The cuisines of Asia are now ubiquitous across America — choose among Chinese, Laotian, Burmese, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese restaurants, each sticking to its traditional cuisines.
But in Cloverdale, something new has been happening for the past six years. At Tian Yuen, the regular menu includes Thai, Vietnamese, Taiwanese and mainland Chinese dishes, and there's also a sushi bar with a full-time sushi chef at work preparing nigiri and maki sushi, hand rolls, and even Hawaiian poke salad.
It's a pan-Asian kitchen. Who says you can't have a California roll with your Tom Yum Gai? Not Mei Jung Shih, the Taiwanese chef who has brought all these cuisines delightfully together.
Tian Yuen is a bright, clean restaurant in a relatively new building on the west side of South Cloverdale Boulevard, not far from the center of town. French doors and floor-to-ceiling glass windows let in south light filtered through a gorgeous rosebush. Windows are hung with swags of drapery. Eleven tables are simply set with tablecloths covered with glass, cloth napkins, chopsticks, a fork and a dispenser of soy sauce.
The wine list includes a smattering of varietals, mostly from local producers Pedroncelli and Dutcher Crossing, but there are also teas and soft drinks, plus a range of Japanese and Chinese beer, the latter always a good choice with Asian food. Service is smart and fast, and is as likely as not to include Mei, as she not only cooks but makes sure the room is running smoothly. The sushi chef stays busy under a typical short, rustic Japanese roof over his station.
Tian Yuen has separate menus for the Japanese items and the rest of the Asian dishes. Both state, in bold letters, “No M.S.G.” And there are special deals available, such as a 20 percent discount for seniors on Monday nights. To check for deals, visit the website and click the tab marked “Offers.”