Kublai's, 151 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai. Tel: 511-2287 Hours: Noon to 11pm. THERE are many ways to describe Kublai's. For potterers, it's a do-it-yourself restaurant; for politicos, a People's hash-house; for insurance company types, a ''no-fault'' kitchen; for frustrated chefs, a chance to show off without worrying about the dishes later. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a great restaurant. But it has a gimmick that's quite appealing: you make your way to a cafeteria-style line where you confront trays of raw ingredients, the makings of your meal. You select what you want,heap it into a bowl, deliver it with a number of cooks (or rather, to the workers of the grill), and within four minutes your selection comes back to you hot and ready to eat. You needn't be a Marxist to realise that eating at Kublai's is an experience in unalienated labour. And you have no one to blame but yourself if things go wrong - it's hands-on dining, and they are your hands. These are the advantages and the risks - you make your bed of lettuce, and you lie in it. Are there ways to finesse this emporium of self-reliance? Yes and no. There are only so many ways one can concoct stir-fried or grilled dishes, and there's a curious tendency here for different combinations to taste less distinctive than expected. Aftera while you sense a kind of generic familiarity to your most refined attempts. At one point the waitress brought our dishes to the table and mixed up mine and my partner's, but it was a while before we realised they had been switched. Nevertheless here, after an evening of experimentation, are a few suggestions. Be warned: nothing you do will turn you into a gastronome of the grill, but you can avoid major errors. Above all, resist the temptation to throw everything on - one benighted nosher was seen piling BBQ, sweet-and-sour, teriyaki, oyster and Mongolian sauces upon his helplessly drowned shrimp. The result appeared to be a mass of wretched crustaceans floundering in diesel fuel. Begin with a light combination - shrimp (unfortunately frozen), cuttlefish and fish fillets (unidentified), add a few noodles, then a healthy dash of fresh garlic, ginger, scallions, chilis and sesame seeds, splash on some sesame oil, and leave the stirring to the grillers, those workers of culinary indifference who couldn't care less what you've handed over to them. The nice thing about Kublai's is that you don't have to live with your mistakes. If you didn't like what you assembled the first time around, you can go back to the groaning board. This time it's a meatier pile-up - chicken and lamb laced with Kublai's house sauce (a hot and tart affair), rice, greens, tomatoes, and the enriching addition of a whole egg. For the final effort, a simpler, more monolithic creation of pork, ginger, peanut sauce, satay, and fresh chopped peanuts, with some vermicelli for ballast. Three bowls total is definitely the maximum. The Wan Chai branch is very crowded: eating is elbow-to-elbow and at excessively high tables that are bolted to the floor. (We haven't tried the Tsim Sha Tsui operation, which is apparently larger). In fact, one might call Kublai's the Mongkok of restaurants, so packed is the place. You can linger but there's a decided feel of a fast-food operation, however tribal the term ''Mongolian'' may appear. Kublai's is basically a jeu d'esprit. And it's dinner on the cheap: $98 buys an all-you-can eat meal. No chef ever earned a Michelin star by stir-frying, but if you don't get a chance to shine in your home kitchen, here's an opportunity to play Walter Mitty of the Mongolian wok. It's good fun, nothing more. And the entire meal is a conversation piece, useful when you find your neighbour's elbow in your sweet-and-sour squid.