Asian Hipster Cuisine Livens Ashland’s Food Scene
by Susanne Robertson of Anna Eats Ashland
Perhaps it started with our embrace of sushi in the 70’s. Hungry had suddenly met Healthy, and before long the iconic rice and seafood rolls were practically our National Dish.
Now another Asian-inspired trend has emerged: drawing from the street foods of China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, a new breed of chef is delighting American palates with authentic versions of bao and dumplings, pho and cold skin noodles, bibimbaps, hot pots, and oxtail soups. Generous lashings of black garlic, toasted white-sesame-seed oil, sea kelp, coconut vinegar, and fish sauce literally make our mouths water, and keep us coming back for more (and more!). And why not, with the average dish weighing in at half the calories and price of your typical American meal?
Often relegated to the cheap-eats columns of food blogs and dubbed as ‘fusion’ (tempting, especially when many of the cuisines have been so thoroughly influenced by French technique and the likes of kimchee paella and kung-pao pastrami are surfacing), the fact is that these new-to-our-taste-buds offerings are simply the foods many of our neighbors either grew up on, or learned to love during their travels.
Andrew Will and Sean Simpson of Ashland’s TOT restaurant are excellent examples of this latter tribe, serving up amazing Southeast Asian BBQ, Thai Tom Yum, Chinese Siu Mai and Vietnamese Banh Mi and Pho with zero regard for their own birthplaces. Entering their sleek, spare space in the old Cantwell’s building, luscious aromas promise you the real deal, and low prices will seduce you into over-ordering. We’ve literally never eaten at TOT when we didn’t take a box full of food home for the following day’s lunch or dinner, but what’s not to love about that? Everything is made from scratch, in house, including their sausage, mayonnaise, pâté, and ludicrously intoxicating sauces.
Author, Mary Jane Weedman, in her Grub Street article on this ‘new’ cuisine trend, speaks of non-Asian chefs such as Andy Ricker and Dale Talde, calling them, “American cooks who found their calling through passion, not ancestry.” I love that.
While Eddie Huang and Jason Wang are cultural delegates for their homeland’s cookery, Ashland’s Andrew and Sean are culinary diplomats, reaching across borders to bring back the best of all worlds. Whether you choose a table at TOT or bring home a sack of take-away from their delicious little eatery, the pleasure is all yours.
310 Oak Street – 541. 488.7986