Set in the sparkling Shops at Quarry Lake off Greenspring Avenue, this storefront restaurant is American modern with only a hint of its Asian roots. White cloths are on the tables, colors are muted beige with wood accents, and forks, not chopsticks, are on the tables. Only the small sushi bar with two chefs rolling fish, rice, and nori remind you that you're in a restaurant that offers Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Thai choices on its menu. It's more pan-Asian than fusion since each cuisine is represented by various dishes.
Even midweek, Jasmine was bustling. Tables filled quickly, and the hostess and our server were visibly harried with frowns and perfunctory politeness. This is not a place for a quiet, romantic meal. Think cafeteria noise levels with your food being brought at lightning speed. That's a good thing if you want to catch a train. Not so good if you're trying to digest the warm, crispy vegetable spring rolls with a sweet duck-type sauce while the miso soup, seaweed salad, and sushi combo are being tossed on the table, too. We could barely keep up with the pace, and it wasn't until the sushi arrived that we were able to shout out that we'd like chopsticks before our waiter was off and running again.
But what beautiful sushi—colorful, delectable, and buttery to the tongue. On our own sushi combo, we could discern fat hunks of salmon, shrimp, and scarlet-hued tuna lapped over small rounds of rice, but we couldn't trap our waiter long enough to find out about the other selections. On one pass by, he acknowledged that one fish was white tuna. The sushi combo regular also came with a plump California roll and the miso soup. But the broth, while filled with nuggets of shimmery tofu and dark leafy greens, was somehow tasteless. The seaweed salad, however, with its über-fresh greens coated with a pleasantly sweet vinegar dressing and topped with a smattering of sesame seeds filled in any flavor gaps.
We also enjoyed the complimentary condiments of pickled cucumbers and carrots (a nice touch) before our huge, gorgeous entrées made their appearance. The restaurant's website promotes its food as light and healthy. I'm sure it didn't refer to our main meals. The crispy soft-shell crab with red curry sauce was heavily battered and revealed succulent meat with each bite. The glorious coral sauce, lathered over the four chunks of crab, zinged with heat (it had the appropriate hot-pepper symbol next to it on the menu) and luscious cream. Quickly steamed veggies, including slices of zucchini, carrots, and water chestnuts, added a nice crunch to the dish.
The crispy roast duck with Thai spicy and sour sauce may have lacked the spiciness we were expecting (it also had a hot-pepper symbol), but the slow-roasted, fall-off-the bone meat was so appealing with its thick, sweet coating laced with basil that we became instant fans. Tomato, pineapple, and green peppers added extra dimensions.
After all the varied taste sensations, we definitely needed a shot of pure sweetness for dessert. Sticky rice with fresh, flavorful mango slices, coated in a sauce similar to crème anglais, was a nice finish. And you can't get more indulgent than fried ice cream—a ball of vanilla ice cream with a crust hinting of coconut and jazzed up with chocolate sauce and maraschino cherries—to end a meal. We were mellow, and even our waiter seemed to have chilled out a bit by the end.
Jasmine Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar, 2592 Quarry Lake Dr., Shops at Quarry Lake, 410-484-5170. Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Mon-Thurs, 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Fri, noon-10:30 p.m. Sat, noon-9:30 p.m. Sun. Sushi, $3-$45 (combo), appetizers, $2-$12; entrées, $11-26; desserts, $3-6