Q: As a former Chicagoan who recently moved to the area, I was spoiled by all the Asian food options (Malaysian, Thai, Japanese, Korean, etc.) that I had available to me locally. In Charleston and the outlying islands, what are your recommendations?
A: One of my least favorite expressions is “As I always say ...,” since it seems to me that if you’ve said something once or twice, it’s probably time to find something new to say.
But, in this case, I can’t find a way around repeating myself, especially since I get some version of this question several times a week (and I’m certain if you charted the influx of Northeasterners to the Lowcountry and the frequency of the question appearing in my inbox, both would follow the same exponential trajectory.)
In short, if you’re desperate for memorable Asian food, that’s as good a reason as any to avail yourself of the plentiful direct outbound flights from Charleston International Airport. With the help of Google Flights, I was able to determine that on Wednesday, May 8, you can fly to and from New York City for $110, Washington, D.C., for $101 and Philadelphia for $129. Considering your dinner is likely to cost about a quarter of what you’d pay for a high-end meal downtown, it’s not an entirely crazy suggestion.
Or to use another overworked phrase: Love the one you’re with. Just by virtue by birthplace, there are more than 1 billion people worldwide within walking distance of quality Asian food. The number of people who can easily access garlic crabs and homemade chewies is but a tiny fraction of that. While the Lowcountry may not have the immigrant populations to support a thriving Asian food scene, it has a unique and delicious homegrown cuisine that very few eaters will ever have the chance to experience. Enjoy it.
Still, I sympathize with the desire for pho on a rainy day or takeout chow mein on Sunday night. And so, a quick recap of my current picks for the Asian restaurants most likely to at least quiet your cravings until you’re next in a big city. (CO also does a decent job with the standbys in a number of the following categories: I like the green papaya salad and spicy pho.)
Chinese-American: Dragon Palace, 162 Seven Farms Drive, Daniel Island (I hear you, Red Orchids fans. The dim sum menu, however shrunken, gives Dragon Palace the edge.)
Chinese-Chinese: Kwei Fei, 1977 Maybank Highway
Filipino: Luz’s Place, 1936 Remount Road, North Charleston
Korean: Ko Cha, 3515 Mary Ader Ave.
Sushi: Miyabi, 688 Citadel Haven Drive (When Junior’s working the counter. Trust me.)
Taiwanese: Tapio, 221 Coming St. A
Thai: Thai Palm, 4958 Centre Pointe Drive
Vietnamese: Pink Bellies, Tuesdays at Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co., 1505 King St. Extension