Allston's Blue Asia presents an engaging study in textures, wonderful comfort food served in a welcoming atmosphere. The pan-Asian, heavily Taiwanese restaurant has opened in a sunny space offering congenial service, a manga library and free Wi-Fi, and enough intriguing shapes and flavors to justify the extended hospitality. Warming soups make soothing starters. Herbal ginseng chicken ($4.95) features a chicken leg falling off its bone in a clean, grassy broth with shreds of the soothing root. Chef's Special soup ($4.95) interplays slippery mushrooms, lacy frills of egg, and cubes of marbled turnip that pop when pressed against the palate, in a thick brown broth. Stewed beef soup ($8.50) surrounds tender brisket and finger-pinched, homemade pork dumplings in hefty beef stock.
Egg pancake ($4.25) wraps a whisper-thin crepe around a scallion and sweet corn omelet. In the sesame beef wrap ($5.50), a warm pancake contains sweet, cold beef brisket; the meat is flaky and tender, braced by crisp scallion stalks. Maki dive into serious fusion territory: witness the bibimbap roll ($6.95), in which a kelp wrapper contains sliced beef, tangy kimchi and scrambled egg. I passed on the hot dog roll in favor of fried red-wine pork belly ($7.25); a crispy, chewy crimson plank. A greater porken pleasure is the braised pork-belly bento ($7.95). Shreds of salty meat slip apart with a chopstick's poke, a border of buttery porkfat a supple condiment. Beside it, rich, custard-like silken tofu is smooth as the fat itself, as if to remind that neither should be left behind. Minced greens, a pile of corn, and sticky rice soaked in minced-pork sauce round out the plate. Weekends, Blue Asia serves a delicious stir-fried dish of translucent vermicelli twirled around finely chopped vegetables and sliced pork ($8.50).
Blue Asia also nails fried chicken, which is hot, juicy, and encased in thick crunch. Dusted in salt and pepper with aromatic fried basil, it appears solo ($5.95) or as a bento ($7.95): a unpeppered crunchy cutlet sliced into strips and served in rich apple curry, accompanied by a juicy croquette of minced tofu and chicken.
Among several sweet endings, the Fantastic Four ($5.50) amounts to a hill of chewy beans and barley soaked in sweetened condensed milk over a mound of shaved ice. I added ai-yu jelly, a fig-based gel which looks like irregular shards of shattered glass but is a pliable, lemony jelly against the ephemeral ice. As I ate this, snow began to fall yet again outside, so I took my time, letting spoonfuls of shaved ice disappear on my tongue like snowflakes.
Blue Asia, located at 113 Brighton Avenue in Allston, is open Monday-Thursday, 11:30 am-9:30 pm, and Friday-Sunday, 11:30 am-10:30 pm. Call 617.202.3868.