Dining out: Liu Liu's serves fresh twist

May 28, 2008 

The Crab Cake Salad, above, at Liu Liu's at Baxter Village in Fort Mill comes with mango vinaigrette dressing. Liu Liu's also offers twists on typical dishes, such as chicken with honey cashews and walnuts.

CATHERINE MUCCIGROSSO/LAKE WYLIE PILOT

Liu Liu's at Baxter Village in Fort Mill, located just off Interstate 77, used to be one of my restaurants of choice when it was called Uncle Liu Liu's in Lake Wylie at the now ghost town of a plaza, behind the McDonald's on S.C. 49. It was my favorite Asian restaurant anywhere, in fact, because the food was always fantastic -- light, fresh and flavorful.

Not much about the food has changed since the move across the river about three years ago, other than perhaps a longer menu. In fact, if my taste buds serve, it's even better. But the decor is something to behold. It's fabulous, down to the detail with warm wooden Asian art panels, deep rich red walls, comfortable seating, umbrellas shading the lighting overhead and low light, but plenty of natural light from the surrounding walls of windows. It's clean and simple, yet sophisticated and rich. There's a small bar area, too, and a large outdoor patio. It can serve for casual meetings or a romantic setting, and even important events with a private dining area for celebrations.

We were greeted by friendly hostesses, seated quickly despite the lunch rush, and served promptly starting with complimentary munchies for dipping in the duck or mustard sauce.

There are twists to usual dishes, like my cashew chicken lunch combination that comes with rice and egg roll or spring roll. While this appears normal fare offered at most Asian restaurants, here the cashews are honey flavored and there are walnuts, too. The nuts were roasted to perfection and it was a savory delight with the chicken and sauce, each bite providing a sweet and salty mix with nice texture. The rice (seven grain fried) offered yet another dimension and unique flair. My spring roll served well alone, no duck or soy sauce needed. It's a meal that will raise the cravings.

I also sampled the crab cake on my colleague's salad served with mango vinaigrette dressing ($8.95). It was definitely homemade, not over fried, and I could really taste the crab.

There was another twist, however. While the menu lists the No. 4 item I ordered as Chicken with Honey Cashews/Walnuts at $7.50, my bill said $8.95. When I called to ask, I was told just chicken and cashew is $7.50, with walnuts adds that $1.45. Hmmm ... it's not listed this way on the menu, nor did our waitress, who was excellent on service, say as much. That said, I'd order it again. It was the best chicken cashew dish I've ever tasted.

There are wine tastings, and check out the Web site for coupons and other information.

With so much to offer -- wonderful ambiance, creative dishes, good service -- Liu Liu's is definitely a taste of luxury in Pan Asian and California cuisine style. I can't wait to take another trip to Liu Liu's for the sushi menu, too.

Catherine Muccigrosso, Lake Wylie Pilot editor

LIU LIU'S
Location: 940 Market St., suite 122, Fort Mill (Baxter Village)

Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Sunday. Dinner : 4:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 4:30-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Phone: (803) 547-1838

Web site: liulius.com

Ambiance: Upscale Asian bistro

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