Asian cuisine Ai Sakae: Chinese, Thai and sushi
PARSIPPANY – Craving Asian food, but the family can’t agree on what kind? Someone wants Chinese, someone else wants Thai, and then someone else really wants sushi. Dilemma solved!
Joining Parsippany’s eclectic culinary scene on November 29th, despite all the unpredictable and difficult issues facing small businesses, has been a very welcome new addition to our community, Ai Sakae Asian Cuisine. Ai Sakae, an attractive, sleek, glass-fronted building nestled in the Tabor Road Plaza, a small shopping center on Tabor Road, also known as Route 53. The cordial manager of Ai Sakae, Lynnsie, who had kindness to spend time answering my many questions, explained that the name comes from “Ai”, a Chinese word for love, and “Sakae” a Japanese word for prosperity. And despite its Morris Plains address, this stunning new venue is actually located in Parsippany Township.
This family owned and operated restaurant by Ken and Cindy Chen is not an Asian fusion restaurant, nor strictly a sushi restaurant, although their sushi and sashimi selections are excellent. Ai Sakae’s menu features a wide variety of authentic selections and modern interpretations of classic dishes from China, Japan and Thailand. Not to mention a wide selection of sushi and sashimi choices artfully prepared and presented by the restaurant’s extraordinarily talented and knowledgeable sushi chef, Ai Sakae owner Ken.
Ken Chen’s culinary journey includes many years in the restaurant industry, honing his skills and mastering the different styles of food preparation, cooking techniques and various nuances common to three different cultures to ensure authentic dishes, before he and his wife, Cindy, opened their former restaurant, Mintea at Cedar Knolls, an Asian restaurant using the same multi-Asian menu concept we now find at Ai Sakae.
Ai Sakae is small in size, with only 10 or 12 tables and a free-standing sushi bar with multiple seats, but it feels welcoming, cosy, comfortably spacious and airy once inside. Recently renovated (formerly part of a neighboring business), the atmosphere and ambience offers a comfortable, casual (with a hint of semi-elegant), well-lit and thoughtfully decorated dining room. Warm orange walls adorned with a few tasteful paintings, offset by brown leather wall accents and tiled walls, all work well together to set the appropriate mood. Small, spotlessly clean wood-grain laminate tables, soft black leather chairs, and well-appointed tables with chopsticks, soy sauce, and Ai Sakae’s full menu complete the initial introduction to Ai Sakae.
I arrived with several friends, and we were immediately greeted and seated by our attentive and cheerful server, Stanley. We never felt rushed and were able to enjoy some of our culturally appropriate BYOBs as we browsed the menu. Since Ai Sakae is a BYOB, I brought some Orion, a Japanese lager with some punch and depth of flavor. Mike F. went with Japan’s most popular beer, Sapporo, while Mike Z. went to Thailand with Chang, a subtle, flavorful lager. Dennis preferred a non-alcoholic homemade Thai iced tea. As a special treat, the restaurant sent a much-loved free plate of delicious sushi pizzas, a crispy, yet chewy, fried rice patty topped with avocado, salmon, tuna, or crabmeat, and drizzled with a mixture of mayonnaise and wasabi. The first time I had it and it was a treat. Good start!
Our group decided to start with shared appetizers. The first to arrive at our table was one of the Sakae Special Rolls, the Ridgedale Roll. Filled with crunchy spicy tuna, shrimp and cucumber tempura with soy paper, topped with avocado, caviar rice and crunchy amberjack, then topped with five kinds of fish and a special sauce. It was as good as it sounds.
For beginners or those unfamiliar with these cuisines, there are many unfamiliar words, flavor combinations and ingredients to figure out, but don’t panic, the staff at Ai Sakae will be more than happy to help. answer all your questions. and/or provide recommendations upon request. Remember that while it’s true that China, Japan, and Thailand share some ingredients, methods, and ideas about food (such as using plenty of fresh ingredients), their cuisines are distinctly different. different and Asian cuisine is unique compared to others. parts of the world.
Shrimp tempura and vegetable tempura came next. The fried tempura batter covering the elongated shrimp and vegetables had a super crispy texture and was full of flavor, and complemented perfectly with a side sauce.
The “Love Boat” sailed next. Ten pieces of sushi, six kinds of sashimi and a love roll. The fish was so fresh it could have come straight from the ocean. As we dabbed at the wasabi with our chopsticks and quickly devoured the bountiful assortment of spicy tuna, salmon, striped bass, amberjack, roe, fluke, whitefish, and more, we began to wonder if our mouths were bigger than our stomachs, but we persevered.
Mike F. enjoyed an aromatic bowl of Sour, Salty & Spicy Tom Yum Seafood Soup while we considered our choice of entrees. It lasted a while, as you would expect based on the huge selection of mouth-watering choices on the menu.
I ultimately opted for the Mongolian beef, which came with a choice of white or brown rice (I went with brown) and a side of miso soup. The beef tasted mild, like Mongolian beef should have, and came with those signature green onions and sauce. Mongolian beef has a complicated sweet and spicy taste and may or may not be spicy. The dish was scrumptious, but next time I will ask them to increase the heat index as I tend to prefer very spicy foods. The miso soup was tasty with a nice umami flavor. You can taste the fresh ingredients in every bite.
Other members of the group, for their entrees, went with the Hunan-style chicken; a favorite American Chinese stir-fry made with juicy, thinly sliced chicken breasts and vegetables, in a vibrant savory sauce; and Chicken Teriyaki, grilled chicken coated in a sweet soy teriyaki sauce; and a special order of prawns in garlic sauce. You have to like the healthy and light aspect that dominates Japanese cuisine. I must mention that the presentation of each dish was artistic and mouth-watering. You could clearly see the effort put into the careful preparation of each serving. As they say, “food presentation is the key to engaging all five senses in the eating experience”. The consensus was that everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meals, along with the genuinely warm hospitality and truly professional service from the entire restaurant team. Very enjoyable dining experience, but sadly none of us had room for their tempting and decadent desserts.
So when that Asian food craving hits, I would highly recommend paying Ai Sakae a visit. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I do. And don’t forget to continue to support all of our local businesses. It’s appreciated!
Quote from Ai Sakae Asian Cuisine website:
“The key to our success is simple: providing consistent quality food that tastes great every time,”
“I think it’s important to have an open mind and to grow. Be adventurous with your palate and you’ll meet lots of great people, great food, remarkably interesting cultures.” Vietnamese chef, Vy Nguyen.
Dine-In, Take-Out, Contact Free Delivery (Grubhub), BYOB and Catering. Special requests taken for food allergies. Off-street parking, open 7 days a week.
Ai Sakae Asian Cuisine is located at 970B Tabor Road, Parsippany. (Morris Plains, NJ 07050) – (973) 998-8818 www.aisakae.com