Asian Pan has landed on Enterprise Drive
I was among the many who grew up fascinated by the television series “Star Trek.”
So what does that have to do with dining in the Lafourche, St. Mary, and Terrebonne area? Nothing, absolutely nothing … except that I recently landed upon a new upstart restaurant on Houma’s Enterprise Drive called Asian Pan that is trying to lift off in the restaurant market.
Asian Pan – Chinese & Thai Gourmet opened in June of this year, with little fanfare, other than a small “Open For Business” sign. I probably drove down Enterprise Drive – the extension of Corporate Drive between Martin Luther King Boulevard and Park Street – on several occasions before I even realized this establishment existed. Being the curious bloke that I am, I felt compelled to explore this brave new world.
As the name indicates, the menu is Chinese with a smattering of Thai.
Tommy Lee [no, not that Tommy Lee] is the proprietor. Lee and his mother, who serves as chef, are natives of Thailand. His mother has owned restaurants outside of Louisiana, and most recently cooked at a New Orleans eatery, preparing dishes from her Thai roots.
The interior of the restaurant is in the beginning stages of creating it oriental “aura” and, admittedly, it has a long way to go. There simply are too few tables for the space, such that it is difficult to establish a cozy, private atmosphere. You can’t get a private booth in the corner or a table away from view – it simply doesn’t exist.
This is one of the problems with locating in a commercial strip center. During the dining experience, you know that you are in a sterile, cookie-cutter strip center.
The menu consists of 12 Chinese entrees, three Thai entrees and six side dishes, including the classics: egg drop soup, wonton soup, fried rice and/or an eggroll. We did learn that Asian Pan seems to have daily specials “off” the menu, so one should inquire about those opportunities as well.
Entrée and combination prices range from $6.25 to $12.95 and overall seem to be priced well.
On our first trip, we tried the Kung Pao Chicken (Chinese) and Pad Thai (Thai) dishes. Each combination dinner comes with pork fried rice and an eggroll.
The Kung Pao Chicken is stir-fried with onions, red peppers, celery and cashews. The Pad Thai consists of stir-fried noodles with jumbo shrimp, chicken, green onions, bean sprouts and roasted peanuts. Both dishes were done well and provided enough sustenance that a “doggie bag” was required. We also tried the wonton soup, which was as expected and a good selection.
On our second trip, we tried the Lomein Combo with shrimp, beef, pork and chicken mixed with stir-fried, soft egg noodles, snow peas, Portabella mushrooms, boc choy and bean sprouts.
We also tried the sweet and sour combination. I preferred the Lomein, principally due to my personal preference and the fact that over the years I have tried too many sweet and sour dishes.
On our final and most recent trip, we tried the Moo Goo Gai Pan and the Sweet Chili Shrimp, which was a Thai dish offered as a special that evening.
The Moo Goo Gai Pan delivered in the classic sense, with its stir-fried, sliced chicken breast with Portabella mushrooms, snow peas, water chestnut and (yes, once again) boc choy. The ingredients were fresh and there is simply something unique about the pan-style cooking and the infusion of meat, noodles, vegetables and a few nuts that combines for a flavor powerhouse.
The real hit, though, was the Sweet Chili Shrimp, a spicy creation not for the faint of heart, but one that sizzled with well-seasoned shrimp and a red sauce spiced with chili peppers. The dish delighted me and I wonder why it has not made the “regular” menu. My sinuses are now clear and am a better man for it.
I should add that each dish selection can be ordered mild, medium or spicy. We opted for the medium each time, as we were too bold for the mild and too timid for the spicy.
If spicy fits your bill, the staff did recommend the Jalapeno Beef, which I suspect is a Tex-Chinese mix.
The service needs work as the servers should have a better command of the menu, especially with ethnic food that is foreign to the average South Louisiana diner. Fortunately, the staff at Asian Pan made up for their lack of knowledge of the ethnic cuisine with enthusiasm and a desire to please. We trust the staff’s knowledge will mature over time, as the restaurant grows beyond its infancy. It is obvious to us that those working at this establishment care about the product they provide.
My overall “read” of the Asian Pan is hard to quantify. This is a restaurant that recognizes it is new and learning on the run. The Lees are still tinkering with the menu and trying to learn what their niche will be in the Houma area. It is off the beaten path but so close to mainstream Houma.