Upon coming to Georgetown University, it shocked me to see just how isolated the Georgetown campus is from the rest of the neighborhood. While this provides some respite and quiet from the hustle and bustle of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, it also means that my Asian dining options are left to the mercy of the mostly East Asian offerings of Aramark, the food service company that manages both Epicurean and Company and 5Spice, the only two robust options on campus.
I have reservations about these two restaurants: 5Spice’s status as an actual restaurant rather than just a dining hall fixture is questionable, and Epicurean’s everyday offerings at the buffet vary so greatly in quality that going twice in one week can make for incredibly different dining experiences. But sometimes, when I’m extremely desperate for a sliver of Asian cuisine, I cave and head over with my trusty GOCard to grab a meal.
At 5Spice, I admire Hoya Hospitality’s attempts to encompass a wide variety of Asian cuisines — part of its modus operandi is to switch from a different country or region each week and create a showcase menu that highlights the cuisines that each country serves. The countries I’ve seen represented are: China, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan, explaining the name 5Spice.
I’ve found comfort in the fact that China — where my parents are from — is represented, and I’ve enjoyed the food that has been prepared, which typically includes classic staples like fried rice, lo mein and orange chicken. When I get my bowl, I longingly smell it and try to relish the taste of the dishes with which I’ve grown up .
Undoubtedly, my parents’ cooking is infinitely better than 5Spice, but the food there does a sufficient job of satisfying my taste buds and transporting me away from Georgetown, even if just for a moment. Being from Las Vegas, I rarely go home and am thus far removed from my family. 5Spice provides some of the comfort of eating dishes back home.
While 5Spice personally provides me solace, though, I have a few issues with it, including the lack of representation for other Asian countries. 5Spice endeavors to capture a broad swath of Asian cuisines, but completely leaves out the culinary traditions from a huge array of Asian countries, from India to Indonesia.
Epicurean has some promising offerings but still fails to capture the diversity of Asian cuisine. This restaurant helps me feel more at home, but is still limited and disappointing in its scope of what Asian cuisine can represent. When it comes to Epicurean’s offerings, I go for one thing: the noodle bowls. I know that Epicurean has a buffet section toward the back, and there they have Asian foods such as General Tso’s chicken and kimchi. However, the quality of food at their buffet pales in comparison to 5Spice, so I wouldn’t recommend going to the back section.
The noodle bowls save Epicurean’s menu, and a wide array of noodles, from udon to pho and pad thai, means that you can switch it up from time to time. I typically get the udon and pho noodles because I’m most familiar with them, and they make the perfect late-night snack. The warm soup, with its rising steam, the various toppings, and the added protein all contribute to a well-balanced meal that satisfies my appetite for something that tastes familiar.
Noodles are probably one of the more prevalent dishes of east Asian cuisine, especially in my experience, so I appreciate the fact that there is a noodle spot on campus. However, the fact remains: The relatively cheap and convenient offerings of Georgetown’s on-campus dining consistently fail to deliver a solid menu that caters to those from Asian upbringings.
Both of these Asian dining areas are important because they provide me a chance to remember and enjoy a little bit of my culture, and I’m reminded of home each time I eat at these places. The power these dining experiences can have makes creating cultural and culinary spaces on campus for many of the identities found within the broad category of Asian food even more important.
Tyler Chan is a junior in the College. Food for Thought appears in print and online every other Friday.