Exposure. From the moment you enter the small anteroom, where you find yourself confronted by a huge floral bouquet and completely surrounded by mirrored walls, you’ll know you are in the presence of serious chic. But amazingly, Exposure is not just trendy. It’s a serious restaurant that offers some remarkable food. The appetizer list is especially varied. Oysters from Louisiana and France are available, priced so you can order as many as you like. Gravlax (home-salted salmon sliced very thin and spread over a plate like petals of a gorgeous pink flower) comes topped with cucumbers in cream and dill. There are Asian touches like pork sate with peanut sauce (a very elegant rendition) and spring rolls, and French appetizers including a creamy soup topped with Brie.
The main dishes offer some novel but not outrageous inventions. Perhaps the best we tried was a dish of scallops (complete with little strands of coral roe) and salmon medallions. Another special of the day was a crisp half duck accompanied by a boat of raspberry sauce. From the regular menu, we sampled the pasta with seafood-the fresh basil taste was wonderfully refreshing. The veal Auden was in a mellow brown sauce with mushrooms and had a creamy, well-browned coating of gratin on the top.
Desserts tended to be simple. The best we tried was a pristine, creamy rice pudding. The service was not quite as remarkable as the food-maybe the slow tempo is designed to let all the beautiful people get a good long look at one another-but it leaves no room for major complaints. The most amazing thing about Exposure is that all this glamour and excellent food can be had so inexpensively. A full-scale meal for two can run as little as $60, including a glass of wine, tax and tip. We can think of no other restaurant in town with these pretensions (and of this quality) where that is still true. (4516 Mc-Kinney. 528-0210. Mon-Sat 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)
Café America, Bloomingdale’s. The folks at the new Bloomie’s don’t seem to have realized that Texas isn’t New York and that they didn’t have to skimp nearly this much on space. The store has a crowded urban feel, which goes double for the restaurants. The two principal ones are shoved together in a single space. You wait in a double line to get in. On the left, the slow-moving queue leads to Cafe America, Bloomingdale’s answer to the Zodiac Room. The express line on the right is for Le Train Bleu, the fancier French dining room.
After a long wait and a struggle to squeeze into the tiny space allotted for our miniature table, we didn’t think we were going to be very fond of Cafe America. But our waitress (a New Yorker) was so cordial and savvy that we were soon appeased, and the food turned out to be mostly excellent. The hamburger was as big as a baseball and was beautifully grilled, and the waitress’ recommendation that the chicken and broccoli dish was the best on the “light foods” side of the menu was right on target. Both desserts we tried were paradise for chocoholics-the fudge pie beat out the mousse for tempta-tion-of-the-month honors, but not by much. (13320 Montfort in Valley View Center. 450-2290. Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-4p.m. & 5-8p.m. AE & Bloomingdale’s cards only. $$)
Le Train Bleu, Bloomingdale’s. Le Train Bleu is a diner of a different color. Right in the middle of Cafe America sits what we are told is an authentic re-creation of an old-fashioned French dining car. Inside, crisp white linen tablecloths grace the tables, and emerald-green plush greets the eye everywhere.
In keeping with the rather elegant atmosphere, the food is mostly French and of a very respectable quality. A lightly batteredfried shrimp (something like a tempura) isavailable either as an appetizer or a maindish. Grilled dishes such as steak and lambchops come off well, and even more elaborate things such as scallops in a rich saucesucceed here. As at Café America, the mostexciting offerings at Le Train Bleu are thedesserts. The chocolate cake known as “LaReine de Saba” (“The Queen of Sheba”) iscreamy-textured and properly sweet, and theGrand Marnier creme brulee with a crunchysugar coating is extraordinary. One of thebest things about Le Train Bleu, however, isits reasonable prices. Cafe America can berather costly for a casual lunch (it’s easy tospend $10 a person), but for only two orthree times that amount one can dine insplendor in the train car. (13320 Montfortin Valley View Center. 450-2290. Mon-Satnoon-2:30 p.m. & 6-8 p.m. AE& Blooming-dale’s cards only. $$-$$$)
China North. The novelty of this new spot on the west end of the Addison strip is its Mongolian fire pit. A long buffet presents thinly sliced raw meats (chicken, turkey, beef, pork and lamb), vegetables and sauces. The diner heaps these in a bowl and takes them to a window, behind which a chef quickly cooks them on a massive cast-iron griddle. This is authentic Mongolian barbecue, and China North serves all you can eat, plus an appetizer of a tasty egg roll, fried dumpling, fried won ton and a cup of soup for $8.95 ($5.95 for children under 12).
Creating your own combination and seeing the chef turn it into barbecue is fun, but there is even better food to be had at China North. This is one of the few restaurants in town that will serve Peking duck on demand. It will set you back $18, but it can be a great bargain when it’s part of a house dinner. The chef brings out the whole roasted duck for your examination, deftly slices the skin off while holding it aloft, then serves the defatted skin and meat with scallions and hoisin sauce in thin, beautifully made Chinese pancakes.
Other dishes at China North-beef withbamboo shoots, black mushrooms and snowpeas or shrimp with hot garlic sauce-aregood rather than great. But the warm atmosphere and pleasant surroundings make thisa very enjoyable place to try the unusual specialties. One of the restaurant’s biggestassets is the service. (4021 Belt Line, Ad-dison. 788-1811. Mon-Thur 11 a.m.-10 p.m.,Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun noon-10 p.m. All creditcards. $$)
L’Ancestral. The last place you might expect to find this rather sedate Old-World bistro is across the street from the infamous Tango frogs. Maman sits at the cash register and Papa presides over the kitchen (just as they did for many years in France and in French Canada), and the eponymous ancestors stare down from a couple of ancient-looking paintings that are among the few decorations on the stark white walls.
The food is country-French-unpretentious by continental standards, but still pretty impressive by most American yardsticks. Among the nicest choices of appetizers are the unusual salads: one made of corn with colorful pieces of ham, cheese and vegetables; the other of lentils in a tart, well-seasoned vinaigrette dressing. The slice of paté, with its accompanying cornichon pickles, was not as distinctive as others we’ve found around town, but the steamed mussels definitely top those served by the competition.
The only disappointment among our entrées was the pepper steak; its sauce needed more spunk. And the most unusual choice was the grilled fresh sardines. We were daunted by the rather fishy odor as they were served, but were reassured when they tasted quite fresh, with a lovely, delicate texture. The sauce served with four large, handsome shrimp had a surprising bite to it, and the chicken with shallots had a robust taste, complemented by crisp pommes frites.
Our favorite dessert here is the pot decrème, a puddinglike custard that’s darkbrown in color and rich in taste. Thehomemade sherbets (we had a selection ofraspberry, blackberry and lemon) werevivid and refreshing. The chocolate cakeand the clafoutis were a bit disappointing-the famous French dessert of cherriesbaked in a batter came out tasting like themost woebegone of bread puddings. (5631Alta. 826-0006. Tue-Sun 6:30 p.m.-1 a.m.Closed Mon. MC, V, AE. $$$)
These restaurants represent the best in Dallas and Fort Worth dining.
These listings are revised and supplemented periodically. Visits by our critics are made anonymously to avoid preferential treatment. Inclusion In this directory has nothing to do with paid advertising.
The pricing symbols used are categorical, not precise.
They indicate a general price range.
$ Generally inexpensive. Usually indicates a good value.
$$ Middle ground and very general. Usually indicates a menu with a wide price range.
$$$ Expensive. Expect to spend more than $20 for a complete meal (excluding wine and cocktails).
$$$$ Very expensive.
“Reservations” indicates that the restaurant will take reservations.
Credit card notations: MC/MasterCard, V/Visa, AE/American Express, DC/Diners Club, CB/Carte Blanche. “All credit cards” indicates that all five are accepted.
indicates a restaurant located on or north of LBJ Freeway.
