Fusion, not MSG or lots of salt, makes EC’s Asian Station distinctive
No salt? No MSG? Will the world still turn?
Evi Cruz, owner and chef at EC’s Asian Station uses no MSG and, not exactly no salt, but very little salt.
He prides himself on creating the flavor of the dish from the ingredients: fresh vegetables, herbs and spices.
Most of the dishes on the menu are familiar Chinese favorites, such as kung pao, shrimp with lobster sauce and sesame chicken, the stuff people expect when they come to a Chinese restaurant.
But it is the small touches of fusion that make the same-old dishes fresh. Looking over the menu I saw chardonnay, balsamic vinegar, cilantro, basil, shitake mushrooms, Asian raviolis and macadamia nuts.
EC’s formerly was located in a dismal spot behind Albertsons on the Redlands. It has relocated to a bright, clean space in the shopping center at the northwest corner of Grand Avenue and First Street. Even at the old spot, it had a small dedicated following.
Four of us went to EC’s recently and we tried to order a variety so we could get a taste of the major categories.
We all shared the peppery calamari appetizer, which was tender, cut from the steak not the tentacles, and tossed with scallions and fresh peppers. It was better than most of the rings I’ve had at Italian restaurants.
Instead of an entrée, I had the gorgonzola, mango and beet salad soaked in ginger plum dressing. It was great but skimpy for the $8 half portion.
We were primed for the main course. The dishes arrived nicely plated with a splash of purple cabbage salad served with the rice and the entrée.
The garlic pork was indeed very garlicky with the light taste of rice vinegar and cilantro.
I liked the kung pao because it was hot-off-the-wok and the vegetables were large and firm, not minced into hash.
The red hot beef was probably the best of the bunch, notable because of the its two distinct but not overpowering heat sources: fresh ginger and Szechwan sauce.
Best of all, everything had a freshly prepared light touch, no gelatinous brown/oyster/plum gravy. (Take your pick, they often taste the same to me.) The flavors were part of the dish, not ladled on afterward to mask the true taste. In this respect, it reminded me of the preparation of Vietnamese or Japanese food.
My less-than-effusive friend sampled all the dishes and repeated after each “that’s pretty good.” High praise, I guess.
MILE HIGH SPLURGE: Denver Restaurant Week, a two-week orgy at some of the best restaurants in the state, starts this weekend and runs through March 11.
Hundreds, literally, of restaurants participate. They offer a multi-course dinner for the fixed price of $52.80 for two, or $26.40 for one. This is the best time to try the vaunted Mizuna, The Palm, Vesta Dipping Grill, Rioja, Kevin Taylor’s, Bistro Vendome and Elway’s (gentlemen, this is where the cougars hang out).
For information, go to http://www.denver.org/denverrestaurant/
FIRST FRIDAY: Planet Wines, 420 Main St., will have its monthly wine tasting and open an exhibit by Grand Junction oil painter Brooks Powell on Friday, March 4, the first Friday of the month.
Owner Mike Chariton will select the featured wine.
GREEN CHILI: I need some input. Tell me your favorite spot for green chili. And don’t say, “my tia’s kitchen.”
QUOTE: “Never eat Chinese food in Oklahoma.” — Bryan Miller, New York Times food critic
Send tips and ideas to Tess.Furey@ gjsentinel.com.