Neighbourhood: Polo Park
Address: 1747 Ellice Avenue
Phone: (204) 779-7041
(Editor’s Note – This business is no longer open.)
Steps away from the cracked, concrete jungle of the Polo Park district now lies a little piece of serenity conjured up through the magic of good design.
Hu’s Asian Bistro seduces upon entry. A sheet of water rushes languidly in the vestibule water garden, setting a serene tone. To the right lies the Buddha lounge, straight ahead is the 152-seat dining room with a patio beyond.
The atmosphere is a departure from the building’s former tenant, Grapes restaurant, and the playful bamboo forest motif of the original Hu’s On First at CanWest Global Park.
Owner David Katz and manager Bryon Hamilton saw a franchise opportunity and opened this new location in December 2009.
Styled smartly, a masculine palette evokes the expensive feel of a modern steakhouse. Dark grain polished woods and trim banquettes padded with cushy black leather divide the large space. Asian accents like three suspended gongs and flashes of red hint to the menu.
The Pan-Asian menu created by executive Chef Kyle Julien is shared by both Hu’s locations. The extensive menu takes diners on a flavourful journey through China, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. Timid diners are eased comfortably into the rich and warm flavours with popular seasonings and familiar ingredients, like tempura. The tempura vegetable mix offers a pleasant start, with crisp broccoli florets, yam slices, red bell pepper and thick rings of red onion. The vegetables are tossed lightly in a delicate batter, and deep fried golden accompanied by ginger soy sauce.
Servers are attentive and possess extensive menu knowledge that includes allergies and dietary restrictions. Menu icons clearly indicate spice level with a one-to-three fireball rating system.
Chef specialties, like peanut-crusted pickerel, are also highlighted. The moist and tender fish is blanketed in rich and spicy crust. Mild, sweet coconut broth and fresh green vegetables complement the pickerel’s subtle, rich flavour.
Long strips of peppery citrus marinated beef dipped into slightly sweet chilli peanut sauce create a lively, zestful combination. Indonesian beef satays are served slightly blackened.
The Vietnamese noodle salad isn’t indicated as spicy on the menu, but it does come with a kick. This deconstructed heap of vermicelli, veggies, cold wok-tossed chicken, and toasted peanuts is dressed with a fiery vinaigrette. The dressing also makes a great dipping sauce for the hot, flaky shiitake mushroom spring rolls that accompany this dish.
Kung pao beef or chicken is a three-fireball dish. This monochromatic mountain of crispy vegetables and tangled vermicelli is drenched unsparingly in red chile sauce. The chile’s heat is absorbed into meat and sets off bright flavour of the vegetables.
Hu’s desserts are created in-house. Cheesecake rangoon is a sweet spring roll filled with cheesy custard. Mango and berry dipping sauces flavour each crispy bite. It is all delightfully finished off with a fortune cookie holding a mint leaf. Hu’s Asian Bistro is open Mon-Thu 11am–midnight, Fri 11am–1am, Sat 4pm–1am, Sun 4pm–midnight.