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Where Eastern cuisine meets Western flavors, adding spice to Stamford’s dining scene

Rack of lamb with a mustard and breadcrumb crust

Tom McGovern

Contributed Photographs from Tengda

We settled in at Tengda Asian Bistro for a nice drink and smiled after discovering its extensive cocktails list—each item an exotic fusion mixture in a glass. It took a few minutes to decide on one. Consider the Caipirinha, the Brazilian sugarcane rum and lime powerhouse here pimped up with lychee and mango puree. Then there’s the Scorpion Bowl, a flaming alcohol-fueled fishbowl for two. My husband, while weighing the possibilities, looked twenty-one all over again, but I wanted to enjoy the meal—or certainly, remember it—so I distracted him with Junmai Ai San San, a bold, fruity sake. The waitress poured the bottle into iced glasses, a nice touch.

Open the also-large menu and you’ll be amazed by the bounty. This is more of a book, containing popular Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese dishes. East meets West with decidedly American rule-busting freedom. Add the low, persistent beat of the techno soundtrack and the shiny silver walls of the long narrow storefront (formerly home to Republic Grill, also owned by this local chain), and we knew we were in for a culinary adventure.

We studied page three, which listed the appetizers, and zeroed in on homemade pork dumplings, a composed tumble of large, swelling half moons—thin and crispy wrappers filled with a mix of tender, juicy ground pork and shitake mushrooms—beautifully presented like a subsection of the heavens on a big rectangular plate. Beneath the dumplings a thick sauce reveals itself to be shitake-flavored sour cream drizzled with molasses balsamic. The dairy component is utterly Western.

My chopsticks quickly nabbed a second dumpling, leaving my husband and our friend to divide the last one.

Scorpion bowl, Homemade pork dumplings

From two pages of sushi options, we chose the simplest appetizer—thick slices of yellowtail sashimi topped with slivered rounds of jalepeño, all resting on a yuzu-soy sauce. What a delight! The flavors were fresh, clean, cool, spicy and tender all at once, made all the more interesting by a sauce that blended the umami and citrus flavors.

From simple, we then flew to fancy with a Magical Roll that captivated us. On the plate, this spicy tuna, eel, shrimp, avocado and tobiko roll was awe-inspiring in size and intricacy of its rolled layers of rice, nori and fish. In the mouth, it was soft, rich and comforting, with a light crunch of tempura and toasted sesame seeds and a pop of flying-fish roe and creamy heat of wasabi mayonnaise.

Tengda’s pasta dishes encompass Japanese udon, Chinese lo mein and Thai rice noodles. Pad thai, the once-exciting but now back-of-the-hand favorite, seemed the perfect test of the chef. He got an A. It was one of the best pad thais we’d had in a long time, with noodles that had smoky flavor and springy texture, and seared shrimp that were big, plump and tender.

We decided we must have a curry. The seafood hot pot abounded with chunks of Chilean sea bass, scallops, shrimp, salmon and tofu. The sauce had a welcome low note and, despite the coconut milk, was not too sweet. My one objection was the bright green asparagus, which was too raw for my taste though it didn’t bother my companions. A sprinkle of fresh green cilantro would have brightened the flavors. Wanting more heat, my friend asked for hot sauce. The waitress brought a bowl of Sriracha. Nice!

A display of assorted appetizers that includes homemade dumplings and yellowtail sashimi

We love duck, but the wok ginger duck was our one disappointment. The chopped boneless duck breast was drenched in an overly sweet and salty ginger-soy sauce. Perhaps the duck should have been seared longer, to contrast better with the blanched onion, cauliflower and zucchini that were part of the dish. But a crisp, malty Singha beer made for an excellent palate cleanser.

Dessert was the final chapter. My husband’s inner pyromaniac craved flaming green tea. But even he had eaten his fill. Our waitress brought him a complimentary scoop of refreshing green-tea ice cream instead. He was in heaven.

Back in the parking lot, an attendant was about to put a ticket on our car. “We lost track of time,” I said, pleading, “Can I pay you now?” We must have caught him in a good mood because he crumpled the ticket, a perfect happily-ever-after ending to our evening at Tengda.

235 Bedford Street

Cuisine: Asian fusion

Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Fri., 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
Sat., 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m.
Sun., noon–10 p.m.

Find out more about this restaurant at Tengda Asian Bistro on Urbanspoon

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