Taste of Oriental, recently opened in the space adjacent to the Days Inn on Eighth Street in West Des Moines, has borrowed from its previous tenants, which included Mexican and barbecue restaurants. Its rounded door and window frames feel a bit out of place in an Asian restaurant, as do the paintings of blues musicians. Except for a sushi bar and the faux flowers on each table, owner Hong “John” Zheng has done little to transform the space.
But all of that can be forgiven if the food is good, we think. On a Wednesday at about 7 p.m., we were one of three tables with patrons, and were served drinks promptly: me a lukewarm draft beer, and water for my dining partner.
The menu, which includes close to 200 different varieties of sake, sushi, sashimi, teppanyaki, teriyaki and Chinese food, is a bit overwhelming. In addition to the head-spinning menu, we were handed another laminated sheet filled with additional choices. (There are also wine flights and a full bar.)
Without a real understanding of Taste of Oriental’s true specialties, I ordered the Szechuan beef with brown rice, and my guest ordered crispy sesame shrimp with fried rice. The Szechuan beef, marked as spicy on the menu, was only mildly so. Thin slices of beef were paired with bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms and cucumber, and served on a gigantic plate. The underwhelming brown rice lacked flavor and was served on the side in a bowl that felt disproportionate to the enormous portion of meat and veggies.
The crispy sesame shrimp arrived on another gigantic plate with a large display of broccoli, and fried rice, again, served on the side in an equally small portion. Having become used to receiving fried rice with bits of egg and veggies, he was unimpressed with the absence of such enhancers and the lackluster flavor of what did arrive at the table. Overall the shrimp dish was good, but not special, and not impressive enough for my dining partner to drive out of his way to eat it again.
By the time we finished our meals, we were one of two tables left. However, it still took us 15 minutes to get the check. After sliding my card into the sleeve, we waited another 10 minutes for our waitress to pick up the credit card and return.
Fortuitously, the slip of paper I tugged out of my fortune cookie read, “You have the ability to accomplish great things.” With a nice, large restaurant space and the know-how to prepare so many types of Asian cuisine, it seems Taste of Oriental has the potential to execute much better than we experienced on the night we visited.
Szechuan Beef … $13.95
Crispy Sesame Shrimp … $14.95
Tea … $2
Pint … $4
Total with tax and tip: $43.93
Taste of Oriental
Taste of Oriental
Find it: 1250 Eighth St., West Des Moines
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon-9 p.m. Sunday