Dear Foodies,

Here I am on a search of gastronomic epiphany. Where do I start? So many choices!

I promised to review our local restaurants in a diplomatic way. I ‘m here to focus on the special dishes each restaurant has to offer and what makes each place unique. First of all, I understand that it takes a lot of money to open up a business and thrive. I must add that when I wrote diplomatic I meant if I do give a restaurant a suggestion or mention “My food was cold” it’s more of a sidebar comment.

I prefer calling in my reservation in advance (that way I can be treated like a Queen, I hope). I decided it was time to take care of some Asian cravings. So I figured since Le Lai has recently been “the talk of the lunch scene,” I would make them my first. I called at 8 p.m. the night before and a lady with an Asian accent answered. I mentioned in a polite way if I could speak to the owner or manager, and was greeted with complete silence. Interesting start, to say the least.

I thought she would bet excited but, instead she sounded bewildered or annoyed — and was sternly told (not asked) to call tomorrow. I got off the phone and laughed to myself because it was almost like being in a Seinfeld Episode. Then again, my husband Dan said I was using my “Operator Voice,” so may have sounded like a salesperson to the lady. Albeit, I decided to move forward and review the place.

The day finally came, and I was on a noodle mission! My husband did mention that two of his friends would order the fried shrimp at La Lai and loved it. I decided to see for myself. Eating alone isn’t that fun, so I brought two of my close friends, Mari Rodriguez and Sandra Martinez.

As we entered La Lai, I immediately noticed the warm Feng Shui yellow walls and the bright candelabra brightening the room. The beautiful aquarium and the Asian desserts in the glass case looked tempting. I’ve never had any but, I hear they’re light and flavorful. For me, dessert at a place like this would be a fortune cookie because I eat too much of everything else. Our friendly waiter had a smile on his face and was helpful suggesting items on the menu we had not tried before.

I ordered the Golden Crab Puff for $7.95 and one lunch special, the Crispy Shrimp with Pineapple sauce #30 with steamed rice and a hot and sour soup for $7.99. We all tasted the uniquely presented crab puff. It looked like a little fried egg roll with a crab claw sticking out on one side. It came with a sweet duck sauce that went perfect with the fried crab puff. The minute you bite into it you can taste the meatiness of the crab. None of that fake crab you get at some other places!

Then came my dish. Oh, it looked like caramelized crispy donuts on a plate with red bell peppers and pineapple sauce. I couldn’t wait to taste this yummy looking dish. I took one bite and felt like I was eating a funnel cake with a piece of shrimp inside. It was so decadent and filling.

I could only eat three of the shrimp not because I was full but I still had to taste my friend’s delicious B.B.Q. Beef Mango Salad ($11.95). The presentation of the salad is wonderful the mango and thinly sliced cucumbers and the beef. It was a healthy and tasty alternative.

Le Lai Eastern restaurant is your one-stop Asian connection. If you are in the mood for Vietnamese, Thai or Chinese Food — you need to look no farther. We were lucky to show up at 11 a.m. to get a table because once we left the place was filled to capacity. It was a delight to hear such soothing classical music playing in the background and the service was terrific.

Confucius says “Le Lai will satisfy.”

Madame Gourmand

Le Lai Eastern Restaurant, 2910 N. 10th Street, McAllen. 956-630-0963. $$