If any of you have spent any time at the new Asian Art Museum in the Civic Center, perhaps you had noticed the Cafe Asia restaurant.
It has a definite cafeteria feel (plastic trays, etc), but the food is definitely non-cafeteria fare.
I shamefully admit that though I've been there three times to eat lunch, I've only ever gotten the same thing -- it's that good!
Their Chinese Chicken Salad (I know, it's not authentic asian fare -- of which there is definitely some good offerings at this place) is so incredibly delicious and satisfying that I had a hard time passing it up.
The well-seasoned chicken strips are cold and perfectly balanced with the greens, crispy noodles, asian pear slices, and black sesame seeds. The dressing is a pure delight -- just enough of that sweetness that seasoned rice vinegar imparts, but not too cloying.
This salad is served really cold, too, which just enhances all the flavors.
If you haven't tried the teas at this place, you should. They are served in little cast iron pots (loose tea, of course) and the selections of green, black, and red are quite dazzling. The Fuji-ya (I think that's the name) was a little too fishy for me, but the Imperial Green was a symphony of balanced flavors. It goes great with the salad.
They also have things like rice-paste desserts, which are hard to find other places, and more Western treats like a good black-bottom muffin.
I go to this museum as much for the food as for the art :)
Oh, and for any of you with children, this is a kid-friendly place to eat. I never got any flak or weird looks with my infant either in the stroller or the sling. In fact the busboy helped me with the stoller one day. I always note kid-friendly places now, and will pass them on when I find good ones for those with chowpups.
There is also a patio to eat outside, but the weather was always inclement when I was there, so I haven't tried it out!