The owners are originally from Vietnam, which means there's a subtle French influence on the menu. But the namesake vegetable, in its white, green and purple varieties, is sure to show up on many of the dishes.
The confluence of vietnamese culture and northwest indiana spring produce may not sound like a natural fit, but the unassuming asparagus restaurant in merrillville is out to prove that they actually go together quite well.
"I love asparagus, and I love to cook everything with asparagus. Asparagus in my country stand out for French cuisine. So, that's why I picked the name of asparagus," said Tammy Pham, chef and owner of Asparagus.
Pham leads off her extensive menu with a number of Asian-inspired dishes, but every now and then you'll spot the namesake ingredient. Her asparagus crispy rolls, for instance, are also loaded with bacon and dusted with parmesan. Her crabmeat and asparagus soup is French-inspired, typically made with white asparagus.
At least a half-dozen of her entrees include the seasonal vegetable, but she's quick to point out that not everything is dependant upon it. Her Bangkok baby back ribs are slathered in a smoky-sweet sauce, while the wasabi-herb-crusted lamb rack is bathed in a soy-buerre blanc; no asparagus in sight, unless you really want it.
"I use asparagus lover with beef tenderloin because somebody, for customers that don't want seafood but they want beef, I use beef flavor with asparagus," Pham said.
The aptly-named "asparagus lover with scallops and shrimp" has both white and green versions, plus fresh pea pods. The huge diver scallops and plump shrimp make fine companions with the seasonal asparagus, but Pham says sometimes the vegetable makes an appearance only because her customers expect to see it somewhere on the menu.
"They expect that because of the name of the restaurant. So, I just use a few pieces of asparagus to stand up for my restaurant," Pham said.
The Arrowhead restaurant in Wheaton is gearing up for its first-ever "Asparagus Fest". They'll have a menu full of it, beginning in about a week.
Asparagus is just the tip of the spring iceberg. In the next few weeks, you'll see spring peas, morel mushrooms and of course, ramps.