Charlottesville has a wealth of great Asian restaurants, including Japanese, Cantonese, Szechuan, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, and more. Here’s our list of the Top 7 Asian dining experiences in town. These recommendations are sprinkled across town. Each is run by deeply committed restaurateurs who are eager to embark with you upon an exotic culinary journey or serve you a meal that reminds you of home!
Bang! is an Asian fusion tapas restaurant which serves dishes inspired by Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese cuisines. It is located two blocks from Charlottesville’s Historic Downtown Mall and offers both indoor and outdoor seating. I recommend sitting outside when the weather is warm, as the exterior design and decorations provide a lively atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to share a meal with family and friends. There are countless items on the menu to choose from, and the items change each week. On our visit, the service was great and the food came out quickly! We ordered the Sweet Potato Empanada with Curry Mayo, Goat Cheese Dumplings with Cilantro Sauce, Korean Boneless Short Ribs with Crispy Noodles, and Firecracker Shrimp with Spicy Garlic Sauce. Everything was delicious and each item tasted uniquely distinct. The food had a great blend of flavors, the portions were perfect, and our party of four was all full by the end of the meal.
Kuma Sushi-Noodles & Bar is a restaurant that offers a variety of popular Asian noodles, sushi, and some classic Korean and Japanese dishes. Tucked away on the Corner, it’s a popular spot for UVA students as it is affordable and relatively close to Grounds. Kuma’s interior decor creates a warm, welcoming, and at-home atmosphere, which makes this restaurant a great place to go after finishing your exams! Whenever I come here, I typically order the Seafood Soondubu or the Spicy Seafood Udon. Both are slightly spicy, but they’re truly the best comfort meals to have on dreary days. Another dish to try is their Dolsot Bibimbap. This classic meal with a delicious combination of rice, meat, and vegetables will leave you warm and full. They also have a great selection of sushi that showcases fresh fish and beautiful plating. The service is great, the workers are all so kind, and the food is ready in no time!
Now & Zen is a Japanese, Asian fusion, and sushi restaurant located in downtown Charlottesville. The service was great; we were seated quite fast, especially considering how busy it was. The menu had a variety of options to choose from, ranging from noodles and curry to house-made dumplings and sushi. We ordered the Nabeyaki Udon, Shrimp Tempura Roll, Alaskan Roll, Eel & Avocado Roll, Crunchy Spicy Salmon Big Roll, and the Chirashi Rice Bowl. This is one of the best sushi places I have ever tried. The fish was incredibly fresh and melted like butter in my mouth. I was also surprised at how big the portions were; for the Crunchy Spicy Salmon Big Roll, it took three to four bites to finish each piece! The sashimi in the Chirashi Rice Bowl was thickly sliced and plated beautifully, and the udon in the Nabeyaki Udon soaked up all the rich umami broth and was delicious to slurp!
Cafe 88 is a family-run restaurant in Preston Plaza that serves a mix of Chinese and Taiwanese food across the street from the Dairy Market. Although their menu doesn’t have as many items you might see elsewhere, they have a chef’s special menu written on the walls in Chinese and also on a board posted by the register. I recommend trying the Scallion and Ginger Fish; it was like a taste of my mom’s cooking back home! Another must-try is the famous 牛肉面 or Braised Beef Noodle Soup, a classic Taiwanese dish. The portions were generous with lots of tender braised beef, bok choy, and last but not least, noodles. However, you cannot leave Cafe 88 without trying their Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken! The chicken is cut into bite-sized pieces and fried with basil. The aroma from the basil and the seasoning makes this dish addicting.
Doma Korean Kitchen is a wonderful restaurant to visit if you’re looking for some authentic Korean food. The layout of the restaurant creates a lively atmosphere, featuring an open kitchen where you can see how your food is made and the ingredients that go into it. Although the restaurant was busy, we were seated quickly. I ordered Kimmari as an appetizer and then ordered both the Doenjang Udon and the classic Dolsot Bibimbap as entrees. Kimmari is a popular Korean snack that is made by frying seasoned glass noodles wrapped in seaweed. They were delicious, crunchy, and piping hot! Next, the Doenjang (soybean paste) Udon was such a comforting meal on a cold, rainy day; I really enjoyed the flavorful soup and the mix of seafood and vegetables. Lastly, the Dolsot Bibimbap was both delicious and satisfying. Served in a hot stone pot, the dish consists of fluffy rice covered by a variety of vegetables and a fried sunny-side up egg to top it off. I especially loved scraping off the crispy rice at the bottom of the bowl and popping the yolk in the egg. I also really appreciated how this meal came with kimchi as a banchan (side dish).
Maru Korean Restaurant is another delicious Korean option, located in the heart of Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. I went when they weren’t busy, so seating was relatively fast. The restaurant provides a comforting environment with its wooden theme and cozy interior decoration. The prices here are slightly lower than Doma’s, but the food is just as tasty! I ordered the Bulgogi Beef Plate, which came with lettuce, carrots, banchans (seasoned dried shredded squid, kimchi, and seasoned soybean sprouts), and a bowl of rice. The beef was served on a stone plate, which kept the meat hot and sizzling throughout the meal. The bulgogi meat was also marinated in a delicious sauce that made it sweet yet savory. However, the real game-changer was wrapping the bulgogi with lettuce. I also added other banchans on top and an explosion of tasty flavors burst in my mouth; I highly recommend trying this! Overall, Maru was generous with their portions and I left feeling satisfied and full.
7) Marco & Luca
Marco & Luca is a small dumpling restaurant with three locations: one on the Corner, one on Charlottesville’s Historic Downtown Mall, and one up 29 North! The decor and clean interior of each location provide a warm and welcoming environment. They are most famous for their fried dumplings, topped with their special Marco & Luca sauce! The crunch from the dumplings and the savory sauce makes each bite pure bliss. Marco & Luca is a great place to go to grab a quick meal for a fairly cheap price. Their pork dumplings are great—perfectly crispy on the outside and flavorful on the inside. Because the portion size of these dumplings is on the smaller end, I suggest you order a side of Cold Sesame Noodles. This dish has a peanut-based sauce, and the noodles are topped with cucumbers and sesame seeds. It’s the perfect refreshing counterpart to the fried dumplings. The combo meal is also a great value for its price. In it, you get dumplings, a pork bun, chicken curry with rice, and a drink. Everything here is delicious and super yummy!
This blog is written by Cindy Dong is a 2nd-Year Cognitive Science and Computer Science major at UVA. Raised outside of Washington, D.C. in a family that returned frequently throughout her childhood to their homeland in Fuzhou, Cindy balances Chinese and American customs with perfect grace and seeks diverse dining experiences throughout Charlottesville, which she publishes on her Instagram account here.