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The Inlander Staff & r & & r & CHING HUA GARDEN & r & & r & Family-style is the way to go at this Asian haven behind the red-barn fa & ccedil;ade. Pan-fried wontons, lightly browned, were served with a small cabbage-carrot salad and a deliciously piquant sauce that balanced a vinegary bite with sesame oil, garlic and green onions. The surprise hit of the night was the vegetables with fried tofu -- big chunky triangles of deep-fried tofu teamed with vibrant stir-fried carrots, celery, zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, onion, baby corn, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and thin slices of garlic in a brown sauce that was rich in flavor but not overwhelming, letting the vegetables shine. The liberal use of garlic -- never bitter, never burned -- enhanced everything we tried, and presentation was beautiful. Everything tasted very fresh and clean, and Ching Hua uses no MSG. Ching Hua Garden is a good source for well-executed Chinese favorites, and there's plenty of room in the barn for more. 18203 E. Appleway Ave., Greenacres, 926-8422 (AC)





WINDOWS AT THE RED LION HOTEL


This room-with-a-view restaurant is too good for just out-of-towners. We started with bacon-wrapped prawns ($9), three good-sized crustaceans wrapped in smoky bacon with baby bok choy and a yummy, sweet-hot cilantro garlic sauce. My companion's spinach salad with Asian pear ($6) was also a real treat, perfectly dressed in a light, sesame vinaigrette that went well with the red onions and rich feta. With the bread course came a delightful surprise -- a generous portion of a lovely olive tapenade. The applewood-smoked duck ($19) with a ginger-molasses glaze was grilled with a sweet sticky sauce, leaving the skin crisp and flavorful, the inside smoky and rich. Despite some bumps with the dessert menu, the menu is reasonably priced, with options from Asian to Italian to Northwest in style. The interior is creative and pleasantly designed. And the view is unbeatable. 303 W. North River Dr., 326-8000 (LM)





THE BEACON


Peering through the Beacon's floor-to-ceiling windows onto Sherman Ave. is a bit like watching television with the sound turned down. The potato hummus and grilled pita ($5) is a European twist on the original and is dense with garlic and a lemony bite. We opted for the lightly crispy jalape & ntilde;o-cream cheese wontons with just the right amount of pepper heat ($7.50). Eight draft beers, from Guinness to Bud Light to local Laughing Dog, and 22 bottled choices gave a casual beer consumer like me plenty of options. A smattering of red and white wines ($5-$10) by the glass was also available. The moist and flaky beer-battered fish and chips is easily the most affordable in North Idaho -- $8 for three and a half large chunks of fish -- and the tartar was sweet and bold with a hint of capers. 325 Sherman Ave., Coeur d'Alene, (208) 665-7407 (CS)





VILLAGGIO


The ambience at Villaggio (Italian for village) is upscale: a dozen dark wood tables, folded white cloth napkins, little red candles, new age/fusion jazz background music. A fully stocked bar serves wine, martinis and other mixed drinks. Pizzas from the brick wood-fired oven are the tasty highlight, like the Vegetariano ($15) -- a 12-inch, irregularly shaped platform for a thin layer of tomato sauce and a gardeners' feast of caramelized onions, mushrooms, roasted eggplant, peppers, artichoke, and millimeter-thin slices of zucchini. The Jocelina panini blends prosciutto, mozzarella, provolone, artichoke, roasted red peppers, fresh basil leaves and tomato into something yummy but best eaten with a fork. The wonderfully rich tiramisu ($7), with layers of creamy filling, coffee-saturated cake and melted chocolate, was a lovely ending to a very nice meal. 2013 E. 29th Ave., 532-0327 (DN)

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