East Meets West
Authentic Sichuan meets Chinese American at a corner in Brentwood.
On any given night, patrons of Chinese descent are likely to comprise the majority of the crowd at Corner Asian Bistro in Brentwood. “Many are Chinese college students missing home,” Yanping Ren, co-owner of the restaurant shares. “They come from as far away as Bowling Green. I have started getting into it emotionally. It has become a relationship. They call me Auntie.” However, as her husband and fellow co-owner, Chuanlu Ren, points out, it isn’t just homesick Chinese college kids filling up the tables. Increasingly, it’s Americans who have been to China due to the growing commercial and cultural links and who, consequently, expect authentic Chinese food when they get back home.
Regardless of origins, what most of the patrons come for is Sichuan—the famous, spicy Chinese cuisine centered in the capital city Chengdu. Yanping and Chuanlu own and operate Corner Asian Bistro and its sister store, Corner Asian Café in Cool Springs. While both are native to China, they each boast deep Nashville roots. Chaunlu earned his Ph.D. in comparative literature from Vanderbilt in 1992, and Yanping got her start in the restaurant business at Peking Gardens, the place for Chinese food in Nashville back in the ‘80s. It was here that she learned not only the Sichuan style of cooking (as a native of Xi’an, Yanping grew up with the Shaanxi cuisine), but also Japanese sushi from Nashville’s Seung Lee, owner of Kura’s Sushi.
With a growing family and to make ends meet, the couple did the counterintuitive: they opened a Japanese restaurant. For nineteen years, Miyako’s was a Brentwood institution, serving up sushi, teriyaki, and all things tempura.
Selling Miyako’s (it’s now Tenno Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar), Chuanlu and Yanping first opened Corner Asia Cafe in Cool Springs—mainly a carry out place—before the Corner Asian Bistro. It is here that the fiery flavors of Sichuan are served up steaming hot and piled on plates. Their hot pepper chicken (a staple of the cuisine) is an absolute classic, blending succulent white meat with Sichuan pepper—a fruit native to Sichuan that, along with its heat, brings a citrus-like fragrance to the dish.
But you will also find Chinese American classics such as Mongolian Beef, a simple dish of soy sauce, sugar, and beef. Regardless, word about the Corner Asian Bistro is getting out, much of it in Mandarin.
Corner Asian Bistro | cornerasiancafe.net
210 Franklin Rd #700, Brentwood, TN