Peggy’s Beef Bar. If you’re looking for a place to grab a quick barbecue sandwich in comfortable but modest surroundings (by Park Cities standards, this is a dive), don’t waste any more shoe leather. Peggy knows how to dish up some super beef, but she serves stingy portions. And the old gal knows how to make some incredible onion rings and tasty homemade pies, but somebody ought to tell her to stop charging 20 cents for iced tea refills. Guess the rent in the Park Cities is getting high these days (6600 Snider Plaza. 368-9422. Mon-Fri 7 am-6 pm, Sat 10 am-4 pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)
Sonny Bryan’s. This disreputable-looking joint is nigh onto world famous because it serves some of the best barbecued brisket and spareribs anywhere. But can you stand the commotion while hanging around to get your order taken and the discomfort of waiting for it? Can you stand the rickety old school desks if you want to eat inside? Can you stand the mediocre trimmings and the crush of the wildly disparate types who crowd this place? Can you stand the litter that never seems to get picked up? If you care about first-rate barbecue, you don’t have much choice but to brave the difficulties, shut up and eat. (2202 Inwood. 357-7120. Mon-Fri 7 am-4:30 pm, Sat 7 am-3 pm, Sun 11 am-2 pm. No credit cards. $)
Pies’ Barbecue. Mr. Pies started his catering business in 1931, and except for a little work that he’s done for Mobil Oil on the side, he’s been turning out barbecue ever since. In his seven-month-old converted Dairy Queen, Pies and his wife prepare delectable ribs, sliced beef and sausage and serve it cafeteria-style with all the trimmings: turnip greens, beans, corn on the cob, corn bread and a slab of sweet potato pie that is poetry en croute. (1212 W Kiest. 371-5533. Mon-Thur 11 am-8 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-9 pm. No credit cards. $)
Adeline’s. Where else in University Park can you make do-it-yourself burritos of chorizo and eggs or retried beans for breakfast? A sturdy meal like this will brace you for a chilly day of hard work. Adelina’s also serves lunch, but the ordinary Mexican food doesn’t compare with the fare that made the proprietor’s former establishment, Adelante, so special. (6027 Berkshire Lane. 363-8680. Mon, Tue& Thur-Sat 10 am-3 pm, Wed 6-9 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)
Mary B’s. McKinney Avenue may be at its best before noon, when all the sleepy little galleries and antique shops are just opening up and the restaurants are just stocking their bud vases for the lunch crowd. Morning on McKinney is best begun at Mary B’s, where the weekday special costs $1.99 and gets you three ethereal whole-wheat pancakes, bacon or sausage and an egg. The breakfast burrito, stuffed with scrambled eggs, tomatoes, bacon and just enough hot sauce, is a happy concoction-all the better because it lacks beans. (3406 McKinney. 526-6030. Breakfast: Mon-Fri 7:30-10:30; lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; brunch: Sat 8:30-2:30, Sun 9-2:30. No credit cards. $)
Cindy’s. From early Saturday morning until lunch time, when most restaurants shut down for lack of business, Cindy’s is hopping with sporty types just off the tennis court or the jogging path, as well as families and little old ladies. Sunday mornings are even busier. We’re notsure that we’ve figured out the appeal of this place- itmay just be that there’s something for everybody here.Cindy’s bills itself as a pancake house and delicatessen.The pancakes we had were too cottony and flavorlessfor our tastes, but the blintzes (though unrecognizableto a New Yorker), the fat corned beef and pastramisandwiches, and even the hamburgers, are fine. (11111 N Central Expwy, 739-0182; Coit Road at Belt Line inDai-Rich Village, Suite 385, Richardson, 231-3660.Sun-Thur6am-10pm, Fri & Sat 6 am-midnight. MC, V.$)
Agnew’s Any problems Agnew’s may have had in thepast were blessedly temporary: Our last meal here wasperfect. All of the dishes we sampled were so beautifullycooked that we can’t even single out favorites. The appetizers come in great variety (quail salad, delicatelysauced shrimp, tiny scallops in puff pastry), while theentrees tend to follow a formula. Perfectly grilledmeat – juicy salmon and steaks of veal or beef – sit atopthe subtlest sauces in town and are surrounded by bouquets of whittled vegetables. The desserts on the menuwere so tempting that we ordered one of each, and thesublime raspberry and chocolate cakes lived up toevery sinful expectation. (15501 Dallas Pkwy in Adel-stein Plaza, Suite 300. 458-0702. Lunch: Tue-Fri11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Fri 6:30-10:30, Sat seatings at6:30 & 9:30. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended.All credit cards. $$$$)
Café Moustache. This is a sweetly melancholy Eastern European restaurant at lunch time on weekdays and on Thursday and Saturday evenings, but it becomes Indonesian on Friday nights. During the week, stuffed cabbage rolls and peppers are offered, along with chicken Kiev and hearty beef stews. On Friday nights, a different cook comes in to make rijstaffel, an Indonesian specialty, which comprises the entire menu for the evening. The dish is assertive and peppery – well worth a try. (9454 Marsh Lane. 350-9314. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Thur-Sat 5-10. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
The Bay Tree. Our last visit to The Bay Tree was on a rather slow evening, and we thought the service staff rather neglected us amongst the straggling couples, conventioneers and tired businessmen going over reports at tables for one. The food was pleasant without ever being as exciting as it sounded. Walleyed pike, for instance, is a fish not often encountered in Dallas. It was fresh and firm, but the sauce was rather ho- hum. So went the rest of our dinner. The Bay Tree is priced rather reasonably, given its luxury-hotel surroundings. Those who are staying at the Wyndham will not regret trying it, but there isn’t much reason for others to venture into the place. (The Wyndham Hotel, 2222 Stem-mons. 631-2222 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: daily 6-10:30; brunch: Sun 11-2:30. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)
The Chimney. This Swiss/Austrian restaurant has acquired quite a following in Dallas since it opened in 1968. Regulars are greeted by name, but newcomers are made to feel no less welcome. We were chould by the friendliness of the waitresses, the soft classical German recordings and a meal we enjoyed from start to finish, A light beginning is The Chimney appetizer: scallops, shrimp and shallots in a white wine and cream sauce, rolled in a crepe and topped with hollandaise sauce and a touch of Dijon mustard. We also enjoyed the chunky cream of mushroom soup, the imaginatively dressed salads and plenty of The Chimney’s black bread (owner Heinz Prast’s own recipe). Veal is the specialty of the house (10 varieties are offered), and the veal Oscar is excellent. The veal Colonial, however, was not: The natural flavor of the meat was smothered by a mediocre curry sauce, broiled bananas and coconut. Next time, we’ll stick to basic veal or lamb. (9739 N Central Expwy at Walnut Hill. 369-6466. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations requested. All credit cards. $$$)
Café Capri. As soon as we entered this small, softly lit European-style dining room after a long workday, we began to relax. To start our meal, we sampled fresh,chilled oysters on the half shell and a beautifully garnished plate of páté, accompanied by small slices ofFrench bread. For our entrees, we chose lamb chopsand a veal dish with scallops. The larnb, though a tadmore done than we had ordered it, was tender, juicyand flavorful; and the veal was thinly sliced, breadedand covered with scallops in a cream sauce. But thecrowning glory of our evening came after dinner in theform of a very light but rich chocolate souffle sprinkledwith powdered sugar and a flaming liqueur concoctiondeftly prepared by our charming waiter. By then, ourbusy day had become a dim memory. (15107 AddisonRoad, near Belt Line. 960-8686. Lunch: Mon-Fri11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Reservations recommended. All credit cards.$$)
Chloe.Nestled in the middle of a shopping center you’ll find a small burst of pizazz: Chlǒe. The decor of this continental dining establishment is pleasant, with a large window at one end of the dining room that overlooks a gentle fountain on the restaurant’s patio. The food is good, basic fish, fowl and beef. The smoked salmon appetizer was fresh; the portion, generous. The heart of palm salad lacked excitement, but the veal and sole entrees were superb-definitely the menu’s shining stars. The veal, served in a gentle wine sauce, was tender and pink, and the sole was baked in a light lemon butter. For dessert, pass on the souffle and head straight for the creamy white chocolate mousse. (8854 N Central Expwy in NorthPark East. 361-9996. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:15; dinner: Mon-Thur 7-10; Fri & Sat 7-11. All credit cards. $$$$)
The Enclave. We thought the excellence of this Old-Guard continental outpost with flocked velvet walls and “Hello, Dolly” atmosphere had faded a bit the last time we visited: The salad was soggy, and the vegetables were butter-soaked. But the Enclave’s chef, Mark Chef-fins, continues to serve picture-perfect, giant-sized slabs of beef, and the chandeliers and solicitous service still sparkle. The Enclave remains an appropriate place for a satisfying business lunch. (8325 Walnut Hill. 363-7487. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat 6-11:30. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)
Enjotle. The atmosphere here is reminiscent of a lavish resort: The decor is subtly sophisticated, but many male diners don’t bother to wear ties. The food, at its best, is wonderful, but it is at its best when it isn’t quite so fancy. Simpler dishes such as the mussel soup (brimming with saffron) and the homemade pistachio ice cream (rich with nuts) work better than the more intricate ones, such as the quail that is boned and stuffed and wrapped in a crepe. The pampering service here extends to three complimentary courses: ’delectable puff-pastry bou-chees served with aperitifs; a wide selection of cheeses after the entree; and fabulous petits fours and candies at the finish. The house wines here are French and are better than those you buy by the bottle at many restaurants. (Mandalay Four Seasons Hotel, 221 S Las Col-inasBlvd. Irving. 5560800, ext. 3155. Lunch:Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)
Gallé. Seated in this Lincoln Hotel restaurant, we watched flickering candlelight illuminating the mauves and pinks of the dining room and dancing off the mirrored pillars and etched-glass room dividers that surrounded our table. The Chateaubriand for two was succulent, as was the generous tenderloin served with goose liver and topped with a truffle. The scampi, served with a delicate crab sauce, were tender. But Gallé’s best offerings are its side dishes. We enjoyed an unusual assortment of stuffed squash, asparagus and carrots as well as a light potato fritter with all of our entrees. The appetizers were good, too, but you’ll want to save room for dessert. The spread is lavishly displayed, and the desserts taste as good as they look. But the service was efficient to the point of being sentrylike. We felt as though we had a reputation for pocketing flatware. (Lincoln Hotel, 5410 LBJ Frwy in Lincoln Center. 934-8400. Tue-Sat 6-11 pm. Closed Sun & Mon. Reservations requested. Jackets required. All credit cards.
