As a 1½ generation Asian-American, I’m always seeking ways to connect to my heritage — and to bring others along for the ride. 168 KTV Bistro offers a unique experience that meshes food, karaoke, and pop party culture into a one-stop destination.
Don’t judge by its unassuming strip mall location. Once inside, intrigue and curiosity sets in. Are we dining or partying? Both — and I like it.
Bright neons and overt bling, still with Asian décor, set the tone for the restaurant and private karaoke bar. The vibe is younger, hipper, poppier, and more authentically pan-Asian than you’d imagine metro Detroit could handle.
The dining room offers dishes blurring the lines of true Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cuisine. And although I admit to loving a sweet-and-sour combo plate, you won’t find any Americanized dishes here.
One of my long-time favorite greens is stir-fried snow pea leaves with garlic. After dining on hundreds of family-sized entrees at local, national, and international Chinese restaurants, the king has surfaced. Hands-down, KTV’s pea tips were the best I’ve ever tasted: soft and supple greens (even the stems) with a most flavorful, almost brothy garlic dressing. “Fresh” is the only way to describe it, which I attribute to KTV’s sister store, 168 Asian Mart just two doors down.
If noodles are your thing, stir-fried udon offers a nice scenery change for the thick, usually broth-soaked wheat noodle. While traditional udon broth bowls are having a moment in metro Detroit, this dish is dry and tossed with simple veggies and inviting flavors. For more “intermediate” Asian diners, the traditional Korean noodle dish chap chae is a strong option. The sweet potato starch noodle is translucent with a bit of elasticity and packs a flavorful punch.
Also on the menu are a variety of kebabs — not a classic Chinese dish, but why not? The chicken wings come in a set of three sticks full of fried wings, spiced with a slow heat and subtle hint of cumin-curry flavor.
The crispy pork in spicy house sauce pulled through on half of its bargain. While the thin-sliced tenderly cooked pork was indeed crispy, I was relieved to find a moderate heat level for my spice-sensitive palate.
The food stands on its own as worthy of a return visit, but for the full experience, private karaoke rooms are available for parties ranging from a handful of friends to 30 or more. The fear of public singing fades when surrounded by your buddies and washes down nicely with a lavish cocktail. The karaoke rooms have a different menu than the dining room. Items are appetizer-style, like deep-fried spicy squid served on skewers and light, fluffy Japanese-style cheesecake. Drinks are not required, but KTV makes it easy to keep the party going with a service bell in each room.
Whether you’re interested the food, the private karaoke rooms, or both, be ready to digest a sliver of Asian culture replicating karaoke bars found in LA’s “K-Town” and even in Asia.
32415 John R Rd., Madison Heights; 248-616-0168. L&D daily.