In case you haven't noticed, we here at Baltimore's most replicant-free alternative weekly are weirdly obsessed with this idea of Station North as the futurist world of "Blade Runner," what with the video billboard and the abundance of neon and the neighborhood's somewhat-grimy feel. We were especially feeling that aesthetic as we walked through the drizzle on Sunday night to Red Parrot Asian Bistro (1707 N. Charles St.,  244-8330, redparrotasianbistro.com), a new restaurant that specializes in southeast Asian dishes and has plenty of bright neon lights in the front window to add to Station North's dystopian vibe.
The restaurant opened about a week ago, so there were still boxes of beer stacked on the floor by the bar when we went in, but it's already drawing plenty of customers—the tables were mostly filled by the time we finished eating dinner. Though the neon and the orange walls keep the bar in the front half bright, it's a bit more muted in the back, with cool blue lights illuminating the dark tables and a tiny bar that's all the way in the back by the kitchen.
Red Parrot has dishes from all across southeast Asia: Vietnamese pho, Malaysian entrees, pad thai and Thai curry dishes, Korean entrees including bibimbap and bulgogi, and sushi are all packed onto the menu. Chef and owner Wendy Cheng told us that the menu reflects the variety of cuisines that she ate while growing up in Hong Kong. She first came to the United States about 20 years ago, and used to be an engineer for Westinghouse, but "I felt like a piece of a screw in a big machine," she says. So she decided to pursue her passion—food—and started Red Parrot, though her first restaurants were express eateries, rather than the full restaurants she has now.
There are currently two other Red Parrot locations, one in Ellicott City and one in Hanover; there was one at McHenry Row in Locust Point, but Cheng says that location closed because there wasn't enough foot traffic. She was reluctant to open another restaurant in Baltimore after that, but she says that one of her customers encouraged her to open a location in Station North.
So, Cheng says, she explored the neighborhood and tried the Asian food at another restaurant in the neighborhood—and knew that her food was better. "If he can do it, I can do it," she told us.
She says she makes almost everything in house, and it showed in the quality of the food: The Malaysian Roti, an appetizer of flatbread paired with a peanut curry sauce, tasted fresher than most flatbreads we've had at restaurants, and the duck meat in our entree—duck over noodles, which Cheng recommended but wasn't yet on the menu, as they're currently just using menus from the Ellicott City location—was perfectly tender.
We devoured as much as we could from the enormous bowls our entrees came in, and Cheng jokingly admonished us for not leaving any room for dessert. "You'll have to come back to try dessert," she said. We're sure we will.
Red Parrot also offers lunch specials. It's open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.