DINING NEW ARRIVALS

The hottest new restaurants in the Metroplex

Catalina. From the owners of Zanzibar and the defunct Chickeria comes this new Lower Greenville attempt to combine New Southwestern Cuisine with various other Texas and California fads. Paradoxically, the cooking is pretty good but the food usually isn’t-by which we mean to say that the foodstuffs and the execution are usually fine, but a lot of the ideas for the recipes are for the birds. Take two noodle dishes available either as appetizers or main courses as examples. In the case of the Alamo Bay Noodles, the menu description says almost everything: blackened Gulf prawns coated with cayenne, garlic powder and coriander, sautéed until crisp and served on rice vermicelli noodles with black bean sauce. The shrimp themselves were tasty enough, but the noodles seem embarrassed to be in the presence of the black beans, and neither seemed to have even a speaking acquaintance with the shrimp. Similarly, the fettuc-cine Roosevelt presented tasty “exotic wild game sausage” (whatever its origin) alongside the pasta in a mushroom and garlic sauce. Why?

Some of the problems at Catalina are with the sauces. The chicken satay comes with a gloppy peanut butter sauce rather far from the real Asian thing, and the Uncle Paul’s Popcorn Crawfish are marred by a sauce that claims to be Cajun but is mostly just sweet. The problem is not alleviated when the sauce calls itself gravy; the Baja Greenville chicken-fried steak is gooey with sugary white stuff on top. The best things at Catalina are grilled-a fish special of amberjack, the veal ribs and the pork chop-and some vegetable accompaniments like shoestring fried sweet potatoes and East Texas caviar (made from black-eyed peas, of course). Other admirable intentions come off pretty well. A number of dishes have reduced calorie, sodium and cholesterol content; some, like the sesame chicken, taste good. A lot of wines by the glass are offered, and the service is brisk and friendly. Desserts, except for the densely frosted chocolate cake, are unexciting. (3707 Greenville. 821-6959. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-11, Fri 6-midnight; Sat 11:30 am-midnight. All credit cards. $$)

Baccarat. This breezily modern-looking Continental restaurant is hard to figure. Its location on the ground floor of a new high-rise in dry (alcohol by membership only) territory is inauspicious, and the wine list is extensive in foreign bottles but priced high and lacking in good choices in the less expensive and American categories. The service ranges from inefficiency to Old World thoroughness and charm, and the food is similarly perplexing. Some dishes are extremely well done. The baked oysters in a mushroom and wine sauce are as fine a cooked treatment of that mollusk as we have eaten; the subtle topping complemented rather than masked the flavor of the shellfish. The escargots (with hazlenuts in the seasoned butter), the scallops in a creamy Vermouth sauce and even the shrimp flavored with rum, tomato and lime were all appetizers good enough to make us think Baccarat an interesting new place to dine.

The arrival of the salads, though, burst the bubble of our expectations. None was better than fair, and that of spinach and duckbreast was positively unpleasant because of the tough, flavorless meat and the too-sour dressing. Our entrees proved as mixed a lot as the previous part of the meal. The best, strangely, was the grilled swordfish with orange sauce. The fish was firm and juicy, and the slightly sweet sauce did not intrude too much on its natural flavor. The rack of lamb suffered from a sauce made nasty by too much dried tarragon, and it was served rarer than we had stipulated. The chicken breast with shrimp in a brandy cream sauce was unremarkable, and a special of the day-beef tenderloin in a red wine sauce-proved not to be very special. Desserts-white chocolate mousse, Black Forest cake and the like-were similarly uninspired. On the whole, despite the promise of a few of the dishes, the food and service at Baccarat do not justify the rather elevated prices. (12660 Coit Road. 387-5555. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. All credit cards. $$$)

Cathy’s Wok. When we heard that the Cathy for whom this restaurant is named is Catherine Liu, the local cookbook writer and Chinese cooking teacher, we headed | eagerly for Piano to check out the operation. It turned out to be interesting, but not quite what we had hoped. Liu’s restaurant concept turns out to be a kind of Chinese fast food ’ place. There is a drive-through at the end of the strip shopping center location, and much of the business is of the telephone-and-pick-up variety. An added twist is that Cathy’s , Wok claims that its food is healthier than at other Chinese places-only vegetable oil is used, and no MSG is added to dishes-and that every effort is being made here to keep the prices low.

All this means that corners have been cut-the interior of Cathy’s Wok is sunny but plain, and food to eat in is served on flimsy throwaway plates and must be eaten with plastic utensils. The food is better-than-average Chinese restaurant fare, though not the special experience we had hoped for based on Liu’s reputation. The best appetizers are the shrimp toast and the five spicy fried chicken wings. (A lot of effort goes into making sure the eggrolls are crisp, but the filling is ordinary.) Liu’s origins in the Szechuan province of China ensure that the spicy dishes are seriously hot here, but a common problem with the dishes is that they tend to be very sweet-not just the Orange Beef and the Chili Prawns but Cathy’s Special Chicken (which is chunked and fried and then stir-fried with lots of hot peppers). Vegetables do retain their crisp-ness as cooked here, so the Vegetarian Delights dish is worth trying. Lunches (including fried rice and eggroll) are $3.75, dinner combination platters $4.95, and a la carte entrées $6.95. The value is there, but we doubt Cathy’s Wok is significantly faster or healthier than most Chinese restaurants. (4010 W 15th, Piano. 964-0406. Mon-Thur 11 am-9 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-9:30pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)

Chianti. This looks like just another neighborhood Italian restaurant, and not a very prepossessing one at that, but the food makes it worth a trip from just about any part of town. The style is mostly northern Italian, and if the cooking doesn’t have a great deal of subtlety it is very tasty indeed. Among the appetizers are the scampi napoleone, shrimp in a pungent garlic and brandy sauce, and a cold calamari salad of tender rings of squid marinated in vinegar and oil with flakes of hot pepper. Other than the calamari, salads are a low point here, hunks of iceberg lettuce floating in dressing with a wedge of tomato on the side.

But the chef at Chianti certainly knows how to cook pasta. The linguini alla put-tanesca features al dente noodles and a robust sauce of tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies. The tortellini come either in a golden colored broth or a pure white cream sauce. He also knows how to cook fish. A fillet of ocean perch (a daily special) had a perfect texture and was topped with a suitably light tomato sauce. The chicken breast sautéed in mushroom butter and white wine sauce is a lighter alternative.

Even things not made in the restaurant are of high quality at Chianti. The light, crusty Italian bread has a toasty outside, and the dessert gelati (in flavors like white chocolate chip and zuppa inglese) are from a good supplier. There is a short but interesting wine list. The service can be a bit slow when more than a few tables are occupied, and that promises to happen frequently at Chianti. (9526 Webb Chapel Road. 350-7456 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-10:30. MC, V. $$)

Don Pepe. Like so many restaurants that have opened in Dallas recently, Don Pepe is just good enough that you want it to be a lot better. It is in a location that hasn’t been lucky in the past-the bottom floor of the easternmost of the two Carillon towers-but it offers a style of food that Dallas has seen little of. Or it almost does: Don Pepe is almost a Spanish restaurant. But the chef, who used to cook for the Onassises, is not content to be merely authentic-he has to be more Continental and refined, and that’s a shame (since we have plenty of Continental restaurants in Dallas already and no real Spanish food).

The appetizers we sampled at Don Pepe were all very good. The escargots are great big snails tastily sautéed with mushrooms and a fillip of wine, and the shrimp scampi get essentially the same treatment. Neither the pasta nor the shellfish in the seafood fet-tuccine was overcooked, and that’s a miracle in most Dallas restaurants. The onion soup we found pleasant, if not outstanding. En-tr6es here, though, were decidedly a mixed bag. The worst disappointment was the Paella Don Pepe: a great platter of soggy rice and utterly tasteless globs of fish, chicken, pork and seafood. Broiled salmon, while it had a nice texture, had a similar blah sauce. Our best choices were the shrimp with garlic sauce, which had large crustaceans done to a turn, and the lamb chops cooked precisely pink as ordered and topped with a full-bodied red wine sauce. When we visited, dessert was limited to flan-one of the creamiest versions in Dallas. Service was desultory considering we were nearly the only patrons in the place. (13601 Preston. 788-2266. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 5:30-10. Closed Sun. All credit cards.)

Devon Seafood Grill. Like Rusty Pelican and L & N Seafood Grill, this is another out-of-state seafood chain trying to form a bridgehead in Texas. Devon may be the most perplexing yet. It is a big, bustling place- maybe the Bennigan’s of the sea (if the corporate headquarters only weren’t in Kansas City). You can see lots of people working hard in the long, open kitchen. The service is aggressively friendly, and a lot of things about the restaurant are appealing. You can even get Chateau St. Jean champagne by the glass. The food, though, is so wildly unpredictable that it is hard to recommend the place.

