A new restaurant is serving up Asian cuisine with a modern flair on the West Side.
Ando Asian Kitchen opened on Monday without a lot of fanfare but based on the restaurant’s location next to New Holland Brewing Co. and clothing retailer Mitten State, on the corner of Bridge Street and Turner Ave., the restaurant will likely pick up steam quickly as word gets around that its doors are open.
Ando is the newest restaurant from Robert Song, owner of Maru Hospitality Group, which operates six Maru locations across Michigan, including the one on Cherry Street in Grand Rapids.
Rick DeVault, Ando GM, said the biggest difference between Ando and Maru is the menu. Ando’s menu features Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai dishes.
“We have a Korean owner, a Korean executive chef (Moon Yang), and a Vietnamese head chef (Quynh Lai), and we’ve taken some of their childhood recipes, traditional recipes like shrimp pad Thai, bibimbap and bulgogi, and tweaked and updated them for Grand Rapids. It’s an updated take on traditional dishes,” DeVault said.
“We are also going more for a family style, sharing plate atmosphere. Instead of a table of four people getting four entrees, they would order six or seven dishes to pass around so everyone can try them.”
DeVault said one the restaurant’s most unique dishes is the pajeon seafood pancake, which is a Korean-style pancake stuffed with squid, octopus, green onion and tomato, creating a savory flavor.
“It is absolutely fantastic,” he said. “It’s a traditional looking pancake with these ingredients inside of it. We serve it with a secret Ando pancake sauce.”
Ando takes its name from Momofuku Ando, inventor of the instant ramen noodle, so it’s no surprise the menu also features noodle-based dishes including Ando beef ramen and miso ramen.
For sushi lovers, Ando offers two Korean-style sushi items known as Kimbap.
DeVault said where Maru’s menu is 90 percent sushi and 10 percent hot food, Ando offers the opposite. “It’s mainly hot food coming out of the kitchen, which is a contrast to what we do at Maru.”
Where diners will see a resemblance to Maru though is in the interior design of the restaurant, which has a similar contemporary aesthetic.
Ando also has a larger footprint, offering more flexibility for seating. “It’s more of an open space with more seating and more flexibility for large parties,” DeVault said. Ando can seat up to 150 guests.
There is also a four-season porch available for seating, which DeVault said can also be booked for private events, and next summer Ando plans to open an outdoor patio off of Turner Ave. with seating for an additional 50 guests.
DeVault said his hope for Ando is that it won’t be pigeonholed as an “Asian restaurant.”
“I just want it to be the best restaurant, not just a place you go when you’re craving Asian food,” he said.
One of the things setting Ando apart from its counterparts in Grand Rapids, according to DeVault, is its drink menu and a focus on hospitality.
“We noticed to get really good Asian food you had to go to hole in the wall places that don’t necessarily have alcohol programs that match the depth and quality of the food, and the service can be hit or miss,” he said.
Ando’s goal is to offer a drink menu of equal caliber to its food menu and exceptional service. The restaurant has 24 taps, craft cocktails and an impressive wine list. “We are trying to corner the market on food, alcohol and service and fill that niche,” DeVault said.
He described Ando as a “bright, fun, vibrant, craft forward restaurant,” with a “family vibe.”