Joy Asian Cuisine is the newest restaurant at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio.
The restaurant, which features Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai dishes, replaced Players Steakhouse and opened this fall.
The dark wood and leather upholstered chairs and booths of the steakhouse are gone in favor of sleeker décor and a brighter setting. Warm light emanates from candles places in a small glass votive filled with red beads at each table. Koi fish and bamboo stalks are etched onto the frosted glass windows that separate the quiet dining area from the hustle and bustle of the casino.
I went to the restaurant for dinner recently and sat at a table in the bar area. Being an early weekday evening, it was on the quiet side.
The menu has a wide selection of food and every dish can be made vegetarian style as well, an area where Chef Dayu Zhang has a lot of expertise. He was formerly the executive chef at Jin Gingxuan Restaurant in his native Jilin, China, where he developed 200 ways to cook tofu and bean curd.
At lunch time, the restaurant serves "street fare" that includes varieties of Barbecue Rice that can include pork, chicken or roast duck for $10-$12. Other lunch specials include Chinese food standards such as Kung Pao Chicken and Beef and Broccoli served with a spring roll and fried rice.
The staff has tried all of the dishes on the menu and my server was incredibly helpful in narrowing down my choices.
After considering the Crispy Salt and Pepper Calamari ($7.50) and the wild appetizer item of Marinated Jellyfish ($8.50), I started with an order of Vegetable Spring Rolls ($5), which came in an order of two with sweet and sour sauce on the side. The spring rolls were light and crispy and not soggy with grease.
The entrees are served family style at the restaurant and if you're dining alone, there's plenty to take home for another meal.
I went with the clay pot dish of Green Curry Chicken ($14.50). It's labeled as spicy on the menu and while it had a nice kick, it was definitely manageable heat. The mingling flavors of coconut and ginger enhanced the dish but the stars were actually the green onions and traditional onions in the dish, soaking up the other flavors. The chicken was breaded and lightly pan fried, served in a clay pot that was sizzling when it was brought to the table.
In addition to the food, one of the standout features of the restaurant was the courteous and knowledgeable staff. A manager, busboy and hostess working stopped by to ask how everything was and not in an overwhelming nor annoying way. My server was incredibly helpful when trying to choose from the menu. He also recommended the General Tso's chicken and Pad Thai among his favorite entrees.
He also gave me an invaluable tip--try the Chocolate Cheesecake Doughnuts ($8 for 3) for dessert.
They're not shaped like traditional doughnuts but rather oversized doughnut holes. There's a fried dough exterior dusted with cinnamon and sugar. The inside is creamy with classic cheesecake and swirls of chocolate sauce. However, the best part was splitting the doughnut in half and putting a spoonful of raspberry sauce on top. That dessert could very well have inspired the name of the restaurant.
The Press-Enterprise pays for all dining profile meals.
Reach Vanessa Franko at 951-368-9575, vfranko@PE.com
JOY ASIAN CUISINE
Where: Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84-245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Beverages: Full bar
Reservations: Accepted, available through www.opentable.com
On the Web: www.fantasysprings resort.com