Casper Food Critic- Chopstix Stix With You
I ask long time Casper residents to close their eyes and think back. What feels like a few millennia ago, do you remember what resided at the intersection of Second Street and Beverly, on the Southwest corner? At the time, the small structure was a Taco Bell that for many years pumped out cheap fast food for passing motorists.
Amazingly, that miniscule adobe structure still stands. However, today, it looks entirely different. It is different in both the exterior appearance and the cuisine it champions. Today the restaurant is called Chopstix Asian Bistro, and the building’s greasy past is all but a distant memory.
After finding an easy parking space, my dining counterpart and I escaped the ever present wind and sprinted toward the door. Enveloped in the safety of the building, we were sat at a comfortable booth by a pleasant server, and given the menus. The interior felt spacious yet warm. The chosen colors have created an atmosphere akin to a secluded bistro. It felt far from the reality of sitting on one of the busiest intersections in town.
One feature that stood out to this diner was the acoustics. Often overlooked, many entrepreneurs don’t seem to care that their dining areas are exceedingly abrasive to customer’s ears. I don’t frequent nor recommend establishments that blare excessive music through poor sound systems. “The Stix” had a warm and rich audio quality, similar to a beautiful concert hall. I fell deeper in love when I realized that my eyes were relaxing without the harsh flutter of artificial illumination. The entire building is covered in windows, and natural light roamed freely. Suffice it to say, Chopstix was extremely comfortable to me.
A perusal of the menu revealed many possible dishes for everyone, mild to wild. Our order consisted of several soups and entrée dishes, as well as a multitude of Sushi rolls. Quickly and efficiently, the server confirmed our order and whisked it off to the kitchen. We watched as behind a small glass case, work to prepare our rolls began. Petite and perfectly aligned plates of ingredients sat in a refrigerated clear holding chamber. Perfectly visible and open to inspection, we watched as the obviously experienced hands of artists sculpted our rolls.
Further investigation revealed that the fish and other roll ingredients are flown fresh into town, several times a week. This is a comfort for those who enjoy undercooked or raw sea products yet live many thousands of miles from the nearest ocean.
Spellbound by watching our rolls being prepared, we nearly missed the delivery of our soups. I had ordered a personal favorite, Wonton. Small, meat filled dumplings swimming in a warm bath of stock. Evenly sliced onion swam beside the dumplings in a harmoniously choreographed yet haphazard dance. The stock was served warm and had a very comforting, creamy taste that lingered perfectly.
After the soups cleansed our palates, our main dishes arrived as the rolls slowly trickled in. My entree consisted of fresh vegetables and chicken, smothered in a thick sauce. Not mushy yet not raw, the vegetables retained a perfect consistency throughout the cooking process. The chicken was also just as lucky. Instead of being overcooked and rubbery, it was cooked to the premium level by what must be an experienced person. The dish had a small mountain of fried rice as accompaniment. I could not be completely certain, but my taste buds believed this fried rice to be pre-manufactured and perhaps refried to bring it back to life.
Diving into the rolls, I grabbed my chopsticks and began to consume. All rolls were freshly made as we watched. Everything from traditional shrimp to more exotic eel steak was on the menu today. Each roll seemed to circumnavigate the large plates they were served on, a very filling meal indeed.
Bloated and needing assistance to squeeze from our booth, we waddled to the register, waistbands at critical mass. A significant lightening of the wallet later, we attempted to stuff the coup de grace after meal mint into our craw. A final glance around the building and my eyes caught a glimpse of what used to be the ordering counter for the previous inhabitants. A brief scent of cheap beans and grease wafted across my nose as my brain went into memory mode. Suddenly, I was happy to see that change come to our small town.
By the power vested in me, by the state of confusion and my degree in eatology, I rate Chopstix Asian Bistro on 2nd street a 7.75/10 dumplings.
I deduct based upon several factors, primarily the cost. It wasn’t cheap. While the food was good and filling, I cringed as the check arrived. I believe it has priced itself out of being a quick lunch spot for the average eater, yet it isn’t quite upscale enough to be considered formal dining. A change of operation would have to happen before it would be in the correct price bracket.
I absolutely praise them for their excellent meal choices, abundant flavor, and comfortable décor. So much of the dining experience is about more than food. A restaurant can create absolutely stunning food, but if served in a dumpster, it is not enjoyable. Chopstix created a welcoming feel, coupled with tasty food.
This heavy eater will most certainly be back, once I work a little OT.