Hot Plate

Lunch Lounge: Next time you're cruising through downtown at noon, try the grilled ahi sandwich ($7.99) at Sake Lounge [500 Texas Avenue (in Bayou Place), (713)228-7253]. It's not so much the sandwich -- although that's quite good, I hasten to add -- a firm fillet of fish thickly coated with sesame seeds, stacked atop crisp slices of grilled white bread, layered with spiky salad greens and slathered with a surprisingly mild, pale green jalapeño aioli. The real draw is the addictive "o-rings" that accompany it. These fine slivers of sweet Spanish onion are dipped in a translucent tempura batter speckled with a peppery blend of seasonings, and flash-fried perfectly crunchy. Lord, I could eat them all day long. Another perk: All Sake Lounge lunches include a bowl of fragrant miso and a pretty tossed salad. Here your best strategy is to plead indecision and request both house dressings on the side. Then see if you can possibly choose which is better, the suave creamy-sweet peanut version or the sprightly balsamic vinaigrette sparkling with fresh ginger. It's a tough call.


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