Appetizers, from our experience, may be the best bet. In addition to oysters on the half shell, there are super Cajun frog legs (fried and accompanied by a spicy sauce), frizzled scallops and even a better-than-usual shrimp cocktail for those who don’t want to fool with peeling their own. But problems begin to crop up with the salads. They have fresh greens and imaginative combinations, but the salad dressings, one and all, taste aggressively bad. Some are way too sweet, others have an unpleasant undertone of stale anchovy.

Devon does know how to broil seafood, and there are enough unusual choices (even for now jaded Dallasites) to encourage exploration. Wolffish, for instance, doesn’t turn up on menus every day, and it turns out to be a light-textured specimen something like catfish. You can sometimes get blackened wahoo here, too, if you want it-the blackening process at Devon, sadly, doesn’t contribute a whole lot of flavor, and there is no butter sauce to counteract the dryness of the fish. The least satisfying entree we have tried at dinner, though, is the shellfish ciop-pino, which had plenty of firm-textured fish and scallops and mussels, but had a most unpleasant taste of unreduced wine in the broth. The way so many dishes were spoiled by tiny touches-especially poorly judged sauces-made us wonder if anybody back amid the flurry in the kitchen actually ever tastes anything the place turns out.

Devon makes a big thing of its Sunday brunch, which is supposedly New Orleans style. There is Dixieland music coming from the speakers, and the food does look vaguely Louisianan. But taste is another thing. Aside from fishy crayfish and mushy boiled shrimp, the long buffet table holds flavorless versions of eggs florentine, seafood creole and breakfast items. There are some good things at brunch-the fruit beignets, the pancakes, the desserts-but most people will not find them to be worth $10.95. Desserts seem to be good all of the time, especially the pecan pie and the chocolate tisimo (a cross between mousse and cake). (14866 Montfort Drive. 991-0533. Lunch: Mon-Thur 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-11, Fri & Sat 5:30-11:30, Sun 5:30-10; Sun brunch: 10:30-3. All credit cards. $$-$$$)



RECOMMENDED RESTAURANTS



WE HAVE omitted the numerical ratings that previously accompanied each restaurant review. Our next biannual Restaurant Guide, which will be published in February, will unveil the new ratings of all the restaurants we review. Until then, however, we will continue to flag the superior- and highly recommended- restaurants with a big, bold D.

Restaurant visits by our reviewers are done anonymously in order to avoid preferential treatment And inclusion in this listing has nothing whatsoever to do with paid advertising.

Were also changing our pricing symbols, going from the general to the precise. The following pricing structure is based on the cost of dinner for one, including an appetizer, entree, dessert and glass of wine:

$, less than $10 (considered a good bargain)

$$, $10 $25 (middle ground for a good meal)

$$$, $25-$50 (expensive)

$$$$, $50 (very expensive)

“Reservations” indicates that the restaurant will accept reservations.

Credit card notations include: MC/MasterCard, V/Visa, AE/American Express, DC/Diners Club, CB/Carte Blanche. “All credit cards” indicates that all five are accepted.

Bon Appetit!



AMERICAN NOUVELLE



Bel-Air Grill. The basic unit of sale here is probably still the hamburger, but many of the trendiest foods in town are also offered. The fancy pizzas (which sell for one price, whatever fixin’s you choose, and come to the table on a heavy pan) are very good, and so are the onion rings (though not the french fries, sadly). Appetizers are pretty much the usual nachos and fried cheese, along with toasted ravioli. We have mixed emotions about the steak and fish dishes that are supposed to set this place apart from the other bar-and-grill affairs that dot Greenville. The basic foodstuffs tend toward the undistinguished, but the “Cajun” treatments do impart a bit of flair to them. (6950 Greenville. 739-5088 Mon-Thur 11 am-11:30 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-midnight. Sun 11:30 am-11 pm. MC, V, AE. $-$$)

D BIom’s. Every dish here stretches the imagination to its ultimate. On our last visit the ever-changing menu yielded duck liver with ginger and mango; a salad of endives, oysters and tiny beets; rack of lamb crowned with an herb souffle and lots of fresh rosemary; and a crepe filled with a light mixture of yams and walnuts. The wild-game terrine, the salad with goat cheese and crumbled walnuts and the chocolate Marquise were exemplary, too. On this visit, so was the service. (Westin Hotel, Galleria, 13340 Dallas Pkwy. 934-9494. Daily 6-10:30 pm; Sun brunch: 10:30-2. Reservations recommended. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$)

D Dakota’s. The new chef hired on at the end of the summer raised the food here to a new level. The grilled specialties like the medallions of tenderloin (accompanied by a silky sauce) and fish-of-the-day yellowfin tuna are once more reliably cooked. The accompanying grilled vegetables are not too smokey in taste, and done to just the right degree of tenderness. But more complex recipes now are even better. The daily pasta special, with scallops and wild mushrooms, has an autumnal richness that makes it one of the city’s foremost pasta dishes And if you thought duck soup was only the title of a Marx brothers movie, try the dish here-you’ll be in duck soup! (600 N Akard. 740-4001. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-3: dinner: Sun-Thur 5-10:30, Fri & Sat 5-11:30; Sun brunch: 11-2:30. All credit cards. Lunch $$, dinner $$$)



D REVISITS



Gershwin’s. By daylight at Sunday brunch time. Gershwin’s takes on a whole new feel. The well-dressed set that gathers for live music in the evenings is joined by pinafored young ladies fresh from Sunday school. Gershwin’s regular menu offerings-which feature lots of grilled things like chicken breast marinated and flavored with fresh oregano as well as fancy pastas-are joined by brunch classics like Eggs Benedict and Belgian waffles with strawberries and whipped cream. All of this off a special brunch menu (there is no buffet), and prices are reasonable, mostly between $6 and $10 (8442 Walnut Hill at Greenville. 373-7171. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-midnight, Fri & Sat 11.30 am-1 am. All credit cards. $$)



Laurel’s. We couldn’t have been more pleased with the epicurean results on our latest visit to the posh restaurant at the top of the Sheraton Park Central Hotel near Central and LBJ. An appetizer of mesquite-grilled squab with tomatoes and Bibb lettuce was laced with a creamy vinaigrette dressing. The special entree of the evening was poached lobster with a memorable creamy, green basil sauce. The lobster was tender and shelled, and the chef had taken the time to create a beautiful shell pattern out of the sauce We finished every bite of the beautiful, fresh blueberries and whipped cream and the ricotta cheese/sponge cake. The next best thing Laurel’s has going for it besides the food is a fabulous view of the Dallas skyline. (Sheraton Park Central Hotel, 12720 Merit. 385-3000. Mon-Sat 7 pm-10 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. Jackets required. All credit cards. $$$$)

D The Mansion on Turtle Creek. Dean Fearing, perhaps Dallas’ most talented chef, has returned in triumph to the Mansion, where he got his local start. To begin with, he kept his predecessor’s menu and added some of his own characteristic inventions as daily specials. We found these to be the restaurant’s best dishes- a salad of warm St. Pierre fish with a chiffonade of spinach and radicchio with a tomato-shallot vinaigrette and sauteed baby Coho salmon on corncakes with roasted pepper sauce. The holdover salad of Maine lobster and arugula seemed to have a more aggressive chile ancho dressing than before, which was all to the good, but the roast lamb loin, though served with delicious truffled new potatoes, was tough. (2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 526-2121 Main dining room. Jackets and ties required Lunch: Mon-Fri noon-2:30; brunch: Sat noon-2:30. Sun 11-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10:30. Fri & Sat 6-11; supper: Mon-Thur 10:30 pm-midnight. Fri & Sat 11 pm-midnight. Promenade Room – breakfast: daily 7-10:30; lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; tea: Mon-Fri 3-5:30. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)

Nana Grill. This aerie atop the new addition to the Loews Anatole has lost the chef that made its New Southwestern Cuisine offerings so singular, but that’s not to say that the change has been all bad. The menu is very much the same, and if there are less adventurous combinations now. there is also less alarm at those that don’t quite work. We liked the grilled oysters with a cilantro and chile pesto, the corn soup and the black-eyed pea salad (served with fresh artichoke bottoms, strips of peppers and bacon dressing). The grilled entrees include a fine brochette of shrimp and scallops and a large, well-cooked but underseasoned porterhouse. The wild turkey is still juicy, but the garnish is less interesting than before. The new, shortened selection of desserts is much improved. (Loews Anatole Hotel. 2201 Stemmons Frwy. 748-1200. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: daily 6-10:30. Reservations recommended for dinner. All credit cards. $$$)

