Kai Asian Street Fare

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Kai ext

Today we visit Kai Asian Street Fare in Winter Park.

Oh goodie, another "street fare" restaurant. How did eating foods sold on the street become the hot trend for off-street restaurants? And, more importantly, when will it finally fizzle?

I suppose it won't as long as there are restaurants that do the street thing as well as Kai does.

Inay's Kitchen

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Inays kitchen food int

Even with the pin on my phone's Google Maps app indicating I had arrived at my destination, I had a hard time spotting Inay's Kitchen, a Filipino restaurant in Ocoee. Despite the open signs in the window, which were covered with bamboo matchstick blinds, I had a hard time identifying it as a restaurant.

Once I figured it out, I went inside and was greeted by a sign inside the door instructing me to proceed to the back of the space.

That's where you'll find the actual Kitchen, tended to by the actual Inay and a couple of other women.

Eastside Asian Market

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Eastside Asian exterior

There’s an interesting little Asian market on the East side. It’s called Eastside Asian Market.

What makes it more interesting is that along with the aisles and shelves of specialty foods and dry goods that you won’t find in your basic Publix, a corner of the store is dedicated to small cafe with an exclusively vegetarian menu. In fact, a note at the top of the menu board next to the kitchen reads, “Everything is vegetarian. Deal with it.”

There isn’t a whole lot to deal with. The menu is succinct and the food is good.

Wonton Asian Kitchen

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Wonton exterior

Wonton Asian Kitchen has all of the trappings of being a chain restaurant, including the good things that can be, such as a standardized and well-thought-out design and a regimented system for ordering and preparing.

Unfortunately, that can also mean roboticized staffers and lifeless food.

I observed all of the above at the Winter Park restaurant before discovering that it is not a chain. At least not yet. I'd bet just about anything that the owners have visions of multi-unit sales in their dreams.

El Buda Latin Asian Restaurant

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Elbuda napkin

The word fusion is one of the most misused terms in culinarydom. More often than not, a restaurant will tout itself as a fusion restaurant when in fact all it does is offer two or more cuisines on the same menu. An Chinese restaurant, for example, might also offer some Thai dishes, or maybe a sushi selection. That might be considered diversification, but it isn't fusion.

Fusion occurs when two or more items come together to form something different, something unique.

And as you might deduce from the name, it isn't putting together similar Asian cuisines, though it does work with pan-Asian dishes, but rather a melding of Latino and Asian. The results are refreshingly distinct.

So you might have Chimichanga Eggrolls or Peking Duck Nachos. Or Congri Fried Rice. It's inventive, and even better, most of it works.

Sticky Rice

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sticky rice

I love rice.

Even though I have limited real estate on my kitchen counter, my rice cooker has a permanent dedicated space. Food processor, mixer, slow cooker -- all relegated to the pantry or even the garage. But the rice cooker is used too often to put away. I've been known to make a full meal out of rice with just butter, salt and pepper.

So a new restaurant called Sticky Rice certainly got my attention. I'll admit, though, that I was a bit wary. That's because Sticky Rice moved into a small space on Colonial Drive in the Mills 50 district that in a very short span of time has been home to at least two (and I think three) really disappointing restaurants.

But those memories faded during my visit to SR. The food is good, the staff, though not especially warm or fuzzy, work hard, and the overall experience is positive.

Kona Grill

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Kona plate

Silly me, I was expecting Hawaiian, or at least Polynesian. I mean, what else should one infer from a name like Kona Grill?

And there are a lot of Asian and Pacific Rimmy kinds of dishes on the menu. There are sushi offerings and the requisite poke bowls, some egg rolls and some stir-frys.

But of course the first thing I spot on the large menu is Jambalaya. The second thing is a Cuban Sandwich. So immediately I'm thinking WTF, which stands for What's the Theme?

Rasa Asian Street Food

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Rasa soup menu

The Asian street food trend has expanded quite a bit. Thanks, Hawkers! Mamak, which like Hawkers is in the Mills 50 district, has made new fans. Now, Rasa Asian Street Food brings the concept to Restaurant Row.

Rasa is the latest project of Sunny Corda, who also owns the estimable Mynt in Winter Park and Saffron Indian restaurant a couple of doors from Rasa.

Corda, who invited me on one of my two visits, said he spent two months in Malaysia researching some of the dishes he serves at Rasa.

Mia Supermarket

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Mia Market

This may be one of the best things to ever happen to a Winn-Dixie.

The W-D that had occupied the corner of East Colonial Drive and North Bumby Avenue was closed and has been taken over by an Asian food store called Mia Supermarket. It’s a fascinating place to wander about.

I first visited it when I decided I wanted to make kimchi. There were certain ingredients — kochakaru (Korean red pepper powder) and saeujeot (Korean salted shrimp) — that you just can’t find at your local Winn-Dixie. Or Publix for that matter.

I couldn’t even find those items at a couple of the older Asian markets in the Mills 50 district. So I gave Mia a try, and I’m glad I did.

Not only did they have the kochakaru and saeujeot I needed for my recipe, they also had a trove of fresh produce (including the daikon that the kimchi also called for) and aisle after aisle of exotic ingredients (at least to a typical Westerner) that had me thinking about trying other Asian recipes.

Baoery Settling In To Thornton Neighborhood

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Baoery Buddha

Went back to Baoery recently. Baoery, of course, is the Asian Gastropub from Thornton Park Restaurant Group and led by executive chef and partner Greg Richie.

When we last visited, in November, shortly after it opened in the remodeled Cityfish space, there was an unfinished, half-baked look to the place. It’s fully baked now, and the space looks terrific. It’s a comfortable spot, very casual, and it’s a great place for people watching, especially on the patio, even more so when there’s an event that brings out hordes of people, young and old (but mostly young) to stroll the streets.

The food was never half baked — or wokked or broiled or whatever. But even that seemed better this time.