Jean Claude. Jean Claude Prevot has abandoned his kitchen in order to spend his time greeting guests (and appearing as a guest himself on Julia Child’s new PBS show). But the food his restaurant turns out doesn’t seem to be suffering. We aren’t sure of the wisdom of coating scallops with a mustard sauce, but everything else on our last visit was heavenly: a sweetbread páté with crunchy vegetables, lamb showered with fresh herbs and accompanied with a little ball of lamb stuffing, golden sea bass in a tomato and hollandaise sauce lit for the gods, a perfectly caramelized upside-down apple tart and a cloudlike chocolate souffle. Over the years, this restaurant has become more confidently French (salads are now served after the main dish as a matter of course) and more confidently wonderful. (2404 Cedar Springs. 653-1823. Tue-Sat seatings at 6 &9pm. Closed Sun & Mon. Reservations. MC, V. AE, DC. $$$$)
Le Boul’ Mich. We’ll hesitantly continue to recommend dinner at this elegant old house across the street from the Quadrangle, despite the fact that on our last visit we experienced some unforgivably absent-minded service and less than spectacular food. (We had plenty of time to munch soft, hot bread, sip wine and enjoy the view through the large windows that line the front of the restaurant). The menu is short but varied, and specials are offered every evening. The pea soup has a rich, bacony flavor, and the spinach salad had much more than the obligatory sprinkle of bacon and egg. One of the specials, sole meuniere, came lightly breaded, though a tad soggy in white sauce; and the steak au poivre was likewise drenched in sauce, although the meat itself was good. The chocolate chip cheesecake isn’t worth the calories. (2704 Worthington. 826-0660 Mon- Thur 11 am- 10:30 pm, Fri& Sat 11 am-11:30 pm. Closed Sun. MC. V, AE. $$$)
The French Room. The rococo gaudiness of the French Room would be laughable if the food and service didn’t live up to the pretensions of the decor. But you won’t be able to giggle for long: The staff here is as dignified and efficient as a group of young stockbrokers, and the food is remarkable. Our entire meal, from the introductory fish mousse to the final puff pastry with raspberries and hot caramel sauce, overwhelmed us. No other kitchen in town could have brought off the complex combination of duck, partridge and stuffed quail with such delicacy. Only one complaint: The chef likes his sauces saltier than we do. But for a meal at the French Room, we’ll cheerfully risk apoplexy. (Adolphus Hotel, 1321 Commerce. 742-8200. Mon-Sat 5-11 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations required. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$)
The Garden Court. We’d love to love the Garden Court; we can’t think of a prettier place to dine. For Sunday brunch, the Melrose’s main dining room offers one of the brightest, breeziest locations in town. Fresh flowers are tucked everywhere, and the marble floors gleam. The price ($10) is one of the best in town, too. But the spread (buffet style) was unforgivably picked over (the salmon was reduced to a pile of tiny bones). The desserts were bland – no better than those you might find in a cafeteria. The fruits, however, were fresh; the veal cordon bleu, tender. And we enjoyed our complimentary pre-brunch coffee in the Melrose’s bar, The Library. (3015 Oak Lawn. 521-5151. Breakfast: Mon-Fri 6-11; lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner Mon-Thur 6:30-10, Fri & Sat 6:30-11, Sun 6-10; brunch: Sun 11-2:30. Reservations recommended for dinner. All credit cards.
Jennivine. You know you’re in for a treat when the first thing that greets you is a larger-than-life-sized poster of Prince Charles and Princess Diana grinning toothily at you. Welcome to Jennivine. “a little bit of England in Dallas.” It’s that and more, offering pates ranging from lobster to smoked herring, imported cheeses, hearty French and German wines, European cuisine and typically British touches of humor. There’s a strolling guitar player on weekdays, a wandering long-stemmed-rose seller daily and, most importantly, superb food. Entrees worth trying include the filet of snapper sautéed with baby shrimp and mushrooms in a white butter sauce (so flaky it fairly crumbled when cut), the veal scallopine and the beef tenderloin (also incredibly tender). For dessert, the strawberries amaretto were a bit disappointing, but the rich white chocolate mousse almost made our quibble seem irrelevant. No wonder Chuck and Di were smiling. (3605 McKinney. 528-6010. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10. Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$)
L’Ambiance. Forget that this building formerly housed a gas station. The important thing is that the kitchen is one of a handful in Dallas that does almost everything right. From the opening lobster bisque to the closing concorde cake, every dish we sampled was awe-inspiring. We couldn’t decide which one we liked best: the veal topped with mushroom puree, the fish soup or the crisp duck with green peppercorn sauce. (2408 Cedar Springs. 748-1291. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6:30-10. Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)
Kosta’s. With so few Greek restaurants in town, perhaps it’s churlish to hope that Kosta’s, our old standby, would do something besides hold its own over the years. We still swear by the juicy souflaki and the creamy, aromatic moussaka, which may be that mysterious ambrosia so loved by the Greek gods. And we still swear at the service, which on our last visit fell to new lows: The table was set (including putting on the tablecloth while-you-wait) while we were at the table. It’s quite a trick to watch. But although such disorganization is Greek to us, you can bet your last dolma that we’ll be back for more. This far from Olympus, we’ll take what we can get. (2755 Bachman. 351-4592. Mon-Sat 11 am-11:30 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)
L’Entrecote. The French fare here is well-prepared, if not remarkable, but we were struck by the highly attentive and pleasant service, something perhaps indigenous to restaurants in better hotels. Oysters, salmon and snails dominate the hors d’oeuvre selections, but we enjoyed a very rich, light terrine of pheasant with pistachios. Our Salade de Petit Pois Chinoise (which consisted of snow peas, endive and Boston lettuce) was a success of separate flavors rather than one taste, and it was attractively presented. The baby salmon entree was somewhat dry, but the mousse of scallops with dill and fennel on top had great flavor. A standout was the special of medallions of veal covered with scampi in wine sauce. The low lights, harpist and fresh pink rosebuds made L’Entrecote romantic, but the overzealous wine steward did not. (Loews Anatole Hotel, 2200 Stemmons Frwy. 748-1200. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2: dinner: daily 6-10:30. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)
Lechner’s Brass Bull. The food at this German restaurant, which is hidden away in the Regent Hotel, can be excellent. Everything from the goulash soup (which had an assertive flavor and lots of meat) to the desserts (carrot cake, chocolate mousse, apple strudel) showed care in the kitchen. Among the main courses, we especially liked the smoked pork chop, which had a rich, hamlike taste. The wiener schnitzel was crisp and delicate; the bratwurst, pale and lightly seasoned. Even the seafood was good, with a hearty, rather than sophisticated, style. All the German dishes came with a spicy, tart potato salad (although some lacked the promised sauerkraut). The decor is in a nondescript hotel style that doesn’t do much for the food, but we would have been happy enough if the service hadn’t been lacking as well. Our waiter was snappy almost to the point of rudeness, and the meal was absurdly slow, with long waits at every point. We were sorry to see a potentially excellent meal made memorable for all the wrong reasons. (1241 W Mockingbird. 630-7000. Mon-Fri 11.30 am-11 pm,Sat& Sun 5:30-11 pm. All credit cards. $$$)
Le Panier. By day, this small, familiar Snider Plaza restaurant is The Lunch Basket, and it allows customers to write their own orders, checking off sandwich, soup and salad selections with colored pencils provided at each table. At 6 p.m., the lights go down and The Lunch Basket becomes Le Panier. The candles are lit and the tuna salad makes way for a limited sampling of first-rate cuisine from six countries. Le Panier is the kind of tiny, romantic hole in the wall of which there can never be too many – a perfect place for popping questions followed by diamond rings. (3404 Rankin. 369-3241. The Lunch Basket: Mon-Sat 11 am-3 pm; Le Panier: Tue-Sat 6-10 pm. Reservations. MC, V. $$)
