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List Asparagus among NWI’s fine-dining options

Menu prices

Appetizers start at $5 for Thai egg rolls and top out at $15 for baked oysters or $30 for the Asparagus Satay Grill, a meal in itself. In between those ranges, diners can savor soft shell crab ($9), lobster mango margarita ($14) or Young Mountain Lamb ($12). Soups are $7 to $9. Noodle and fried rice dishes cost $17 for Asparagus linguine to $49 for Drunken or Pad Ki Mao Noodles with shrimp, scallops and an 8-ounce lobster tail. Steak and lamb dishes are $18 to $29, and poultry dishes cost $15 to $25. Our chicken fricassee is $20. Curry dishes are $16 to $24 and “ultimate seafood” items range from $20 for Clay Pot Tilapia to $42 for the Signature Asparagus Delight.

Asparagus offers full bar service with a wine, beer and drink listing spanning six pages. Its international wine list in particular is impressive, featuring a deep bench of varietals from $7 to $8 per glass and $28 to $250 by the bottle. Asian, domestic, microbrewed and international beers are also available from $3 to $10.

If you go

What: Asparagus

Where: 7876 Broadway, Merrillville

Hours: Open daily for lunch and dinner 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon-9 p.m. Sunday.

Maps

Updated: February 7, 2012 8:09AM



Some restaurants are more than just places to salve your hunger.
Some elevate dining to an art. Through its spare, but stylishly intimate ambience, the quality of its cuisine and the imaginative presentation of its dishes, Asparagus in Merrillville elevates the dining experience to something more sublime.

I’ve been wowed by Asparagus on two previous review visits, so its quality did not surprise me. What continues to dumbfound me is how owners Sam Chung and Tammy Pham continue to improve.

Asparagus marries the traditions and cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam and France to deliver an exquisite eating experience, with the restaurant and its very talented staff guiding us through our culinary voyage. Asparagus bills itself as a restaurant “where innovation and fusion reign.” I say to executive chef Tammy Pham: Long live the queen.

We began our journey with an order of Saigon Scallops — six sea scallops perfectly grilled and served on satay skewers with a small ramekin of a soy-based dipping sauce. The scallops were tender and intensely flavorful and the dipping sauce a pleasing accompaniment. We also ordered the Young Mountain Lamb, which included three marinated lamb chops cooked over coals and served with a peanut sauce and a tiny salad of julienned fresh vegetables. The lamb chops were tasty to the bone. The chops were seasoned with garlic and a five-spice mixture I’d never tried with lamb before, another new experience we savored.

We also split a bowl of tom yum soup, a hot and spicy Thai specialty that included lemongrass, mushrooms, cilantro, lime and chicken. It cleared my sinuses, awakened my taste buds and somehow made everything that followed it taste even better.

My wife ordered the chicken fricassee with figs and port wine sauce, a delightful version of that French classic dish. Its adaptation involved wrapping the chicken breast slices in prosciutto ham, adding port wine and figs and apples to accent and thicken the sauce. Garlic and shallots and an Asian five-spice blend make this an unforgettable dish.

I selected the Luxury Seafood Clay Pot, served in a white china container with a lid and a side order of white rice. This dish had the consistency of a seafood stew, but was a little thicker, spicier and more flavorful than bouillabaisse, its French cousin. The shrimp were plump and juicy and the scallops sweet and buttery. I appreciated the sea bass filet, which added another layer of complexity to this already excellent dish. A cold chopped vegetable salad included red cabbage, carrots, sliced cucumber and thin slices of green pepper that I mistakenly believed was sweet pepper. Several glasses of water
later I was able to report the fresh jalapeño
pepper did indeed bring a kick to that salad.

From a dessert menu that included tiramisu, vanilla crème brulee and cheesecake, we couldn’t wait to try the Hummingbird Cake (a rich vanilla-flavored cake that included coconut, nuts and tropical fruits) and the Chambord-Kissed Flourless Chocolate Cake (chocolate cake with fresh raspberry sauce), both of which were worthy conclusions to a fine meal.



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