Review: Apsara, Blue Ash

5chw4r7z, Mary, Steve, Pablo, Terry and I trekked to Blue Ash for dinner on Friday night as prelude to seeing Ms.5chw4r7z’s show at Tri County Players. After much email haggling, we decided on Apsara, which is in Watson Brothers Brewery’s old location.

Terry and I were the first ones there, so we grabbed a drink at the bar– I had a pineapple vodka on the rocks, and he had a Blue Moon. They have an extensive bar area– pretty sure a reworked version of the original– and a very extensive draught beer selection, particularly for an Asian restaurant. They had Kirin on tap, as well as a bunch of microbrews and some popular imports.

We all grabbed appetizers– Steve and Mary had frog legs (which, I’m told, did indeed taste like chicken), Pablo had some gyoza, and Terry and I picked some tempura and gyoza. The tempura was perfect– light, crunchy, not a bit greasy, and the dipping sauce (which I’m pretty sure was ponzu) was a light, salty compliment. Plus, there were slices of sweet potatoes, my favorite! The gyoza were a touch watery, but had a nice flavor. They were not exceptional.

Terry saw their monstrous sushi bar (see 5chw4r7z’s pics!) and decided that he wanted sushi. Smart guy. He chose a Playboy Roll, which was the biggest sushi roll I’ve ever seen. I figured, as it was a Playboy Roll, that it would be somehow silicone enhanced, would serve me drinks, and perhaps have a fluffy bunny tail (which I know from the Kirstie Alley TV Movie version of Gloria Steinem’s A Bunny’s Tale that you were NOT supposed to touch! The bunny tail is sacred! Anyway, you now know what I watched on cable as a kid, and I think it explains quite a bit), however, it did not. It DID, however, have spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, mango and asparagus topped with cooked shrimp, sriracha, mayonnaise and furikake finished with eel sauce and, according to the menu, “all wrapped in foil and barbecued at table”. It was wrapped in foil. It was not barbecued at the table. This is okay– it was pretty darn fantastic. I have no idea where they got the name, except perhaps that it was probably the most excessive sushi roll I’ve ever eaten– it had a blend of flavors, was a little messy and was falling all over itself. In retrospect, I suppose it IS a bit like the stuff I’ve seen going on at the Playboy Mansion. Creative!

Because I am a lemming and Liberal Foodie told me to, I ordered the duck. Mmm. Duckiness. It was indeed crispy, and the sauce was great– it was sweet, then salty, then packed a really spicy kick. The vegetables were all delicious and crisp-tender. The duck itself was a little dry– a hard thing to do with duck– but not bad. I preferred the vegetables and the jasmine coconut rice with the sauce. Yum.

Though I rarely go up to Blue Ash, Apsara will definitely become a favorite when I’m in the neighborhood. It’s a far more upscale Asian experience than most restaurants around here, the atmosphere is killer, and the sushi was great. In fact, the next time I go, I’ll probably skip the entree and just do sushi and appetizers. It’s a great value and a great experience.

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