Le St. Tropaz. The cozy blue room of this out-of-the-way French bistro with nautical motifs and personalphotographs promises much, as does the charmingand personable service. But the food fails to deliver.On a recent visit, not one dish we had was up to standard. The cucumber soup was bitter and zestless; thepate, bland and textureless; the snapper, fishy; the apple tart, burned. We hope that the kitchen was just having an off night, but with so much wrong it’s hard tojustify an outlay of $50 for a meal for two. (8030 SpringValley at Coit in Northwood Hills Shopping Center.231-6181. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Fri 5-10:30, Sat 5-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards; personalchecks accepted. $$)
Les Salsons. A pretty restaurant that is a bit more casual than other French dining spots, Les Saisons offers very enjoyable food. Among the entrees, the Dover sole, the entrec6te steak and the duck (with a very gentle orange sauce) are all satisfying. At $3.50, the Caesar salad – one of the best in town-is a bargain. A word of advice: We find the back room of the restaurant noisy and less desirable than the front. (Oak Lawn at Blackburn in Turtle Creek Village, Suite 165. 528-1102. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-midnight. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)
Mr. Peppe. This is a European’s European restaurant: not lavishly decorated, not terribly high-priced, but consistently right on target. The escargots in garlic herb butter were tender, though a bit grainy. The crab-stuffed artichoke bottom, however, was one of the best cold appetizers we’ve sampled in a while. Soup or salad comes with every entree, and the cream of mushroom soup is a buttery delight, chock-full of mushrooms and onions. And the beef Wellington is superb, with a flaky crust, tender beef and a rich brown sauce. The veal in lemon butter is a simple masterpiece, and delicate seafood offerings such as lobster tails with drawn butter are cooked to perfection. An unusual cantaloupe sherbet is a palatable ending. (5617 WLovers Lane. 352-5976. Mon-Sat 6-10pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)
The Mansion. More than any other place in town, the Mansion can make you feel to the manor born. Ostentation is not stinted, but it is all accomplished in a rather muted, tasteful way, ana the tooa is likewise elegant. No one will ever complain about the lavish ingredients or the competence of the chefs. Pieces of freshly cooked lobster are strewn over pasta, and medallions of excellent lamb, veal and beef sit next to each other and share a sauce. But there’s no effort to astound with innovative recipes or with startling tastes. The object here is just to soothe and pamper with as much hauteur as possible. (2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 526-2121. Main dining room (jackets and ties required, except at brunch) -lunch: Mon-Fri noon-2; brunch: Sat noon-2:15 & Sun 11-2:15; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30, Fri-Sun 6-11; supper: Mon-Thur 10:30-midnight, Fri& Sat 11-midnight. Promenade Room – breakfast: daily 7-10:30 am: lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; tea: Mon-Fri 3-5:30. Reservations. All credit cards, $$$$)
Mozart’s. We kept hearing tales of meals gone awry at Mozart’s, so we went back for another look at this too-cute but pleasant imitation of a Viennese café. We found the Austrian-German specialties a bit Americanized but still appealing. The cold appetizer cart held a generous selection of everything from shrimp and salmon to eggs stuffed with liver paste. Both the wiener schnitzel and the veal cordon bleu were lightly fried and crisp, and were accompanied with crunchy fresh vegetables in addition to the bread dumplings or spǎtzle. No Viennese person would recognize the Sacher torte-the cake was light and airy rather than dense and chocolatey -but with the topping of whippedcream, it was tasty all the same. (Sheraton Park Central,12720 Merit. 385-3000 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. All credit cards. $$$)
Restaurant Silvano. This place, which occupies a ground-floor corner of an old brick building in downtown’s West End warehouse district, has an understated elegance that blends well with the warm welcome. Among the appetizers we sampled, the oysters in saffron sauce and the scallops with kiwi were expertly cooked, and the lobster salad had tender, succulent meat; but the lobster bisque was unbelievably salty. Among the entrees, the steak was well-aged and exceptionally flavorful, and the venison was perfectly rosy, without a trace of gaminess. Our Grand Marnier souffle tasted only of egg, but the fresh fig tart is one of the best desserts in the city. (311 Market Street. 747-0322. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11. All credit cards. $$$$)
Three Vikings. Valkommen to Fjord Country on lower Greenville. We can’t swear that this place is authentic, but we promise it has character, from the potato pancakes to the maps of Scandinavia taped to the rough wood walls. Lovingly tended by its owners, Three Vikings has a bustling, neighborhood feel – it’s the sort of place where people come in all sizes and shapes. The food is just as diverse and, generally, is very good. Steaks are every bit as tasty and tender as your best backyard filet, and who can argue with the full quarter-pound of lump crab stuffed inside? Veal Norway (pounded thin, stuffed with crab and topped with a white cream sauce) is a winner, and so are the potato pancakes. But the real standout here is a Finnish shrimp chowder (the smoothest, heartiest chowder we’ve ever had, including Boston’s best). Chocolate cheese pie, the dessert Three Vikings “is famous for,” is a cool, melt-in-your-mouth blend of cheesecake and chocolate mousse. (2831 Greenville at Goodwin. 827-6770. Mon-Thur 6-10 pm. Fri & Sat 6-11 pm, Sun 5:30-10 pm. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)
Mlrabelle. Stepping into Mirabelle evokes an agony of indecision: How can we choose among the dozens of scrumptious-looking things on display? We can’t do without a pate (the duck pǎté with walnuts is divine). Shall we get the black-eyed pea salad or the one with roasted peppers? After taking our pick of French cheeses, quiches and meat pies and choosing some breads and sandwiches, we break down when confronted by all the desserts. We finally agree to take home one of each: peach and frangipani tarts, bran and zucchini muffins, chocolate chip cookies and heavenly light macaroons. Now all we have to decide is how to work off those delicious pounds. (Preston at Mockingbird in Highland Park Village, Suite 74. 528-7589. Tue-Sat 10:30 am-7pm: Sun & Mon noon-6pm. NIC, V, AE. $$)
The Winery. What The Winery does best is sell wine, and there’s no question that the lunch selections at this serious wine shop don’t outshine the array of spirits. The Winery doesn’t even have its own kitchen. But owner Diane Teitelbaum’s food manager, Theresa Magee, scours the city looking for the best croissants, chicken salad and cheesecakes to offer customers for takeout or eating in, and she consistently provides an assortment of fresh and filling croissant sandwiches (smoked ham, peppered beef, turkey and summer sausage are regulars), salads (the artichoke-heart version happily lacks the usual douse of vinegar) and cheesecakes. Of course, sometimes homemade edibles can’t be topped: Magee makes her own shrimp salad and carries it with her to work. (2404 Cedar Springs. 749-0250. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-3. MC, V, AE. $$)
Kebab-N-Kurry. This plain little place serves the best food of any sort for miles around. The specialties cooked in the tandoor (a clay barbecue oven) are juicy and delicately spiced, and the sauces in the various curries are rich and piquant. Lunch is a special bargain here. On weekdays, there is a nice array of entrees (kebabs and curries ranging from chicken in a spicy spinach sauce to shrimp with tomato and yogurt), all served with soup or salad, a vegetable curry and rice. On weekends, the buffet is a feast (it even includes an Indian dessert in its low overall price). At the new location on Walnut Hill, the food seems to be just as good, and the place is less crowded. (407 N Central Expwy, Suite 300. Richardson, 231-5556; 2620 Walnut Hill,350-6466. Lunch: daily 11-2; dinner; Sun-Thur 5:30-10,Fri & Sat 5:30-10:30; brunch: Sat & Sun 11:30-2:30.Reservations. All credit cards. $)
Sahib. When it opened, Sahib was one of Dallas’ best Asian restaurants, but it underwent something of a slump last year. New management has brought it up, although it’s not quite yet at its former best. The chicken and other items cooked in the big clay oven called the tandoor were moist and flavorful: neither underdone, as we sometimes had suffered through before, nor dried out. But the sauced dishes and vegetable curries did not seem as distinctively spiced as before. (9100 N Central Expwy in Caruth Plaza. 987-2301. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30, Sat & Sun 11:30-2:45; dinner: daily 5:30-11. All credit cards. $$)
