Athens, Georgia is known for hosting a variety of Asian cuisine seldom found in the state outside of metro Atlanta. One of its newest additions, New Red Bowl Asian Bistro located on Barnett Shoals Road, mixes Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and Vietnamese staples to create an all-encompassing, delicious and affordable experience.
This visit was my first time to New Red Bowl, but I went with a friend who was a regular, so thankfully I had a great source of recommendations. I started with a glass of sweet tea and a pineapple martini, along with an order of gyoza. Gyoza are pork dumplings, served in sets of six and folded in wonton wrappers. They were buttery and savory, which was shocking, considering how easily pork can dry out. They were a bit too big in my opinion, but that’s not uncommon for Asian food restaurants; you always get more than you pay for. I’m just not a big fan of taking an appetizer home, especially not something I have to heat up with meat inside. Meat’s just never as good the second time around.
I consider myself something of a sweet tea connoisseur. No matter where I go, that’s what I drink, and I’m very picky about what I consider good or bad sweet tea. The sweeter, the better in my opinion. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the sweet tea was perfect for me, although it would likely be too sweet for the average person. So be warned: unless your blood is essentially sugar water, you’ll need to water it down a bit.
Next was the pineapple martini, which was primarily a mix of pineapple juice and pineapple rum. My waitress told me mine was made particularly strong because they were running out of pineapple juice. She was not joking in the slightest. The drink was definitely too strong, but after tasting the apple martini my friend ordered, I can say mine was definitely not the typical strength that is served. Too strong or not, however, I must say it was delicious. I’d get it again, perhaps not twice in the same night, though.
Time for the entree. I went with the classic sweet and sour chicken with egg-fried rice, and also had a sample of the Mongolian beef. For my first visit I figured an Asian-American staple would be a good bet.
I’m telling you right now you’d slap your grandmother for their rice. It was undoubtedly some of the best fried rice I’ve had in my life – not too soft, not too greasy, and with just enough flavor to be good on its own while also complementing the entree. Of course, like most restaurants, there was way more rice than necessary, but would you ever say no to extra food? I certainly wouldn’t.
The chicken was near perfect. Some pieces were a bit too greasy, and some were on the tough side. But each piece was tasty with the perfect amount of crunch. It seems that New Red Bowl has a bias towards sugar, however, as the sweet and sour sauce not only came out lukewarm, it was too sweet and had to be neutralized a bit by the salt in the rice. It needed to be just a bit more sour.
If I had a least favorite thing while eating at New Red Bowl, it would be the sweet and sour sauce. This is critical to the success of sweet and sour chicken, however, so overall it’d have to be a miss for me. Chicken? Fantastic. Sauce? I could skip it.
The Mongolian beef was also a bit skippable. The meat was tender and juicy, and had a good taste to it. However, it was on the salty side and didn’t accompany itself well with the fried rice. Perhaps next time I’ll try it with white rice and that’ll change my mind. It wasn’t awful, but I wouldn’t want to get Mongolian beef and fried rice again.
For two people with two courses and drinks, our total was around $40. This may seem on the pricey side, but as I said earlier, in Asian restaurants you get more than you pay for, so it was a good value. I wouldn’t complain about paying that price again, especially since I got a great doggy bag for lunch the next day.
Overall this was a good meal at New Red Bowl. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the sweet and sour sauce or the beef, neither were horrid, nor unbearable, and everything else was so delicious that I’d mostly forgotten about it by the time I left the restaurant…although that could also be attributed to my too-strong martini.