After 15 years of operating as a mostly-takeout shop inside a Kroger in southern Durham, East Coast Chinese Food Express has finally moved into a full-fledged restaurant space in Greenwood Commons shopping center. Owners David and Annie Nip have taken advantage of the roomier digs to expand the menu, with a new name to match: East Coast Asian Bistro.
The extensive offering now includes Japanese bento boxes, noodles dishes and sushi (though there is as yet no dedicated sushi bar), as well as a sampling of Vietnamese fare — including nine variations on the pho theme, from classic beef to vegetarian.
But you’ll have to ask for the “real Chinese menu” if you’re interested in the authentic Cantonese fare that earned East Coast Chinese a cult-like following. And there’s a catch: for the time being, the menu is only in Chinese. An English translation is in the works, and in the meantime Annie Nip will be happy to make suggestions. She’ll probably recommend the black pepper beef, which she readily admits is her favorite, along with fried squid. Pressed for more suggestions, she’ll reel off a list that includes sweet and sour spare ribs (“Chinese style,” she’s quick to point out), chow fun with curry flavor, Chinese broccoli, and chicken tofu-skin rolls.
The dining room is still a work in progress, as the owners haven’t had time to do much in the way of giving the place a makeover. For now, the fireplace mantels and knotty pine paneling inherited from Papa Mojo’s, the previous tenant, don’t give the place much of an Asian feel. Then again, it beats dining next to the detergent aisle.
East Coast Asian Bistro (5410-Y NC Hwy. 55, Durham; 919-806-8899; eastcoastasianbistrotogo.com) is open for lunch and dinner, every day but Sunday.