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Last night I had a rare evening alone. I didn't feel like cooking, but I was craving noodles. I know where I can get that fixed.

Star Anise Thai Restaurant, 8195 Town Center, in University City, is walking distance from my apartment. It's a pretty, quiet place, with glass covered tablecloths and a minimalist feel. I get a table near the kitchen, normally considered a bad place, but I like listening to the scrape, sizzle, sizzle of the woks. The food here is made to order, not sitting in a serving tray. It's quick, too.

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I order the Spicy Khee Mao noodles with chicken ($9.95) and a small pot of ginger tea($2). I laugh and nod when my server asks, "Medium spicy?" I know my limits.

This is a pleasant place to just sit and sip a warm beverage, the two servers bustle around quietly, and the sizzling goes right on in the kitchen. My noodles are in front of me before I know it.

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They are wide, flat, slippery rice noodles, nicely firm, with lots of tender pieces of white meat chicken, soft-scrambly eggs, thick slivers of onion, red bell pepper, chunky green bean pieces. The vegetables are crisp-tender, and everything is lightly cloaked in a pungent garlic-chile sauce. The spice level is on the low side of medium for me, but today that's how I want it. I'm enjoying tasting the individual pieces without lip burn. The thing that really brings the dish home for me is the handful of large fresh basil leaves that have been stir-fried into it.The spicy, anise-y freshness makes it a very comforting bowl of noodles. And tonight, that's all I need.

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Star Anise has daily lunch specials, and evening specials several nights a week.

Star Anise Restaurant

8195 Town Center (Renaissance Shopping Center)

San Diego, CA 92122

858.535.1668

Hours:

Lunch

Mon-Fri - 11:00 am - 3:00 pm

Sat-Sun - 11:30 am - 3:30 pm

Dinner

Sun-Thurs - 5:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Fri-Sat - 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Free lot parking.

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