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Lazy Dog offers tasty Asian-inspired menu

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Since we moved to Temecula three years ago, Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar has become one of our favorite go-to places for many reasons. Todd and I like sitting outside with our cocker spaniel, Catie, who appreciates the dog items on the menu. (If Catie could talk, she would undoubtedly say “a chopped hamburger please.”) The staff is always friendly and helpful, and the creative “people menu” has never disappointed us.

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So we were eager to try the restaurant’s new Asian-inspired menu, which was launched recently at all 13 California Lazy Dog locations. Wherever you are in Southern California, there is probably a Lazy Dog within 30 minutes or so, plus there is one location in Concord in Northern California. More locations will be opening soon.

While Lazy Dog’s menu always included some Asian dishes, their menu is now expanded with the addition of some innovative and delicious “Pacific Rim” items, inspired by the cuisines of Vietnam, Thailand, China, Hawaii and Japan.

Lazy Dog CEO and Founder, Chris Simms, explains that the new items are part of the restaurant’s philosophy of continually “evolving the menu to keep things fresh and on-point with, or ahead of dining trends.” These new dishes certainly reflect that approach. Although the new items were created by this boutique chain’s Executive Chef, Gabe Caliendo, all dishes are prepared from scratch at each restaurant under the direction of each site’s chef.

Lazy Dog’s personable manager in Temecula, Mike Barron, welcomed us and described some of the new dishes. He asked if we would like to try a sampling and we happily agreed. Little did we know what a feast was in store for us. To really get into the spirit of Asian dining, we were offered and enjoyed using chopsticks.

We began our culinary tour of Asia, with classic Dim Sum, traditional chinese small plates. We enjoyed two kinds of dumplings, including steamed shrimp Shumai and pork potstickers served with a flavorful, sesame, soy dipping sauce. We have had dim sum in China and we agreed that these dumplings were as good as anything we tasted there.

This appetizer was nicely paired with an interesting Beer Sampler. (Yes, food can be effectively paired with beers and not just wine.) On a warm day sitting outside, the beers hit the spot. They included a medium-bodied Honey Blonde Ale with hints of honey; a Hefeweizen that had flavors of banana (yes really) and clove with a citrus finish; a rich and crispy Pale Ale; an India Pale Ale that had a hoppy bitterness with a flowery aroma; a spicy and smooth Amber Ale; and finally a full-bodied Chocolate Porter with roasted coffee flavors. It was surprising how these beers enhanced the various dishes we tried. Now we know why beer is so frequently served with Asian dishes. Of course, Lazy Dog has a full menu of beverages, including specialty cocktails and an extensive wine list.

So our feast began. Soon our table was full of beautifully presented delicious dishes, including:

Thai Noodles: This dish is an innovative take on the traditional Pad Thai you find in Thai restaurants, but I liked it better. It consisted of rice noodles tossed with shrimp, ground chicken, tofu, peanuts and bean sprouts with a light sauce. The dish was fresh and light with a savory flavor that was not as sweet or heavy as most Pad Thai dishes. Todd added a bit of Sriracha sauce that kicked up the mellow tastes a bit.

Sriracha Chicken Sandwich: This is Lazy Dog’s version of Banh Mi, a traditional Vietnamese sandwich. Served on a toasted French baguette, this delicious grilled, tender chicken breast was served with crispy bacon, a Sriracha herbed aiolo sauce and a cucumber salad. This sandwich might be perfect for someone who may be venturing a bit hesitantly into Asian cuisine. It’s a traditional chicken sandwich with some exciting new flavors.

Hawaiian Sticky Ribs: This was Todd’s favorite dish. He is definitely a rib man, but he found these ribs to be tantalizingly different from any he has tried before. The tender baby back ribs had been flash-fried and tossed in Lazy Dog’s homemade, tangy, Hawaiian BBQ sauce and they were served with Asian slaw and luscious French fries drizzled in a tasty, umami sauce. (The term “umami” comes from Japan and means "a pleasant, savory taste.")

Caramel Beef and Broccolini: This was my favorite dish— colorful to behold and full of special flavors that I loved. The tender beef and crispy broccolini and carrots were tossed in a spicy, sweet, soy, plum sauce. Served with steamed rice that nicely soaked up the sauce, this dish evoked pleasant memories of some of the best Chinese dishes I have ever tasted.

BBQ Pork Fried Rice: I always order fried rice in Chinese restaurants and so I consider myself somewhat of an expert on this popular dish. Sometimes the rice is too salty and almost too flavorful and other times it is bland. I believe it is a challenge to prepare fried rice just right, but Lazy Dog did it. This dish included a tasty mixture of BBQ pork, scrambled eggs, bean sprouts, carrots, peas, red bell peppers, green onions and baby spinach. It went well with all the other Asian dishes.

Needless to say, we had too much food to finish (Lazy Dog portions are large) and so we were able to take some home and enjoy our Lazy Dog experience again the next day. And, by the way, Catie gobbled down her hamburger and enjoyed her bowl of fresh water. Lazy Dog in Temecula is conveniently located in the heart of the Promenade Mall, so it’s easy to stop in for lunch or dinner midst your shopping errands. After writing this article, I’m getting hungry for lunch at Lazy Dog. So let’s go!

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