CONNECTICUT DINING | HARTFORD
Where Sushi Is Good, but Rarely Simple
George Ruhe for The New York Times
UNIQUE The dining room at Feng Asian Bistro.
By STEPHANIE LYNESS
Published: August 19, 2011
WE listened agog as our waiter inventoried the elements in the lobster tempura sushi roll, a special that night at Feng Asian Bistro in Hartford. The list was lengthy, a daring amalgamation of lobster tempura, avocado, lettuce and mango, glazed with Parmesan cheese and finished with barbecue eel sauce and spicy mayonnaise. It was a surprise hit, the cheese providing a sharp, savory note that brightened the lobster and avocado.
Feng belongs to the Ginza Restaurant Group, owners of two other Feng restaurants in Canton, Conn., and Millbury, Mass., as well as two Ginza Japanese Cuisine and Hibachi restaurants in Bloomfield and Wethersfield, Conn. Its interior is brilliantly modern, combining stone, wood and metal with stunning rust-colored walls and fabrics, and its menu is equally attractive: traditional sushi and sashimi, elaborate special sushi rolls, appetizers from the kitchen and sushi bar, and inventive entrees.
From the sushi bar, the fish was of solid, if not sparkling quality. Simple rolls — tuna, yellowtail and salmon — were fine choices. Of the special rolls, Spicy 2-in-1 Roll was a tasty, textured mix of spicy tuna and salmon, shrimp tempura and avocado. But there was so much going on in the Babba roll that it was difficult to distinguish the four different fish — king crab, tuna, salmon and white tuna, which were combined with avocado and white asparagus. And the taste of the tuna and yellowtail in the Jalapeño Roll were eclipsed by the roasted red pepper strips draped around the roll.
The whimsical sushi “sandwich” — spicy tuna and king crab, fried fluke, avocado and mango, sandwiched between molded squares of sushi rice — was one of the best dishes: tasty and fun to eat.
The seared sashimi trio offered tuna, salmon and yellowtail. Presentation, sauces and garnishes were elegant; my one complaint was that the sweet, thick mango salsa on the tuna obscured its flavor. A special of chopped blue fin toro, a delicate fish, was also paired with a sweet and strong-tasting sauce of mirin, miso, yuzu and sugar, but was nonetheless delicious.
From the kitchen, duck spring rolls were just what they ought to be. The figs were perfectly ripe on a generous arugula salad with blue cheese, pecans and a sweet dressing, but the calamari appetizer disappeared under a very sweet, Korean-inspired sauce.
The Chilean sea bass was our favorite main dish. Glazed with tangy, sweet-and-sharp miso that cut the richness of the fish, it was served on a wonderfully flavorful bed of creamy orzo with asparagus, roasted tomatoes and mushrooms. Scallops were also beautifully cooked, garnished with grapefruit sections on a bed of duck-fried rice, topped with shaved fennel. Halibut was badly overcooked, but the other elements of the dish — green coconut-curry sauce, a sweet, spicy peanut topping and roasted cauliflower — were lovely. The 28-day Szechuan pepper-crusted dry-aged prime rib was disappointingly skimpy for $36, although the sweet potato fries and a fantastic Asian Caesar salad on the side almost made up for it.
Desserts are sweet, rich and over-the-top. Very good chocolate ice cream was layered between two, thick, cardboardlike chocolate cookies; a big bowl of coconut rice pudding was studded with pistachios, and spiced with orange and cinnamon; and a 20-layer cake was filled with sweetened whipped cream and berries.
Feng Asian Bistro
93 Asylum Street
THE SPACE Large, attractive restaurant with cutting-edge urban look. Comfortable seating with banquettes along one wall. Private room at the back is available for parties of up to 50. Wheelchair access.
THE CROWD Young, hip and casually dressed; when the place is full, it’s a party (can be noisy). Very active bar crowd.
THE BAR Full service, with small international wine list (several in $25 to $40 range) and extensive choice of sakes. Wine by the glass, $7 to $16. Happy hour: Monday through Friday, 4 to 6 p.m., with discounted drinks, sushi and appetizers.
THE BILL From the sushi bar: dinners, $23 to $26; omakase menu, $80; sushi and sashimi, $3 to $8 apiece; rolls, $4 to $20. From the kitchen: appetizers, $6 to $18; main dishes, $24 to $38. All credit cards accepted.
WHAT WE LIKED Simple rolls, lobster tempura roll, spicy 2-in-1 roll, sushi sandwich, seared sashimi trio, blue fin toro, duck spring roll, fig salad, Chilean sea bass, scallops with duck-fried rice.
IF YOU GO Lunch: Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner: Sunday through Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m. Late night menu: Monday through Thursday, 10 p.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Sunday, 10 to 11 p.m. Reservations recommended. Park on the street or pay to park in a lot across from the restaurant.
RATINGS Don’t Miss, Worth It, O.K., Don’t Bother.
A version of this article appeared in print on August 21, 2011, on page CT10 of the New York edition with the headline: Where Sushi Is Good, But Rarely Simple.
|Feng Asian Bistro Reservations||
93 Asylum Street,
Hartford, CT 06103
(860) 549-FENG (3364)
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