Tanjore. The atmosphere at this small, graceful Indian restaurant permeates all the senses. The soothing Hindi music and the smells of curry, cinnamon, cumin and coriander float around the breezy green gazebo andleave diners too relaxed to worry much about fooddefinitions. But that’s okay, because service here isfriendly and helpful. A waiter will be glad to explain thattikka a aloo is an ethereally fried potato patty and thatchapati is a wonderful whole-wheat bread. We wereoverwhelmed by the enormous portions but were happy as a charmed snake with the shahjehani biryani(chicken and nuts topped with boiled eggs and servedwith spiced saffron). (5409 Belt Line in PreslonwoodCreek Shopping Center. 960-0070. Lunch: Mon-Fri11:30-2:30. Sat 17:30-3; dinner: daily 6-10; Sun brunch:11.30-3 All credit cards. $$)
Alessio’s. The service here is a little slow but very friendly, and the atmosphere lends itself well to long evening meals and another bottle of wine. The list of specials is tempting; we tried the linguini pescatore (a colorful mix of mussels, shrimp, scallops and snow-crab claws served with a sauce that would be worth eating alone with a spoon). The sole is less rich: It’s sautéed in lemon butter and topped with mushrooms and baby shrimp in a white wine sauce. Alessio’s also offers an impressive list of veal dishes. (4117 Lomo Alto. 521-3585. Dinner: Sun & Mon 6-10. Tue-Sat 6-10:30. MC. V, AE. $$)
Alfonso. It just wouldn’t seem right to dress up for a meal at Alfonso. This is a true old-style family pizzeria and Southern Italian restaurant, with Formica table tops and top-40 music. The meals are very filling: Veal par-migiana was heavy on the cheese and light on the veal and was smothered in a slightly sweet, chunky tomato sauce. Pizzas here are lavish and so big that they’re presented on a tray set up next to your table. Piping-hot rolls that are pizza-dough chewy and topped with garlic salt are served with every meal, as is a large salad with a very garlicky Italian dressing. Nobody leaves this place hungry. (Buckner at Garland in Casa Linda Plaza, Suite 328. 327-7777. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5-9:30, Fri & Sat 5-10:30. Closed Sun. AE. $)
Bugattl. One always fears that when a restaurant opens a branch, the original establishment will surfer. So far, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Bugatti. A recent lunch showed no change from our previous visits: formidable crowds and the same great tortellini and exemplary crème caramel as ever. One welcome new twist is the special of the day: shrimp parmigiana. The tomato sauce and cheese were much better accompaniments to the fresh-tasting shrimp than one might expect. (2574 Walnut Hill. 350-2470. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner Mon- Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)
DiPalmas. Dallas boasts a taste of Little Italy in the form of DiPalma’s, the gourmet food store/restaurant on Lowest Greenville. The antipasto di Giorno plate is a scrumptious sampler of fresh fruits and good-sized cheese selections, and the DiPalma garlic bread makes a nice accompaniment. We enjoyed the pasta AI’Arrab-biata, made with flavorful Italian sausage and two kinds of cheese, and the chicken lasagna, a delicious (and unusual) variation of the standard dish. Try as we might, we couldn’t resist the tempting array of displayed pastries -mama mia. they’re wonderful! Service is exceptionally pleasant; if you’re lucky, you might be visited tableside by the very charming Tony DiPalma himself. (1520 Greenville. 824-4500. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30, Sat 11-3; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. MC, V. AE. $$)
Cremona. Often, the best Italian restaurants can be spotted not by how they look but rather by how they feel. In this sense, Cremona is very Italian. Based on location alone, you might not even find this hideaway, let alone go in (it’s at the end of a dead-end street near the Quadrangle, across from the Snake Pit bar and in the same complex with several eccentric little shops). But do go in; your visit will be an enjoyable one. Cremona is a mixture of romance and surrealism (charming ladder-back chairs and candle-lit tables share a room with a boisterous accordion player and a painting of a man peeling up the Venice canal-gondolas and all). Cremona’s menu is a limited one: several pastas (including a rich, creamy tortellini, lasagna, ravioli and fettucine) and a few meat dishes. The pace here is Italian, too: It ranges from slow, easy and potently romantic to loud and rambunctiously chaotic. (2600 Woodrow between Cedar Springs and Routh. 742-4330. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Tue-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$)
Cunze’s. We couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but this is the kind of place that you leave thinking that something isnt quite right. The veal scallopine, smothered in a rich mushroom sauce, is excellent. The manicotti, on the other hand, is nothing to write home about. The service is very attentive, but the atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired: There is something incongruous about waiters decked out in tuxedos placing rather expensive entrees onto vinyl tablecloths. (6101 Greenville. 369-5747 Mon-Sat 5-11 pm, Sun 5-10 pm. MC, V. AE. DC. $$$)
Da Piccolo. This handsome little hole in the wall is the kind of place that could have a line backed up all the way to Highland Park Cafeteria if the food were un piccolo better. Nothing is bad, mind you; it just isn’t that good. You get the feeling that the ubiquitous fresh tomato sauce lies in wait at the rear: sauced snails, doused fried mozzarella, smothered eggplant and veal all seem to have taken the plunge into the same pot. The antipasto plate, however, is first-rate, and the fried seafood platter is better than a traditional fish house’s best. Lightly seasoned and breaded, just barely deep-fried calamari, shrimp and bite-sized bits of sole arrive piping hot and heaped on an oval plate. But hard-liquor fans beware: Da Piccolo serves only beer and wine. (4537Cole. 521-1191. Wed-Mon5:30-11 pm. Closed Tue. All credit cards. $$)
La Tosca. With its spacious, black and white-tiled entry and waiters dressed in snazzy, striped T-shirts, La Tosca has a European classiness that eludes other Italian eateries in town. The food is similarly chic. For appetizers, the seafood salad (a briny, tart mixture of mostly squid and octopus) and the mussels broiled in garlic butter are both well-prepared. A special broiled red snapper was excellent, but jumbo shrimp scampi arrived with that telltale bright pink blush that spells toughness. Where LaTosca really shines is in its pastas. Special bravos go to the tortellini with prosciutto and the hay and straw. You’ll be hard pressed to make room for dessert, but the profitterol al cioccolato-gooey with chocolate and cream -is a decadent, delicious treat. (7713 Inwood. 352-8373. Tue-Sun 6-10:30 pm. Reservations Tue-Thur & Sun only. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$$)
Pietro’s. This is the sort of place people used to refer to when they said that they were going out to eat Italian food. Not everything comes with tomato sauce, but many of the best things do. The well-cooked pasta is drenched in it (with meat or without); thick portions of veal parmigiana swim in it; soft, bready pizzas are topped with it. And it’s not too highly flavored with garlic or herbs, so even families with picky kids can have a good time here. (5722 Richmond. 824-9403. Tue-Thur 5:30-10 pm, Fri & Sat 5:30-11 pm. MC, V. $$)
Prego Pasta House. This dimly lit, forest-green dining room is warm and intimate, an ideal place to begin an elegant evening on the town. But the best thing about Prego is that you don’t have to dress up to dine here, and you won’t break your budget, either. We began our meal with the best fried cheese we’ve had in Dallas: balls of warm, stringy provolone inside crumbly, spicy breading. Our friendly waiter recommended the fettuc-cine, and he was right: The tender pasta covered in a delicately seasoned cream sauce was heavenly. We also enjoyed a small oval pizza with a thin, crisp crust and generous toppings of mushrooms, green pepper, green onions and Italian sausage. (4930 Greenville. 363-9204. Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight, Sun noon-11 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)
