THE JOYLESS OUT-OF-LUCK CLUB

China Village whips up a mean sizzling beef platter. Generous amounts of tender, lean, thin-sliced beef mix it up with assorted vegetables on a scorchingly hot skillet, in a robust, slightly sweet sauce. Occasionally, the chef likes to stretch his talents. You don't usually encounter dairy-based Chinese fare, but scallops in cream sauce is a pleasant change of pace. Especially if you like scallops--I don't see how the restaurant earns money on this $8.50 dish. And you can get Chinatown-type fare like whole steamed fish and Peking duck that doesn't require advance notice. I'm about as likely to stay for dessert at a Chinese restaurant as I am to hang around the dentist's office for additional periodontal probing. I just stick with tea. But I had to sample China Village's alternative to P.F. Chang's rich Western sweets. Called pa-ssu apple, it's about as Chinese as strawberry shortcake. But the dish is worth the drama. The server coats sliced apples tableside with honey, sugar and sesame seeds, then flames them and dunks them into ice water to harden the caramelized glaze. It's ridiculous, but not quite as absurd as a chocolate torte. What China Village lacks in flash it makes up in substance. If you come here from P.F. Chang's, reverse procedure: Leave your fancy duds at home, and bring an appetite.

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