House of Kim 

1226 1st St. S., Nampa, 208-466-3237. Open for lunch Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner Mon.-Sat., 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

I was surprised and a bit confused when I entered the dark, shaded entryway of the House of Kim in downtown Nampa. Half of the place was reminiscent of an old kung fu movie set with big bright red round booths along one side situated below large Asian artworks with a lantern hanging here and there. The dim lighting added to the movie feel. Opposite the booths were walls made stark by the high ceilings. It seemed like two very different places were housed in the same building. The walls were scuffed up and desperately in need of a fresh coat of paint. Large fish tanks with big Koi swimming around were spotted with fingerprints and specks of food and begged for a spray of Windex. I was a little concerned because, besides our lunch party of four, there was only one other customer in the place, and it was 12:20 p.m., prime lunch time.

Our friendly waitress came over right away, and I was glad to see a wide variety of Thai dishes along with traditional Chinese restaurant staples on the menus she handed us. We enthusiastically ordered both Chinese and Thai dishes. Unfortunately, our initial happiness over the variety on House Of Kim's menu was not substantiated by the food.

The lunch entrees were served with salad and soup. We were amused that the only salad dressings they offered were ranch, blue cheese and creamy Italian. It would have been nice to have had an Asian-influenced dressing available.

The Thai spicy noodles ($7.95) were plenty spicy in a sauce that contained ample amounts of basil in every bite, but the noodles were oily. So much so, that for the first time I can remember, I didn't take my leftovers home.

My husband had a hankering for general's chicken ($6.95), but we both had issues with the thick breading and the cuts of chicken. The sauce, while delivering good heat, was too sweet and seemed to come from a bottle. We had the same problem with my kids' sweet and sour pork ($6.95). The meat in both dishes was tough and I had a hard time cutting the chunks in half. I was also disappointed with the hot and sour soup, which was neither very hot nor very sour, and was in desperate need of white pepper. The soup had a shiny, almost gelatinous appearance and a strange odor and flavor that was unappetizing. The fried rice had an odd smell as well, and could also have used some serious seasoning.

My husband is always the first one to answer positively when a server asks how the food is. It is not a good sign when the question yields no answer from him. Two restaurant employees stopped to ask us if everything was OK, and my husband didn't say a word. I answered for us as diplomatically as possible.

As an Asian person who has worked in many Asian restaurants, I generally tend to have high expectations for Asian food. It baffles me that the Treasure Valley has plenty of Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese places, yet there is a shortage of really good, authentic Chinese restaurants. Most offer Americanized versions of Chinese dishes in which all the sauces taste the same. Of course, there are a couple of Chinese places that I'd recommend to friends, but other than suggest they go there to order the Thai fare, I don't think I'll be adding House of Kim to that list.

—Rachel Abrahamson dreams of doing voiceovers for Bruce Lee.

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