The unexpected exit of Kenta, which lasted half a year after the early demise of Nisen 110, led to the much-anticipated arrival of Aiko Asian Bistro in Melville.
In each case: same location, same design, same cuisine, not the same result.
Kenta added to the ever-expanding roster of Asian-fusion kitchens in Nassau and Suffolk during its run at this angular site just off the busy Route 110 business corridor. But it made the hybrid cuisine more than the usual east-west mishmash that so often hints of a science project gone awry.
Aiko Asian Bistro succeeds with the traditional fare that highlights much of the menu at its Port Washington forebear, Aiko Sushi and Bar. But a fair amount of the rest can be uneven.
No wonder Adele and Lady Gaga are singing lamentations in the background.
Their voices appear to ricochet off every hard surface, as do those of the most comfortable weekend customers, let alone the high-decibel after-work contingent settling in for a little wasabi aioli and gyoza with guacamole.
Such unions are pretty common now, so nobody seems especially surprised or overly excited about them anymore. The general advice for anyone at Aiko Asian Bistro is to avoid anything that seems over-orchestrated.
That means selecting the fine, lustrous sushi or sashimi of fatty tuna or baby yellowtail, perhaps Japanese red snapper or Spanish mackerel. Fluke, beefy maguro tuna, king salmon and sea urchin also heighten the competition. The sushi-and-sashimi combination, for one or for two, is a generous serving.
For the devotees of colorful sushi rolls, and the combos that go with them, the better choices take in the house’s namesake roll with lobster, king crab, and seared salmon, plus the flavors of yuzu and Sriracha; and a reminder of the Kenta repertoire, the “lobster lover” that sports the shellfish two ways, avocado, and asparagus tempura.
Aiko’s crunchy, tasty tuna tacos also are recommended, along with the moist, teriyaki-glazed Kobe beef meatballs with, yes, a drizzle of wasabi-sparked aioli. Likewise, la su tom, a lively curry-shrimp soup enriched with coconut milk; the nonmedicinal, vegetarian riff on hot-and-sour soup; and a mild, pleasing miso soup.
But a shellfish chowder with coconut-milk broth is pastier than the last dozen ersatz New England-style productions that you’ve endured. The chicken lettuce wrap: dry and singularly bland, though not as arid as either the charred chicken satay or the fried pork dumplings. The king crab pizza announces itself on a fragile tortilla that rapidly turns limp under the weight of guacamole and cream sauce.
It’s also wise to skip the less-than-crisp fillets of red snapper burdened even more with a very sweet Thai chili sauce; and the dull rendition of orange beef that makes the snapper seem a mouthful of crunchiness. If you plan to veer from Japanese staples, the pad Thai, with either shrimp or vegetables, is the primary route.
As at its predecessors, desserts aren’t too compelling unless you’re drawn to the fried banana. But at least it’s half the price of the $12 wedge of routine cheesecake, which almost could make you nostalgic for Kenta’s tempura-battered Oreo.
Then again, maybe not.