Sergio & Luciano. You can find some of the best Italian cooking in Dallas here. The tortellini in a fiery, salty sauce of ham, tomato and red pepper was bellissima, the scampi in garlic butter, perfect; the chocolate mousse, heavy and rich. But a number of our dishes-such as the tough, boring osso buco (a veal dish) -fell far below this level. We were disappointed; we had hoped that the place might be the really sophisticated and outstanding Italian restaurant that Far North Dallas needs. (4900 Belt Line in the Quorum, Suite 250 387-4441. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30, Fri-Sat 6-11, Sun 6-10. All credit cards. $$$)
Gonzalez. Gonzalez kept all the trappings of the fast-food establishment that used to be here down to the drive-through takeout window. But the tone of the place is, shall we say, elevated by the quality of the food. Fa-jitas sizzle on a platter, wafting the smell of toasted oregano to your nose. The guacamole comes on a stone molcajete and is crowned with lots of cilantro. Our only disappointment was a rather flavorless chile relleno. (4333 Maple at Wyclifl. 528-2960 Daily 7 am-9 pm. All credit cards. $)
Guadalajara. Okay, we confess. We revisited this familiar hole in the wall expecting an easy ride. We planned to scarf up excellent Tex-Mex, make the usual disclaimer about the rather run-down location and burp all the way back to the office. Another day, another Dos Equis. Were we ever wrong! Amazingly, Guadalajara has backslid quite a bit. First, the service was not mildly deficient, not bad, but awful. We received menus without prices and without explanation, as if we should have known that all the lunch entrees are the same price. We were given chips and hot sauce but no napkins. And when our very hot plates arrived, no warning was given, and one hapless diner singed his hand. But, we told ourselves, this is Guadalajara; surely the food would redeem this disaster. It did, but only in part. The chicken enchiladas with sour cream were as flavorful as ever, and the flour tortillas are still the best in the city. But the meat in the burrito was barely cooked and of a suspicious hue, and the rice was only so-so. We hope for better things on our next visit-if there is one. (3308 Ross at Hall. 823-9340. Tue-Fri 11 am-4 am, Sat &Sun 9 am-4 am. Closed Mon. MC, V. $)
Chiquita. This place serves fine Mexican cuisine in a dressy atmosphere. Although other restaurants in Dallas have recently tried this same approach, Chiquita was one of the first. The chicken nacho appetizer, one of the menu’s shining stars, offers tender chicken topped with Monterey Jack cheese. The menu is divided between Tex-Mex offerings and Mexico City-style Mexican food. There’s a mixed platter for those wanting a balanced sampling of the more localized fare (enchiladas, tamales. tacos), and the sirloin steak grilled with peppers and onions (tender beef with delicate grilled vegetables on the side) is a winner from the other side of the menu. (3810 Congress. 521-0721. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)
La Calle Doce. Scholars of sleaze who postulate that food quality in a Mexican restaurant varies inversely with the fanciness of the environs have a lot to learn from La Calle Doce. This sunny Oak Cliff restaurant has hardwood floors, fresh white linen tablecloths and the first guitar-strumming troubadour we’ve ever really enjoyed. All the standard combinations are offered at budget prices, and the menu also offers a selection of gourmet seafood specialties (“fresh from the Trinity”) ranging from flounder and frog legs to pescado entero empanizado (whole catfish, breaded and fried). The guacamole is outstanding, and the chile rellenos remain the best we’ve tasted (although they’re pretty hot for unsuspecting gringos like us). (415 12th St. 941-4304. Mon-Thur 11 am-9 pm, Fri 11 am-10 pm, Sat 11:30 am-10 pm. Sun 11:30 am-8 pm. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
Caté Rincón. This ethnic neighborhood has produced dozens of Mexican restaurants, but Cafe Rincón is more sophisticated than the others. This may be the most authentic Mexican menu in town, but the cooking has its ups and downs. The beer-batter fried shrimp, camarones Bohemia, can be extraordinary, but on our last visit, one of the four big crustaceans smelted strongly of ammonia. The meatball soup, sopa de albondigas, had tender, tasty spheres of meat, but the fresh herbs described on the menu were nowhere to be found. Much of the food is very picante (and surprisingly pricey), but the very helpful waiters will steer you clear of the worst offenders if you ask. (2818 Harry Hines. 742-4906. Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri&Sat 11 am-midnight. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)
Mercado Juarez. This place has an authentic Mexican atmosphere, from the loads of curios on sale to the family of singing musicians. The braziers that were brought to our table laden with roasted meats were authentic, too, as are the beef and cabrito they bear. But the attempts at more complicated Mexican cuisine here aren’t very successful. Our red snapper with molo de ajo (a garlic sauce) and our milaneza (the Mexican answer to chicken-fried steak) were both pretty sad. We recommend sticking to basic Tex-Mex here. (1901 W Northwest Hwy. 556-0796. Mon-Thur 11 am-10pm, Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun noon-10pm. MC, V, AE. $$)
Javier’s. Billing itself as a “gourmet Mexicano” restaurant, Javier’s serves fare that comes under the one hyphenated abbreviation we don’t hear that often in Dallas: Mex-Mex (or Mexican food a la Mexico City). The unfancy decor of stone, dark wood and plants is shown up by the downright exotic selection of mostly beef and seafood dishes prepared with pungent sauces and marinades, such as black pepper sauce or garlic sauce. We enjoyed the filete cantinflas, a tenderloin beef stuffed with Monterey cheese and seasoned butter topped with a chile mulato sauce and sliced avocado. The polio al ajillo, chicken sautéed in garlic sauce, was a bit dry but perfectly flavored. (4912 Cole. 521-4211. Sun-Thur 5:30-10pm. Frig & Sat 5:30-11 pm. Reservations. All credit cards. $$)
On The Border. They probably don’t have anything like this on the border. Not only is the food here pleasing to the palate, but the airy charm of On The Border’s “South Texas Café” decor is a definite plus. We delighted in the Mexican chicken dishes, especially the chicken enchiladas (tender and generously covered with Monterey Jack cheese and sour cream) and the chicken chimichangas. But to those with differing tastes. On The Border also serves such Texas dishes as chili and mesquite-broiled hamburgers. In all. On The Border offers a pleasant atmosphere, good service and large portions at reasonable prices. (3300 Knox. 528-5900. Mon- Thur 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-midnight, Sun 11-11. Alt credit cards. $$)
Los Vaqueros. Highland Park’s longtime favorite place to eat an enchilada, Los Vaqueros, is among the most dependable places in town for old-fashioned Tex-Mex. Over the years, the management has added fancier dishes to try to emulate the upscale competition. We found the tacos al carbon tough, and the filete de casita had a dispirited color that reminded us of boiled beef. From now on, we’ll stick to the first-rate tacos and tamales. (Preston at Mockingbird in Highland Park Village, Suite 77.521- 0892. Sun-Thur 11 am-9:30pm, Fri & Sat 11 am- 10pm. All credit cards. $$)
Raphael’s. For as long as we can remember, we’ve been struck by frequent cravings for Raphael’s Tex-Mex. The consistently fresh, light chips, the flavorful, tomatoey hot sauce and the icy, potent margaritas kept us coming back for more. On our recent visit, those basics were still as good as we remembered, but some of the entrees weren’t up to Raphael’s par. The meager serving of guacamole was rather bland and too chunky, and the enchiladas were only average. Even Raphael’s unique puff taco was not as fresh and tasty as we remembered. Decorating improvements at the original Raphael’s on McKinney have made the already warm atmosphere more attractive. We hope the food will improve as well. (3701 McKinney, 521-9640; 6782 Greenville, 692-8431. Mon-Sat 11:30 am-10:30 pm at McKinney location: Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm, Fri 11:30 am-10:30 pm. Sat noon-11 pm at Greenville location. Closed Sun. Reservations Mon-Thur only. All credit cards. $$)
Rio Grande Grill. Fajitas-skirt steak that is grilled, sliced and served with guacamole and flour tortillas-are the rage in Dallas now. Nobody cooks them much better than this trendy new Greenville Avenue restaurant. The smoke flavor comes from a mesquite fire, and the accompanying pico de gallo has enough fresh hot peppers to set your tongue aflame. The chiles rellenos are gummied up with a sweet tomato sauce, sour cream, olives and almonds, and the polio cilantro has very little coriander taste. (5111 Greenville. 692-9777. Sun-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11 am-2 am. MC, V, AE. $$)
