Update: CreAsian has been sold to the owners of Taste of the Himalayas. It's now a hybrid of the two. I hear that the CreAsian dishes they still have are not as good. The Indian food is supposed to be very good, however.
CreAsian is one of only three or four "upscale" restaurants in San Leandro. It features pan-Asian and fusion food in interesting surroundings. We'd been to CreAsian once before, when Mika was a little baby, but I never wrote a review - a fact that has certainly been noticed by visitors to my website. In any case, our first visit to CreAsian was brief and pleasant enough to merit an encore.
And an encore it was; neither the surroundings nor the menu has changed much in the last year and a half. The restaurant occupies two dark rooms on MacArthur Boulevard, near Interstate 580. The rooms are mostly decorated with large, artsy wall lamps. The wall on one side seems covered by squares of plastic, mirrors and light. It's cool, but I think one could quickly grow tired of this place. I didn't really like the lighting; it was dark, but as the light was generalized it did not help create an intimate or romantic atmosphere. In any case, this restaurant is too loud to be romantic. Mike and I were seated near the middle and could barely hear each other without raising our voices. The two babies didn't help matters much, but the real culprit is the lack of sound-absorbing materials - the only fabric in the restaurant is probably that provided by the napkins. The restaurant has a half-open kitchen behind a high bar, you can see the faces of the cooks but not much more. You can hear the sound of pots and pans quite well, however.
The menu is quite extensive but a little confusing. It features "teasers" in lieu of appetizers, probably averaging around $7-8 and main dishes in the $14-22 range. But it also has mid-priced noodles, shrimp and chicken dishes (averaging around $10) and it was not clear (at least to me) whether these were meant to be appetizers or entrees. The menu finds its inspiration mostly in North Asia, though there are several dishes that are clearly a fusion of east and west.
Mike and I decided to share an appetizer of petite spring rolls (pork and taro). They were pretty good and very nicely presented. Indeed, presentation is one of the highlights of a meal at CreAsian - the dishes are beautifully arranged in a fusion of Asian and European styles. They were very hot (warm), and accompanied by a pleasant, yet very spicy, sweet sauce.
As my main dish I ordered the duckling done in two ways. This included a leg of duckling and several slices of duck breast around sitting on a bed of spinach and placed around a small mount of mashed potatoes. A tall, green triangular taro cracker gave added height to the dish. The duck was served with a sweet fruit sauce (perhaps plum?). I had ordered the exact same dish last time we ate at CreAsian and I remembered it as being better. It was still beautiful, but the sauce (good in itself) overwhelmed all other flavors and ultimately made the dish boring. The duck leg was a little bit overcooked (dry) as well, and Mike who tried the spinach didn't think it went well at all with the sauce, the flavors clashed. Still, the dish was generally good and I enjoyed it.
Mike ordered the Shanghai chicken, one of the cheaper dishes at about $11. It was quite good, though not particularly extraordinary - we've both tasted this exact same dish at a number of good Chinese restaurants. Still, we'd order it again.
I had a coke with dinner while Mike had a chocolate martini. He enjoyed it, but I don't think he'll run to order it again. CreAsian has a number of mixed drinks as well as a pretty extensive (for this type of restaurant) wine list.
It was time for dessert. The dessert menu featured desserts that would not be out of place at any upscale all-American restaurant (I think all desserts were about $6-7). Mousses, ice cream, I think they even had tiramisu. I went for the triple mousse cake, a small circular concoction with a thin layer of cake and thicker layers of dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate mousse. We both really enjoyed the white chocolate mousse, but weren't as thrilled with the darker layers. There was nothing wrong with them, they just weren't noteworthy.
In all, I think the food was quite good, though not perfect, nicely presented but with portions perhaps a tad too small for the price. Still, we didn't leave hungry.
Service throughout the meal was good and efficient but very hurried. The waiters came and left with amazing speed and there was no time for chit chat or even for questions; you blinked and they were gone. Mike was fine with the pace of the meal but I felt it went too quickly. The whole three-course meal took less than an hour, I would have preferred a more leisurely pace.
In all, we had a pretty nice, if quick, dinner. I'd go to CreAsian again, though I'd have to be in the right mood for it.
1269 Macarthur Boulevard
San Leandro, CA