D Routh Street Cafe. Ever had ethereal broiled catfish in a pecan sauce? Honeydew-tequila ice or a sherbet with mangos and hot chile ser-rano? You can find such delicacies only at Dallas’ number-one purveyor of restaurant chic. Routh Street Cafe. Other dishes that receive the New Southwestern treatment are shrimp and lobster, veal and game, superlative salads and magnificent desserts. (3005 Routh at Cedar Springs. 871-7161. Tue-Sat 6-10:30 pm. Lounge: Tue-Sat 6 pm-1.30 am. Closed Sun & Mon. Reservations recommended. MC. V. AE. DC. $$$$)

Salute. Spots of color against black woodwork and shutters make Salute one of the handsomest places to eat on McKinney. The menu features mostly grilled and fried things, with occasional hip nouvelle-ish touches in the accompaniments Among the most memorable are the fried banana peppers and the onion crisps (long strings of onions delicately fried and served alongside almost everything on the menu). Steaks and hamburgers come off the best among the grilled items, though both poussin (small, young chicken) and tuna steaks have a nice flavor, too. Many of the dishes at Salute have a picante afterbite. from the ranch-style salad dressing to the onion crisps. (2909 McKinney. 871-2407. Mon-Wed 11 am-10 pm. Thur & Sat 11 am-11 pm. Fri 11 am-midnight Closed Sun. MC. V. AE. $$)



BARBECUE/TEXANA



Anderson’s Barbecue House. This place used to be called Epp’s, and in fact, the sign on Harry Hines (right across from Southwestern Medical School) still reads that way. But the name is really the only thing changed -the barbecue and fixin’s are still excellent, and the people are still friendly. The smallish ribs have a smokey flavor, and you can ask for outside cuts of the tender sliced beef. The side dishes are truly outstanding: The french fries and okra are both fresh and freshly fried. You can also find such delicacies as butter beans, green beans with ham and even baked potatoes. (5410 Harry Hines Blvd. 630-0735. Mon-Fri 11 am- 7:45 pm. Sat 11 am-3 pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted $)

Sonny Bryan’s. Some things never change, and thank goodness Sonny Bryan’s still seems to be one of them. The barbecue is unequaled in Dallas-smokey ribs with the slightest crunch of char, beef slices with a smooth texture and a rich flavor. Aside from the vinegar-sparked sauce (served in dispensers kept hot on a warming plate) and fine onion rings, the rest of the food isn’t notable, but the funky atmosphere is. You order standing up in the middle of a crowd, and sit on school desks if you can find one amid the litter. (2202 Inwood. 357-7120. Mon-Fri 10 am-5 pm, Sat 10 am-3 pm, Sun 11 am-2 pm. No credit cards. $)



CHINESE



August Moon. Even hackneyed things like spring rolls and moo goo gai pan can be extraordinary at August Moon, Dallas’ best unpretentious Chinese restaurant. But don’t neglect the more unusual dishes like the seven-taste shrimp or the pork with jalapenos. The place is large and crowded at most mealtimes, but the service is generally efficient and polite. (15030 Preston at Belt Line. 385-7227 Sun-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. Reservations for tour or more or lor special banquets. Bar by membership. MC. V, AE, DC. $$)

Bamboo Pavilion. Having been impressed by the owner’s Crystal Pagoda, we thought we had perhaps been too hard on Bamboo Pavilion on our last visit and resolved to give it another try. Alas, we found that things were about as we remembered them. The waiter warned us away from the moo shi pork and steered us toward a dish of pork and vegetables in bean sauce, but we didn’t find the recommended dish much fun either. Probably the tastiest thing we tried was Panda’s Prawns, but the oddness of the concept- long hot-pepper pods and deep-fried shrimp in a sweetish sauce-left us perplexed. (1790 Promenade Center, Richardson. 680-0599 Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri 11.30 am-11 pm, Sat noon-11 pm, Sun noon-10:30 pm Reservations recommended. All credit cards.)

China Inn.Pardon the pun, but this is one place where you’ll welcome fowl play. The almond chicken pales only beside the king bo gai ding – tender chicken strips stir fried with Chinese greens and topped with roasted peanuts in a fragrant hot pepper sauce. And a luncheon buffet with simple but filling Cantonese fare has been added. (6521 E Northwest Hwy. 369-7733. Sun 11 am-10 pm, Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11 am-1 am. MC. V. AE. $)

Chin Big Wong. The whole Chinese dining scene is moving drastically uptown, and this new outpost of New Big Wong just reconfirms the trend. Chinese customers (by our visual survey) seem consistently to order the various renditions of whole fish and to include a platter of greens among their other dishes. You can show off your Asian savoir faire by coming here to order a whole live lobster (ours was two-and-a-half pounds) cleavered into large pieces and cooked in garlic sauce or beef with Chinese broccoli. At lunch-time, you can order dim sum (dumplings and other Chinese nibbles) off a special menu. (9243 Skillman, Suite 104 (north of LBJ). 343-0545. Daily 11-11. $$)

Chu’s. Although Addison and the other far north parts have become strong in Chinese restaurants, one of Ad-dison’s first, Chu’s, is still one of the finest. You cant find a better appetizer, with fresh-as-spring egg rolls and whole shrimp in the shrimp toast. There are some excellent-and fairly expensive-specialties, such as Peking ribs (in a hot, slightly sweet sauce) and garlic shrimp (still in their shells). On the regular menu, one of the most appetizing dishes is the chicken with pecans. (15080 Beltway, Addison. 387-1776. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 4:30-10, Fri & Sat 4:30-10:30. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)

Crystal Pagoda. Great Chinese kites loom on the ceiling in this attractive restaurant, and flowers grace every table. The crispy spring rolls are excellent for those who haven’t ventured beyond them, but the crispy shrimp balls and the Bon Bon chicken are really superb appetizers. The chefs suggestions contain no big surprises for devotees of Chinese food-the Crystal Pagoda is no pathbreaker- but the orange beef has real character and the crispy prawns with walnuts makes an admirable dish for those who like a touch of sweetness in a Chinese meal but don’t want to go as far as a sweet-and-sour number. The hot spicy eggplant equals any version of the dish in Dallas. (4516 McKin-ney. 526-3355. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri 11:30 am-11 pm. Sat noon-11 pm, Sun noon-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Dynasty. This elegantly appointed Chinese restaurant keeps on getting better as it matures and relaxes. Instead of a lot of set-price dinners, the menu now concentrates on such interesting dishes as the steamed vegetable dumplings, Pink Lady (shrimp coated in crab roe and fried) and chicken with macadamia nuts. The Dynasty Orange Beef is an excellent version of that now classic dish. Our only complaint is that the very Western pastries we were served for dessert tasted stale from lengthy refrigeration. (Garden Inn, 4101 Belt Line, Addison. 385-7888 Mon-Thur 11:30 am-)’0:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11:30 pm, Sun 11.30 am-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$$)

Fortune Garden. Amazingly enough, Richardson is reported to have the highest percentage of Chinese residents of any city in Texas, and it contains the beginnings of a new, middle-class Chinatown. Among the best of the new places is Fortune Garden. The hot and sour soup is unequivocally the best in the Metroplex, with good flavor and no extraneous ingredients. The steak with orange flavor is an unusually fine version, with large, pillowy pieces of meat that aren’t drowned in a gooey sauce. The pan-fried shrimp (Chinese-style) are delicious but hard for a Westerner to eat – you have to peel the crustaceans at the table and still find a way to get the flavor of all the garlic and ginger they’ve been cooked in. (Keystone Park Shopping Center, 13929 N Central Expwy, Suite 400, Richardson. 235-3032. Daily 11 am-2 am. MC, V, AE. DC. $$)



D REVISITS



Han-Chu. One of the glossiest, and one of the busiest, Chinese restaurants in Dallas, Han-Chu does well with all aspects of Chinese cooking. If you are looking for the conventional appetizer platter, you can hardly find one more carefully prepared than here. The Cantonese region gets its due in a dish of delicately pink shrimp stir-fried with tomatoes and other vegetables. Northern Chinese cuisine comes into its own with excellent renditions of Moo Shi pork and lamb with scallions. We’re not sure what the regional origins of the tender, golden-brown sautéed scallops are, but the dish is first-class anyway. (Caruth Plaza, 9100 N Central Expwy at Park Lane, Suite 191. 691-0900. Daily 11 am-10:30 pm. All credit cards.)



