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Restaurant of the Week: Kinta

Have a yen for Asian food? Customize it

Where Dante's club is now, on West Burnside Street, there once was a Chang's Mongolian Grill that was briefly in fashion in my family.

Perfect for particular diners, with their assorted passions and revulsions for onions, garlic, spinach, etc., it involved walking past a large salad bar-type layout, stainless steel bowl in hand, picking various proteins, veggies, seasonings and sauces.

Then you handed the whole shebang to a uniformed chef who put it all on a huge circular grill.

It was fun, but the results weren't always very successful - you just can't cook carrots as quickly as mushrooms and you really can use too much soy sauce.

The make-your-own-dinner concept is gussied up even further at Kinta restaurant, located on the ground floor of the modern Belmont Lofts, in a sleek, bright space with professional servers and a full bar.

All the main dishes here come with the diner's choice of four vegetables from the seasonal list, ranging from eggplant to zucchini and snap peas and tofu (I suppose tofu is a vegetable).

The restaurant professes to be Malaysian, but it's more dominantly vegetarian. This is the rare restaurant that lists a 'non-vegetarian' section on the menu, though you can add chicken or shrimp to several dishes for an extra charge.

The menu ranges across the Asian continent. Appetizers include veggies fried in a crisp chickpea batter, chicken satay and green papaya salad. The most unusual is mango rojak, a sort of chopped Malaysian salad with bits of mango, fried tofu and a salty, sour, sweet, hot dressing.

The dinners are variations - the restaurant's and your own -on rice (white or brown), stir-fry noodles (rice, egg or chow fun) and noodle soups. The crossover miso lemongrass noodle soup wasn't terribly spicy in contradiction to its billing, but the table's hot sauce livened it up. The rosy tomato curry noodles have a more belly-warming flavor.

Among the curry dishes, a Malaysian curry made with macadamia nuts was rich and creamy. For fish eaters the stir-fried tamarind tiger prawns or stir-fried fish in black bean sauce are both good choices.

All in all, it's a great way to get your daily dose of vegetables.

- Audrey Van Buskirk

3450 S.E. Belmont St., 503-234-2623, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, $8.95-$14.95