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Find Asian Cuisine 2.0 at 180 Meridian Grill in Norman
By Dave Cathey
| Published: June 12, 2012
NORMAN — The hits just keep coming to Sooner central as the owners of Grand House unveil their newest concept, 180 Meridian Grill.
This year has been a succession of culinary coups in Norman, starting with the arrival of Local and then the opening of the first Chuy's west of Stroud.
180 Meridian Grill, 2541 W Main St., marks a subtle change of direction for owners Kathy and Thai Thien. But when you consider the evolution of their home base concept, it's not hard to see why the couple's newest venture isn't another Asian bistro but Asian food 2.0.
The Thiens began their successful career as restaurateurs at NW 23 and Classen, where a CVS drugstore now stands. The old place was across the street and just southeast of an all-night Village Inn Pancake House.
The original Grand House served westernized Chinese fare still common on buffets across the country. When the Village Inn closed in 1994, the Thiens jumped on the space and, with the help of designer Michelle Stapleton, converted the former pancake house into an elegant, modern Asian bistro.
For their new fusion concept, the Thiens re-enlisted Stapleton to create a similarly intimate setting with a modern, artful vibe, but they wanted the menu to be a progression.
After going from assorted proteins in kung pao or General Tso to Vietnamese noodle bowls, Peking duck, sushi and pad thai, the only logical step was to re-imagine dishes from around the world with distinctly Asian ingredients.
But don't worry, Thai promises 180 Meridian still will deliver the classic Asian flavors Grand House built its reputation upon.
On the appetizer menu you'll find the famous Grand House Fried Shrimp-Stuffed Jalapeno, but you'll also find pot stickers filled with chipotle chicken, black beans and roasted corn. The Ahi Wonton Crisps are a major discovery, playing like Asian nachos topped with seared ahi with radish sprouts, wasabi mayonnaise and eel sauce. You'll also find Asian-style chicken wings and Tempura-battered cheese fries. Not exactly your regular Chinese takeout fare.
Thai did tell me one of the challenges of a restaurant of this style is the fear factor. He recognizes less familiar combinations can lead to push-back from the public. So, since the place opened in late winter, he's made some adjustments to the menu, pruning here and seeding there.
He said the Grilled Salmon has been a hit, and it's no surprise when you see a pristine salmon wearing waffle-shaped grill marks glazed in soy reduction with stir-fried vegetables and rice come to the table. The ingredients might not always be associated with each other, but the simplicity of the dish and the integrity of the ingredients carry it through.
The menu also includes an Asian take on steak au poivre, fish tacos, the Grand House favorites Salt and Pepper Shrimp and Imperial Peking Duck. Mongolian Meatloaf has been a favorite thus far, as has Korean-Smoked Baby Back Ribs.
180 Meridian also offers a version of barbecued chicken and its own twist on fish and chips.
Sushi chef Bao Lu, formerly of O Asian, recently joined the staff to bring his fresh, youthful take on classic and modern sushi.
The bar is chic and fresh with a strong beer selection and interesting wine choices plus all the cocktails you expect with a few surprises.
Thai Thien said 180 Meridian is the perfect after-work destination for appetizers, sushi and a cold beer or three. Happy hour is 4 to 6 p.m. with half-price specials on various sushi rolls and appetizers.
180 Meridian Grill also offers burgers, sandwiches and a lighter lunch menu. It opens at 11 a.m. daily, closing at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
For more information, call 310-6110 or go online to 180meridiangrill.com.