Imperial Dragon. The reality on the plate does not always match the splendor promised on the menu. Appetizers turn out to be mostly fried things; even the Crispy Ham is essentially just plain old shrimp toast with a strip of ham in a pretty pattern. And the quality is not always exemplary-the pork balls, for instance, are dry and overcooked. But there are unusual dishes like the steamed shrimp (cleverly twisted into little knots with strips of ham and black mushroom) that do work. And there are twists on well-known dishes that yield good results, like the honey apple dessert that has a subtle taste of rum. (2901 N Central, Suite 125, Piano. 423-6766 Lunch: daily 11-2:30. dinner: Sun-Thur 5-10. Fri & Sat 5-11. All credit cards. $$)

New Big Wong. When you want to eat as the Chinese do, go to the New Big Wong. Start with the winter melon soup, which also contains shrimp, chicken and other delicacies. Move on to a live lobster (from the tank near the door) cooked in ginger sauce. (The carp, eels and other sea creatures seem to have gone the way of all flesh.) Add a dish of beef with Chinese broccoli (with looser flowers and a stronger taste than the European variety) or one of shrimp with garlic sauce, and you have an instant trip across the Pacific. (2121 S Greenville. 821-4199. Daily 11 am-3 am. MC. V, AE. $$)

No. 1 Chinese Seafood and Cuisine. Here you’ll find live lobsters in a tank (we know of only one other Chinese place around that has them) and a number of other fresh seafood dishes. The lobster cooked in a chili sauce showed that the kitchen cannot boast notable re-finement -the sauce contained a lot of coarsely chopped onion, never a good sign in a Chinese restaurant-but the barely cooked crustacean was delectable anyway. A steamed whole red snapper was tender and succulent, and it came (after a few minutes’ delay) beautifully topped with shreds of ginger and black mushroom. The Neptune’s Delight contained a lot of juicy shrimp, fat scallops and beautifully colored vegetables, but it was rather oily. (333 W Spring Valley, Richardson. 669-3166 Daily 11:30 am-2 am MC, V, AE. DC. $$)

Pacific Pearl. This is one of the most pleasant Chinese places in the city. It’s airy, bright and washed in soft pink colors. Our mushrooms stuffed with shrimp could have offered more taste, but everything else – from a great cold noodle appetizer in peanut sauce to eggplant in a redolent garlic sauce and a bountiful menage a trois of chicken, beef and shrimp-was first-class. And a note of praise for the service. Granted, the restaurant was far from crowded, but our waitress was attentive and instructive beyond the call of duty. (601 Pacific. 745-1688. Sun-Thur 11:15 am-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 11:15 am-11:30pm. MC. V. AE. $$)

Peking Szechuan. The good news about this restaurant is that it serves reasonably priced food and a better variety of dishes than many Chinese establishments in town. The bad news is that its ambitious spirit doesn’t always yield the best results. On our last visit, the Sizzling Seafood Platter was cooked to just the right consistency, but the king crab meat, shrimp, scallops and Chinese vegetables all tasted too fishy. The Champagne Chicken, chicken breasts sauteed with snow peas, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, was way too sweet, and the chicken was undercooked and almost soggy-tasting. The best entree we sampled was Sa-Chia Beef. The sliced tenderloin with broccoli, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts was just spicy enough. (2560 W Northwest Hwy. 353-0129. Mon-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Sat noon-11 pm. Sun4:30 pm-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$) Rickshaw. You expect it to have an Oklahoma area code, Rickshaw is so far north. But this newish Chinese restaurant serves portions that exceed the appetite of the tallest Texan. Quality can be variable-we found the eggrolls unexciting, but enjoyed the fried dumplings (after a not inconsiderable wait). The Orange Beef, though sweeter than some, was more interesting than the run-of-the-mill moo goo gai pan. (4043 Trinity Mills 0122. 3230627. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30. Sat noon-2:30: dinner: Mon-Thur 5-10, Fri 5-10:30, Sat 2:30-10:30. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $)

Royal China. This neighborhood place is well worth a visit, for owner Buck Kao’s warm welcome as well as for the very good food. The sizzling rice soup lives up to its name, and although the dry stir beef doesn’t -it’s saucier than the authentic version-it tastes fine, too. From the bean sprouts sauteed with shredded pork to the kung po shrimp topped with peanuts, Royal China is dependable and enjoyable. Service is usually exemplary, but on our last visit it was a bit unsmiling. (Preston Royal Shopping Center. Preston at Royal, Suite 201 361-1771, Lunch: daily 11.30-2:30; dinner: daily 5:30-10. All credit cards. $$)

Taiwan. We hit both branches of this favorite Chinese place close together and found an interesting contrast. The original location on Greenville, which seemed elegant enough when it opened, now seems a bit dowdy in contrast to the newer location and to the other fancy Chinese restaurants in town. But it is probably the best place in town to eat late at night-the sauteed scallops we tried were perfectly cooked. The Addison branch is similar in quality, but the handsome surroundings make the experience much more festive. We enjoyed the whole fish with Szechuan sauce, the tangerine beef and the chicken with vegetables. (6111 Greenville. 369-8902; 4980 Belt Line, Addison, 387-2333. Mon-Fri 11 am-3 am. Sat 10:30 am-3 am, Sun 10:30-10:30 at Greenville location; Sun-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 11:30-11:30 at Addison location. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$)

Tangerine. This is one of the oddest – but also one of the most endearing-Chinese restaurants in town. Located on the east end of the downtown Arts District, Tangerine is airily modern, serves only a few dishes on any given day and is open exclusively for weekday lunches. You can hardly find a better inexpensive meal, though. The chicken stir-fried with peppers was suc-culently tender and juicy, and the shrimp and zucchini in a thick sauce spiked with curry showed an enterprising Thai inspiration. We wish the location permitted a more ambitious meal schedule and menu – these folks can really cook! (2401 Ross. 969-1011. Mon-Fri 11 am-2:30 pm. Closed Sat & Sun. MC, V, DC. $)

Tea Pot Inn. We still find this place one of the most handsome mid-priced Chinese restaurants in town. It’s basically European, but with enough Oriental details that we don’t think we’re eating Italian food. The cooking is slightly better than average, with special successes among the spicy dishes. The shrimp with bean curd, with lots of garlic and ginger, is one of our favorite Chinese offerings in Dallas. (11343 N Central Expwy. 369-6268. Mon-Wed 11 am-10:30pm. Thur &.Fri 11 am-midnight, Sat noon-1 am. Sun noon-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Tong’s House. If the measure of a Chinese restaurant is how many Chinese patrons it has, Tong’s House is a clear winner. Even on a weeknight, the place is crammed full of Orientals and Occidentals alike, feasting on dishes like kung po scallops and beef with broccoli. You can usually find fresh whole fish steamed with lots of slivered ginger and scallion, and on weekends there are specials like whole crabs quartered and stir-fried with garlic and spices. Tong’s House is hidden away in the recesses of Promenade Center, and it certainly isn’t fancy, but it is worth a bit of searching. (1910 Promenade Center, Richardson. 231-8858. Tue-Sat 11 am-9:30 pm. Sun 11 am-9 pm. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$$)

D Uncle Tai’s Hunan Yuan. It’s always good to see a successful restaurant trying to better itself, so we were pleased to see that Uncle Tai had put a whole bevy of new specialties on the menu. Of the four we tried, three were winners. The crispy quail proved a wonderful appetizer. The two main courses were extraordinary, too. The venison stir-fried with hot peppers and accompanied by large chunks of zucchini had a startling, slightly gamy flavor, and the Zesty Salmon had a crusty surface and a sauce (sure enough) zesty with ginger, vinegar and wood ears. The one blah novelty was the chicken and ham stirred with shreds of iceberg lettuce. One complaint: All the dishes were salty to a fault. Our high blood pressure makes us cry Uncle! (Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy, Suite 3370 934-9998 Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10:30 pm. Jackets required for dinner. All credit cards. $$$)



DELI/LUNCH



Bagelstein’s. This used to be a somewhat surly bagel factory with a few tables; now it’s a spacious, inviting deli-restaurant with a long, long menu. Maybe the menu is too long – the shrimp quiche we sampled was strong-tasting. But lots of the deli standbys are respectable: borscht, pastrami sandwiches, blintzes (a bit sweet for our taste, but still perhaps the best version in town) and cheesecake. And you can pick up an assortment of bagels to take home as you pay your bill. (Northwood Hills Shopping Center, 8104 Spring Valley. 234-3787 Tue-Sun 6 am-9 pm, Mon 6 am-3 pm. MC, V, AE. DC. $)

Cindy’s. This popular pancake house and delicatessen has added a third location on Lemmon Avenue, but we still aren’t sure of the source of its popularity. Blintzes ought to be the number one specialty, combining both the pancake and the deli angle, right? Wrong -these are odd-textured, too thick for our taste; they have a too-coarse filling and aren’t even rolled up in the end; they come swimming in an excess of jam. The plain pancakes aren’t any better-tasteless and cottony. And the special omelette is an unremarkable combo of ham and vegetables. To add insult to injury, we had inattentive service at an off hour. (11111 N Central Expwy. 739-0812; Dai-Rich Village, Coit at Belt Line. Suite 385, Richardson, 231-3660; 4015 Lemmon at Throckmorton, 522-5275. Sun-Thur 6 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 6 am-midnight. MC, V. $).

