Chef Jason Huang is putting his name on this one.
Like many in the restaurant biz, he started as a teen. More than 20 years on, he owns Ikko in Dover, Ikko II in Portsmouth, and now Chef Huang’s Asian Fusion in Portsmouth’s Green Complex off Route 1.
“Chinese, Ramen, Sushi,” is the subtitle for the restaurant, which opened last month and is in the space long occupied by the popular Shio, which closed in late 2019. The room is large and so is the menu.
Since being a good Our Gourmet team sometimes involves homework, we previewed the menu online before making an appearance during the lunch hour.
We were seated in a comfortable booth with a view of the sushi bar as well as rooms with traditional tatami seating along one wall. A full bar runs along another wall; the restaurant seats 180.
Our helpful server immediately brought us water and we surveyed the nine-page menu — categories included appetizers, ramen, luncheon specials, sushi, rolls, poke bowls, egg foo young, noodles, veggies and desserts.
My Primary Dining Companion (PDC) had already picked out a Chinese dish, and decided he could not go wrong with the General Tso’s Chicken ($9.95). The dish came with fried rice as well as a choice of egg roll, chicken fingers or crab rangoon.
The chicken was flavorful and lightly battered, coated in classic sweet and sour sauce and set off by several florets of perfectly cooked broccoli.
The fried rice was pure comfort food — nothing fancy, but well-executed.
A request for mustard sauce to accompany the egg roll sent our server back to the kitchen to inquire if the sauce had been made yet. The answer was yes, and we were pleasantly surprised at its light taste. It carried a zing, but wasn’t overpowering.
I had come for the sushi. It’s been a favorite since a trip to Japan 15 years ago that put me face to face with a host of unusual — and delicious — creatures from the sea.
In the U.S., salmon and tuna are probably the most popular sushi fish, thus my choice of the Rainbow Sushi Lunch ($19), which came with two pieces of tuna and two pieces of salmon sashimi (thinly sliced raw fish wrapped over rice) and the chef’s Rainbow Roll (eight pieces).
Chef Huang’s offers 22 sushi rolls, a dizzying assortment. The Rainbow Roll featured yellowtail and white fish along with salmon and tuna, avocado, cucumber and kani (crab).
The plate was preceded by a small iceberg salad and palate-cleansing miso soup. There’s something about the salt of this soup — complemented by seaweed and bits of tofu — that gets you ready for fish.
Sashimi-grade fish is some of the highest-quality seafood available. The red-meat timbre of the tuna and the light sweetness of the salmon reflected this. It was absolutely fresh and with a quick dip in soy sauce and a bit of wasabi for heat, made for a lovely mouthful.
Because the restaurant had not yet ramped up ramen production, we decided to return the next week. Ramen has its roots in China (egg noodles!), with the first ramen shop opening in Tokyo just over 100 years ago.
The dish began life as a quick, cheap meal — and still is, thanks to the instant noodle dish created in the 1950s — but over the last few decades has become trendy in gourmet circles.
Just go to YouTube and check out the many home chefs making this dish — it takes hours. My dining companion spent one winter weekend cooking pork bones (12 hours at a rolling boil) to create the broth for tonkotsu ramen.
It was for this reason I ordered the tonkotsu ($14.95) on our second visit.
A large bowl of rich pork broth and wheat noodles enhanced by pork belly, wood mushrooms, bamboo shoots, butter corn, fish cake and scallions was soon steaming in front of me. It all added up to comfort food.
I am a sucker for soft-boiled eggs, so the halved egg nestled into the ramen was my first target. It was deliciously creamy, with a slight tang of soy sauce.
My dining companion had a taste of the broth and agreed the chef had gotten it right.
He chose an order of house fried rice ($12.95) with chicken, beef and shrimp. The shrimp were particularly good.
A pair of Harumaki (Japanese fried spring rolls, $6) topped off his meal.
“I don’t know exactly what the flavoring is, but it’s delicious,” he said.
Perhaps the plum sauce?
Our cheerful server wished us well as we left, and we assured him we would be back.