Franchise-ready. That's not always restaurant code for strip-mall mediocrity. Sometimes it just means a good business model with decent graphics and dishes with the right amount of spin to nourish spinoffs.

Food from the Asian panoply lends itself especially well to multiplication.

Zen is a good local example, our own 'Japanese Food Fast' mini-chain with sushi in refrigerated cases and a menu built on noodle bowls with mix-and-match starches, sauces and proteins at four locations.

It's fitting that Zen on Brodie Lane is a neighbor to Tarka Indian Kitchen, one of two built-for-speed Asian restaurants that have opened in the past year. Tarka is the fast-casual cousin - and putative expansion joint - of the more formal downtown Indian restaurant Clay Pit.

And on North Lamar Boulevard, Satay restaurant owner Foo Swasdee has planted a seven-day garden of dim sum using the rootstock of the weekend ritual at hard-core Chinese restaurants. Get Sum Dim Sum has the perfect name and the right order-at-the-counter atmosphere to seed the dreams of franchisees, if Swasdee ever decides to go that route.

And if either of these franchise-ready places goes nationwide, you'll be able to say, 'I ate at the original, back in the day.'

Tarka Indian Kitchen

Tarka is the well-scrubbed honor-roller of the Indian genre, scrupulously organized and as efficient as a grocery store check-out line.

The furniture is boilerplate suburban bistro, the decorations studiously nonspecific. Nothing costs more than $10, and the menu boards hang in the foyer like mall directories. Want a curry, a kabob, a 'Naanini' sandwich? You are here.

And 'here' is a good place for vegetarians. Packing spices with the whiff of incense and the colors of a sari, Indian food can make you forget about meat, at least for samosa chaat ($3.50), a crisp puff pastry stuffed with potatoes and dappled with chutney, garbanzo beans and chopped tomatoes - a Mumbai burrito of sorts.

A bowl of madras soup ($3.75) is a restorative brew of tomato and coconut, and for something more substantial, dhingri mattar paneer ($7.50) brings together mushrooms and soft cheese in an onion curry with a tomato bite.

Let's talk drinks, too. Mango lemonade ($2.25) is one of the best summer drinks you could want, the glowing yellow-orange color of filtered sunlight with that throat-tingling mango sweetness balanced by citrus acidity. Overstating the case? Maybe, but it's the rare soft drink with the panache of a cocktail.

A guava lassi, on the other hand, was like sucking refrigerated cotton batting through a straw. I wanted more frost and more fruit for my $3.25, but that's as much an indictment of the lassi in general as it is Tarka's interpretation of it.

At Tarka, the heat levels for curries, rice-based biryani stir-fries and vegetarian dishes are your call: mild, medium or hot. But I kept wanting more punishment, even from the 'hot' version of tikka masala with lamb ($8.25), with otherwise solid tomato and curry flavor and generous cuts of meat.

And I could have done with less sweetness in most of the sauces, a sweetness I guessed might be a concession to mass-market palates. But my guess felt pretty thin, given the number of people with Indian heritage eating at Tarka during a full-house lunch rush.

How much of a role authenticity plays is hard to gauge. What's hard to disagree with at Tarka is value. Nine bucks will buy two skewers of grilled chicken kabobs and two patties of shish kebab made from lamb and chicken, served with crisp sautéed veggies, cardamom-flecked rice and a yogurt sauce bursting with mint and the grapey sweet-sour of tamarind. Some of the main dishes here cost 40 percent less than their sister plates at Clay Pit.

It's all in service of the uniform, re-createable, value-oriented experience. But maybe what you gain in predictability you lose in personal connection. I like the informal and sometimes gruff interplay of a family joint, of moms and daughters and cousins and fathers directing their dysfunctional energy toward feeding strangers.

But hey, Dr. Phil. Just shut up and eat your lunch.

Tarka Indian Kitchen

5207 Brodie Lane, No. 120. 892-2008, www.tarkaindiankitchen.com

Rating: 7.7 out of 10

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Prices: Starters $3.50-$4. Soups and salads $2.25-$7. Naan sandwiches $6-$8. Kebabs, biryani stir-fries and curries $7.25-$9.25. Desserts $1.25-$2.50. Kids' menu $4.25.

Payment: All major cards

Alcohol: Beer and wine.

Wheelchair access: Yes

Get Sum Dim Sum

I've made a dozen marks on the dog-eared erasable menus at Get Sum Dim Sum, circling letter and number combinations for little purses of dough, for domes of starch, for pockets of rice and half-moons of shredded meat.

I tested my memory to see if I could write down all 12 dishes without looking at the receipts. And ... done. It's not that my memory is all that great. It's a statement about how expansive the simple catch-all notion of 'dumplings' can be, how many forms the union of starch and protein can take.

My exposure to dim sum is limited. I haven't eaten chicken feet or fish maw from a rolling cart on a Sunday afternoon. This place was built for neophytes like me. It's dim sum with training wheels, safe for slow circles around the cul de sac, most of the addresses domesticated and familiar, save for the few eccentrics on the block.

For $1.75 to $3.95, we ordered jeweled green spinach dumplings, a trio of clamshell-shaped bites of shrimp (har gao) in sticky dough and three dumpling cylinders densely packed with pork and shrimp (siu mai). They came to the table in round bamboo steamers, stacks of them like skyscrapers from the Far East.

None of them had big, challenging flavors. They were as much about shape and texture and temperature, like the chicken potstickers (wor teep) with pan-seared crunch, chewy dough and filling like a tight ball of rocket-hot steamed protein.

You want personality? Get it from sweet and spicy barbecued pork (cha siu), a punchy street-vendor standby that we ordered in three forms: rolled in sheets of stretchy rice noodles (churng fun) and stuffed into doughy rolls (bao), one steamed for a sticky, Wonder-bread sensation, the other baked to a loafy thump.

Another steamed bao made for a pillowy finale, this one filled with gooey egg custard, part of a sleepy one-two punch finished with crunchy balls of sticky rice filled with sweet red bean paste, then rolled in sesame seeds and fried crisp.

Rice played a background role in one unfortunate dish (law mai gai), tossed along with shredded chicken and gamey sausage and packed into a brittle lotus leaf that defied unwrapping and cutting, the shards of leaf leeching bitterness like spent tea.

The parade of starchy plates was interrupted by a simple dish of pickled carrot, daikon and cucumber, just sour and crisp enough to act as palate cleansers. Texture and big flavor ganged up in a dish of tofu wrapped in seaweed, then deep-fried and garnished with a saute of onion and peppers.

That dish says something about Get Sum Dim Sum. It says the place is fast. You try plating 12 distinct orders at a time in less than seven minutes. It says the 'Dim Sum 101' approach works. Mostly it says that after more than a year in business, maybe Get Sum is ready to get some more.

msutter@statesman.com; 912-5902

Get Sum Dim Sum

4400 N. Lamar Blvd. 458-9000, www.getsumdimsum.com

Rating: 7.0 out of 10

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Prices: Dumplings, noodles, potstickers, bao and other dim sum options $1.75-$3.95. Soups $3-$3.50.

Payment: All major cards

Alcohol: None. BYOB allowed.

Wheelchair access: Yes