Eater’s Digest


Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2006

For how few restaurants there are on the Kenai Peninsula, we are fortunate to have several that offer exquisite Asian cuisine, and one more has been added to that list with the opening of Nikko Garden Buffet.

This new restaurant off of the Kenai Spur Highway across from Aleyska Sales & Service - specializes in a blend of Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisine, and after dining at their lunch buffet that runs from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. I am happy to report that they prepared all three ethnic dishes right.

I should point out though, Nikko Garden is a new establishment, and is still experiencing the growing pains of a new business. The restaurant which was in this building prior also served Chinese food and much of the décor is still the same. Overhead the ceiling tiles are each a highly ornamental golden dragon. The walls are adorned with beautiful pictures, many of animals of Asian origin, such as a large print of Koi fish and an extremely large tapestry of endangered Saurus cranes. There are also golden and ceramic Buddhas intermittently placed around the perimeter of the dining room and large flower arrangements separate the tables in the main dining room.

My wife and I didn’t come solely to soak up the atmosphere though. We came to eat, and what better time than a buffet to sample a little of everything that will be on the soon to be printed menus.

Like many buffets, Nikko Garden has an elaborate salad bar to start, but salads can be eaten almost anywhere, so my wife and I quickly skipped to the next order of business: soup and sushi. There were two soups to chose from, egg drop soup a staple in any self respecting Chinese restaurant and hot and spicy soup. I sampled both and both were impeccable. The egg drop soup had long silky strands of beaten egg, not rubbery clumps of egg like in some lesser establishments. The hot and spicy was equally delicious, albeit it was some of the most uniquely tasting I’ve ever had. It tasted l! ike the cook has a heavy hand when it came to the black pepper in particular, but it really gave the soup a bite that wasn’t over the top.

Next we moved on to the sushi, although I have to admit we almost didn’t when we saw that the sushi selection consisted solely of California rolls. For anyone not familiar with sushi, the California roll as the name suggests is perhaps the most Americanized roll and as they are often made with cucumber, avocado and imitation crab meat, only loosely fits the definition of Sushi. In fact I’d be willing to bet ordering one of these in the Osaka area would get you laughed out of most establishments. But, we’re not in Japan, and in America many cannot swallow the idea of eating raw fish so the California roll is a main stream item in most Oriental restaurants. However, for the true Sushi fanatic, our waitress assured me that a real Sushi bar was in the works at Nikko Garden and would be open very soon. I can hardly wait to try the Unagi, or smoked eel for those that don’t speak Sushi. In the meantime though, I made do with the California roll, and found that mixing a miniscule amount of wasabi with a few teaspoons of Soy sauce, made for the perfect dip with which to enjoy them.

As we moved on to the main courses, we found each one better than the last. Sesame chicken, Chicken and broccoli, Mongolian beef, sweet and sour chicken and seafood and vegetables that was heavily laced with onions, green peppers, baby corn and succulent shrimp the size of silver dollars. The two dishes that stood out the most though were my wife’s favorite the garlic pork which as the name would indicate came with hunks of tender pork, as well as slices of carrots, zucchini and huge whole cloves of garlic in a spicy brown sauce. She said it was great over a heaping mound of fried rice. Although I sampled a bite of her dish and found it delicious, my favorite was hands down the yellow curry chicken that came with bite-sized pieces of carrots and potatoes. This curry dish was easily comparable to any I have had at Thai or other Oriental restaurants in big cities in the Lower 48, and one that I will definitely be returning for to order as an entrée.

In addition to these main courses, there were the choices of fried rice, white rice and low mein noodles to mix with them. There were also several side dishes to choose from such as teriyaki mushrooms, spring rolls, pot stickers a.k.a. steamed dumplings, fried chicken wings, egg foo young and tempura a vegetable wrapped in a Japanese batter then fried to a golden brown.

For anyone that still has room after such a grand buffet, there was also the dessert buffet that consisted of various fruits, Jell-O or soft serve ice cream that had chocolate syrup and chocolate chip cookies nearby. Of course there were fortune cookies with the check as well, and while my fortune said to keep your eyes on the prize and your feet on the ground, I think I’ll prefer to keep my eyes on this up and coming addition to the restaurants of the central peninsula area.

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