The finer points are what set West East Bistro apart from the swelling crowd of modern Asian Fusion contenders.

First-time restaurateur Danny Wu enters the dining arena with a surprising sense of what's right, from his restaurant's serene decor, soft lighting and classic jazz background music to its solicitous but never overbearing service. If there's a problem, it's with the restaurant's location, an almost-empty shopping center in a quasi-industrial area. Because the indoor lighting is muted, the place can also give the illusion of being closed.

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Persevere and you will find yourself rewarded. One dinner began with Chef Andy Chu's ravioli-style dumplings filled with watercress and wild shrimp in a fragrant dashi broth, a spicy vinegar sauce on the side. Vibrant Vietnamese-inspired summer rolls featured rice paper wrapped around bright, crisp julienne vegetables and lots of fresh basil and mint, a sweet chile sauce for dipping. A lettuce wrap of diced chicken, smoked tofu, vegetables and crisp rice vermicelli was a savory treat, as were the aptly described "slowly roasted fork tender" barbecue-style spare ribs. While the restaurant doesn't have a sushi bar (how novel is that?) Chu does put out a few maki rolls. I tried the spicy salmon. It was fiery and sweet, crowned with a dollop of chile mayo.

I must object, though, to marshmallow-topped mashed yams anywhere but on a Thanksgiving dinner table. Here, the yams shared a plate with lovely baby bok choy and a winning main course of pan-seared Long Island duck breast. The fanned-out duck slices were precisely medium rare as ordered, drizzled with a not-too-sweet red wine raspberry sauce. Similarly, a five-spice dusted rib eye was grilled to specifications, rare and rosy. Slow-braised short ribs were fork-tender and flavorful, but the Cheddar topping on the accompanying mashed potatoes was again one more step too far to the West.

Much more Asian was a slow-simmered Thai red curry with chicken, a dish with deep nuances of flavor. A surprise hit was the dull-sounding stir-fry of chicken and vegetables, imbued with a compelling smokiness. I was initially skeptical about the curry seafood bouillabaisse, since too often, mixed seafood dishes are overcooked. Not this one, exhibiting Malaysian accents of lemongrass and coconut. Every element -- plump wild shrimp, diver scallops, Prince Edward Island mussels, calamari -- was done to glistening succulence.


While the place serves a respectable tiramisu, I was more partial to the creamy, light house-made mango pudding. Neither wholly Eastern nor Western, it honors both worlds.

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Reviewed by Joan Reminick, 10/31/07