Forget that Restaurant Guan is in a strip mall. Ignore the blinking red "OPEN" sign above its door. The path to enlightenment is full of distractions, and Guan, which means "Taoist temple," is really a pearl in a concrete shell.
At the top of the windowed storefront, clear cylindrical Voss water bottles stand like decorative soldiers in front of beige curtains clustered with graphic patterns of baby's breath. The celery-green entrance is spotted with Chihuahua-size statues of Asian gargoyles and opens into the geometrically graceful dining room of rectangular black tables and chairs for two. Tiny Champagne bottles line the tops of long mirrors that reflect thick birch branches fastened vertically to the wall behind the sleek, plastic-and-mirror sushi bar.
Yellow flower buds and bold red placemats make each tabletop pop until the decor's main visual rival (the food) is kindly placed at belly level. Chef Danny Chen's emphasis on fresh ingredients and crisp flavors stimulates but never overwhelms the palate and accordingly, the menu changes each month. Pass up the standard spicy tuna for Chen's original concoctions, which include white tuna crowned with a blueberry and splashed with white truffle oil and sea salt ($7.95), and a Mexican roll with salmon, super white tuna, cilantro, jalapeno and mango. Entrees range from the obscure pan-fried ostrich with bonito plum sauce to the more familiar General Tao's chicken (most dishes range from $15.95-$25.95). More adventurous gourmands should try the questionable pairing of mahi mahi with mango arugula sauce and Swiss cheese. Chef's-pick prix-fixe dinners are available for $45. In between courses, pop a delicately sweet, acorn-size Chinese kumquat drizzled with pomegranate syrup to neutralize the flavor sensations.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Puhala