The Best Asian Food in Medellín

The green curry at Royal Thai is fantastic. (Photo courtesy of Xaq Ai)
The creta roll is my favorite at Sushi House.
The creta roll is my favorite at Sushi House.

One of the things that makes me laugh about Colombia is the way a lot of the people equate Asian with Chinese.

Yes, China is the biggest country and economy in Asia but there’s a lot of diversity there. Not everyone or everything is the same.

This is true with the best Asian food out there too.

As Medellín slowly evolves toward true cosmopolitan status, so too does its restaurant scene, including Asian food.

There are now at least a dozen places to get sushi, a couple of Indian restaurants, and 1 ½ Thai restaurants — and I’ll elaborate on that last part later — to go along with hundreds of so-called Chinese restaurants.

None of those places offers a menu full of authentic Chinese food, not as far as I know at least, but that’s understandable.

Even a lot of Americans who claim to love Chinese food pause in fear when they see an entire fish in front of them, eyes and all and still looking alive other than the fact that it’s not moving, because it was steamed whole instead of served as a fried fillet.

That lack of authenticity is the main reason not one of those Chinese spots will make the Top 5, which will actually be a Top 4 because I’m purposely leaving one slot open in case someone decides to keep it real.

This could actually mean two things: real Chinese or Vietnamese food.

Vietnamese food is my favorite of all the Asian cuisines, so if no one steps up their Chinese cuisine, a restaurant that serves more than just pho, a restaurant with an authentic lemongrass beef and the proper sauce to go with it (for starters), would help these rankings become whole.

Until then, enjoy this modification in our monthly classifications.

The green curry at Royal Thai is fantastic. (Photo courtesy of Xaq Ai)
The green curry at Royal Thai is fantastic. (Photo courtesy of Xaq Ai)

1. Royal Thai

If foodies created their own set of laws, one of the biggest crimes would be that this restaurant serves authentic cuisine but is low on clientele while another that serves faux Thai food is always full.

The power of marketing.

My hope is that this post will build upon the great story Dave wrote a while back.

The restaurant is just a block from Parque Lleras, which is good and bad: good, because a lot of traffic passes; bad, because a lot of traffic passes looking for drink specials, not great food.

But the city’s best Asian food is what they would find if they would just take the time to give it a try.

The menu has all the traditional dishes, such as pad Thai and coconut curry, and handful more that you would love, no doubt the result of one of the owners being from Thailand.

I recently tried the pla tod, tilapia topped with mango, red onion and carrots, with a great sweet and sour taste.

If you go for lunch, you’ll receive a 30 percent discount on your food. This might offset concerns about the prices, which run as high as 40,000 pesos ($20), and the size of the main courses, some of which will require an appetizer to keep you full if you are particularly hungry on any given day.

Normally that lack of heft in the dishes would preclude them from earning a spot in these rankings but there are exceptions to every rule.

Try Royal Thai and support authentic Thai food.

The salmon skin roll is my favorite.
The salmon skin roll is my favorite at Sushi Taste.

2. Sushi House and Sushi Taste (tie)

It’s so hard for me to choose between the two places.

With sushi, one of my favorite foods, they are equal.

If I go to Sushi House, the creta, a roll with eel and prawns, is my favorite. At Sushi Taste, it’s the salmon skin roll.

From what I’ve tried of their other foods, we have another tie.

That means service or atmosphere would have to break the tie, but it doesn’t either.

At Sushi House, I can sit on the floor at a table just over a foot above the ground the way the Japanese do, for an experience I haven’t had since I was in Japan more than 20 years ago.

At Sushi Taste, I can enjoy teppanyaki, the artful cooking done right in front of you then served to you immediately afterward.

To make my decision tougher, both principal owners are named Luis, and I like them equally.

Maybe I should flip a coin? But math suggests that one flip is too small a sample size and a proper number of tries will end in a tie.

This debate will too.

Pollo Tikka Masala
Pollo Tikka Masala

4. Naan

Like Royal Thai, I tried this place because of a post Dave wrote and I really enjoyed it. My only complaint echoes the one Dave made: the naan isn’t great.

If this popular bread were up to par, this restaurant would have made these rankings a lot harder because the rest of the food I had was great. I mean, the bread isn’t bad but when you name your restaurant after it, it should be better.

The rest of the food was good, though, practically matched the food I ate at an Indian restaurant in San Francisco about five years ago.

I, of course, tried some curry, red curry with shrimp and yellow curry with rice, and the prices were fair, about 25,000 to 30,000 pesos ($12.50 to $15), with enough food to fill me.

It was busy when I was there too, probably because of its location on Via Provenza, an area up the hill from Parque Lleras known for its restaurants, not for its rumba.

There is now a lot to choose from in this area, and I would make sure Naan is on your list.

What are your favorite Asian restaurants in Medellín?

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  1. not sure if this post is because you guys took my suggestion but thanks either way!!

    I had my first Chinese meal at a dive restaurant in Laureles today. Wasn’t much chop (or should I say .. wasn’t much chop-suey… badooooom).

    • aaaa, you were the one who blasted my post on dragon fenix. if you are, i did take your suggestion. i’m been trying to be more clear that some of the things i write are comparatively speaking, but with the city evolving the way it is, i think it’s time to hold it to a higher standard, that i should be able to expect cuisine the way i like it if this place wants to be known as a great city…