Our Gourmet: Fine Asian on one tasty Nashua streetDecember 13. 2017 12:10AM
Crane13 W. Pearl St., Nashua; 459-8186; cranerestaurant.com
Cuisine: Chinese & Japanese.
Serving: Tuesday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.; Sunday until 9:30 p.m. Closed Monday.
Pricing: Appetizers $4.50-$10.95; entrees $9-$19; sushi/sashimi a la carte $4.95-$9.
Handicap access: A somewhat tight vestibule
The scores for Crane
Pearl Street in Nashua has come a long way since it was home to The Modern, the French-Canadian family restaurant that was downtown’s dining landmark for six decades.
The Modern, on West Pearl Street, closed in 2001. Sixteen years later, no fewer than nine restaurants are now established on Pearl within a couple of blocks east and west of Main Street. The choices range from the venerable Crosby’s Bakery and a recreated speakeasy to places specializing in breakfast, tapas, Mexican, Italian and Indian.
And there’s Asian as well — which is what brought us to West Pearl Street on a recent Sunday night to visit Crane.
With just a dozen or so tables, a few counter seats and a small bar, Crane is a simple, bright space with just enough Japanese touches — chiefly, a bamboo-plank wall with a delicate, 3-dimensional floral triptych — to add authenticity.
Mrs. Gourmet has often chided me for leaving Asian restaurants to our other reviewing colleagues. But the combination of Japanese and Chinese offerings on the menu — with a huge array of sushi making up most of the Japanese section — convinced me to claim this one for ourselves.
The menu is also what caught the attention of our son, The Bottomless Pit, who joined us for our second outing in a row, along with his new housemate, a friend who’s been in our extended family circle since their high school days.
The takeout version of the menu fills both sides of an 11x17 sheet; one side with Chinese dishes, the other with Japanese. Our plan was to try to strike a balance.
We started with an even split: Crab Rangoons ($6.45) and Steamed Dumplings ($4.50) from the Chinese side, and Beef Teriyaki ($8.95) and Seaweed Salad ($4.95) from the Japanese.
The rangoons looked like the standard triangles of lightly fried wonton wrappers filled with crab cream cheese, but the fans of this dish (everyone but me) said these were among the best they’ve ever had, with a light filling and slightly crunchy, not-at-all-greasy shell.
The teriyaki was equally successful, a generous mound of tender, bite-sized beef slices marinated and served in a light sauce that was a perfect combination of sweet and salty.
I became a fan of seaweed salad last summer when it was part of the Ahi Tuna Nachos at NazBar in Laconia. I decided to try it on its own here at Crane, and it was as good as I anticipated. Bright green grass-like strands were served atop glass noodles with small slices of cucumber, all in a ginger/soy/sesame sauce. Bright and refreshing and delicious.
The dumplings were the blandest of the appetizers: big dough pillows surrounding a disappointingly small ball of pork filling that relied almost entirely on dipping sauces for flavor.
The boys are big sushi fans, so that was their entree focus. They constructed a platter around a Dragon Maki Roll ($16.95), to which they added Philadelphia Maki ($6.50), Spicy Salmon Maki ($5.50) and Smoked Sake Avocado Maki ($5.95).
The Dragon roll was cut into eight pieces, while each of the other rolls were cut in six. I won’t try to describe each but the boys concocted a great range of flavors, and the entire dish was beautifully presented.
Mrs. G chose a Chinese restaurant classic, General Tsao’s Chicken ($12.95), and quickly pronounced it the best she’s ever had. The sauce in this version was unique; it was sweet and spicy as expected, but orange was a very prominent flavor. The coating on the chicken was light and perfectly cooked. It maintained a slight crunch throughout the meal, despite being tossed in the sticky sauce.
I picked Shrimp Teppanyaki ($15.95) for my entree. The dish was a large, sizzling platter with six or eight big, tender shrimp atop onions, snow peas, baby corn, zucchini and carrot, all stir fried and tossed in a thick teriyaki sauce. It came with a side of white rice, which I now realize I never touched, with everything else being shared around the table.
There was no offering of dessert, and none are mentioned on the menu, but that was just as well. By the time we were finished we were fully satisfied with the great variety of tastes we had sampled.
It was very quiet the night we visited, so Brittany, our server, had plenty of time to answer all of our questions about the menu and explain particular dishes, even as she was pulling double duty as bartender.
We give Crane high marks for value, with the caution that, as with any restaurant that features small plates, it’s easy to run up a big tab if you’re not paying attention to how many plates you’re ordering. As it was, our bill for four people came to $125 with a round of drinks.
Mrs. G and I aren’t sushi experts by a long shot, but the boys said they were very pleased, so we’re happy to share that recommendation with you. And our great experience at Crane is one more reason for us to continue exploring the restaurants on Nashua’s tasty Pearl Street.