I imagine that there is a little bit of Scrooge in all of us. While we are surrounded by the twinkling lights and sentimental music of the holiday season, there is a certain frustration that also accompanies this wonderful and occasionally chaotic time of the year. Perhaps it is a lack of time or money (or line of credit) that haunts us, like present-day ghosts that help us identify with good old Ebeneezer.

Over the years, age and experience have given me insight into dealing with some of the blues that go along with the rest of the Christmas rainbow. Besides reading all the "how to avoid stress during the holiday" articles, I know that settling down in a nice quiet restaurant is often a remedy for seasonal stress.After a harried Saturday of shopping we collapsed into a small Chinese restaurant in Sandy hoping to nourish our sagging spirits. We also wanted a light, interesting and healthy meal.

The Hunan King, recommended by some readers awhile back, has a stark, modern interior. Two large calligraphy posters on either side of the black walls are lettered with bold striking characters. According to our cordial hostess, they wish customers a good meal and success - basic Chinese wisdom and a needed reminder for present day Scrooges.

The quiet calm of the Hunan King interior helped us. The service, too, was attentive without being obtrusive. The food we sampled, however, was disappointing. Several of the appetizers were barely adequate.

While the skin on the egg rolls ($1.10 apiece) was crispy and not too thick, the filling was almost all cabbage with a few threads of carrot. In contrast, the steamed dumplings (6 for $13.25) had a flavorful pork filling but the dough skins were thick and chewy.

Two of the house specials were also uneven. The Peacock Fantasy ($8.75) consisted of two different chicken preparations. One side of the large platter was shredded chicken in an overly thickened sauce with a few nondescript vegetables. The other portion had considerably more interesting flavor and texture. The shredded chicken was paired with strands of crispy ginger root in a sprightly Hunan sauce, dotted with red peppers.

Another special, Confucius Favorite ($9.75), a blend of sliced beef, scallops, snow peas and scallions served on a sizzling platter, was not nearly as appetizing as the menu claimed. The pieces of beef were small and tough, there were hardly any snow peas, with an overabundance of bamboo shoots and the only onions in the dish were neither the color nor texture of scallions. It was also too oily for our tastes.

A lunch special ($4.50) of sweet and sour pork with fried rice was marred by the meat, which had the consistency of hot dogs, and the lemon chicken ($5.95) was smothered with batter and a thick sauce. The Buddhist Delight ($4.95), a traditional stir fry vegetarian dish was adequate, though again, there were none of the fresh, crispy vegetables that characterize this dish in other Chinese restaurants.

With so many Chinese restaurants along the Wasatch Front, there are bound to be those that fail to meet one's expectations, regardless of the time and needs of year. The Hunan King failed to meet mine, though it may bolster others.

Rating: 1/2

Hunan King, 755 E. Fort Union Blvd., (72nd South), Midvale. 255-7649. Open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner served from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday and until 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Sunday reserved for private parties. Accepts check with guarantee card and major credit card.