City Market. On the mezzanine of the new LTV Center, City Market offers an airy space for a chic lunch with a view. The best things are the wonderfully varied salads, available individually or in combinations with each other or with soup. The meat salads include “wild tuna” (with cashews and other goodies), sausage and rata-touille, chicken (with a hefty dose of curry) and flank steak (with julienne red and green peppers). We could cheerfully gain pounds through carbohydrate overloading on the linguine salad (flavored with sesame oil for a strong oriental influence) or the creamy new-potato salad. There are also deli sandwiches wrapped up in plastic, soups and tempting-looking desserts. (200 LTV Center, 2001 Ross at Harwood. 979-2696. Mon-Fri 7 am-5 pm. MC, V. $)

Ms. Betty’s. The lady has moved her kitchen from the western edge of the Park Cities to the southern one (careful, the new Turtle Creek Village location is hard to spot). The simple fare of sandwiches (ham or chicken salad on luscious breads), soups and salads is still executed with a lovely touch. You wonder sometimes, though, how it can take so long to dish up these spare delicacies for so few tables. And the portions are decidedly dainty-you won’t become stout from eating at Ms. Betty’s, even from the splendidly rich pies (served in half pieces). (185 Turtle Creek Village. 526-5084. Mon-Fri 11 am-2:30 pm, Sat 11 am-2 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)



D REVISITS



Pacific Express. If you don’t get lost on the way (the building’s address is on Pacific, but the restaurant actually faces Elm), you can have a tasty lunch here amid lots of shiny chrome and oversized abstract paintings. Salad combinations include large portions of such unusual fare as salads made from wild rice or smoked chicken. Hefty sandwiches feature lots of ham and cheese on coarse-textured bread. The desserts are lavish, from peach cobbler to chocolate-chip cheesecake. (Pacific Place Bldg, 1910 Pacific, Suite 103. 969-7447 Mon-Fri 11 am-2 pm. Closed Sat & Sun. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)



FRENCH/CONTINENTAL



Ablo. “You had dinner downtown?” It’s true, long after the power lunches have been cleared from the linen-clothed tables at Abio (located across the street from RepublicBank and on the diagonal from the post office), there remains much to enjoy. Tiny complimentary crocks of French onion soup began the meal, followed by a spinach salad dressed with warm bacon and cognac. A gargantuan pepper steak was good, but a Cornish hen and lobster tail duo that caught our attention for its uniqueness was disappointing, sunk in a too-heavy brown gravy that shrouded the natural appeal of both elements. Baby asparagus and a zucchini boat stuffed with tomatoes made fresh-tasting accompaniments. Abio closes occasionally on a whim. (One Dallas Centre, Bryan at St. Paul. 922-9070 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10. Closed Sun. Allcredit cards. Lunch $$, dinner $$$)

Arthur’s. We began with excellent crab meat-stuffed mushroom caps, which were piping hot. delicately seasoned and served seemingly without benefit of microwaves. A second course of Caesar salad was equally well-prepared, as was an innovative cold, creamed puree of sweet potatoes. The entrees, alas, left us less inspired. A fettuccine in cream sauce with lobster and truffles was overbearingly rich, though crammed with lump lobster meat. A pepper steak in a sauce “of five varieties of peppercorns” fared better; both were accompanied with crunchy green snow peas. A final round of homemade vanilla ice cream with fresh blueberries and what is humbly touted as “the best chocolate mousse cake in the world” rounded out a generally satisfactory meal. (Campbell Centre, 8350 N Central Expwy. 361-8833. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Fri 6-11. Sat 6 pm-midmght. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

Cafe de France/French Bakery. The owners have sold their Piano shop and enlarged the newer Preston Road location, turning it into much more of a full-service cafe than before. The menu includes really fine hamburgers and ham sandwiches served on croissants or French rolls, and other good, simple fare like omelettes. The daily specials include crusty, garlicky scampi and a lovely version of chicken cordon bleu. Desserts, of course, stare at you throughout the meal, daring you to resist a piece of lemon-mousse-and-rum cake or a crunchy chocolate chip cookie. (17370 Preston Road, Suite 505. 248-2229 Sat- Thur 7:30 am-11 pm, Fri 7:30 am-midnight. All credit cards; personal checks accepted. $$)

D Café Royal. This is one of the finest kitchens in town when the chef hasn’t succumbed to terminal boredom meeting the demands of the convention trade. We’ve found the best way to ensure that his interest is engaged is to order one of the specialties. Sea bass served on a lagoon of basil sauce could hardly have been better, for instance, and it was accompanied by a lovely array of vegetables and by the most carefully whittled thick spears of asparagus in town. (Plaza of the Americas, 650N Pearl. 747-7222. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6:30-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. Jackets and ties required. Allcredit cards. $$$$)

D Calluaud. This can seem the best restaurant in town or it can seem stuffy and overpriced. Sadly, our last visit was one of the latter occasions -owner/chef Guy Calluaud must have been snoozing Our appetizer paté en croute was humdrum, and the sauteed red snapper had a slightly sharp taste not masked by the sauce. The superb rack of lamb and hazelnut souffle only partly made up for the disappoint ment. It’s ironic when the two spinoffs serve better food, at half the price, than the glossy parent place. (2619 McKinney. 823-5380 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat seatings at 7 & 9:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. Jackets and ties required. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$$)

D Chez Gerard. As it gains maturity, Chez Gerard is turning into Dallas’ best mid-priced bistro ever – and a rare bargain in a city where those are scarce. From opening paté to closing floating island, there is rarely a disappointment. The main dishes included a strongly herbal chicken in tarragon sauce, perfectly cooked red salmon and sweetbreads in a rich port sauce. The new dessert called a “pudding” (but not like any we ever saw) is an extravagant concoction. (4444 McKinney. 522-6865 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-11. Closed Sun. MC, V. AE. Lunch $$, dinner $$$)

D Chez Philippe. The food here may not always be perfect (we were served tough, overdone scallops and a heavy, caky chocolate souffle on our last visit). But most of it is so audacious in conception and expert in execution that we still think Chez Philippe is among a handful of the most memorable restaurants in Dallas. The menu changes frequently, but among the standouts are quail stuffed with paté, a whole lobster in a vanilla-bean and ginger sauce and medallions of veal with plums. Sauces tend to be very bold, heightened with pepper and just the right touch of spices and vinegar. Even apparently simple things, such as a green salad or a cranberry souffle, can be revelatory. (5027 W Lovers Lane. 353-9444. Tue-Thur 6-9 pm, Fri & Sat seatings at 6 & 9 pm. Closed Sun & Mon. All credit cards. $$$$)

Ewald’s. Ewald’s is elegant, but the staff is friendly enough to make you feel as though you’ve been a regular since way back. On our last visit, we began the meal with wonderful appetizers, mushrooms stuffed with crab meat and garnished with fried parsley, and finished with heavenly fresh raspberries served with heavy cream. The other dessert we sampled, the chocolate mousse, suffered from a slight case of refrigerator burn. And the entrees we tried, shrimp du chef and veal papagallo, were both sauced too heavily. The fresh green beans and baked bananas were pleasing enough, but the spaetzli was bland by comparison. (5415 W Lovers Lane. 357-1622 Mon-Fri 6-10 pm. Sat 6-10:30 pm Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

D The French Room. The new maitre d’ makes the French Room even grander (no more display dishes wrapped in plastic wrap!). And the food resurrects la gloire of France: scallop mousse, red Spanish shrimp salad, loup (French sea bass) lightly sautéed with asparagus sauce and a fruit tart with Bavarian cream couldn’t have been better. Almost as good were lettuce soup garnished with langoustines, a steak in a sauce flecked with marrow and a flourless nouvelle chocolate cake with mocha frosting. The potato pancakes served as a vegetable garnish with the entrees were perhaps the best surprise of all. (Adol-phus Hotel, 1321 Commerce. 742-8200. Dinner: daily 6:30-10:30. Reservations required: Jackets and ties required. All credit cards $$$$)