Rosita’s. Rosita’s gets better every time we visit. In the past, the tortillas were tough, and the hot sauce was less than dynamic, but our recent visit provided a top-notch Tex-Mex meal. Portions were huge, and lunch cost less than $4. Rosita has breakfast on the grill every morning by 7 o’clock and a list of dinner specials that includes favorites in every combination. You can’t beat the price of her corn tortillas (free on request) or flour tortillas (two for 25 cents), and you shouldn’t pass on the sopapillas, either (4906 Maple. 521-4741. Mon 7 am-2:30pm, Tue-Fri 7am-I0pm, Sat&Sun9am-10 pm. MC, V, AE. $)
August Moon. This popular Far North Dallas Chinese restaurant has gotten bigger, more ambitious and, most importantly, better since it opened a few years back. Our last meal here was one of the best-executed Chinese meals we’ve had in Dallas. Among the long list of specialties on the revised menu, the Five Flavor Shrimp and the Mongolian barbecue were both succulent. They left us wanting to try some of the more exotic new offerings. But even an old standby like moo goo gai pan was special; the chicken was particularly tender, and the vegetables were fresh. (15030 Preston at Belt Line. 385-7227. Mon-Thur 11 am-10:30pm, Fri 11-11, Sat 10:30am-11pm, Sun 10:30-10:30. Dimsum served daily. Reservations for four or more or for special banquets. Bar by membership. All credit cards. $$)
Bamboo Pavilion. This northern outpost of the Szechuan Pavilion drew raves when it opened, and some of its chefs specialties are very appealing. Panda’s Prawns, for instance, is an unusual treatment of huge, breaded and deep-fried shrimp tossed with julienned vegetables in a delicately sweet sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. But the items on the back pages of the menu don’t seem to receive as much care. The orange flavor beef was a rather dismal affair, cut unattractively and stir-fried too slowly, and the resulting texture was almost like strips of boiled beef. BambooPavilion has a long way to go before it deserves itsreputation as one of the city’s leading Chineserestaurants. (Belt Line at Coit in Promenade Center,Suite 1790, Richardson. 680-0599. Mon-Fri 11:30am-10:30 pm. Sat & Sun noon-10:30 pm. MC, V, AE,DC. $$)
Fangti China 1. First impressions do count, and we knew when we saw the red neon signs in the window that dining at Fangti was going to be fun. We soon discovered that it’s a delectable experience as well. The pu pu tray, a mouthwatering medley of fantail shrimp, an egg roll, barbecued beef, fried won ton and shrimp toast, was an inspiring beginning, and the differing tastes and textures somewhat satisfied our desire to sample everything on the menu. The entrees we finally chose included moo shu chicken, a delightful variation of the standard pork dish, complete with pancakes. Shrimp with peanuts in hot sauce was a crunchy and delicious dish, but keep this in mind: When they say “hot,” they mean hot. The clientele is wonderfully diverse (perhaps partly due to Fangti’s hours-it’s open until 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights); the service, although impeccably polite, is leisurely. (6752 Shady Brook in the Twin Bridge Shopping Center. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-4 am, Fri 11:30 am-6 am, Sat 5:30 pm-6 am, Sun 5:30 pm-4 am. 987-3877 All credit cards. $$)
The Forbidden City. Is The Forbidden City the most overrated Chinese restaurant in town? We’ve never had a really bad dish here, mind you, although we couldcomplain that our service has been a bit offhand. Butwe’ve never had a really exciting dish, either. OurHunan-style smoked ham had a lavish quantity of meat,but the sauce had little flavor other than salt. TheMongolian beef was similarly bland. If fresh, dependable but ultimately boring Chinese food satisfies you,you may be happier at The Forbidden City than wewere. (5290 Belt Line, Suite 144. 960-2999. Mon-Thur11 am-10:30pm, Fri& Sat 11 am-3am, Sun noon-10:30pm. All credit cards. $$)
Royal China. This cozy neighborhood restaurant offers good food at reasonable prices and a genial host named Buck Kao, who will greet you by name after one or two visits. For a mouthwatering beginning, try the fried meat dumplings with ginger sauce. Follow up with hot and sour soup (the name means what it says), a spicy combination of bean curd, black mushrooms, sesame oil and beef. For entrees, you can’t improve on dry stirred beef, but if you want to go the chicken or fish route, kung po chicken (with peanuts, green pepper, water chestnuts, celery and mushrooms) and royal prawns (served in a sweet sauce with peas and onions) are reliable choices. (Preston Royal Shopping Center, Suite201. 361-1771. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 5:30-10. MC, AE, DC)
Ho Ho. The new restaurant, occupying the redecorated site of the old House of Gong, is trying hard to offer outstanding Cantonese cooking both in Americanized and more authentic styles. Nobody else in town does a better job with the old favorites. Sweet-and-sour pork is crisp and chewy; egg foo yung, light and rich. Food is taken seriously here, as can be determined from the properly maintained lobster tank, stocked with dozens of the luscious crustaceans. At $16.95, the price of the lobster dinner is a bit steep for a casual evening out, but the other prices at Ho Ho are low for what you get, so splurge. (3726 W Northwest Hwy. 351-4316. Daily 11:30 am-3 am. All credit cards. $$)
Royal Panda. This new Chinese restaurant in the location of the now defunct Hunan Pavilion offers excellent renditions of the Mandarin and Szechuan dishes that have now become standard on menus all over town. The lamb Hunan style boasted precisely cut small chunks of meat sauteed nicely amid the scallions. The shrimp and pork Szechuan style had a peppery bite to it, and the crispy duck lived up to its name. The service is unusually friendly and helpful, placing Royal Panda above most of its competition. (8021 Walnut Hill at Central Expressway in The Corner Shopping Center. 363-3858. Mon-Fri 11 am-4 am. Sat& Sun 11 am-6am. MC, V, AE. $$)
Szechuan Pavilion. The prices and pretensions are relatively modest here, and the food is very tasty, though not particularly memorable. The orange beef and the shrimp in garlic sauce were both plenty spicy for all but the most masochistic hot pepper lovers. The Emperor Chicken arrived in a nest of fried potatoes surrounded by a field of bright green broccoli, but the complexity of the dish was more for the eye than for the palate; inside, we found a standard combination of chicken and vegetables. (8409 Preston in Preston Center. 368-4303. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2:30 pm & 4:30-10 pm, Sat noon-10:30 pm, Sun noon-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)
Rheun Thai. The food, at its best, immediately places Rheun Thai in the inner circle of Asian restaurants hereabouts. Many old favorites are reproduced intact, from the pork sate (skewered strips of roasted meat served with a miraculous curry- and-ground-peanut sauce) to pud Thai (a delicious Siamese noodle dish that defies description). News just as welcome to fansof Thai food is the selection of unfamiliar dishesavailable here, including a fabulously spicy Thaisausage and puffy, deep-fried stuffed chicken wings.Not all the new dishes are on the menu yet, and youshouldn’t judge this place by its luncheon buffet. Go inthe evening and revel in one of the best Oriental mealsaround. (13929 N Central Expwy in Keystone Park,Suite 400.427-2484. Mon- Thur 11 am-10pm, Fri& Sat11-11,Sun5-10pm.AE,DC.$$)
Oysters. They cook fish so well here; why cant they get everything else right? The daily fish special we tasted was broiled with as much authority as any seafood restaurant around, and it took on a buttery richness. Even Oysters’ mundane seafood platter had perfectly crunchy fish and respectable versions of the otherdenizens of the deep. But none of the extras (slaw, fries,hush puppies) were better than passable. Come on,fellas. Man does not live by fish alone. (4580 Belt Line.386-0122. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm, Fri& Sat 11:30am-11 pm, Sun 5-10 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)
Hampton’s Seafood Market. This lunchtime spot is, if you’ll pardon the expression, anchors away from other seafood restaurants. Hampton’s offers an extensive array of seafood entrees that are fresh, well-prepared and reasonably priced. (When was the last time you saw those three descriptions in the same sentence?) Two entrees we enjoyed are the shrimp plate (which isnt all-you-can-eat but seems like it) and the croissant filled with fresh crab meat. The buttery, home-style New England clam chowder is one of downtown’s best-kept secrets, and the spicy gumbo is almost as good. The only complaints we have concern the setting. Seating is scarce to begin with, and if you sit near the back, you’ll get a chill every time the freezer door is opened. Our recommendation: Go anyway, and bundle up. (801 S Pearl. 742-4668 Tue-Fri 8 am-6 pm. Sat 7 am-6 pm, Sun 7 am-4:30 pm. Closed Mon. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $$)
