Ling and Louie's Asian Bar and Grill bills its cuisine as "modern Asian meets American comfort." In other words, this chain restaurant is capitalizing on the Asian fusion trend that began on the West Coast and has since swept nation. With its sizable Filipino, Korean, Chinese and Laotian population, Anchorage seemed a natural fit for such a restaurant: While we love our moose burgers and Valley-grown spuds, we're equally at home dining onadobo, bulgogi and Peking duck.
Ling and Louie's slogan is "Not for boring people," and the decor reflects that sentiment. Lime green, lemon yellow and coral-accented walls provide the backdrop for clever maxims like "Float like a butterfly, eat like a horse" and "Cooking is 90% physical. The other half is mental."
A slate-floored entryway, pergola booth dividers and a water feature at the south end of the dining area lend the space a contemporary Asian feel, while the brick walls and high-backed cushioned booths wouldn't be out of place at an American steakhouse.
My husband, father-in-law and I wandered into Ling and Louie's on a recent Thursday. We were greeted by a friendly hostess who showed us to a booth and handed out menus. An attentive waitress was over right away to take our drink order.
The menu is peppered with cutesy names like Long Life Chicken and Rice Soup ($4.25), Wango Mango Chicken ($13.95) and Kung POW! Beef ($16.25). In addition to Asian fusion staples like chicken lettuce wraps ($9.95) and crab and cream-cheese wontons ($7.75), the menu does boast some unique offerings: Ling's Meatloaf ($13.96) is served with Asian brown gravy, wasabi mashed potatoes and Szechuan green beans. The Mongolian Flatbread ($7.95) is topped with steak, roasted red peppers, red onions, cheddar-jack cheese and spicy aioli. Ling and Louie's also has a dedicated gluten-free menu, and tofu can be substituted in most dishes.
My husband was drawn to the beef dishes and eventually decided on the Taipei pepper beef ($16.25) -- black-pepper-encrusted filet mignon, asparagus and mushrooms in a mildly spicy brown sauce served with a side of jasmine rice. My father-in-law chose the New Wave Pad Thai with chicken and shrimp ($14.95). I opted for the Sizzling Shrimp and Chicken ($15.25) with fried rice.
With the restaurant roughly three-quarters full, I expected a longer than average wait for our entrees, but the food was delivered to our table in about 15 minutes.
I was quite pleased with my choice. While the sauce was a tad salty, the combination of moist and tender chicken, firm but mild-tasting shrimp, crisp green beans and earthy mushrooms worked well. The fried rice was on the oily side, but I appreciated the inclusion of plenty of fresh vegetables (nary a cube-shaped frozen carrot among them) and scrambled egg.
My husband's pepper beef was a straightforward dish that consisted of a good portion of sliced steak (as opposed to the shiny strips of gristly beef often found in similar offerings) in a soy-based sauce with a nice but fairly subtle black pepper flavor. The dish was denoted as "warm" on the menu but the heat level was negligible, so spice hounds might want to take note. Overall, it was tasty but not tantalizing.
Feeling limited in decent Asian food dining options since relocating to Montana from Anchorage several years ago, my father-in-law was enthusiastic about his pad Thai. The noodles were tender without being mushy, and the sauce -- which included spicy notes of chili and a hint of sweet tamarind -- was a hit.
With an upscale atmosphere, attentive service and a menu that offers a variety of Asian food alongside American bar and grill staples, Ling & Louie's is definitely worth a try.
By Carly Horton Stuart
Daily News correspondent