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Currying Favor 

New Asian restaurants on the St. Louis scene

The landscape in downtown St. Louis was once pretty monochromatic when it came to non-Chinese Asian-food choices, but the opening of Sen Thai last year added a welcome new hue. Now, not one but two alternative Asian cuisines have staked claims.

The amusingly named Curry in a Hurry (612 Olive St., 314-241-7900) is the fourth and newest member of the Rasoi family (the other three being full-service places in Clayton, the Central West End and Columbia, Mo.), serving lunch only, cafeteria-style, on the ground floor of the structure that houses the Famous-Barr parking garage. About a dozen entrée items (several chicken and vegetarian, plus one each of lamb, pork and beef -- alas, no goat) are offered, generally on the mild side, with a meal of two entrées, Indian bread and rice running $5.95 and additional entrée just a buck more. Add-ons include samosas, pakoras, soup and dessert.

The single-line setup means waiting in a queue for 10 minutes or more during peak lunch hour, but the staff moves things along pretty quickly. Solo diners (and even groups, if they choose) can sit in the front window and watch the lunchtime crowd wander up and down Olive, just like in the big city.

The other new entry is the Bamboo Inn (710 N. Second St., 314-588-0777), a Vietnamese restaurant that took over the space on Laclede's Landing formerly occupied by Myron's and the Grind. The space in the restored Old Judge building has always been attractive, but it's also always been difficult to walk to the Landing from the core of downtown, and it's even harder now during the renovation of the parking lot between Second and Third streets.

Nonetheless, we give good marks to the spring rolls, curries, phos and noodle dishes we've been able to sample. Service is a little spotty -- rather than going strictly by numbers, it would be a better idea for servers to confirm with something like "No. 15 ... you want the rice with tofu, lemongrass and chili," but then again, the place is still getting its legs, and the difficult trail to the Landing is a small sacrifice for not having to shlep all the way out to South Grand for a Vietnamese fix.

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