Tien @ IP in Biloxi

Tien at the IP in Biloxi is like a big Asian family.  There's so many under one roof sometimes one can run into another without even knowing it. The restaurant serves up Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese food.  There's everything from Pad Thai to Beijing duck, pho and shabu shabu.  My friends and I ate at Tien years ago and remember being very impressed with the food.  We never thought to try it out again until recently.  We decided to eat family style so we could get a taste of everything.

Sashimi Salad $9

As an appetizer, I ordered the sashimi salad. For $9, there is a good amount of fish on this plate and a wide variety as well.  I can definitely see yellowfin tuna, salmon and maybe mackeral.  It's served on a bed of greens along with cherry tomatoes and some pickled ginger.  The entire dish is drizzled with a sesame vinaigrette and a wasabi aoli. I thought the raw fish was so fresh it practically melted in my mouth.  The vinaigrette really brighten the flavors but I still dipped my sashimi in a little wasabi soy sauce because I like the saltiness of it. 
Crispy fried lobster
 dumplings $14
Also as an appetizer, we had the crispy fried lobster dumplings.  For $14, you get an order of FIVE dumplings.  Good lord, that's expensive.  I do have to say there is very little filler in these guys.  I bit one in half and there was a huge chunk of lobster in it.  I thought it tasted good but it was a bit chewy.  I don't know how much of that chewiness was the lobster and how much of it was the actual wonton skin.  The dumplings came with two dipping sauces: a ponzu sauce and a thai chili sauce.  Two of my dinner companions liked it.  The jury is still out for the other two.  

One reason we decided to brave the elements (there were tornado warnings as we were driving to Biloxi) was for the Korean BBQ at Tien.  You can cook it right on the grill built into the table and can be quite fun.

Bulgogi $22, Doeji Bulgogi $23
As a group we decided on two Korean grilling dishes, the bulgogi and doegi bulgogi.  At Tien, the bulgogi is marinated steak and the doegi bulgogi is chili marinated pork.  Each entree is served with a bowl of rice, some lettuce and a four types of kim chee. Cooking the meat tableside can be awkward but the flavor payoff is well worth it.  Be sure to tell your waitress you want to cook it or else they will have the chefs cook it in the kitchen and you will not get the same grilled flavor.  If you are cooking it yourself, the meat is typically sliced very thin so be attentive, use plenty of oil and remember to grill the veggies and garlic too.  I usually forgo the rice and use my lettuce to make lettuce wraps; a piece or two of meat, some kim chee, roll it, eat and repeat.  I like the regular bulgogi here because the quality of steak is better than other places I've tried.  My friends say the marinade is also better but I don't taste much difference.  One thing that was fail for me is the kim chee.  I was hoping for some more complex kim chee than your regular daikon radish and carrots or tiny cucumbers in chili sauce and vinegar.  The sizes on these "side" dishes are pretty tiny too so don't be shy about asking for extra.  We did. 

Spicy Korean Hot Pot $26
Another dish that we ordered was the "Spicy Korean Hot Pot."  We were quite disappointed when this came out because it came out in a bowl.  WTF!  Why is it called a "hot pot" when you serve it a freaking bowl?  It should have been called Spicy Korean soup.  When we asked why didn't it come out in a hot pot, the waitress explained that usually customers request a bowl, not a pot and I guess she assumed we wanted it that way as well.  Whatever.  After getting over the fact that the hot pot was now a bowl of soup, I was delighted.  The broth is seasoned with kim chee and inside is pork ribs, beef, tofu, daikon and carrots. The pork and beef were fall off the bone tender and the tofu was very silky.  I enjoyed the daikon and carrots as well because it soaked so much of the flavor of the soup.  The best part of this dish has to be the soup liquid itself.  I didn't think it was very spicy but there was so much flavor.  Aside from the kim chee, you can also taste the meatiness of the pork and beef.  This dish was meant to share because it's absolutely massive.  It's the size of your average salad serving bowl and it should be at $26.

Lobster Fried Rice $16
No family meal in an Asian household is complete without at least one rice dish.  In this case, we ordered the lobster fried rice.  Aside from the obvious, there's a bit of egg, scallions, carrots and peas in it.  I was surprise with the texture of the rice.  I also think fried rice is a little hard but not in the case.  The rice kernels are actually still very fluffy and still separated.  There was a good amount of lobster throughout the dish too.  However, I can't say I really enjoyed it.  There's just something about it that didn't sit right.  I can't tell is it because the lobster that made the rice a little "fishy" or if the combination of flavors were off.  I just can't quite place my finger on it.  However after I douse that sucker in a little soy sauce, all was great in my world.

Green tea creme brulee
After all of this food, you would think we would be done.  However, it seems I am not the only one with a weakness for creme brulee.  The waitress conned my friend into ordering a "Green tea creme brulee."  After one bite, my friend made a face and pushed it away.  That is quite a reaction for such a standard dessert and I, of course, wondered why.  After eating a bite, I had this very bitter taste in my mouth followed sweet and then the creaminess of the custard.  I couldn't even tell how the green tea part of it was because of the bitterness.  After a second bite, I realize where the bitter was coming from - the sugar.  I don't know how they managed to make sugar inedible but they did.  I scrapped off the top and dived into the custard itself.  It's more like a vanilla custard with a dash of green tea powder for looks.  It has a slightly pea green color but for the most part it taste like your average creme brulee.  I can name a couple of places right off the top of my head that served a better dessert.

If you're trying out Tien for the first time, I suggest going with a few friends or  a date and eating family-style.  Many of the dishes are big enough for at least two people to share. The prices kind of reflect the portion size.  There are very few main course items under say $14. To check out Tien's menu, click here.

I love Tien's decor.  Everything is done in reds, golds with splashes of purple.  I think the big Buddha behind the sushi bar is awesome.  There are a couple of different seating options including the sushi bar, habachi tables, regular 4 top tables and then the table top grill tables.  Those table top grill tables are hard to get in and out of.   Instead of individual chairs, it's one long bench.  Considering the grill is the furthest from the outside, you will have to scoot all the way in in order to be next to it.  Then, you better stay put throughout the meal which could take up an hour to an hour and a half. It's definitely more of your date night type of place.

Service is a little all over the place. We had a total of three people waiting on us.  There's the actually waitress, the assistant and a third person that delivered our food to the table.  The waitress did all the talking and boy, did I have a hard time understanding her.  In the end, I stopped trying and let my friend handle the details and the waitress still got a number of things wrong.  Luckily, the helper was a little more proficient and was able to grab whatever we needed with little to no fuss.  Next time, I will definitely strive to get what I want across more clearly in order to have no mix ups.
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