We received a gift certificate to this newly opened restaurant in Timonium for Xmas and thought it was time to give it a whirl. Jasmine was previously open in Towson where my beloved Pho Dat Thanh now resides. Seeing as they had failed in the previous location, my expectations were not incredibly high. My impressions at the end of the meal were somewhat of a mixed bag.
Walking in to the new space, it is clear that the owners have invested a great deal to make sure the area is aesthetically pleasing. There is a great deal of intricate woodwork throughout the restaurant with simple details that create a warm environment. Outside of the normal booth and table seating, Jasmine also offers tatami rooms. These are the small private Japanese style rooms with shoeless floor seating. This alone will undoubtedly attract a curious crowd.
Generally it does not speak well of a place that tries to do too many things at once. The menu at Jasmine is advertised as a mix of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Thai offerings. I admire the aspiration to do a little bit of everything, but I think doing one thing well makes you just as special.
We started the meal with a Spicy Korean Soup and Thai Beef Salad. The soup was spicy as promised, and had a whole assortment of meats, seafood, and veggies. The only thing that tasted traditionally Korean was the broth, but it was still a nice start to the meal. The Thai beef salad consisted of a pleasantly med-rare sliced steak over some assorted vegetables. It was about as westernized as Asian food can get, but the steak was nice.
For entrees we chose the Thai Red Curry with Chicken and Crispy Sesame Tofu. I requested the curry to be as spicy as possible, but as often happens, I was given the white boy heat. Flavors in the curry were mostly spot on accurate to what I was expecting. The use of spice and seasoning could have lifted the dish to the next level, and yet I feel as though the kitchen purposely holds back. The tofu dish was actually something I would order again. It was not overly sweet and was properly fried. The portions of both dishes were more than either of us could finish and one dish probably could have fed both of us.
Just to make sure we had hit every major region of Asia during the meal, we ordered a bottle of Sake to accompany the food. The waitress was very supportive of our decision, and the sake was quite nice. Jasmine boasts a full bar and a very respectable selection of different Sake. What really perplexed me was the inclusion of a variety of Tiki drinks on the alcohol menu. I can only picture the conversation that led to that one. "Americans love drinks with umbrellas served in huge heads! Remember the sixties?!?"
I had a difficult time being my normal judgmental and embittered self when it came to Jasmine. The staff and service were incredibly pleasant and accommodating. The owner even stopped by our table to ask how everything was and inquired as to how we had learned of their opening. It's quite clear that they are making a very heartfelt attempt at putting their best foot forward with every aspect of the restaurant and I applaud the effort.
If you're an admitted snob when it comes to Asian food like me; and demand authenticity, then this place may not be for you. For the more casual diner, I think Jasmine will find a loyal following. With the exertion they seem to be putting forward thus far, they deserve to find one.
Jasmine Asian Bistro
2141 York Rd
Timonium, MD 21093