Red China Bistro is kind of an enigma if you go there with the wrong expectations. I assumed after reading some of the reviews that it would be an Asian fusion restaurant, but I would not call its menu Asian fusion. Likewise, if you are expecting nothing outside of the traditional Chinese menu items, then you will be surprised by the solid sushi offerings. Although much of the menu offerings are familiar-sounding Chinese dishes, including Sweet and Sour Chicken, Angry Chicken, Broccoli Beef, and Cashew Chicken, there are a number of additional non-traditional Chinese menu items as well. So, what is Red China Bistro? I’d say its menu is not as much fusion as it is high-end Asian. For those diners who are scared of sushi and don’t want to spend $20 for Kung Pao Wow Shrimp, the menu also has an “East meets West” section, with seared tuna, New York strip steak,Lamb Loin, and Chilean Sea Bass.
When we first examined the menu it took awhile to get our heads around it, especially given that we were expecting to see something reminiscent of Cafe Su. This is not Cafe Su, if that is what you are expecting. I don’t say that in a bad way, because it is a different sort of restaurant, a total reboot of the Asian approach to food. Cafe Su had always struck me as more of a pure fusion restaurant. Many of the dishes served at Cafe Su did not even strike me as obviously Asian, though it was always prepared very well. With Red China Bistro somebody looking for excellent but traditional “Chinese” dishes won’t be disappointed. It will take another trip for us to see what sort of spin they put on the traditional dishes and to see what else they do with some of the other dishes, including Laos Curry Chicken, Tilapia with Ginger Sauce, or Spicy Vegetable tofu. If the Seared Beef Sushi roll was any indication, the sushi should not disappoint, though I’m totally unqualified to render any real opinion on sushi.
Service was solid and the waiter was informed and not stuffy at all. The kitchen was prompt with the food preparation as well. I have to believe that this new location sports a top-notch kitchen. I can only imagine what the chefs were trying to deal with at the old location in Valley Junction. Cafe Su never set any records for fast service.
The decor of the restaurant is definitely high-end, with an updated Asian theme and thankfully missing the golden dragons and giant ceramic white and blue urns. The Adio Chiropractic Building that houses Red China Bistro is new, looks like it cost millions to build (I’m sure it did), and is stunning inside and out. In commercial real estate parlance, this is “A” space. The decorating of Red China Bistro is up to the challenge offered by the architect, who deserves an award for this building.
For an appetizer we started with the Seared Beef Sushi Roll (about $12), which was really, really good. The beef was perfectly prepared, featuring very tender blocks of beef that had been well seared and then wrapped in seaweed, rice, and creme cheese. The serving was quite enough for two. This dish offers a lot of food, far more than I’m used to getting at any other sushi place. Of course, the price matches the amount of food.
For an entree I ordered the Red Bistro Tuna. The tuna is listed under the “East meets West” section of the menu. As the photo tries to show, this dish is five or six slabs of seared (mostly raw) tuna draped over sauteed spinach, carrots, and ginger jasmine rice. The tuna was quite good, though it was a lot of meat. The tuna had no “fishy” aroma and lacked any of the oily texture that a lot of Salmon features. I have to believe that a sushi lover would have been transported to heaven even though it was lightly seared. A shark would feel right at home. The ginger jasmine flavored rice was fantastic.
My wife ordered the Shrimp on the Nest, which is shrimp with Asian vegetables in a light garlic sauce on a bed of crispy noodles. The portion that I sampled was very good. I would say that Red China Bistro is one of those restaurants that requires a number of visits to really get a good sampling of the wide variety of foods and tastes that are offered. I suspect that the biggest market for Red China Bistro would be split between diners looking for sushi and those looking for a newer reboot of the traditional Chinese menu.
LUNCH M – F 11am – 2pm
DINNER DAILY 5pm – 11:30pm (bar 12)
2925 Ingersoll Avenue Des Moines, Iowa