Rocco Oyster Bar. “Shuck ’em if they can’t take a joke” is the motto that Rocco waitresses wear emblazoned on their T-shirts, and with that twisted bit of humor, the mood is set. The Monday night all-you-can-eat catfish filets are greaseless works of wonder. But the Big Mix ($8.95) is mostly red beans and rice-not such a bargain. Rocco’s menu is broad – baby eel and oysters of three different breeds command attention-but some of the more adventurous offerings are less than delicious. The huge basket of calamari (fried squid in tempura batter) became tiresome after a while; the ringlets tasted too much like tiny, deep-fried rubber bands. But the ice cream drinks are a superlative way to cleanse fishiness from the palate. (2520 Cedar Springs. 747-6226. Sun-Thur 11:30-11:30, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-12:30 am. MC, V, AE. $$)
Jozef’s. Jozef’s new location on Walnut Hill serves food as good as that of the original, and you don’t have to fight the crowds. We were impressed with the spicy cevtche (lots of lime, tomatoes, fresh peppers and high-quality fish) and with the gumbo, although the boiled shrimp were rather bland. If you prefer something straightforward, the broiled swordfish was first-rate; or, if you want something a bit fancier, the red snapper with crab meat in a spirited sauce is also splendid. (2719 Mckinney, 826-5560; 2460 Walnut Hill, 351-5365. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30: dinner: Sun- Thur6-10. Fri& Sat 6-11. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)
Ms. Betty’s. Eating lunch at Ms. Betty’s is like having a meal at your favorite aunt’s house. Although the space is limited (provisions for dining consist of six or seven old-fashioned school desks) as well as the menu (two soups, five sandwiches, two beverage choices and Ms. Betty’s widely hailed desserts), our experience here was nothing less than delightful. The sandwiches, though plain, were very good- particularly the chicken salad, which boasted plenty of nuts and was served, at our request, on light, homemade beer bread. Ms. Betty’s famous “Highland Park Pie” was a treat (it’s like a wedge-shaped chocolate-chip cookie in a crust), but we found her peanut-butter pie far superior. The food is cooked and served by Ms. Betty herself, lending an intimate charm to this friendly establishment. (7011 Lomo Alto at Lovers Lane. 526-5084. Mon-Fri 11 am-2 pm. MC; personal checks accepted. $)
Highland Park Cafeteria. The Sakowitz Village branch of HPC seems to have fallen a little farther behind the original location on our last visit. The fried chicken, our most trusty measuring stick for the cooking here, tasted floury and a bit sad. But we were gladto see that the cooks had returned to HPC’s glorious oldrecipe for the stuffed peppers: the brisket trimmings,which are the secret basic ingredient for the dish, hadbeen left in shreds rather than processed to a pulp asthey had been the previous time we tried them Evenwith occasional flaws, HPC still offers some of the bestold-fashioned Southern cooking left in Texas. (4611Cole, 526-3801; 600 Sakowitz Village on the Pkwy, 934-8025. Mon-Sat 11 am-8 pm: closed Sun at Cole location. Mon-Fri 11 am-2:30 pm & 5:30-8 pm. Sat 11 am-8 pm. Sun 10:45 am-3 pm at Sakowitz Village location.No liquor. No credit cards. $)
STEAKS, BURGERS, ETC.
Deacon’s Steak House. We can’t quite agree that this earthy steak house is “better than the other guys” (Hoff-brau, we assume), but being second best isn’t necessarily bad. Deacon’s offers virtually every type of popular steak at a reasonable price and is a one-of-a-kind operation on Greenville Avenue. We found the T-bone praiseworthy, but the top sirloin was a bit sinewy. But Deacon’s does have its advantages over Hoffbrau: You get a choice of salad dressing, and you don’t have to fight the crowds. (4820 Greenville. 361-2924. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-11 pm, Sat 4:30-11 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V. AE, DC. $$)
Kuby’s. On a first visit to Kuby’s, you may feel a bit left out, as though you’ve been missing something all these years (which is possible). The members of the uncommonly regular crowd at this authentic German delicatessen and grocery store know what to order, know how to get the attention of the no-nonsense frauleins and usually know one another as well. But Kuby’s is worth the initiation. Youll find generous plates of knack-wurst, bratwurst and polish sausage served with sauerkraut or delicious, mild potato salad. Sandwiches include corned beef, roast beef, pastrami, braun-schweiger and even tartar. And Kuby’s cooks up a different soup every weekday. (We like lentil on Wednesday and oxtail on Friday.) Try the fresh German pastries, especially the Black Forest cake. (6601 Snider Plaza. 363-2231. Store hours Mon-Sat 8 am-6 pm; restaurant hours Mon-Fri 8 am-5:30 pm, Sat 8 am-5 pm. No credit cards for purchases under $15; personal checks accepted. $)
Stetson’s. This pricey, determinedly masculine placeserves the best steaks in Far North Dallas. But its flavoris beyond comparison. Stetson’s offers these hunks ofheaven in various cuts and a wide range of sizes, andthey’re cooked over an open flame. The experience isone you can’t quite duplicate anywhere else around,and it can make up for a lot of shortcomings elsewhere.The restaurant’s other specialty is seafood, and it has itsups and downs, as does the sometimes harried, disorganized service. (Registry Hotel, 15201 Dallas Pkwy.386-6000. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-3; dinner: daily5:30-midnight; seafood bar 11:30 am-midnight. MC, V,AE. DC. $$$.)
FORT WORTH RESTAURANTS
Benlto’s. For a taste of excellent Tex-Mex, this is the place. The chile rellenos we tried were stuffed full of cheese, and the fajitas came to our table still sizzling. Instead of a small glass of wine, our waiter (who reminded us of a cross between Lawrence Welk and Howard Cosell with a Spanish accent) brought us the whole bottle-just in case we finished and needed more. For service and food, Benito’s is giving Joe T. a run for his pesos. (1450 W Magnolia. (817)332-8633. Sun-Thur 10-10; Fri &Sat 10am-3am. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)
Becera’s. You’ll have to have one heck of a sweet tooth to undertake the drive to this strip shopping center Mexican restaurant on the southwest side of Fort Worth. But the drive is worth it if you arrive hungry enough to get past the so-so Tex-Mex fare and then sit back to drool over the award-winning pralines from Juan Becera’s kitchen. These homemade, sugary confections are huge and rich with cinnamon and other spices. Our sugar level hit the top after just a couple of bites. And if you can afford them at 80 cents apiece, you can afford the gas it takes to drive there. (5613-C McCart. (817) 291-1621. Tue-Thur 11 arn-9pm; Fri&Sat 11 am-10 pm. Closed Sun & Mon. $$)
Tours. This place reminds us less of Fort Worth than any other restaurant in town. We spied nary a cowboy hat nor heard even a trace of a Texas drawl the entire evening. The staff tries hard to please. The salmon was fresh, with a light hollandaise sauce that was neither overpowering nor too lemony. The veal, likewise, was cooked simply but well. For dessert, there’s a chocolate caKe that will satisty even the most die-hard chocolate lover. (3429B W Seventh Ave. (817)870-1672. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11:30-2; dinner: Tue-Sun 6-10:30 p m. Closed Mon. Reservations recommended on weekends. MC, V. $$$)
Michel. Michel’s fixed-price menu has climbed to$34.50 from the previous $29.50, but although theprice has gone up, the portions of our latest four-coursemeal seemed to be on the lean side. Michel’s dedication to quality, however, was unchanged. The seascallops were tender and juicy; escargots, rich with butter and garlic; entrees of lobster and lamb, deftlyprepared. The accompanying crisp vegetables withpasta were perfect complements to both dishes. Fortunately, our main courses did not leave us feeling toofull for the fluffy chocolate-Grand Marnier souffles,which disappeared without a trace. On weekends,there are two seatings for dinner: one at 6, the other at9. If you arrive for the latter, be prepared to wait. (3851Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 732-1231. Tue-Thur6-10, Fri& Sat seatings at6&9. Dinner is prix fixe at $34.50. Allcredit cards. $$$$)