Tucked away in the east end of the State Thomas neighborhood is a new Asian street food restaurant. Owned by Michael Kim of One Esca Concepts, Anju offers a variety of Asian dishes and small bites served tapas-style.
Kim also owns Blackfriar Pub, and while he takes pride in all of his businesses, he admitted that he was bored with many of the bars in Uptown serving the same types of food.
“I know a lot of people, when they think of Japanese food, they think sushi,” Kim says. "But there are a lot of tapas-style small plates and cool dishes to put in the middle for everybody to share and enjoy. I want people to have multiple different eating experiences while drinking and conversing with friends.”
Designed with low lighting and optimal audio technology, Anju is a loungy environment, however, Kim describes the restaurant as “sweatpants dining,” encouraging guests to come as they are.
Anju’s cocktail menu boasts traditional American cocktails and Asian-inspired cocktails. A bold choice is the Samurai, an old fashion made with Japanese whiskey and flavored with brown sugar ($14). A sweeter, more fruit-forward cocktail would be the Dragon Me Down, a rum-based cocktail with dragonfruit puree.
While there are many traditional Asian noodle plates on the menu, including ramen and pad Thai, Anju encourages people to enjoy appetizers in the style of pojangmacha, which refers to Korean street food dining.
“There would be these little restaurants on the streets,” Kim says. “They're all over Seoul. You would just kind of walk up and there'd be tents. You'd sit at a table and they bring you out food and drinks. That's very common on the streets of Asia.”
Their most popular appetizers are the pork belly buns, served open-faced with pork belly, scallions, mixed greens and sriracha mayo ($8). Other good choices are the vegetable dumplings ($7) and the Korean chicken wings ($8).
You can easily fill up on appetizers at Anju, but if you have room afterward, the lobster lo mein is certainly worth a try ($14).
On weekends, guests can enjoy Asian-inspired brunch fare, including the Morning Threesome, a trio of Hawaiian pork buns, each of which contains a fried egg, and fried chicken, pork and beef, separately ($14). Another hearty plate is the Boujee Grits, with lobster, crawfish, shrimp, Cajun tonkatsu sauce, fried garlic and market greens ($18).
For dessert, the squishy, fluffy mochi with macerated berries and edible flowers is a delightful balance of sweet and indulgent.
Anju plans to have stand-up comedy nights and local DJs spinning tunes. For those wanting to be cautious of COVID, Anju boasts a 2,000-square-foot patio, where they are also looking to book entertainment, ensuring patio diners won’t miss out on the fun.
“This is the place where you go before the night starts,” Kim says. “It's a place where you end up at the end of the night. This is the place to go when you're like, ‘Hey, I really don't want to go to some real fancy place today. I wouldn’t mind just kicking back eating really, really good food and just sharing with some friends with some great conversation.’”
Anju, 2901 Thomas Ave. (Uptown). Open 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 2 p.m. to midnight Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
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