Wednesday, June 25, 2014


River Japanese Cuisine, located at 61-44 Springfield Blvd. abuts another Asian restaurant with the name "Saigon" most prominent.  One might assume that Vietnamese cuisine is the bill of fare.  Look closer and the words, "Asian Cuisine" better describes an eatery that not only emphasizes food from Vietnam, but that from Thailand and China as well.

I went there more than once in order to sample the various cuisines.  Chopsticks, a fork, a table spoon and a knife are given depending upon what you order. One of the most popular items is their Grilled Pork Chop.  They begin by cutting the chops really thin and marinading them.  I have no idea what spices are used as I think it's "chef secret".   I was able to find out that garlic is used and I'm not much on having garlic in my food.  However, these were the absolute best pork chops I've ever come across. Aside from the seasoning, they were extremely tender and served with slices of raw onion and a piece of cucumber.  That seems to be a pattern in the food.  I think the cucumber is the "cool off" veggie for "spicy".  Although a dipping sauce was included I didn't need it. 

Iced cold Vietnamese coffee should be perfect with the meal.  Sweetened condensed milk is placed at the bottom of a glass cup.  A coffee powder rests in a metal container as the hot water is poured into the top allowing the coffee to "drip".   If you want hot coffee, just remove the cup.  For iced coffee, a tall glass of ice is presented. 

Signature dishes are my favorite.  I started with the the Cubed Beef Steak that uses the flank cut.  I requested to leave out the garlic.  The steak is cooked in a butter sauce with onions and there's that piece of cucumber!  Although I loved the flavors, the beef wasn't as tender as the pork chop. 

 Duck is another favorite of mine. In this case it is Braised Boneless Duck.  The meat is braised in a brown sauce and served with a circle of baby bok choy.  The slight bitterness of the bok choy works well with the duck that has a slightly sweet taste. 

The menu reads, "Live Lobster".   It doesn't mean that you get one flopping around on your plate.  I am told that there is a tank downstairs rather than using an already cooked and frozen lobster.  There are choices of how you want it cooked.  I requested ginger and scallions.  The lobster dish is presented with the head and end of tail with the lobster cut up in its shell.  
Crispy Whole Fish is another signature dish.   Snapper is used for this savory selection.  It's a perfect size, meaty, comes off the bone easily and has a fresh flavor in itself.  Not wishing for the spices, I chose to have it crispy with a sweet and sour sauce with bell peppers, carrots and pineapples. 
Chicken with Lemongrass sauce didn't sound to be too spicy for me.  The lemongrass gave that great both lemony flavor with a bit of heat.  The chicken strips are sauteed with red onions, green and red bell peppers and just enough red pepper flakes.

Returning for another tasting, I first sampled the two typical Vietnamese appetizers; that of summer rolls and spring rolls.  Summer rolls are a cold appetizer with a rice sheet that wraps shrimp and raw scallions.  They are served with a peanut sauce. 

Spring rolls are quite different.  Think of it as smaller egg rolls, with a beef filling.  This one is served with lettuce,that piece of cucumber and a dipping sauce that is both sweet and spicy. 
Having loved the grilled pork chops, I was interested in having them in a different style with a Peking sauce, which seemed to be a sweet and sour  red sauce with lots of onions.  Kind of like a Chinese version of a barbeque sauce. 

I had wondered what the difference was between having lobster Cantonese style vs ginger and scallions.  I believe that "lobster sauce" is this composition which is chopped pork, peas, eggs, and garlic in a white sauce that is thickened with corn starch.  I would suggest saving the sauce for a "to go" box and using it over white rice as a second meal. 

Vietnamese Prawns in Orange Sauce captured my eyes and taste buds.  This menu item is not sweet is made with red and green bell peppers, pineapple and resting on fresh tomato slices.  Surprise. No cucumber.
What's Vietnamese food without Pho?  A large bowl of noodle soup would fill you up for dinner.  Beef stock for this famous soup is made from soup bones that cook for several hours.  You get rice noodles, various thin sliced cuts of beef and bits of scallion.  It is served with a dish of bean sprouts, cilantro, a wedge of lemon and thin slices of jalapeno pepper.  I thought the pepper was extra scallions and wondered why the soup had a peppery taste....yes, I dropped a lot into the soup.  I asked if the broth was made with black pepper and was informed of my mistake.  You can substitute basil for cilantro if you wish.

Ordering the noodle soup with grilled pork chops will have you indulging in a chicken broth with slices of white onions.  Same accompaniment.

For a completely different soup choice, try the sea food soup.  It's kind of like having egg drop soup with various cut up seafood other than "fish" such as  shrimp and squid.

There are condiments on the table for those who want to add "hot", salty, etc.  I passed on all.

Liquid refreshments are far from your average can of soda.  This second time I was here I went for a cold Oreo Cappuccino.  I don't even need to explain.    

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