by Susan Hamilton

When I walked in the door, I thought I was back in Southeast Asia. The high-pitched, lilting songs; TVs in every corner playing Asian travel shows; servers in bright, short silk jackets scurrying around the busy dining room filled with a cacophony of Asian voices speaking in native tongue. Maybe I should have known better than to try to get in during the grand opening at Kim Do Restaurant last Friday. It seemed that most of Spokane's Vietnamese population was there, celebrating their own.

I was hoping to taste some pho, the traditional Vietnamese noodle soup, as well as some of the chef's Indonesian specialties. I'll have to wait until the crowds thin out -- maybe in the coming weeks.

Earlier in the week, I spoke with Andre Tjio, the manager and chef of Kim Do. Tjio, originally from Jakarta, worked 10 years as a chef in Washington, D.C., at various Thai and Indonesian restaurants. He also cooked for a year at Pho Thai -- owned by his father-in-law -- in Spokane's Gonzaga district.

"We want to give people at lot of choices," Tjio says. "We want them to be happy when they leave our restaurant."

Besides pho, Kim Do offers rice and meat plates, Vietnamese chow mein and vermicelli with a variety of ingredients -- from pork to mixed vegetables. Traditional Southeast Asian desserts, such as pisang goreng (fried banana with shredded coconut), are also featured.

Kim Do Restaurant, at 2018 N. Hamilton (just north of Indiana), is open Monday-Thursday and Sunday from 9 am-9 pm, Friday-Saturday from 9 am-10 pm. Call 487-7700.

Quick Chinese -- There's no doubt that Asian cuisine is popular with diners everywhere. After opening two years ago in River Park Square's Atrium, Panda Express now has a second location on the North Side, opened earlier this month. The quick-service Chinese restaurant in the Shadle Shopping Center sports the same clean, contemporary Asian d & eacute;cor as its downtown sibling, but it may be a bit more popular.

"It's been better than projected," says manager Namgo Chan of the newest Panda Express in town. "We're steady all day with diners coming in."

With more than 500 locations in 35 states, and Puerto Rico and along with seven restaurants in Japan, Panda Express must be doing something right. The key is the use of fresh ingredients, original recipes from Master Chef Ming-Tsai Cherng and the preparation of all entrees on site. Cherng and his son, Andrew, opened their first restaurant in Pasadena, Calif., in 1973. Since then, Panda Express has grown to be the nation's largest Chinese quick-service chain.

Diners can choose from freshly cooked entrees, such as orange-flavored chicken, chicken with mushrooms, spicy chicken with peanuts, Mandarin chicken, beef with broccoli, sweet and sour pork, and mixed vegetables. New this spring at Panda Express are six shrimp entrees made from Chinese family recipes. Black Pearl shrimp, Thai spicy shrimp, shrimp with sugar peas in oyster sauce, Kon Pau shrimp, spicy shrimp with cashews and tangy shrimp with pineapple are featured on a rotating basis at the Shadle Panda Express.

Panda Express, at 2223 W. Wellesley, is open Monday-Thursday from 11 am-9:30 pm, Friday-Saturday 11 am-10 pm and Sunday from 11:30 am-9 pm. Call 325-2238.

Spring Menus -- Now that warmer weather is here, area chefs are changing their menus and offering lighter fare. Here is a sampling of the creative changes innovative chefs are featuring.

"This is the best menu I've done," says chef and owner James Malone of his new spring menu at Solstice in Liberty Lake. "Every dish is selling well."

Some of the classy items include a New Zealand rack of lamb with kalamata olive sauce served alongside Olsen Farms potatoes with ginger garlic. Malone also presents pork tenderloin (brined for tenderness) with basmati rice and a mint-lime salsa. A chicken marsala with sweet, red peppers, Portobello mushrooms and semolina pasta is also a new offering. The pork tenderloin and shiitake mushroom eggroll appetizer with citrus dipping sauce is proving so popular that customers are ordering more than one.

