With a menu that stretches from Japan to China, Korea, Thailand and America, Silk Restaurant and Sushi Bar might be called Asian fusion. That label applies to eateries that combine different cuisines to tweak dishes and form new creations, but it doesn't fit Silk's tried-and-true take on its food.
"We are not Asian fusion," said Cha Kim, Silk restaurateur. "Our Mongolian beef is straight up Mongolian beef."
The Kim family has a dining dynasty in Anchorage. Cha's mom, Song Kim, ran an Anchorage sandwich shop in the '80s and the family operated Midtown Korean restaurant VIP and Sushi Garden on Huffman Road before eventually selling them. Her brother, Clyde Kim, manages Dish and the family recently opened an Asian buffet, Kogi, in the former Royal Fork on Northway Drive.
A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Cha lends the family's restaurants a modern vibe. Silk is decorated in gray and black, with metallic accents and a round sushi bar in the center of the dining room. Tables line the walls and a hallway holds rooms for large parties.
The menu is separated by regional cuisines. Korean offerings include kalbi short ribs ($20 lunch, $26 dinner) and spicy squid ($16 lunch, $20 dinner). There are Thai noodle dishes like pad Thai ($12 lunch, $16-$18 dinner) and lad nar ($12 lunch, $16-$18 dinner). Chinese dishes include standards such as Kung Pao chicken ($12 lunch, $16 dinner) and Mongolian beef ($14 lunch, $18 dinner). The American section features New York strip and rib eye steaks (both $29 lunch, $32 dinner).
The Japanese listing dominates the menu with teriyaki and tempura, sashimi, nigiri sushi and more than 40 rolls ($12-$18).
Cha said Silk prides itself on its extensive beer, wine and sake lists and also makes saketini drinks. Adventurous diners can try a sushi shooter made with uni (sea urchin), oysters or tobiko (flying fish roe) and sake, a quail egg and a sauce garnish.
My first visit was around noon on a weekday. The restaurant was about half full and I just sat at the sushi bar. The lunch menu features bento boxes, an all-in-one meal with a main course and sides served on one tray like an Asian TV dinner. Choices included teriyaki chicken, beef, salmon or halibut ($16-$20). I opted for bulgogi ($18).
After placing my order, I received a small salad and egg drop soup instead of the standard miso soup, a welcomed change. I slurped down the rich broth and ignored the iceberg lettuce salad and its vinaigrette dressing.
My bento was up quickly and loaded. In addition to the bulgogi (a Korean barbecue dish made with thinly sliced beef), the box also contained three perfectly seared gyoza dumplings, a four-piece California roll (crab meat, cucumber, avocado), tempura (two shrimp, broccoli, sweet potato and zucchini) and rice. My bulgogi was moist, but more sweet than spicy. Still, the sides were spot on and I was given more tempura and gyoza than the menu detailed. It was a ton of food, more than enough for most appetites.
I returned for dinner a couple days later with my wife and ordered the crispy calamari appetizer ($10), a Hawaiian roll ($14) and sweet and sour chicken ($16).
Our appetizer was out in no time, a heaping portion of lightly breaded calamari strips accompanied by a chili-mayo dipping sauce. The meaty strips were a perfect starter. The roll was up next -- a mixture of crab, avocado and cucumber wrapped and topped with tuna and avocado. The combination was tasty and I was satisfied with the freshness of the fish after peeling a slice of tuna off the roll to eat sashimi-style.
The sweet and sour chicken came out lightly breaded and sauced, accompanied by green peppers and onions. The flavors hit all the right notes and the portion was massive. We had an entire serving left over, even after working on the dish in tandem.
"That's just what we do," Cha said of the monster serving size. "Our loyal customers know our portions have always been large. We go through an insane amount of to-go boxes."
While prices may be higher than what diners are used to, Cha said the restaurant uses choice materials.
"Its not just generic Chinese food. The quality of ingredients we use is upgraded. It's not the same kind of meats; it's the highest quality that you can get."
A broad menu and clean aesthetic should help Silk compete in Midtown. While the prices may throw some diners, they won't leave hungry.
By Spencer Shroyer
Daily News correspondent