Service is one area given the least consideration by many restaurants, either because of a shallow labor pool, improper training or apathetic management.

Service is one area given the least consideration by many restaurants, either because of a shallow labor pool, improper training or apathetic management.

Yet the dining dollar can be won or lost on treatment by the staff. Certainly there are varying degrees of good service. You wouldn't expect the same type of attention at a steakhouse as you would at the neighborhood burger joint.

But courtesy, diligence and patience are common traits that should be shared by any establishment. They help soften deficiencies - improper plate timing, lack of clearing dirty plates and forgotten beverages.

Good service, we're happy to report, is alive and well at Pacific Eatery on the Northwest Side. Lynn, our server on two visits, couldn't have been more friendly, genuine or helpful. Her knowledge - "it has a sprinkling of crushed walnuts," "the sauce has ketchup in it" - proved invaluable when navigating the extensive Chinese menu, given to customers who have had their fill of the typical fare offered on the regular menu.

One of her recommendations involved shrimp wedged between two medallions of Chinese eggplant ($13.95), lightly battered and fried. The silky sweetness of the eggplant and the brininess of the shrimp were nicely complemented by a velvety reddish-brown sauce. Another suggestion led us to a plate of tender baby octopi ($13.95) tossed in a tantalizing sauce - slightly sweet, pungent with garlic and hot with jalapenos.

But really, the place is about the dumplings - all homemade. The Szechuan dumplings ($5.25) are steamed to al dente but the shrimp set deep in the interior couldn't be detected over the thick noodles. Potstickers ($5.25) are generally good, if a bit doughy, and stuffed with an ample amount of seasoned ground pork.

The Hong Kong-style wonton soup ($6.50 for two) features the restaurant's best dumplings - smaller, wrinkled pockets filled with ground shrimp - bobbing in a light emerald broth with thin noodles and yu choy, a crunchy green vegetable.

Noodle dishes can be more consistently rewarding, whether it's the beef with wide noodles and bean sprouts ($9.95), ground chicken over lo mein (don don mein, $5.95) or Singapore rice noodles ($9.95), an assortment of proteins (chicken, pork and shrimp) and vegetables (bean sprouts, cabbage and onions) showered with neon-yellow curry powder.

Duck is a wildcard in too many Chinese restaurants. At Pacific, the smoked tea duck ($11.95) is indeed woodsy, with the lightest touch of tea trapped in its flesh. It's not perfect, but the dry areas are soothed with a dip in hoisin sauce. The whole "fried chicken" ($13.95) uses an effective technique that leaves the white and dark meat on equally moist footing. The bird is chopped into many pieces, allowing its wonderful aroma to escape the tight, crispy skin.

Starters can range from the common, crispy spring rolls ($1.75 each), to the more interesting: Two-bite pieces of flounder ($7.25) are lightly floured and wok-tossed with jalapenos, garlic and scallions. A last-minute dash of salt brings out the best of the ingredients.

For dessert, we were treated to bright orange wedges -- courtesy of the restaurant. We tore into its citrus-dripping flesh, its sunny disposition reminding us of our server, whose affable personality won't soon be forgotten.

Pricing: Inexpensive to moderately expensive

Reservations: Accepted

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday

Call 614-451-1428