D REVISITS



The Garden Court. As the remodeling of this stately old hotel progresses, the Garden Court becomes a more charming place to dine, with its high ceilings and its old-fashioned ambience. Sunday brunch is an especially pleasant time to try it. Complimentary mimosas or glasses of champagne (or fresh-squeezed juice for teetotalers) set off a feast that includes clams and crab claws alongside the usual oysters and shrimp Devotees of the eggs can choose between made-to-order omelettes or Eggs Benedict…or take both. The beef roast is, for a happy change, a standing rib. and there are delicious alternatives like stir-fried chicken with lots of vegetables, broadcasting the odor of sesame oil. The various salads and the fruit table are lavish (when was the last time anybody offered you all the raspberries you could eat?); the desserts, though lovely, prove a bit of an anticlimax. (Melrose Hotel, 3015 Oaklawn. 521-5151. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 6:30-11; Sunday brunch: 11-2. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)



Harpers. This penthouse restaurant, with a lovely view of the city, suffers somewhat from being treated almost as an adjunct of its bar. We don’t think that a cocktail hour buffet or a performing band adds much to the tone of an expensive restaurant. But the mostly classic food coming out of the kitchen can be surprisingly impressive. Our main courses-veal medallions in a green peppercorn sauce and Colorado lamb chops-were the best things, the veal tender and white, the lamb racy in its coating of rosemary and accompanying Choron sauce The shrimp appetizer was a bit strange – its accompanying julienne of lime shocked us with its sweetness. But, cliche or not, the final chocolate mousse was appealingly dense and rich. (Hilton Inn, 5600 N Central Expwy at Mockingbird. 823-9180. Tue-Thur 6-10 pm, Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. MC. V, AE. $$$.)



D REVISITS



Jennivine. Over the years. Jennivine has increasingly lived up to its claim to be a wine bar as well as a restaurant by offering a larger selection of wines by the glass. We like to sample them to the accompaniment of some cheese and the rich, gamey paté maison (which we like better than either the paté de campagne or the salmon paté). As for the main courses, our salmon was delicately cooked, with a mustard sauce almost too tame for the name. A more robust mushroom sauce topped tender scallops of veal, and the fan of accompanying vegetables set them off nicely. About the only dish around here that smacks of England (the declared ethnic origin of the place) is the English trifle, an unusual dessert for Dallas. (3605 McKinney. 528-6010. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon- Thur 6-10. Fri & Sat 6-10:30. All credit cards.)



D L’Ambiance. There’s an occasional disappointment here, but we could eat the signature dishes at L’Ambiance over and over again. To rattle off the less-than-perfect things first, the paté was a bit fatty and lacked taste; a daily special of veal scallops francese, though made from high-quality meat, suffered from an eggy batter and an undersea-soned sauce The rest of the meal, though, was perfection. The rich, rich seafood bisque contained lots of tiny shrimp, and the red snapper-sauteed and topped with more seafood – was poetry itself. Salads are very special here, and this time we discovered that the tomato salad rivals the one with spinach, bacon and goat cheese: Firm red slices topped with a well-made vinaigrette and chopped fresh basil were a celebration of summer. Desserts, too, are local classics, especially the Concord cake-two slices of chocolate meringue bonded together by chocolate pastry cream. (2408 Cedar Springs. 748-1291. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2, dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10 Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$).

D L’Ancestral. We were a mite disappointed by our last visit to this cozy purveyor of la cuisine bourgeoise. The lentil salad and the green salad were tasty, but both suffered from a heavy hand with the vinegar. First-rate french fries accompanied a steak that was rarer than we ordered, and the special of the day, a lamb stew, was stringy and undistinguished. The desserts, pot de creme (a soft custard flavored with caramel) and a chocolate cake dusted with cocoa, were some compensation, however. (5631 Alta. 826-0006 Tue-Sun 6:30-1 am. Closed Mon, All credit cards. $$$)

La Madeleine. These bakeries boast Dallas’ finest croissants and other wonderful goodies (an almond tart we tried recently was heavenly). The old-country ambience of the original Mockingbird location may tempt you to sit down and rest a spell, and you can order quiches and other meals to eat on site. The roast beef sandwich we sampled was creditable, and the vegetables in the ratatouille kept their individual textures and flavors, although they were coated with too much glop-py tomato sauce (3072 Mockingbird, 696-6960:3906 Lemmon, 521-0182 Daily 7 am-9 pm at Mockingbird location; Daily 7:30 am- 9:30 pm at Lemmon location. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)

La Touraine. La Touraine is the name of one of the loveliest regions of France, and its namesake here is one of the loveliest -and most reasonably priced – French restaurants in Dallas. The high ceilings and stout beams of the old building have been fitted out with elegant blond wood, mirrors and brass trim. La Touraine offers everything from a light meal to the most substantial and hearty old-fashioned French fare. The main dishes mercifully shy away from nouvelle cuisine, which is paradoxically seeming more and more old hat. The kitchen at La Touraine seems much more comfortable with homey stews like a navarin of lamb or boeuf bourguignonne -these needed only a bit more seasoning to be very satisfying. As you would expect at a place whose co-owner is the proprietor of La Madeleine, the baked goods are among the best things to eat here. (1701 N Market. 749-0080. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. All credit cards. $$-$$$)

Le Louvre. The Dallas restaurant scene seems overcrowded these days – Le Louvre is by no means the first expensive restaurant we have tried lately in which we were virtually the only customers. This place lacks a distinctive selection of dishes on the menu and seems overpriced for what you get, but there is some undeniable talent in the kitchen. The appetizer of shrimp Maison, for instance, was impeccably cooked-the sautéed shrimp had a crusty golden surface, and the accompanying sauce was rich. Pepper steak is also worth ordering here. But there are too many disappointments as well: boring snails, unappetizing thick slices of breast in the duck salad, overcooked lobster. (The Corner Shopping Center, 9840 N Central Expwy. 691-1177. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat 6-11:30. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

Le Marmlton. We can’t quite figure why someone would go to the trouble and expense of creating such a pleasant restaurant environment and stick it away on a block of Lowest Greenville, but inside Le Marmiton boasts delicate crystal and good china, fresh linens and fresh flowers. The food, though, is perplexing. There are enough really successful dishes to show seriousness in the kitchen: among the appetizers alone, the sauteed softshell crabs heaped with toasted almonds and the seafood sausage (grilled in its casing) are outstanding. But there are problems. The fish in three sauces boasted well cooked scallops, sole and swordfish, but the sauces all lacked distinction. Perhaps the tastiest dish we tried was a daily special of lamb in a marvelously garlicky herb sauce – but leg of lamb does not take well to being sliced and cooked piecemeal (the individual muscles draw up and toughen), so the texture of the dish was not as suc-cessful as the taste. (1920 Greenville. 821-6250. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Fri 6-10:30, Sat 6-11. All credit cards. $$-$$$)

Mr. Peppe. This little restaurant has kept its charm and its personal touch through the many years it has been in business. The food is obviously cooked with love and is most reasonably priced, but we fear it is beginning to seem a trifle too old-fashioned. Of course, beef Wellington probably hasn’t been fashionable since the time of the Iron Duke himself, and it’s a particularly hard dish to bring off successfully. But it really shouldn’t suffer both from tasteless meat and soggy pastry. The soup of the day (lightly touched with curry), the bland appetizers and salads, the unremarkable desserts and the lackluster main dishes could use a boost. (5617 W Lovers Lane. 352-5976. Mon-Sat 6-10 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)



D REVISITS



Paplllon. Since its move to a far North Dallas location (incongruously, in the ground floor of an office building), Papillon looks stately. The food has its ups and downs, but in this neighborhood there isn’t much competition for the carriage trade. The ups on our most recent visit were the entrees. The veal scallops with chanterelle mushrooms were one of the best treatments around of an often mistreating cut of meat. The sauteed red snapper, lapped with an ivory sauce and surrounded by shrimp, was cooked nicely too. Appetizers – a bland crab casserole and underseasoned shrimp in a rose-colored sauce- and desserts were far less interesting. (Abrams Center, 9330 LBJ. 699-9788. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30- 2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-11. All credit cards. $$$)



Les Saisons. This beautiful French bistro is tucked away in Turtle Creek Village and is well known for being one of the most popular spots for a “power lunch” in Dallas. On our last visit, however, the food and service lacked some of the polish we’ve grown accustomed to expect. We were first seated at a wobbly table that the waiter unsuccessfully tried to fix with a rolled table napkin. Despite the bad start, the brie soup with its rich, creamy flavor impressed us. The special of the day was grilled swordfish, but the consistency of the fillet was mushy rather than flaky. The popular seafood salad was filled with crispy lettuce and very fresh shrimp, crab and avocados. As a final note, the quality of the desserts seem to be more consistent than the entrees – don’t miss the chocolate mousse cake. (Turtle Creek Village, Oak Lawn at Blackburn, Suite 165. 528-1102. Sun-Fri 11.30 am-11 pm, Sat 11:30 am-11:30 pm. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

