A Restaurant By Any Other Name: Tottie's Asian Fusion vs. TOTT's Asian Diner
A memorable name can make or break a restaurant, whether it's something delightfully amusing like Santa Cruz's 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall pub or snicker-inducing raunchy -- for example, Portland's Hung Far Low or the forthcoming Beaver Choice in Tempe. So I was surprised to find two Asian restaurants with similar names, both of which came highly recommended for their egg rolls, within miles of each other in the East Valley.
Thus the bell rang on a Battle of the Egg Rolls, with Tottie's and TOTT's in the ring. Read on and try to keep the two restaurants straight.
In One Corner: Tottie's Asian Fusion
7901 E. Thomas Rd. in Scottsdale
|Tottie claims her rolls are the best.|
Tottie's Asian Fusion is what I call a strip mall surprise. Not "surprise, it's in a strip mall!" of course, being that 90% of Phoenix seems to be made up of these bland one-story buildings. More like, "surprise, it's in a strip mall and doesn't look like a takeout joint." Inside, Tottie's is bold and exotic, with a traditional red and gold palette and some very non-traditional art.
Tottie's loves to brag, especially about their signature Tottie Rolls, which the menu claims is "the best egg roll you'll ever have." Uh-huh. I can tell you how these crazy boasts usually end up, and it's not pretty (try inserting "crappiest," "soggiest" or "least palatable" in place of "best" and you'll get the idea). Needless to say, my friend and I were not fooled. We passed on the standard egg rolls and ordered the supposedly fabulous Tottie Rolls stuffed with pork and veggies.
The rolls arrived on a cheap plastic platter in the shape of a leaf, with a pile of romaine lettuce leaves and various herbs. Our server explained that you pick off the herbs you'd like and place them inside the lettuce leaf, then place the Tottie roll inside and eat the whole thing like an Asian burrito. Funky, but interesting.
I bit in and was surprised as the combination of lettuce, mint leaves and well-spiced ground pork that mingled in my mouth. "Tottie might have been right," my friend said with a sheepish look. "I don't usually like egg rolls, but this is amazing. The pork is tender and flavorful."
The consistency of the pork -- ground finely together with carrots, mushrooms and a nice Asian five-spice blend -- was a little mushy, but it was easy to overlook when contrasted by the crisp wonton wrapper and lettuce leaf. The wrapper didn't have a spot of grease on it; extremely unusual for fried food. The dish was light, with an added brightness from the fresh mint and cilantro. I was halfway through my first Tottie Roll before I even realized there was a dipping sauce.
The rolls were so nicely spiced and filled with complex flavors that they really didn't need any extra assistance, but the pungent vinegar-based condiment gave the palate even more to ponder. This was egg roll zen. Score one for the Tottie Roll, aka the best egg roll I'd ever eaten. Woah! Truth in advertising...
Did TOTT's Giant Pork Roll topple its worthy competitor? Find out after the jump.