Greater City Providence

Retail Update: Asian Palace Opens on North Main

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Speaking of the “Retail to Restaurant” trend we were all debating, the newest example is located nearby on North Main Street (1184, across from East Side Urgent Care). This is where the long closed (and cutely named) Off Track Bedding outlet (whose empty storefront was captured by Google Streetview above) has been replaced by Asian Palace, which opened this past Friday. Should the photo above scare you, I’ll add that they’ve substantially gutted and updated the building.

Their menu is what I personally refer to “RI Pan-Asian 2.0.” What seems to distinguish Asian Palace, as far as I can see, is their hours. They’re open to 11 PM Mon-Thurs, and until 1 AM on Friday and Saturday, much later than almost every other ethnic dining option I can think of, Asian or otherwise, in the entire metro. This will likely work well for them given their close location to Miriam Hospital and its continuous stream of workers around the clock.

So, a question: Does anyone know if this pan-Asian default for restaurants is a RI only trend? If so, why? When I go home to NY, I don’t find this… The restaurants there, both in the city and suburbs, are solo-cuisine for the most part. Same thing in my recent travels around the US. Why only here?

To read more about the menu type and my very brief review, click below:

So what is my self named “RI Pan-Asian 2.0?” This type, best represented previously by Jackie’s Galaxy (multiple locations) or Best Eastern (N. Providence), tends to consist of an abridged list of the most popular Americanized Chinese dishes along with a basic sushi menu and sushi bar. The rest of the menu tends to be rounded out by a few of the “biggest hits” of Americanized Japanese and Thai cuisines. Thus, you can order Hot and Sour Soup, California Maki Roll, Chicken Pad Thai, and General Chao’s Chicken all in one sitting, which kinda feels wrong, somehow…

This is as opposed to “RI Pan-Asian 1.0,” best represented by the original Apsara. This tends to be a mix of fuller, un-abridged Thai, Vietnamese, and Cambodian ithems along with a half-heartedly implemented Americanized Chinese menu in order to appeal to the much wider swath of Americans who haven’t been brave enough to experiment with the first 3 cuisines.

I quickly picked something up at Asian Palace Friday afternoon. My tofu chow fun was quite decent, but the fried rice I ordered had a flavoring that was very “off” somehow. The sloppily rolled vege nime chow (which I ordered without shrimp) was tasteless, which means they’re depending on the shrimp or the sauce for taste and are skimping on the herbals and other flavorings in the roll itself. I’d perhaps give them a few more days open to get their cooking down… The interior was quite pleasant, a cut above the usual Asian dining setting.

Bret Ancowitz


  • The pan-asian dining experience depends on the restaurant management. South east asian owners (from Thailand, Vietnam etc.) tend to go the pan asian route as the cuisines and ingredients used in the region are similar and make it easier to provide variety.

    The pure chinese restaurant owners stick to chinese as it is easier for them than providing other asian dishes.

  • Perhaps this goes back to the New England diner experience. I’m not sure how this evolved, either, but i always wondered how some diners (typically pretty small) would have a fantastic, short menu full of goodies that were all done very well, and other (typically larger seating capacity) diners would have this long complicated menu where you can get eggs and corned beef hash or a burger or a chicken dinner or pasta florentine or seafood dishes. I’ve even been to diners where they add asian favorites to the menu. It becomes a one-stop restaurant where none of the food is that good, but you can get damn near anything you want.

    Maybe that whole idea came first, and the pan-asian experience came out of that. Or, maybe New Englanders just don’t know enough about Korean to know that they will like something on the menu, so a place is more likely to mix Korean with Japanese… I dunno. It does seem, though, that the more Pan Asian places there are, the less the consumer is likely to know about each individual cuisine, and start to assume that they are all this conglomerate of cuisines instead.

  • Speaking of diners, what’s really weird about the diners around where I grew up in CT is that they were all owned by Greeks. Not only were they the huge menu type of place, but they also had a good sized Greek menu as well. I never understood that.

  • @ Jim: Interesting point. That’s the same reason i’ve been given for not finding good pizza in Boston. Since the majority of pizza places are greek owned, it’s hard to find an authentic tasting pie in that town.

  • I like a good Greek pizza, but there’s an awful lot of bad Greek pizza.

    On the subject of places that do everything… My wife went to grad school in Philly and had a place across the street from her apartment called “Pasqually’s” (yes, that’s how they spelled it) owned by Asians (not sure what nationality, but it might’ve been Chinese). It was a pizza place that had all sorts of food, from friend seafood to cheese steak to burgers to I think even Chinese food. None of it was good, not even worth a visit. It was cheap though.

  • There was a great do everything Greek diner near me in Astoria, Queens. Astoria is historically a Greek neighborhood though. Most of the pizza on the Cape is Greek, since that is what I grew up with, that is what I really liked. Never really had a pizza I liked in New York, not even in Astoria.

    I imagine a lack of Asians could in part explain the pan-asian phenomenon in RI. We really don’t have a very large Asian population. So, not a lot of people to run authentic and non-pan places, and not a lot of native customers built in. We have lots of south and central American cuisine, because we have lots of south and central americans (and Italians, etc.).

    Boston, seems to have a lot of straight up, one or another asian places, and it so happens, there are a lot of asians in Boston.

    The other factor may be that RIers palates may not be as adventurous as we wish they were. You need a good customer base to provide a true dining experience, and if that base isn’t big enough, you go pan to get more people through the door.

  • In the NY Metro, at one time, 90% of diners were owned by Greek familes (now estimated to be closer to 70%). I’ve read various theories… First that in the heyday of Greek immigration (30’s and 50’s to 70’s) many newcomers worked for the railroads, which were often linked to diners at the time, making for a natural transition. Also that many worked as waiters and busboys in diners and they eventually bought and took over those diners when the owners retired, and once the immigrant pipeline was established, it flourished (I think similar numbers of Indian families, for example, own hotels in areas of the NY/Philly/DC corridor.

    The diner has a fascinating history, actually. Diners eventually became the culinary version of in their day, as many feel that their huge, expansive menus, with everything from gyros to matzo ball soup to apple pie, helped kill many ethic and other restaurant types (such as Jewish deli’s and neighborhood bakeries). Why go to the kinishery, the pickle vendor, the hotdog stand, or the pie shop when the cool new diner down the street, with its ample parking for cars, has all of those items under one roof and for less money? Sound like a familiar trend?

    I wonder if the same will happen with pan-Asian dining. Will single-cuisine restaurants be forced out of business by consumers who can’t conceive of not dipping their dragon roll in duck sauce?

  • FYI people, all of these resteruants you are discussing are all AMERICAN ASIAN resteruants, meaning that Asian resteraunts have adjusted their menues for the purpose of appealing ot the white American food prererances. If you are truely interested in some ethnic cuizine, I advise that you not go to resteraunts with panasian themes if you want a true ethnic asian meal. Asian food is actually healthy. Its just that, evreything you see in the resteraunts is the fatty crappy food that white ppl crave for.

  • Also Asian food consists of middle eastern food, chinese, Laotion, Indian, Korean, Japanese, Hmong, etc…you’re all being way to vague in your references to “Asian” food

  • I’m amused that the original Google Street View that the first post says shows Off-Track Bedding is of a building clearly signed “ASIAN PALACE.”

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