuring ribs, egg rolls, cream-cheese wontons and butterflied-and-breaded fried shrimp. The potstickers, served to each of us on individual plates with a glaze of garlic-vinegar amber sauce, were firm and meaty inside, with a nicely browned and tender exterior. We enjoyed every part of the other appetizer, with the kids surprisingly enthusiastic about gnawing the ample red-edged meat from the ribs.
Because we all like it, we had pork fried rice, a typical presentation enlivened by the freshness and plenitude of its meat, bean sprouts, scrambled egg, onions, peas and carrots. We also had a brown-sauced beef stir fry featuring crisp, bright-green snow peas and other veggies. In dishes of this kind, I often approach the beef with a gingerly reluctance, preferring to enjoy its flavor on the veggies because I'm afraid of gristle or, worse, texture-free squishiness. However, Asian Star's beef was firm and moist, if a bit chewy.
I also tried the "vegan" egg foo young, though I don't think anything made with eggs can be actually vegan (vegans, correct me if I'm wrong). Anyway, it's certainly a vegetarian dish, and a nice one at that, with a dark, almost-bitter sear and lots of sprouts and other veggies inside each egg cake, as well as bok choi, snow peas, whole mushrooms, broccoli and squash in garlicky brown sauce on top.
We rounded out our meal with two fried items that, on paper, seem similar: the sesame chicken and the honey nectar pork, both chef's specials. In reality, they're very different. The pork was more heavily breaded, with a honeyed sauce that was not at all cloying, more like the "nectar" in its title, with a smoky finish.
The lean chicken aptly described on the menu as "the one that melts in your mouth" had hardly any breading at all and a mildly golden color, with a sweet glaze that was both lighter and brighter than the pork sauce.Appetizers $4-$11, entrees $11-$13, chef's specials $12-$16, fried rice $7.
Where: 7588 S. Union Park Ave., Midvale
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
Sunday, 4:30-9 p.m.
Payment: No checks accepted
Reservations: Accepted (free valet parking also available)
Phone: 566-8838Wheelchair access: Easy
Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org