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Restaurant Reviews

Kon Asian Bistro

With a heavy Japanese accent
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  October 8, 2008

Most pan-Asian restaurants never get past sushi for their Japanese choices, and most Japanese restaurants are strictly just that. Kon is essentially Japanese, but it calls itself an “Asian Bistro,” inviting us to cross borders.

Kon Asian Bistro | 401.886.9200 | 553 Main St, East Greenwich | Mon-Thurs, 11:30 am-10 pm; Fri-Sat, 11:30 am-11 pm; Sun, 12:30 pm-10 pm | Major credit cards | Full bar | Sidewalk-level accessible
A pretentious self-description on their Web site claims that the place “sets a new standard for the Asian Fusion.” The claim is misleading. Three of us enjoyed what we had on a recent visit, but not because of ingenious cross-cuisine experimenting.

The Japanese dishes remain purely Nipponese, the Thai, somewhat Thai, and the Chinese, somewhat Chinese. This is essentially a Japanese restaurant with nearly 20 items from those two other countries, plus an Indian curry pancake here and an Indonesian satay skewer there. (Imagine the anguish of a Japanese chef asked to put fish sauce in the miso soup or kim chi in a cucumber roll.)

But the restaurant is also a visual entertainment. Inside is a large statue of the Buddha at the end of a koi pond. (They were hiding when we passed, maybe fearing the bombardment of wishes that had layered the bottom with glinting coins.) Numerous lighting fixtures dangle from the high ceiling, half of them surrounded by lengthy, glowing shrouds tied off at the bottom. They aggressively compete with tokens of serenity here and there, such as water rippling down a glass partition; goodbye Zen temple, hello Ginza shopping district.

We heard what sounded like a Kurosawa soundtrack from behind the glass. Hurrying over, I saw only a Samurai chef at one of the hibachi stations, cutting, shouting, and flipping bits of food at, and sometimes into, the mouths of a delighted group of college students seated in a horseshoe around him.

All that disappeared with my first sip of their miso soup ($2.50), which was tastier by coming from the bowl next to me. It had been recommended by a foodie friend who said that it was slightly thicker than the usual preparation, as my neighbor now also remarked. I also enjoyed my tom yam soup ($5). The fixture of Thai restaurants was generous with seafood, and nicely sweet-tart.

We also tried the mini Beijing duck ($8), a quarter-portion of the Chinese pressed-duck classic. It was still a goodly portion for the three of us to sample, the skin properly crisp, served with hoisin sauce and a couple of half-moon pancakes, though the description said three.

Our last starter was from the more than two dozen “Classic Roll” selections. The sweet potato tempura ($5) roll, six pieces, was a good choice, especially from its slight tempura crunch contrasting with the rice. There are plenty of other sushi and sashimi choices, including entrée combinations ($18-$22).

I picked from the nearly two-dozen hibachi items, which range in price from $13 for vegetables, to $30 for the lobster and filet mignon combination. They come with soup, salad, fried rice, a vegetable, and a shrimp appetizer — quite a deal.

I chose a single item, steak ($20). This soup was also miso — the thinner version that I’m more used to, but still tasty — and the sizeable salad had a lightly gingered dressing. The sautéed vegetables were in small, chopstick-friendly chunks, and the two medium shrimp were conveniently tail-free. My steak, probably sirloin, was as rare as could be, as ordered, and still be stir-fried as cubes. As good as the meat was, my chopsticks traveled back more frequently to the delicious vegetable medley and the intriguingly seasoned fried rice. Both plum and light ginger ponzu sauces were served with the meat.

From the wok and grill section, Johnnie had the Thai green curry, which was only $9 in her veggie version, with chicken or shrimp two or three dollars more. It wasn’t spicy hot at all, but flavorful enough for her. (She couldn’t say the same for the green tea she was sipping.) From that same list, our friend Baiba was having the Japanese teriyaki chicken ($14), which is also available with beef, salmon, or shrimp. The teriyaki sauce under the sautéed cutlet, which was lightly floured rather than glazed, didn’t overwhelm its flavor.

Our choices of ice creams for dessert included green tea, red bean, and vanilla. Each was also offered as a crispy-coated fried ice cream, which we went for. It was good, not too hard and conveniently cut into four quarters, and this time I complained that it didn’t have as much green tea flavor as I’ve had in the ice cream elsewhere.

Kon means the beginning, we were informed. How appropriate for a new restaurant.  

Bill Rodriguez can be reached at

  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Asian Food and Cooking, Culture and Lifestyle, Ethnic Cuisines,  More more >
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