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ANNUAL MANUAL '08: Dining

Asia by way of Western New York

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Just about everyone loves Chinese food -or Thai, Japanese, and Korean for that matter - and our workplaces and home kitchen junk drawers overflow with little multicolored condiment packets and chopsticks. The list below is by no means exhaustive, but rather a starting point for a diner's journey through Asia by way of Greater Rochester. Find here both quick take-out joints and cozy spots for a sit-down. For additional restaurant listings, visit City Newspaper's Online Dining Guide at rochestercitynewspaper.com/dining.

Thai Taste

1675 Mt. Hope Avenue, 461-4154

The tasty, filling lunch special here is priced right: from $5.95 for vegetarian to $6.50 for seafood, the main dish is accompanied by a spring roll and bowl of soup. Curries rotate daily; noodly pad thai and pad see ew are available every day.

Chen Garden

1750 Monroe Avenue, 241-3070

A dark-paneled dining room, cozy booths, and a menu something like an illustrated novella hide behind Chen Garden's unassuming, Brighton strip-mall façade. In addition to the usual Chinese offerings, there's a page of clay pot specialties. From the extensive appetizer list try the wasabi dumplings, which deliver a bracing kick.

Seoul Garden

2805 W. Henrietta Road, 424-2220

Whatever your entrée choice, linger over the array of complimentary accompaniments, from pickly bean sprouts to a fiery cucumber relish and various preparations of tofu. At this - one of the city's very few Korean restaurants - some main dishes are prepared at table, on a trap-door grill in the center.

Ming's

1038 South Clinton Avenue, 244-0920

Noodles - the specialty here - come in all shapes and sizes, from the wide, flat, chewy rice variety to delicate vermicelli. Both this and its other location (1132 Monroe Avenue, 271-7260) do steady take-out business, but a small number of tables are available for eat-in dining.

Mamasan

2800 Monroe Avenue, 461-3290

Mamasan's newer location (the first, at 309 University Avenue at Union, serves lunch), is hip and sleek, with tall tables, lots of metal, and local lighting. Thai and Vietnamese rice and noodle dishes are generously portioned. Choose a base ingredient from tofu, chicken, pork, beef or seafood - available as a combo or singly as calamari, shrimp, or scallops.

Esan

696 Park Avenue, 271-2271

Fast and fresh, Esan's Thai curries and noodle dishes seem to arrive moments after ordering. Beers and a modest selection of wines are offered. The atmosphere is homey, as if you happen to have Thai neighbors who happen to be very good cooks. Also try the adjoining sushi restaurant Kobay (690 Park Avenue, 271-1060)

Flavors of Asia

831 South Clinton Avenue, 256-2310

The place to go if you want curry and he wants pork fried rice. The dining room may be austere, but the service is friendly and the portions are huge. The scallion pancakes come out crisp and steaming.

Shiki

1054 South Clinton Avenue, 271-2090

Shiki's tiny dining room is bright and cozy. Lunch specials, $7-$9, include soup, salad, and rice. A weekly rotation of exotic specials includes octopus-filled pancake spheres, miso-marinated grilled black cod, and a Japanese hot pot with vegetables, meat, and eggs.

Plum House

686 Monroe Avenue, 442-0778

Sushi, teriyaki, and tempura; lunch-box specials and dinner combinations. The dining room sometimes smells faintly of fry oil but is otherwise pretty. A sushi or sushi-sashimi package dinner for two includes soup and salad for $34.

House of Sushi & Golden Port Dim Sum Restaurant

101 & 105 East Avenue, 546-2480 & 256-1780

Mix and match from the menus of these adjoining restaurants. Both full-size entrees and small-plate, dim sum options are available at Golden Port; House of Sushi has named a series of specialty rolls after local cultural organizations, including Geva and the Little.

The King and I

1455 E. Henrietta Road, 427-8090

A Thai-food mainstay whose lunch combos, $7-8, include soup, rice, and spring roll. Many vegetarian options are available, including crisp, gooey sesame tofu and the enigmatic "Evil Jungle Prince Vegetable."

SEA Restaurant

741 Monroe Avenue, 473-8031

SEA - short for South East Asian - specializes in Vietnamese pho noodle soup. Noodles in an onion- and cilantro-infused broth come with choice of meat and a side plate of bean sprouts, basil, lime, and fresh chili. Pho alternatives include stir-fried noodle dishes and curries. The dining room is placid and unfussy.

Le Lemon Grass

Saturdays at the Public Market

Like its Monroe Avenue namesake, Lemongrass (942 Monroe Ave, 271-8360), Le Lemon Grass's indoor stand at the Public Market serves Vietnamese dishes like satay. But what's really worth writing home about here is the coffee - thick, sweet, and oily-rich. Hot water poured slowly through an astonishing quantity of ground coffee, suspended in what looks like a miniature flannel butterfly net, produces the divine brew, to which, on request, is added sweetened condensed milk, straight from the can.

Golden Dynasty

1900 South Clinton Avenue, 442-6340

The jewel of this Brighton Tops Plaza restaurant is its vegetarian menu, separate from and almost as large as the omnivores'. Meatless variations such as the tomato-sweet corn soup are as delicious as the originals (here, chicken-sweet corn). Families dine amidst huge relief landscapes in the brightly lit dining room.

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