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Safe bet Koi dresses up the action at Seneca Niagara Hotel

A dollar will get you $10 that you'll think Koi is a stunning restaurant. It's located in the new Seneca Niagara Hotel (attached to the casino) but is reached through the hotel lobby. Native art is featured in the hotel, with stunning stone walls much in evidence. But the restaurant itself, with its red and black colors and the curved wall that separates the open kitchen from the rather formal dining room, has a very Asian feel.

Sit at your comfortable table, and watch the kitchen ballet as the black-clad cooks move back and forth. They pay attention to business, but even they seem serene. The menu here is Pan-Asian, with Indonesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai and Japanese influences. All of it is tasty and beautifully presented. At our dinner for four people, the Whole Fish (a sea bass, fried in the wok) was the most outstanding.

That fish managed to be crisp, sweet and tender all at the same time.

Going back to the beginning, though, we were happy with the Vietnamese Spring Rolls ($6) wrapped in rice paper as well as the Hot and Sour Soup, which was really zingy.

But, if you're in a soup mood, you might want to try the Vietnamese Pho or noodle soup for $8. And as an alternative appetizer, the Indonesian Chicken Satay with peanut sauce and noodle salad comes in at $7.

There's Dim Sum on the menu. We tried the Pork Shumai (6 pieces for $6) and the Har Gau, both presented in steamer baskets. Fried Dumplings are on the menu, too, and so is Nor My Gai, the not-so-often-seen sticky rice and chicken steamed in a lotus leaf.

And of course there's Sushi, served with panache here. It can be purchased by the piece, but the platter assortment ($14) is the better deal.

Special kudos to the Unagi, or eel, and to the Salmon Sashimi. There's even something called Philadelphia Roll, a new one on me, and meant for the sushi beginner, I guess. It's made from smoked salmon, cream cheese and scallions. Anyone for brunch?

Moving on to the entrees, Shrimp with Lemon Grass Sauce ($18) was tasty but not in the same league as the fish.

Neither was the so-called Crispy Roast Duck ($15), which wasn't -- crisp, that is. Nice ducky flavor, though. The Fried Singapore Noodles ($12) could have used a lot more curry, too.

Still a pleasant, relaxing experience all in all and a nice contrast to the action at the tables. And before we close, I'd like to make special mention of Koi's service, which was perfect. In other words, it was totally unobtrusive, with servers there when you needed them.

On their watch, the tea cups never went dry and empty platters were whisked (quietly) out of sight.

3 Stars (out of 4)

KOI

WHERE: Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, 310 Fourth St., Niagara Falls (299-1100). A beautifully decorated Asian restaurant in the new hotel. Smoking tables available. Credit Cards: American Express, Master Card, Visa.

FAVORITE DISH: Whole Crisp Fish

NEEDS WORK: Food is of good quality.

PRICE RANGE: Sushi from $6 per two-piece order. Entrees from $10.

SERVICE: Excellent

NOISE LEVEL: Moderate

HOURS: Dinner only. 5 to 10:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

HEALTHY CHOICES: Many seafood and noodle options.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

PARKING: Valet parking available.

KID APPEAL: Children are admitted.

e-mail: jokun@buffnews.com

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