Pan Asian Feast

Pan-Asian menus have become so popular that you can find them at all price points. Here are two casual Broward spots that span the continent.

Chef Mike Ponluang conceived Coconut Creek’s Mama Asian Noodle Bar as a fast-casual sister to his Coco Asian Bistro & Bar in Fort Lauderdale. But since opening a year ago, he has switched to a full-service operation with a wait staff to guide customers through the complex menu. That’s still a work in progress for Ponluang and his wife, Lisa, who oversees Mama Asian while her husband runs the Fort Lauderdale location. We were a bit overwhelmed by the wide-ranging menu, and wished that our server had been more knowledgeable. Mama Asia makes a stylish first impression. The upscale setting with white tables, bright red chairs and booths, an exposed kitchen and dark porcelain floor is much more hip than your average neighborhood Asian restaurant. Noodles are the signature item, with nearly two dozen choices. Stir-fries, curries, sushi and pricey dishes like roast duck and Chilean sea bass are among the many other options. A starter of Q spring rolls stuffed with chicken, shiitake mushrooms, bean thread noodles and sweet chili sauce was flavorful, but seemed a bit stingy at $7 for two tiny rolls. Our favorite dish was pad khee mao, chicken with rice noodles, red and green bell peppers, scallions, garlic, onion and sweet Thai basil. The fresh vegetables and spices were a perfect complement to the wide, fresh noodles, adding just the right zip. The Thai red curry was another winner, with a nice balance of spice and creamy coconut flavor. Seafood pan-fried noodles, however, were bland despite an ample mix of shrimp, squid, scallops and mussels, and needed a heavy dose of hot sauce. We only wish Mama’s was closer to our neighborhood so we could explore the menu further.

Open just a few months, Deenie Asian Bistro is trying hard to carve out a niche in the strip of Asian restaurants along U.S. 441 north of Oakland Park Boulevard in Lauderdale Lakes. Service is one plus. The attentive servers were quick to recommend dishes from the Thai and Japanese menu. The atmosphere of the former Bangkok Palace space is minimal, with low-hanging light fixtures over each table and two flat-screen televisions to catch the latest sporting events. A separate sushi menu offers creative rolls, including five that are made without rice and rolled in cucumber strips. We went for the house roll, an unusual mix of shrimp tempura, asparagus and spinach with a fried jalapeño that added unexpected spice to the mix. There’s something for everyone on the menu, which includes teriyaki, tempura, katsu, noodles and Thai entrees plus daily specials. The Thai dumplings with a mix of chicken and shrimp were light and well-seasoned. Thai basil chicken with chili sauce, onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper and basil had just enough crunchy vegetables, and we couldn’t get enough of the spicy sauce. The ladna noodles with chicken, broccoli, mushrooms and carrots in a brown sauce was not quite what we expected. The sauce had a bit of sweetness but too much cornstarch