D Pyramid Restaurant. This classic Dallas institution is interesting again after a long slump, though not quite as good this time around as on our previous visit. A prix fixe dinner is now available and includes dishes like pasta with seafood as an appetizer and a thick veal chop as an entree. The a la carte selections, though, seem better here. The lobster ravioli and the beef tenderloin in an unctuous Peri-gourdine sauce partake of the splendor of the revivified setting. One of the nicest touches at the Pyramid Restaurant now is the selection of four champagnes by the glass, brought to the table iced down on a cart. (Fair-montHotel, Ross at Akard. 720-2020. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: daily 6-10. All credit cards. $$$$)

D The Riviera. Carpeting has taken away some of the glossy country look of this fashionable haven, but we are grateful for the reduction in decibel levels. The food continues to be impressive, from a saffron-yellow oyster bisque and a delectable platter of broiled fish and seafood to roast duck in a sauce lightly sweetened with honey and a delightful mocha-iced cake. We have always found the service impeccable (and the welcome from host Franco Ber-tolasi particularly warm). (7709 Inwood. 351- 0094. Mon-Thur 6:30-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 6:30-11 pm, Sun 5:30-10 pm. All credit cards. $$$$)

Three Vikings. The Scandinavian bric-a-brac on the walls had always struck us as the most ethnic thing about this restaurant – the cuisine is mostly middle-of-the-road continental with a few Nordic touches. The Swedish meatballs, for instance-available either as an appetizer or as a main course -are not authentically dry but come in a heavy, glutinous (though tasty) sauce. The Veal Norway seems pretty close to a stuffed Veal Oscar to us-the hollandaise sauce is fine, but the crab meat may taste fishy; the stuffing, alarmingly, reminds us of the stuffed flounders that used to plague seafood menus hereabouts. A special of the day of sautéed salmon was much more pleasant. One thing you can’t accuse the Three Vikings of is succumbing to the trend to “light” meals: Both the signature shrimp chowder (strong with the taste of dried dill) and the chocolate cheese pie are undeniable heavyweights. (2831 Greenville at Goodwin. 827-6770. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10 pm, Fri & Sat 6-11 pm; Sun brunch 11-2. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$)

Zanzibar. What a schizoid evening we had here! Everything we ate and drank was marvelous, including a tasty Lalo salad with hearts of palm, artichoke hearts and Parmesan cheese. The fettuccine Magellan, thick and chewy with shrimp, nuts and red peppers in cream sauce, was an incongruous, perfectly successful mix. But the service was shameful. Our waitperson hadn’t yet mastered that clever trick (we hear it’s becoming a trend) of writing down, perhaps on a little pad, just what the customer ordered. Hence a ten-minute wait, in a room with fewer than ten people, for a glass of wine and equally long waits for dessert. (Us: “Could we get that cheesecake now?” WP: “What cheesecake?”) We’ll be back, confident that it couldn’t be this bad again. (2912 Greenville. 828-2250. Mon 6 pm-1 am, Tue-Thur 6 pm-2 am, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-2 am, Sun 4 pm-midnight, Sun brunch: 10:30-3. AE, MC, V. $$>



GERMAN/EASTERN EUROPEAN



D REVISITS



Café Kashtan. After closing for a few months, Dallas’ only Ukrainian restaurant has reopened. The worst service problems seem to have been solved, though the policy of cooking everything from scratch still makes for a slowish pace – leave plenty of time for an evening visit. For starters, the best things here remain the soups (like the tart, cold green schi or the salanka, with beef, sausage and vegetables) or the delicious beet, potato and sauerkraut salads. The chicken tabaka (half a bird flattened and sautéed) and the beef stroganoff are good choices among the main dishes, accompanied by well-dressed salads and nicely cooked potatoes, pasta or rice. Desserts change daily: The almond cake with raspberry sauce will satisfy any sweet tooth. At lunchtime a number of unusual and inexpensive specialties are available. (5365 Spring Valley Rd at Monttort. 991-9550. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11 -2; dinner: Mon-Fri 5-10. Sat 5-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)



The Chimney. The warm atmosphere, delicious food and attentive service here add up to an evening of pure pleasure. In the restaurant’s cozy setting, we found time to savor every bite of the buenderfleisch, a thin, air-cured beef, before moving on to a simple salad topped with a tangy house dressing and fried onions. The veal cordon bleu, served with noodles and snow peas, was prepared to perfection. So was the sole amandine, so tender it crumbled at the touch of a fork. The Austrian snowball, an uptown version of the ice cream sundae, was so sinfully rich with chocolate that we didn’t think twice about downing at least 1,000 calories worth. (Willow Creek Shopping Center, 9739 Central Expwy at Walnut Hill Lane. 369-6466. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2; dinner Mon-Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations requested. All credit cards. $$$)

Lechner’s Brass Bull. Here, in a pleasant room tucked away in the labyrinthine lobby of the Regent Hotel, are the folks who bring you German specialties with a few Texas favorites. Werner Lechner, the personable chef, is accomplished in both old-country dishes like Wiener schnitzel and schnitzel a la Holstein and in flown-in fish specialties from the seafood markets of Boston, where Lechner has lived. An unusual shrimp scampi appetizer smothered in red and green peppers was good, but we expected more than two shrimp for $7.95. The entrees, however, were superb -veal cordon bleu was fresh, with a delicate balance of its three tastes; Boston scrod was well-seasoned, nicely browned and generously portioned. We topped off our meal with what was touted to be the house specialty -apple strudel -which was tasty but rather skimpy on the apples for our Americanized tastes. (The Regent Hotel, 1241 W Mockingbird. 630-7000. Mon-Sat 5:30-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards $$$)



Rhelngauer Roemer. The rear courtyard of European Crossroads can seem pretty forlorn, but it is lovely to look at from this little German restaurant -the contrived-looking brick pavement and fountains become more convincing once you have downed a glass or two of real Pilsner from Czechoslovakia. Dallas is short on places that serve this sort of earthy German food, so the minor shortcomings don’t matter much at all. (The wiener schnitzel is made from thick, unpounded cuts of veal, and the sauerbraten lacks a certain sparkle.) By far the most memorable of the desserts is the only one made on the premises, the apple cake. (European Crossroads. 352-1175. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-3;dinner: Tue-Thur6-10, Fri & Sat 6-midnight. MC. V, AE. DC. $$)



D Rolf’s. This time we decided to explore a few of the byways of the menu of this fine establishment, but we were not always rewarded by our daring. The herring salad was both too sweet and too sour, and neither the crab meat in our appetizer nor that served with out veal entrée tasted fresh. The schnitzel Holstein (a veal cutlet with a fried egg on top and accompanied with anchovies and capers) was crisp and greaseless but undersalted. Both chocolate desserts-the Sachertorte and the mousse cake-were pleasant but lacked that richness that attracts the loyalty of diehard chocolate tans. We’ll continue to go back to Rolfs with plenty of anticipation- but for the dishes like the Sauerbraten and the apple cake that have never disappointed us. (Caruth Plaza, 9100 N Central Expwy, Suite 117 696-1933 Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30: dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards $$$)



GOURMET CARRYOUT



Marty’s. One of our writers has a fantasy of being trapped in Marty’s overnight – enslaved to a nocturnal orgy of pates and pesto. chocolate truffles and marzipan cake, endive and escargots. The chefs paté de campagne and a wonderfully creamy French Valem-bert cheese were a robust beginning to a recent picnic we packed here. They were followed by smoked sable (one taste sufficed), mussel salad with hearts of palm, a pasta concoction welded with goat cheese (pungent but tasty) and a loaf of French bread. A Greek spano-kopita. thick with spinach and feta cheese, was a tad soggy when reheated but was solid and satisfying despite its heaviness. We finished with a chocolatey Texas pecan bar and a lovely lemon tart. Marty’s has, it’s safe to say, everything for the need-it-now gourmet, including fresh herbs when they’re unavailable elsewhere, a salad assortment that is evergreen, a changing medley of fresh carryout entrees and an enviable selection of accompanying wines. (3316 Oak Lawn. 526-4070 Mon-Sat 10 am-6:30 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards, Marty’s charge. $$)