Solstice, at 1332 N. Liberty Lake Rd., is open Tuesday-Friday from 11:30 am-2 pm for lunch and Tuesday-Saturday from 5-9 pm for dinner. Call 892-5901.

Fresh For Spring -- The menu at downtown's Mizuna changes frequently. For early spring, chef and co-owner Sylvia Wilson is featuring spring cannelloni with fresh spinach pasta, fennel, oyster mushrooms and sage ricotta covered with a lemon artichoke sauce. If you need a little heat to warm you up, the roasted corn and plantain-stuffed poblano chiles served with smoked-chile tomato sauce and jalapeno lime cream will do the trick. An Indian Tandoori bowl with choice of tofu or prawns is highlighted with a flavorful curry sauce. Pan-seared King salmon sparkles with a Mandarin-ginger sauce.

Mizuna, at 214 N. Howard, is open Monday-Friday from 11:20 am-2:30 pm for lunch and Tuesday-Saturday from 5-9 pm for dinner. Call 747-2004.

Hit The Brix -- At Brix in Coeur d'Alene, owner and chef Bill Scott is bringing in some seasonal specials as well as newer menu items. A sesame-crusted Mahi Mahi is drizzled with oyster sauce and paired with caramelized pineapple and coconut jasmine rice. Those who love Italian food will appreciate the cappellini pomodoro pasta dish with fresh basil and black tiger prawns. Pork gets a creative treatment with orange-horseradish glaze, served with a wild-rice citrus salad of blood oranges and asparagus. A prawn and roasted pineapple quesadilla with queso fresca and cilantro brings a south-of-the-border flair.

Brix, at 317 Sherman Ave., is open Monday-Saturday from 11 am- 3 pm for lunch and daily at 5 pm for dinner. Call (208) 665-7404.

New Moon -- Executive Chef Shilo Pierce says he is able to do more in Luna's bigger kitchen. For spring, he offers a first plate of fresh Penn Cove mussels and/or Manila clams in a white wine butter sauce served with grilled crostini. A seafood and scallion-scented risotto with pea vines and tomatoes is a new main plate sporting a bright spring color -- green. Wood-roasted King salmon is served with stewed asparagus and tomatoes over herbed Israeli couscous with saffron jus. Bursting with Italian flavors, creamy, lemon orecchiette pasta is paired with grilled chicken, wood-oven fired asparagus and candied pearl onions.

Luna, at 5620 S. Perry St., is open Monday-Friday from 11 am-3 pm for lunch, Saturday-Sunday from 9 am-2 pm for brunch and daily at 5 pm for dinner. Call 448-2382.

Welcome Back -- Now that Paul Childers is back in the kitchen at Sam's on Regal, he's utilizing what he learned at the Palm Court to kick up the spring menu at the upper South Hill restaurant. On the fresh sheet, Childers is offering teriyaki beef medallions finished with a sweet soy reduction and jasmine rice. Pan-seared scallops with sun-dried tomato risotto are a new addition to the dinner menu. Sam's fondue offerings have been a hit with customers. A seafood fondue appears as an appetizer on the new menu. For dessert, there's pineapple upside down cake with kiwi sorbet.

Sam's on Regal (and 57th) is open Monday-Saturday from 8 am-9 pm and Sunday from 8 am-8 pm. Call 443-1881.

For Wine Lovers -- Sunday, April 27, brings the second of the Davenport's Grand Wine Dinners. "A Decade of Dominus" highlights four vintages of this Napa Valley icon, and is hosted by Sommelier Eric Cook. Executive Chef Ian Wingate offers a five-course meal to complement the wines being served. Champagne and appetizers will be served at 5:30 pm in the Hall of Doges. Tickets are $150 per person. For reservations, call 789-6848.

Those who love to indulge in death by chocolate will appreciate the Chocoholics Buffet on Thursday, May 1. A variety of cakes, tortes, tarts, pastries, & eacute;clairs and gourmet chocolates will be presented at the event from 4-6 pm at Paula's Pastries, at 2303 N. Ash. Tickets are $10 per person. Call 466-7171.

Publication date: 04/24/03

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