I drive down Madison pretty frequently, and although I haven’t been in Cincinnati long enough to remember all the restaurants that have occupied the space in DeSales Plaza, I always looked but never dined -- until Suzie Wong’s opened. They finally brought me in. Especially here in Cincinnati, I always make a point of previewing a menu online to ensure there are vegetarian choices. Suzie Wong’s has plenty, and the full menu is online (available for carry-out or delivery), plus they have a growing facebook fan page.
The night we went, there was plenty of parking both on Madison and Woodburn. The entrance is on Woodburn, next to Cafe MoCa, as if you are walking into the apartment building. But once you take a few steps down into Suzie Wong’s space, you’ll quickly forget about the concrete office-ish building above you. The restaurant was dimly lit, the furniture and place settings were sleek and minimal, and the space was smaller than I imagined. There were several groups dining, and it seemed like there were many friends or regulars as there was chatting among tables as well as between diners and servers.
We started with two crispy veggie spring rolls, which were served with generous amounts of sauce. I would call this amount of sauce "Cincinnati Style." I ate the greens to help tone down the spicy mustard. Given the choice, I would prefer a chilled summer roll or gyoza over the crispy rolls, but I always appreciate when a restaurant offers a vegetarian appetizer in addition to edamame or salads.
We ordered a side of ginger and lemongrass snap peas, but the chef came out and told us the peas weren’t looking so hot (his words) and that we could choose another vegetable to be prepared the same way. I also appreciate this. I know plenty of places wouldn’t pay attention and would serve the subpar snap peas, especially in a place so dimly lit and when the diners had already had some wine. Instead, we got spinach. If we’d thought about it more, broccoli might have gone better with the lemongrass, or even to switch our order to the spinach and garlic sauté, but this side was still very tasty. The spinach was certainly fresh and tender.
As I mentioned, I reviewed the website menu before coming as well as a few reviews and I was pretty set on ordering the eggplant and tofu claypot. There are several delicious looking vegetarian items, though, so I know we’ll be back to try something different. I was offered the choice of brown or white rice, and I got brown rice, which went well with my sweet eggplant and tangy pickle. The claypot was steaming, as advertised, and I enjoyed some spinach while I let it cool.
Alex ordered the crispy vegetarian ribs, which is similar to one of his favorites at Shanghai Mama’s. Rather than calling these ribs “seitan” the menu describes them as wheat flour dough. The presentation at Suzie Wong’s is very different and certainly an improvement to Shanghai Mama’s: the ribs are on a plate rather than in a large bowl, and they’re piled up against broccoli, baby corn, green beans, and carrots. He got white rice on the side. Alex loved it, especially because they had just the right amount of the sweet and spicy orange sauce.
Right now, Suzie Wong’s is BYOB. For a $5 corking fee, you can bring in your own bottle of wine. That, though, will change once the get a liquor license, so check the website for the latest news before you go. I’ll be back, wine or not, and I’m already thinking about the silky tofu in black bean sauce.