Our Gourmet: Good Asian fare, tucked away in Hooksett

October 17. 2017 11:57PM

Asian Breeze
1328 Hooksett Road., Hooksett; 621-9298; asianbreezenh.com

Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

Cuisine: Asian Fusion.

Pricing: Appetizers/Soups, $2.50-$8.95; Chinese entrees, $8.99-$17.95; Japanese entrees, $12.95-$21.95.

Scores for Asian Breeze
Atmosphere: 17/20
Menu: 17/20
Food: 17/20
Service: 17/20
Value: 18/20
TOTAL: 86/100

We haven’t been up into the Hooksett Village Shoppes plaza much since Walmart moved across the river and the FussBudget and friends moved on from birthdays at Cowabunga’s.

That means we had never got around to visiting Asian Breeze, a Chinese-Japanese joint tucked way down to the left of the plaza. That was our loss — which we remedied on a Monday evening.

We were surprised, as we walked in the door and presented ourselves to the hostess, that there was a couple ahead of us to be seated. Monday nights tend to be slow in the restaurant business, with many closed on that day of the week. Asian Breeze wasn’t packed this night, but it was more crowded than we expected.

Our hostess guided us to a booth in the spacious dining room to the left of the bar area, which is surrounded by red walls that don’t quite reach the ceiling but keep it from view. We settled in with a drink — a bright blue exotic cocktail for the Dining Companion (DC), and Cokes for Our Gourmet and the almost-8-year-old FussBudget — while we perused the fairly extensive menu.

We started with a couple of appetizers: Wonton with Hot Sesame Sauce ($6.60) for OG, and Scallion Pancake for the DC, who really wanted Vegetable Dumpling ($7.95) but was told it was unavailable this night.

Served to OG was likely more than a dozen small, shumai-sized dumplings (we lost count), filled with ground pork and smothered in a peanutty sesame sauce. These were very good, and the portion size was huge for one diner, but the sauce lacked any semblance of heat. The DC used some of the sauce, slipping her scallion pancake through it.

Asian Breeze offers many of the typical dishes found in Chinese restaurants around the Granite State, but also offers a “Special Menu” of more authentic cuisine you don’t see much of north of Boston’s Chinatown. There’s also an extensive sushi menu and a good selection of Japanese dishes.

The DC wanted to steer clear of meat, so the sushi was out, and she focused on several vegetable-centric selections, which led to one of the oddest and humorous interactions we’ve ever had with a waiter:

“I think I’ll have the Asian Vegetables,” the DC said, eyeing the menu which merely described the dish as fresh Asian vegetables ($10.95).

“You don’t want that,” the waiter said, screwing up his face. “It’s just cabbage. And some garlic”

“No, I think I’ll try that,” the DC said.

“No, you don’t want that,” the waiter repeated. “No flavor,” he said. “You won’t like it. Wait,” he said, walking a few booths down, “someone else just had it. See?” he asked, bringing back a half-eaten dish. “They didn’t like it, either!”

The DC persisted, and our waiter complied with a shrug, later serving her a dish filled with steamed bok choy, cabbage and other vegetables, interspersed with mild, delightfully steamed whole garlic cloves, which gave the dish a definite boost, all in the lightest of sauces.

Despite all of the dire warning, the DC loved the dish.

With all that food on the table we didn’t notice at first that the FussBudget, buried deep in an iPhone app, hadn’t received the Chicken Noodle Soup we had got him to agree to try.

We reminded our waiter about it, and he promptly brought out a bowl of Chicken Rice Soup instead. It didn’t matter to the FB, who gobbled up the mild chicken broth and the rice in no time. It was tasty.

OG’s Beef with Cumin ($11.95), was exactly that. Bite-sized pieces of tender beef had been stir fried to a medium rare, with an almost crispy coating of ground cumin and cumin seeds, nestled atop a bed of shredded lettuce.

OG has long been a fan of the subtle heat cumin can bring to Indian, Middle Eastern and Mexican dishes, but we’ve never had it in an Asian dish, nor in such an unadulterated fashion. It was revelatory, but became a bit monotonous absent some crisp, flavorful vegetable or a subtle sauce as counterpoint.

Vegetable fried rice ($8.95) was fairly standard, lightly oiled and fried, and filled with peas, bean sprouts, onion, little cubes of carrot, and bits of baby corn.

The parking lot outside Asian Breeze is huge, built to handle a couple of large stores as well as a supermarket and other shops, but don’t let that make you miss Asian Breeze, tucked down in that far corner. There’s some pretty good Asian food here.

Our GourmetHooksett

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