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Retro Chinese; Asian Star offers nostalgia options with Thai, Japanese

There aren't too many purely Chinese restaurants around these days, have you noticed? Our growing sophistication and knowledge of global foods has caused many Far East restaurants to diversify into Vietnamese, Thai, even Japanese cuisines.

And actually the Asian Star is no exception. It's a choice-filled menu here, spread across the continent although Chinese takes the lion's share of the listings.

Nostalgia prevailed. We decided to eat the way we did many years ago, opting for the time-honored "one from Group A, one from Group B" route also outlined on the menu. Plus a choice of soup and one egg roll per person. Nicely priced at $18.95.

Ah those, we figured, were the days.

But before beginning the repast, we strayed a bit, adding an additional appetizer. What is a Chinese meal without dumplings after all? Our Fried Dumplings (six for $4.55) came out on a pretty plate and we loved them immediately. Slightly lopsided they fairly shouted "made by loving hands at home!" (Or in the restaurant's kitchen.)

The dumplings were plumply filled and they were hot, but oh my, they were greasy -- someone way back there had simply not taken the time to let that fat drain off. Not greasy at all were the Egg Rolls that came with the meal. I missed the mustard that usually comes along.

Soup next. Hot and Sour, to be exact. Satisfying and well-filled with vegetables and tofu, not to mention plenty of chicken shreds. And let us not forget that nice little kick of red pepper now and then. Crispy fried noodles accompanied.

Our favorite dish though was Group A's Orange Chicken -- lots of chicken. Come to think of it, you wouldn't have seen this on American-Chinese menus of old. Primarily sweet this bird -- there's orange sauce after all -- but spicy, too, and well-loaded with red chilies. We needed the accompanying rice.

Our choice for Group B was not our favorite. Moo Shu Pork -- again straying a long way from the eating place menus of yesteryear. It came with the requisite "doilies" pancakes meant to be wrapped around the meat/vegetable mixture. We did the wrapping ourselves in this case, sloppily of course and there weren't enough doilies to use up all the pork. (On the other hand, I've never been in a restaurant where there were enough wrappings to go around; that's just seems to be the way it goes.)

Fresh sliced oranges, which always astonish me with their clean sharp taste cutting through the earlier dense flavors, made a welcome dessert.

Should you decide not to go the alphabet route, there's plenty else to choose from a la carte. Boneless Duck in Oyster Sauce ($13.95), Crispy Sesame Shrimp ($14.95), Crispy Beef with Walnuts ($13.95).

I probably would go that way in the future. You can't go home again, I guess.

Among Japanese specials on the Asian Star menu: Hibachi Shrimp with fried rice and miso soup, ($15.95) and various noodle dishes. Pad Thai is on the Thai menu ($8.95) and the small Vietnamese section features noodle dishes, as well.

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Do you have questions about the local restaurant scene? Then ask Janice! E-mail: janiceokun@yahoo.com.

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ASIAN STAR    

2 1/2 stars (out of 4)    

WHERE: 4060 Seneca St., West Seneca (675-9888, www.Asianstarbuffalo.com). Attractive Asian restaurant offers Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, in addition to food from other nationalities. Beer and wine is available. Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.    

FAVORITE DISH: Orange Chicken    

NEEDS WORK: Fried Dumplings    

PRICE RANGE: House special entrees from $10.95. Dinner for Two, $18.95.    

SERVICE: Very good.    

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 12:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.    

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes    

PARKING: In the plaza.

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