Monday, June 28, 2010

Fun Playing with Sushi and Malay Cuisine at Pacific East Solon, OH

In his book Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain wrote about restaurant locations that would become almost jinxed by housing repeated failures, such that any new restaurant moving into the space would be doomed before it started. This analysis certainly applied to the building located at 33003 Aurora Road, Solon, Ohio - a short drive down the road from my home. When I first moved to Solon 14 years ago, it held a red-tablecloth, red-sauce Italian restaurant that we may have patronized once. It then held a series of Asian themed restaurants, each with a declining quality of food, and ending with a somewhat bizarre marriage between Chinese and Cajun themes. When word came that the owners were closing it down for good, I was not surprised - the Avis Rental Car location that had opened in the building during its last renovation seemed to be doing a better business than any of the last ten years' worth of restaurants. 

And then, a small sign went up on the property, which brought joy to my heart, and hope that perhaps, on this occasion, Mr. Bourdain might just be wrong. "Coming soon: Pacific East." The same folks who own Pacific East in Coventry and at Eton would soon be bringing their pristine fish and fiery Malaysian menus to Solon!

The problem I've always had with dining at Pacific East Coventry was deciding between the two cuisines; Pacific East Eton is a much smaller restaurant and does not offer the Malaysian temptation. But Pacific East Solon offers not only both Japanese and Malaysian cuisines but also a full beer, wine and liquor selection. I couldn't wait to try it!

Our first visit was dinner with a dear friend. I was delighted to see bubble tea among the offerings.

Taro Bubble Tea

This is my preferred flavor, and Pacific East did a good job with it. My favorite bubble tea in town, however, remains at Koko Bakery  in Cleveland's Asiatown

Also a first for us at any Pacific East - we were offered an amuse:

Baked Mussels Bechemel

I am not a huge fan of mussels, but this one was very tasty. The treatment is one seen sometimes at Dim Sum, applied to scallops in the shell - very luxurious on the palate. We placed our dinner orders with great anticipation.

Miso Soup

All Japanese entrees are served with a cup of  miso soup and salad (and salad came with the Malaysian entrees, also). This miso had rich flavor, which bounced sprightly off of the tofu cubes. The salad, which I didn't photograph, was your basic food service mix. But it was crisp and topped with a tasty peanut dressing.

Tom Yam Seafood Clay Pot

Bob opted for the Malaysian side of the menu, which brought him this Thai spicy soup w. shrimp, squid scallop, fish cake, clams, straw mushrooms, onion tomato and lemongrass. Although the flavors of the soup fulfilled their exotic promise, the quality of the seafood reflected its price point. All of the casseroles were priced between $11-15 and no item on the Malaysian menu is more than $16. On the Japanese side of the menu, entrees containing fish or seafood start around $16 and go up into the low $20s. So, you get what you pay for and there is a difference. The Malaysian seafood items all seemed to me to be food service pack quality, treated with sodium polytriphosphate and frozen. Now - this did not stop Bob from enjoying or cleaning his plate, but I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much.

Golden Pepper & Salt Shrimp

Betsy ordered this dish. The shrimps were marinated, "golden fried," and tossed with pepper, salt, scallions and chili. The shrimp plate was accompanied by a small bowl of steamed rice. The preparation of the shrimp was perfect, but I could not get past it's chemically smell. As I am especially fussy about my seafood, recognzie that your mileage may vary - if you often eat shrimp at restaurants, you will find this product similar to what you are used to and you will probably enjoy it very much - Betsy did.

I had been unable to resist the siren call of sushi, so my introduction to the Malaysian side of the menu was limited to tastes of my dining companions' meals.

Maki Dinner, 3 rolls: tuna, spicy salmon and hamachi

First - I adored the presentation, and the edible flower decoration, made from wasabi and two shades of chili paste. As at the other Pacific East locations, the pickled ginger is not stained with dye, and has clean flavor. The rice is skillfully prepared and perfectly textured, and the nori is noticeably fresh. And finally, the most important part:


The fish! Pristine, sweet, and tender.

Spicy Salmon

Hamachi (Yellowtail)

Hamachi tends to be the most hit-or-miss in quality of these three varieties, but on this night, it actually reigned supreme in freshness and flavor.

Dinner (and the lunch to follow) were both served with enthusiasm and care. We regretted being too full for dessert.

To sink my teeth into the Malaysian menu, I met my friend Edsel for lunch at Pacific East Solon on a Monday. We were greeted and seated, and decided to imbibe in the green tea, the only hot tea they have. I'm not a big fan of green tea, but the beverage I was served at Pacific East was lip-smacking good - I wonder if the green tea was blended with another variety; because I thought I tasted some malt or gain flavor in there.

We began our lunch by splitting the Satay sampler:

Beef, lamb and chicken were skewered, marinated and grilled. Different colored skewers were employed so everyone would know which meat was which. The plate was decorated with tasty pineapple and cucumber . . . that Edsel enjoyed.

And this fabulous peanut dipping sauce.

Meat Close-Up

For the entrees, Edsel and I decided to be totally boring and order the same thing. It just looked so good as described in the menu!

Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice) w. Cloves & Screwpine Leaves, served w.Chili Sambal Anchovy, Chicken Rendang, Cucumber, Pan Fried Peanut & Hard Boiled Egg 

Wow - talk about a ploughman's lunch! The plate held a lot of food, in an array of textures and tastes.

The coconut rice was perfectly prepared - scented with coconut and offering coconut flavors without being  overpowered by it.

The two cold accompinaments at the top of this photo tasted incredibly fresh, with  intense flavors - on the left, a peanutty sauce that had a fruity component (tamarind?), and to the right, chili sambal with bits of anchovy and caramelized onions. Oh, and I guess the cucumbers added yet another taste/textural contrast, but none of those for me, thank you!

The chicken rendang, towards the bottom, benefitted greatly from the use of dark meat chicken, which has the fat content to stand up to the stew pot. It was creamy and tender, with just the right amount of chili kick. The sambal would add additional kick, for anyone so desiring.  The eggs added additional texture, and a cooling flavor. Finally, the warm peanuts drew it all together - a delicious lunch (actually, two lunches for me; half left in a take-out box) priced at $8 (plus the Satay combo we split, which was $9 for six skewers).

Pacific East Solon, like its siblings, is highly recomended, with the following caveat: if you love pristine, fresh fish and seafood, stick with the sushi bar items. They cost more, but you get what you pay for. If the "usual" shrimp and seafood from your favorite Chinese restaurant please your palate, you may venture happily into the seafood portions of the cooked Japanese and Malaysian menus, otherwise, stay with the meats and vegetables for the best flavors. We had fun playing with the many flavors and textures offered by Pacific East Solon, and we intend to return for more!

Pacific East on Urbanspoon


  1. Glad to hear that there is another location. I love the one at Eton!

  2. Will hope this restaurant stays around for a while. It always seems that when I drive by something new has come...and gone in that location.