Dear Chopstick Lovers,

This article will thrill my husband to no end because I will have to admit that ... he was right, and ... I was wrong -- this time (okay, maybe there was another occasion). Ever since my husband and I met, we've been critiquing (customer service, quality of food, ambiance) restaurants.

Actually, on our first date I remember asking to speak to the manager (slow service). Twelve years have passed and by now he knows what I like and what I don't like -so, why don't I trust him 100% when he's recommending a restaurant? To make a long story short my husband thought it would be a good idea if I reviewed "Coast Asian Bistro & Bar" because of their wonderful variety of Asian Cuisines and never ending "Happy Hour."

He suggested we try it out (as a family); I was reluctant because I didn't like the word "Coast" in big blue psychedelic letters (especially the font) in front of their restaurant. After that silly comment (oh, now Madame Gourmand thinks she's a marketing agent) my husband said, "Don't judge a book by its cover," and that was that!

My visit was a true delight (triple delight) thanks to their welcoming and attentive staff. The theme of Asian sophistication carries over to the ambience and décor of this venue's interior (nothing like what I expected) which is brilliantly modern.

Coast Asian Bistro's menu is equally attractive; there are many fresh ingredients and inventive combinations to choose from. General Manager Mike Qin Guang Wang (Fuzhou, Fujian) and his lovely wife Yimin (Amy) selected an array of east coast specialties known for their fabulous seafood and delectable sauces.

The menu doesn't depart radically from familiar Chinese fare (lunch combos $7.75-$8.95) such as the citrusy "Orange Peel Beef" ($13.95), so tender it was hard to believe it originated in a mere cow. Mandarin Style Spare Ribs ($8.95- served with spice salt) meaty, moist, sweet but, not candied. Kun Pao ($12.95) with layers of flavor prepared with a glorious medley of chicken flesh, golden peanuts (diced) and bright red seared chiles. The light sweet - and - sour sauce is pepped up with chile spiciness that will make your lips tingle (pleasantly).

The "Vietnam Style" Beef Hot Pot ($13.95) is an explosion of essences. Imagine... onions, vegetables, tender beef (boneless), freshly chopped chile peppers, lemon grass and lime juice dancing inside a bowl of bubbling broth - ready to warm your soul.

I have saved the best for last, and that would be Chef Francisco Aguilar (Paco) who's sushi is a piece of art. He is a true fish expert, but that comes as no surprise since he's been working diligently behind the sushi bar for 12 years. So many of his sushi rolls appealed to my appetite...decisions, decisions!

I ordered the Lobster Tempura Roll ($13.00) which was lightly battered and deep fried to a crisp. The taste, texture, colour and presentation of this masterpiece was quite impressive. Fresh avocado, cucumber, cream cheese, and scallions were wrapped inside out with hazy orange tobiko (flying fish Roe - caviar). It's quite apparent that Chef Paco wants his sushi rolls to look as good as they taste - so, he delicately garnishes each plate with a dainty purple orchid and a green bamboo leaf (even wasabi topped with a sprig of parsley - cute) for color and presentation. All of the inventive decorative rolls ($4.00 - $14.00) and the surprising flavor combinations have everyone coming back for more.

Now, hold on to your seats! "Happy Hour" lasts forever! During the week it's from 3 p.m. to close and Friday/Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m! The party never ends at the bar especially when you have these prices: House Sake and Martinis' (loved the cucumber martini) at $5.00. Beer lovers get this! Domestic - $1.50, Premium Draft (Sam Adams, Blue Moon, Dos XX, etc.), $2.50, Premium Bottles (Shiner, Tsingtao, Asahi, New castle, etc.), $2.50 and House Wine/ Mix Drinks $4.00.

My husband (avid wing eater) likes to plug their meaty chicken wings (variety of flavors) for 35 cents and boneless wings for 50 cents - what a deal. I thank Mike and Paco for their kindness and generosity - no wonder community leaders such as Letty Garcia (Justice of the Peace 2012 candidate) are booking their events at Coast. I'm all about keeping the peace... so, I'll be attending her shin-dig Wednesday (evening), Nov. 16 ... can't wait!


Madame Gourmand

Coast Asian Bistro & Bar, 7100 N. 10th Street, McAllen. 956-630-9599 and 956-630-9566. Coast also features Thai!