The second jewel in the crown for the Village Center in Plainsboro is the new Asian restaurant East. Located around the corner from Positano Mediterranean Grill (U.S. 1 August 15), in the heart of the new mixed use development, we found a crisp, modern venue with a contemporary flair. Our view was of the future village green, at the far end of which will be the new showcase library. A quiet residential street meanders around the corner and we were able to watch folks promenading in the evening, walking their dogs, or teaching their kids to ride bikes, a joy as opposed to traffic or an asphalt parking lot.
The blond wood and matte black chairs contrast with the burled wood tables, a very modern perspective. A sushi bar graces the front and the dining room wraps around to the back. One suggestion is to seek a table either in front or the back since the service area is rather exposed and the ice machine is distracting.
We arrived at 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday and had no difficulty getting a table, an extremely pleasant alternative to the interminable wait at some of the Route 1 eateries. In fact, one of the major draws for this new town center being created from scratch in Plainsboro is the promise of easy and plentiful parking, a pleasing vista, and room to wander after the meal.
The menu is an amalgam of Chinese and Japanese dishes. The sushi chef has a number of specialty rolls with intriguing names like Angry Dragon ($14) and Foxy Lady ($12) featuring a riot of ingredients. The hot and sour soup ($4) is very hot indeed. We each ordered a different dish and shared.
Happy Family ($15) is a combination of shrimp, beef, chicken, and scallops with a variety of veggies. The seafood combo ($18) is full of ocean denizens including calamari and chunks of real lobster. The lobster lo mein is really langostinos but it is well done and was a hit with the 15-year-old of our group ($12). The more “discriminating” (read: picky) eater at the table chose the beef with mixed vegetables and found himself happily downing hearty portions of red meat ($10.50). All entrees are within the $8 to $15 range.
One whimsical touch is the elaborate veggie garnishes. I had a huge carrot rose and my friend who had the seafood was greeted with a big red pepper fish complete with green pea eyes and anchors carved from carrot slices.
Dessert for two of our company were the bubble teas, which are offered in a large variety of flavors. They are served with large pearls of tapioca adding texture ($3 as a grand opening special).
The evening was hardly over as we left the restaurant. From there we wandered down for a leisurely cup of coffee at one of the outside tables at It’s A Grind while I was lured to Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream. We sat out in the soft summer evening, away from the roar of traffic or malls.
In fact, a subsequent visit to try the sushi selections pointed out the pleasure promised by the village. Parking was quick and easy, with no navigating a labyrinthian parking lot. I was able to place my take-out order, walk to the shopping center across the street for some groceries and items at CVS, meander back, and be on my way.
The variety of destinations that will come to the Village Center will be a welcome alternative to jumping in and out of the car or walking across acres of sun-baked macadam. Most of the shops are still empty with no indication of who will be coming in, so there is no sense of what the overall tone of the neighborhood will be. Some galleries, a book shop, or other destination would be desirable to entice lingering. We hope the vibrant activities of the current library will be expanded to include evening events that will create a full evening out.
East is an extremely casual and very family-friendly place that is BYO. As the community expands I expect it will become a cornerstone destination and is already a welcome dining addition for the employees of the myriad office workers in the area in search of good food.
— E.E. Whiting
East, 5 Market Street, Plainsboro 08536, across from the Super Fresh plaza. 609-750-EAST (3278). Open Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 10 p.m. Free delivery with a minimum $15 purchase.