With a stellar location in Westport on the Saugatuck, and a Taiwanese chef, trained in Japanese cuisine with more than 20 years in the restaurant business, Westporters have something to be hopeful about in a new local take out and delivery place.
Bistro 88, a family run restaurant, is dishing up food from several Asian destinations including China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and even Indonesia, in the form of traditional Sambal. Lucky for us that points of political contention hasn’t gotten in the way of allowing us to choose freely from this flowing menu of Asian delights. Looming largely as a take out and delivery business, this tiny joint also has limited seating with service for those who prefer to eat there. Plus, the menu is so extensive (reading like a Bible for Asian food), there is surely something for everyone.
Just be prepared for menu overload, with the eat in menu even more superfluous than the take out menu. You may want to use a post it note tab the first time you look over the menu to remember which dishes you are considering. Here is the rundown: After a successful take-out experience, we decided to eat there for lunch and there were a few others doing the same. The ingredients were fresh, the food was cleanly prepared, and nothing was overly sauced and salted, a common practice in many Asian restaurants. This was immediately appreciated in an area devoid of decent Asian options other than Japanese. Also, the price is right with starters ranging from $5-$9 and entrees in the $10 to $13 range.
For starters, they have several types of interesting soups. In addition to “the expected” which I won’t bother to mention, they have Osumashi Soup, a Japanese soup with fried shallot, mushrooms, scallions and noodles, as well as a Thai Tomato, Basil and Seafood soup. There are also various Asian takes on salad. What caught my eye was a Korean Beef Bulgogi Salad with house ginger dressing..now this is something you normally wouldn’t see on other menus. The Age Tofu was well executed with silken tofu lightly dusted with potato starch and deep fried, dressed with bonito flakes and resting in a warm broth. We would have liked a bit more broth, but the flavor was spot on.
As the menu is heavy on the Japanese cuisine, reflective of the chef’s culinary background and experience, there are Teriyaki’s, Tempuras, Katsu’s, Curry Katsu’s, Hibachi (without the hibachi table), Udon soups, Donburi bowls and sushi galore. It is apparent that the chef has forgiven the Japanese.
Any sushi roll can be made with brown rice..a big plus for those staying away from white carbs. To me, eating sushi with brown rice is a moot point, but it’s nice to have the healthy option if you are in the mood. Also on the menu are rolls made with rice paper (but no rice), reminiscent of the Vietnamese fresh spring roll. We tried 2 of these low carb, no rice rolls; the Yummy, with spicy tuna and a sweet chili plum and ponzu sauce and the Sweet Mango Chili roll, with snow crabmeat, shrimp and mango. They were very light and refreshing, with sauce that had the right balance of sweet and spicy. A nice break from the normal fare offered in the area.
We tried a “tuna taco” which had fresh sushi tuna with lettuce and an interesting sauce in a regular taco shell, as well as a dynamic presentation. Sounds a bit weird, right, but it worked and again, it was fresh. This brings risk taking from this size place to a new level. I do give the chef credit for his creativity and thinking outside the box.
I ordered a “deconstructed” Beef Bibimbop bowl which was very tasty. I love Bibimbop, the infamous Korean dish that is usually served in a hot clay pot thereby continuing to cook the ingredients while you eat. Here it is just served in a white dish, but it did the trick and I was satisfied. With the combination of the sauce, the soft texture of the egg (usually fried and on top), and the crunchy element, which in this case was zucchini, it was good for what it was. Let’s leave it at that.
We enjoyed the Pork Curry Katsu Donburi, a kid friendly meal featuring a deep fried pork cutlet (also available with chicken) served with rice, and sweet yellow curry. The sauce has a little heat, but can be served on the side for younger eaters.
Although the idea for Bistro 88 has the potential to become the “poster child” for a bad Asian food trip gone wrong, until this can be proved otherwise, it’s a nice addition to the saturated scene.
Delivery is available for Westport, Norwalk and Weston, or if you are jonesing for a bite after a nice day rowing on the Saugatuck, Bistro 88 is a quick solution.
Online ordering is also available if you’d prefer to type than talk.
88 Bistro Asian Cuisine 19 Bridge St. (Bridge St. between Riverside Ave. & Imperial Ave.), Westport. 203.222.8181