July 14, 2011

Eat and Run: Asia Restaurant's lunch buffet the way to go

The restaurant specializes in Cantonese, Szechuan, Hunan and Mandarin cuisine.

SOUTH PORTLAND - To be able to eat and run is one thing.

click image to enlarge

The lunch buffet at Asia Restaurant in South Portland offers choices from soup and appetizers to dessert for $7.50.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff photographer

click image to enlarge

Jessica He takes a customer s order from the menu.

ASIA RESTAURANT

WHERE: 50 Market St., Mill Creek Shopping Center, South Portland. 767-1882

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.

CHEAPEST GRUB: $2.75 for a cup of soup.

WAIT: None if you go right to the buffet table.

PARKING: Yes.

HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes.

RATING: ***1/2

Based on a five-star scale

But it's not often you find a place where you can eat a lot in a hurry.

That's one of the great things about the lunch buffet at the relocated Asia Restaurant in Mill Creek Shopping Center. For years, the restaurant was across the street, behind a drug store.

But earlier this year, it moved. The new space is bigger and brighter, and complete with a lunch buffet to complement the extensive menu.

The restaurant specializes in Cantonese, Szechuan, Hunan and Mandarin cuisine.

It's located in a shopping center with a CVS, a bookstore and several other stores. So it's a good place for a quick lunch while doing errands.

I was seated immediately during a recent lunch visit. When I said I wanted the lunch buffet -- $7.50 a person -- I was told to help myself right away.

There were two buffet tables with a dozen or more choices -- plenty of variety, but not so much that I felt overwhelmed.

I bypassed the fried appetizers -- crab rangoon was one -- and got a cup of egg drop soup. It was smooth and full of velvety egg floating in the broth.

I also tried -- small portions, mind you -- some Hunan pork, vegetable lo mein, pork fried rice and cashew chicken.

All were good. I especially liked the fried rice, which was lighter than many fried rice dishes I've had, with very tender pork.

When I got back to my table, I had a glass of water -- which was refilled every time I took a sip -- and a pot of tea waiting for me.

Just to do my duty as a reporter, I went back for seconds to sample some rice noodles with vegetables and some pan-fried dumplings. I liked both. The dumplings, with a slightly tangy meat filling, were crunchy and very good.

There was also some fruit and Jell-O for dessert, but I passed.

If you don't want the buffet, the menu has more than two dozen lunch specials for under $7, ranging from $4.50 for pork chow mein with fried rice to $6.95 for cashew chicken, fried rice and choice of appetizer.

Mandarin specials are also offered at lunch, about a dozen of them, most priced at around $6.75. These include kung pao chicken; chicken, beef or pork with garlic sauce; Szechuan spiced shrimp; and Hunan beef, chicken or pork.

There are appetizer combination plates for lunch such as beef teriyaki, egg roll and fried rice for $5.75; and boneless ribs, egg roll, chicken fingers and fried rice for $6.25.

All the lunch specials are served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Because of its location just over the Casco Bay Bridge near Route 77, the restaurant is on the commuting route for a lot of people. There are lots of choices for take-out dinner, including about 16 dinner combos for $8.25 each.

The features staff of The Portland Press Herald anonymously samples meals for about $7.

 

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