Yuan Asian Cuisine offers ‘a totally different taste’

Alex Wong, in his restaurant, Yuan Asian Cuisine, previous managed at Empire Szechuan. He moved to America from Malaysia more than 25 years ago. Yuan Asian is the first restaurant he’s owned.  —Steve Coulter photo

Alex Wong, in his restaurant, Yuan Asian Cuisine, previous managed at Empire Szechuan. He moved to America from Malaysia more than 25 years ago. Yuan Asian is the first restaurant he’s owned. —Steve Coulter photo

Alex Wong wants to stay in Ridgefield as long as he can.

Mr. Wong, the owner of the recently opened Yuan Asian Cuisine on Prospect Street across from the library, believes he has found a community he can share his vision with — a town where he can build a rapport with his customers and provide them with a dining experience that is unmatched anywhere else in town.

“I’m here for the family dining experience, not to make money — whatever the customer wants, we try to cater to them,” he said. “I want to make sure the whole family can experience authentic Asian cuisine, and I want to bring back the traditional family dinner where everyone shares with each other instead of this ‘No —  this is mine, this is yours’ situation that we see all too often these days.

“The town of Ridgefield is one big family, and that’s why we want to be here,” he said. “We want all our customers to feel happy and welcome, but most importantly to feel at home.”

From hand-carved swans to custom-designed sushi plates, his restaurant isn’t short on entertainment value.

However, Mr. Wong knows that providing consistent, high-quality food and service is the key to his business’s success in town.

“What makes our food unique is that it has a totally different taste than what Ridgefield has had for 20 to 30 years —  a taste it’s never had before,” he said. “I’ve served it to customers from Asia and they’ve remarked at how you could taste the authenticity.”

Some of the differences Mr. Wong highlights include using Shanghai noodles instead of yellow noodles in all lo mein dishes and implementing a vinegar-based dipping sauce and a less doughy roll for all dumpling plates.

He hired five chefs who all have different backgrounds to ensure that “the standard of quality is always there.”

Mr. Wong, who was the manager of Empire Szechuan, has worked in the United States for about 25 year since leaving his native country of Malaysia.

Chef Tao Wang, who previously worked at Joe’s Shanghai in Manhattan, carved out a pair of swans using radishes and carrots. —Steve Coulter photo

Chef Tao Wang, who previously worked at Joe’s Shanghai in Manhattan, carved out a pair of swans using radishes and carrots. —Steve Coulter photo

He managed restaurants for more than 15 years during that time, learning how to build relationships with customers and studying what Asian cuisine was like in America.

“It’s a lot sweeter here in the U.S.,” he said.

Mr. Wong opened Yuan Asian officially on Oct. 28. He said gaining exposure has been the biggest hurdle he’s had to face so far, but he believes that as time passes, more people will come to recognize his restaurant’s name and style.

“I don’t know if a lot of people know if we exist yet, but the people we have had come in have came back, which is a good sign,” he said.

The building he’s leasing has seen restaurants come and go, including Koo, which changed its name three times before finally bowing out as Green Tea in April.

Mr. Wong had to decide whether to secure the building for five or 10 years when he was in negotiations this summer.

“I settled on 10 years because this is somewhere I want to be for a long time,” he said. “I am comfortable and I love the people I get to serve.

“This is a family town, not a commercial town.”

He said customers from the previous business have stopped in to sample the new menu and left impressed at what Yuan Asian has to offer.

“It’s a good sign that old customers come in and feel the improvements in both the quality of food and the atmosphere,” he said. “We want to provide the customer with this family gathering-type setting where everyone is coming together and sharing a meal with one another.”

Mr. Wong added that his restaurant just got an approved liquor license and now has a full bar that will host happy hour specials from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

He has already hosted a “wedding night special” in November for married customer and he intends to have a Chinese New Year special in late January.

“It will be either five- or eight-course meals, depending on what the customer wants,” he said. “But we will make sure it is an authentic dining experience and make it a very special night for those who come out.”

Yuan Asian also delivers within five miles for $15 minimum lunch orders and $30 minimum dinner orders.

Store hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 to 10:30 Friday and Saturday, and 12:30 to 10 Sunday.

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