“We offer our customers a special experience: delicious Asian fusion cuisine in a wonderful, beautiful setting. This is a special place.”
Lisa Shao is owner of the Peony Pavilion, the new Asian fusion restaurant at 20 Farber Road, near the MarketFair Mall. She is proud of the restaurant’s reputation for high quality cuisine and also, its exotic, dramatic interior design.
Named for a famous 16th century Chinese opera, the restaurant focuses on the peony — a Chinese symbol of peace, nobility, and prosperity. Replicas of the flower are prominent throughout the spacious restaurant, which can seat 200. Suspended jewel-like red pendant peony motif etched glass chandeliers and elegant red lacquer wood peonies are displayed throughout the lavish setting.
A panel of copper peonies creates the backdrop for the framed kimonos and 200 photos and images relating to the opera that are exhibited in many areas. Gorgeous red and black hanging lanterns enhance the Peony Pavilion’s exotic Asian ambiance. Customers can enjoy dining in booths or at tables in several settings.
Ms. Shao’s artistic interest and background played an important role in creating this intriguing interior design. “I wanted the entire atmosphere to be very artistic,” she explains. “It reflects the cultural aspect of the opera, and combines that with Asian fusion food, and it is complemented by soft western jazz, adding a relaxing touch. Especially, we want people to be relaxed and enjoy leisurely dining here.”
Ms. Shao, originally from China, also owns Szechuan House in Hamilton. Interested in opening another restaurant in a new location, she decided to focus on sushi as well as blended Asian fusion cuisine.
“Our unique menu takes its cue from time-honored Asian cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Korean flavors, with contemporary approaches, using the freshest, finest ingredients we can find. The Peony Pavilion provides the opportunity to experience food with a rich history.
“Our presentation of the food is also very important,” continues Ms. Shao. “Our chefs showcase the dishes in very special ways. Even our plates are different for different dishes — round, square, and oval.”
“Absolutely the best sushi around!” reported a customer, just leaving the handsome 10-seat sushi bar. Indeed, reports Ms. Shao, “Sushi is a big favorite for us. Yoshi, our master sushi chef from New York, creates wonderful choices, which can also be customized. We have the freshest fish available, and the sushi is always extremely popular.”
“Yoshi” sushi, named for the sushi chef, is always in demand, she adds. It features crunchy, spicy tuna, avocado, and asparagus, wrapped with soy seaweed, topped with salmon, tuna, yellow tail, and Wasabi soy sauce. Unlike most sushi, it does not contain rice.
“Peony Sushi” includes toro salmon (the fatty cut of the fish) and yellow tail, asparagus, and red peppers, wrapped with soy seaweed, and jalapeno spicy yuzu sauce. The “Angry Dragon” features shrimp tempura and avocado, topped with spicy King Crab orange, edamame, and eel sauce.
Many variations and combinations are available, including sushi and sashimi, sushi and assorted rolls (California, tuna, spicy salmon, peanut avocado, to mention just a few).
Rice and noodle choices, Pad Thai (hot rice noodles, with choice of beef, vegetables or seafood), and Peony fried rice with chicken, beef, shrimp, or vegetables are also very popular. Ms. Shao notes that homemade Wasabi crackers are served with spicy tuna and caviar.
In addition, appetizers offer many choices, such as soup (creamy butternut squash is a big hit) and salads (seaweed to crispy calamari) and special hot appetizers, such as eggplant tofu (sauteed Japanese eggplant with basil crispy tofu).
Hot entrees range from organic grilled chicken to Chilean sea bass to Szechuan rack of lamb to Peking duck and Thai bacon filet mignon, among many other choices.
Also available are special lunch boxes, served with soup and salad and appetizers, incuding chicken or salmon teryaki, tempura shrimp and vegetables, and ribeye steak teriyaki, as well as a variety of sushi favorites.
Daily specials are offered, and on weekends, the popular Chinese Dim Sum is served from noon to 3 p.m.
The Peony Pavilion offers catering, and a party room for special events. Prices cover a wide range, with lunch specials (including any two rolls for $10 and three for $13); lunch boxes are $12 and $13, appetizers from $5, a la carte sushi from $3, and entrees from $20.
The Peony Pavilion also features a special Chinese Tea Ceremony, featuring appetizers, traditional Chinese music, and of course, tea.
“We offer high quality English tea from Harney & Sons,” notes Ms. Shao. Other beverages include coffee, soft drinks, and juices. Desserts, such as molten lava cake (served warm with vanilla ice cream), tempura ice cream, creme brulee in three different flavors, and cheese cake lollipop tree, are popular with many diners.
The Peony Pavilion is BYO, but it also offers the purchase of wine by the bottle through an association with the Alba Vineyard.
“I am so encouraged by the response to our restaurant,” says Ms. Shao. “We already have many regular customers. I enjoy it so much when people come in and say how much they appreciated dining here, and I look forward to even more people enjoying our unique dining experience. We also support local Princeton and area events. We believe giving back to the community is important.”
The restaurant offers lunch, dinner, and take-out, and delivers to local businesses in the area. Hours are Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, Saturday 11:30 to 10:30, Sunday 11 to 10. (609) 580-1850. Website: www.peonypavilionprinceton.com.