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Wealthy Tastes

Tycoon serves the riches of East Asian cuisine.

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Open since last August, Tycoon Asian Restaurant and Noodle Shop offers a sampler of the diverse tastes of East Asian cuisine -- from the curry, dried fruits, and nuts of Indonesian and the ginger, soy sauces, and garlic of Malaysian to the more familiar rices and noodles of Chinese and Vietnamese. Patrons can try a noodle soup from Vietnam, tofu seaweed soups from Japan, a wok stir-fried noodle entrée from Singapore, breaded pork chops with marinated lemon vegetables from Malaysia, and wok-tossed rice selections from China.

Tycoon, located in the Kirby Parkway shopping center, is an intimate restaurant, with seating for 60 to 70 people. Its interior is simple and tastefully decorated with plants, artwork, white tablecloths, and black chairs. The atmosphere is made complete with background classical music. (My Asian dinner companion informed me that it is typical in Hong Kong, her home, for restaurants to faintly play classical, not Oriental, music.)

The appetizer section of Tycoon's menu offers items such as chicken and beef satay, spring rolls, crab Rangoon, pot stickers, and coconut prawns. We chose the Malaysian chicken satay and the Chinese coconut prawns. Both appetizers were displayed on square Japanese-style trays. The satay featured strips of chicken breast skewered and lightly grilled and served with a light peanut sauce that had been simmered with garlic and curry. The coconut prawns were large butterflied shrimp, not the tiger prawns I expected. The shrimp were dipped in a sweet coconut batter and fried. A traditional Oriental sweet-and-sour sauce and a red chile sauce accompanied the shrimp. Be warned, though, the chile pepper sauce is very hot; use in moderation to avoid overpowering the shrimp.

While the appetizers are plentiful, don't make the mistake of passing on the soups. Tycoon's selections include a Vietnamese beef noodle (Pho), Chinese shrimp wonton noodle soup, and Thai Tome Kha Kai (coconut milk soup). Our table chose to share the Malaysian beef satay rice noodles. Presented in a delicately painted porcelain bowl, the soup was glistening with chunks of onion and strips of beef tenderloin. The vermicelli rice noodles were abundant, and the base had a spicy flavor with hints of red chile, garlic, and curry. Chinese mushrooms (dried mushrooms that have been rehydrated) without their stems completed the soup.

Our guest from Hong Kong guided our entrée selections. The goal of our party was not to sample any "Americanized" Oriental dishes. We wanted to experience authentic Asian cuisine and eat in traditional style. Therefore, the main courses were served family-style in the middle of the table and the steamed white rice was served separately. Wooden chopsticks, forks, and small plates were placed in front of each of us. We chose not to utilize the small porcelain bowls for the rice. Our Asian guest quickly picked up a fork. I asked her if we were being offensive by not using the bowls and chopsticks. She explained that she only uses chopsticks when she is eating rice from a bowl or selecting pieces of the entrées to sample. Appropriate protocol for eating off a plate is to use a fork or spoon. In addition, she commented that plastic or ivory chopsticks are used in her home and that wooden chopsticks are used in America for the convenience. Once the etiquette was established, the entrée ordering ensued.

Three very eclectic entrées leapt off the pages of the menu, and the "Hong Kong Cho Ho Fun" was the first we devoured. Ho Fun is a wide rice noodle. Steam swirled above the platter as it was placed on the table. The portion was more than ample. Slices of beef tenderloin smothered in dark soy sauce mingled with bean sprouts, green onions, and carrots. The slightest essence of garlic and the dark soy sauce gave the dish an appealing sweetness.

The Chinese "Perfect Match" was our second selection, and it was just that. Two cast-iron kayak-shaped platters cradled the most vibrant and colorful dish of the evening. Sizzling, curried green-lip mussels garnished with chunks of green pepper and carrot filled one of the kayaks. The adjacent kayak overflowed with green-lip mussels swimming in a black bean sauce with pieces of onion, carrot, and green peas. The menu claims that this dish is delectable. It was.

The incomparable coconut curry chicken is classic Indonesian. The blend of flavors from the coconut and curry tantalized the senses. The coconut milk engulfed pieces of potato, onion, green pepper, raisins, and cashew nuts. Red chile pepper was subtly added, offsetting the coconut milk mixture perfectly. Traditionally, this dish would be served with steamed rice atop the chicken, onion, potato, and carrots, and then covered with the coconut, raisins, and cashews.

For our final selection of the evening, our Asian guest consulted with the owner, who was more than willing to accommodate an off-the-menu request. A few minutes passed and a large white plate appeared. A succulent orange roughie fillet that had been lightly steamed embraced a delicate ginger, lemon, and garlic butter sauce. Atop the flaky fish were steamed snow peas, broccoli, carrots, Chinese corn, and scallions. The longer the fish sat, the more the sauce absorbed the ginger. Delicious.

There is no separate dessert menu at Tycoon. After our entrées, a pinwheel slice of plain yellow cake or coffeecake rolled with cream were brought to the table. Both were moist and flavorful, an encore to a delightful culinary experience.

Tycoon is located at 3307 Kirby Parkway. Hours: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Take-out available by calling 362-8788.

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