Mirabelle. For anyone who loves to eat, entering Mirabelle is an emotional experience The refrigerated cases hold the most glorious-looking goodies imaginable. Treasures such as the fruit salad with fresh raspberries and the tiny chilled white beets with oranges don’t come cheap, of course, and there are a few disappointments lurking among all the wonders (the chicken mousse, for instance, was bland and heavy). But the array of pates, cheeses and entrees to take out and heat up usually reward any giving in to temptation. Perhaps the best things of all are the desserts, from a heart-shaped peach tart to definitive chocolate-chunk cookies. (Highland Park Village, Preston at Mockingbird, Suite 73-74 528-7589 Tue-Sat 10:30 am-7 pm, Sun & Mon noon-6 pm. MC, V, AE: personal checks accepted. $$)

Rich Chicks. Theresa Alexander, whose previous ventures include the Stoneleigh P and The Lounge in the Inwood Theatre, had an idea for a new sort of fast-food place-one that would look classy and serve healthier food than the usual places. As you might guess, Rich Chicks serves Rich Chicks (and a few complements) to Rich Chicks (and whoever else lives in the upscale neighborhood). The chickens are buttertlied and coated with spices (fennel predominates), then slowly roasted and carved to order. The accompaniments consist of an uncooked tomato sauce (rather like a thick gazpacho), pita bread and a lovely lettuce-less Greek salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and feta cheese. The food all tastes fine – the chicken is juicy (except for the drumsticks, which tend to get overcooked and stringy) and is good either hot or cold. (Northwest Corner of Preston Royal Shopping Center, next to the Post Office 691-7424 Daily 11 am-9 pm. AE on orders of $20 or more. $)



GREEK/MIDDLE EASTERN



Augustus. After a rough start, this Greek/Continental restaurant in Addison is making a name for itself. Two visits produced two outstanding meals. The menu features a large selection of fresh seafood, including shrimp sauteed in garlic butter and some of the tastiest broiled red snapper we’ve ever been served. But don’t forget the Greek food! The specials of the day have proved exceptional, especially the tender marinated lamb chops. The traditional moussaka was too timidly spiced for our taste. The atmosphere is pleasant, and the service is exceptional, if not a little too attentive. The only real disappointment was the lack of traditional Greek wines. Don’t miss the desserts, particularly the nutty, sweet baklava. (15375 Addison Road. 239-8105 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 5-11, Sun 5-10. All credit cards. $$$)

Little Gus’. One disadvantage of living in a melting pot is that over the years, all the food runs together and begins to taste the same. Thank goodness for Little Gus; he makes his Greek specialties live up to their heritage. The moussaka is at once sharp and sweet and creamy, with layers of beef and spicy eggplant. Gus offers some of the best hamburgers around at noon, but we prefer his restaurant after dark. The taste for the heavy Greek resin wine may be an acquired one, but the candlelight and food speak a universal language. (1916 Greenville. 826-4910. Mon-Thur 7:30 am-4 pm & 6-10 pm, Fri & Sat 7:30 am-4 pm & 6-11 pm. Sun 9 am-1.45 pm. No credit cards. $$)

Mr. Shlshkabab. Finally Dallas has a really good Middle Eastern restaurant again complete with belly-dancer, and we hope the hard-to-find location won’t jinx it. Mr. Shishkabab offers mostly the basics like the wonderful Middle Eastern dip made from chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and sesame paste called hummus. The other best appetizer is the tabouleh, that refreshing salad of minced parsley, bulgur wheat and lemon juice. Otherwise, save your appetite for the main courses, because they come garnished with some of the best tidbits that can be ordered as appetizers-felafel and stuffed kibbeh. Both the kebabs of lamb and shrimp are delicious, and even a simple steak takes on an international flair here. If the restaurant gets busy you may find the kitchen and the well-meaning service slow. (9454 Marsh Lane, just north of Northwest Highway. 350-9314. Daily 11 am-3 pm and 5:30 pm-11 pm. MC. V. AE, DC. $$)

Panteli’s. This Lowest Greenville Avenue restaurant and wine bar gets high marks for its mostly Greek menu and relaxed atmosphere. Among the appetizers, the fried potato balls shouldn’t be missed. As for the main courses, the gyro pocket sandwich with yogurt dressing, the keftethes (Greek meatballs) and the souvlaki (a Greek version of shish kebab) are all excellent choices. The only disappointment was our waitress, who was pleasant but inattentive. (1928 Greenville. 823-8711. Mon-Thur 11 am-1 am, Fn & Sat 11 am-2 am, Sun 11-11. MC, V,AE.$$)



INDIAN/ETHIOPIAN



D Kebab ’n’ Kurry. If we were forced at gunpoint to name our favorite ethnic restaurant in Dallas, this would probably be it. We suspect that part of the secret lies in the comparatively limited menu. There are really only a lew delights of North Indian cuisine offered, but they are done superlatively well, from the chicken korma (rich, creamy and mild) to the shrimp in a tomatoey curry sauce. Paradoxically, you can find the rarest treasures here at the weekend lunch buffets. They offer such unusual delicacies as curried fresh black-eyed peas and lamb ribs (boney but magnificently sauced), for the ridiculously low price of $6.95 for all you can eat, including a dessert like the barely sweet rice pudding studded with chunks of fresh coconut. (401 N Central Expwy, Suite300, Richardson, 231-5556; 2620 Walnut Hill Lane, 350-6466 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-10:30; brunch: Sat & Sun 11:30-2:30. Reservations Fri & Sat only. All credit cards. $$$)

Queen of Sheba. Ethiopian food is one of the most difficult of the foreign cuisines to become accustomed to. Maybe it’s because everything is served on a huge platter of injera, the flat bread with a texture of sliced sponge rubber that is plate, fork and staff of life to the Ethiopians. On it come spicy stews such as doro wott (chicken and eggs in a red sauce), accompanied by greens and yogurt. Queen of Sheba is a good place for the adventurous to try it all out, since the atmosphere is pleasant and the prices are very low. (For the less adventurous, Queen of Sheba also has a few Italian dishes.) (3527 McKinney. 521-0491. Mon-Fri 11-11, Sat noon-midnight, Sun noon-midnight. MC, V. AE, DC. $)

Sahib. Once the finest Indian restaurant in town and still the handsomest, Sahib now offers more disappointments than successes from the kitchen. The menu is filled with new and interesting-sounding dishes, and a few of them are worth trying, such as the shrimp Bhu-jana with lots of herbs and bits of onion and peppers, and the chicken Noorani in a curiously bright pink sauce. But all the typical appetizers like the samosas (vegetable fritters) and pakoras (dough filled with meat and potatoes) now have a decidedly off taste, and the Indian bread called puri is greasy and heavy. (Caruth Plaza, 9100 N Central Expwy. 987-2301. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur & Sun 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-11; Sun brunch: 11:30-3. All credit cards. $$$)



D REVISITS



Tanjore. During the week, you can find good North Indian food here (the kitchen can be slow to bring it out, but it’s worth waiting for). We are fond of the chicken tanjore (a version of chicken tan-doori, but not made in the clay oven typical for that dish) and the cubes of fried homemade cheese (with something of the texture of tofu) cooked in a spicy spinach sauce These are standard items in Indian restaurants in America, but at lunch on weekends you can get something really unusual here: dishes from South India. There are rice cakes called idli and little savory fried donuts. curried lentils and fresh coconut chutney. The dish most likely to appeal to Americans is the masala dosa, a thin crepe of fermented dough cooked crisp and folded around a filling of curried potatoes. One of the nicest things about the South Indian dishes is that they are cheap enough to justify trying on an experimental basis. (Prestonwood Creek Shopping Center, 5409 Beltline Rd. 960-0070 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: daily: 6-10; brunch: Sat & Sun 11:30-3. All credit cards. $-$$.)



ITALIAN



Adriano’s. This fashionable pizzeria in the Quadrangle, with its exposed metalwork and warehouse-style ceiling, hides nothing -including its bad service. One waiter for the whole place? The customers deserve better. But Gamberetti, a combination of shrimp, shallots and chives, is a welcome departure from the typical pizza, heavy on the cheese and just the right size. The even bolder Salome, of capers, onions and goat cheese, was sharp and satisfying. The Fettuccine Lumache. stuffed with escargots and bathed in white wine, is also a good choice. (The Quadrangle. 2800 Routh, Suite 170. 871-2262 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2. dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30. Fri & Sal 6 pm-midnight. Closed Sun. MC. V, AE. $$)

Alfredo Trattoria. Our meal got off to a slow start, with some confusion as to just who was waiting on us and bringing our drinks. But we were quickly appeased by the arrival of our octopus salads. Those with a taste for tentacles will find this one of the best in the city. Our portions of fettuccine with mushrooms and ham were more than generous; the cannelloni and manicotti were somehow robust, yet delicately seasoned; only the lin-guine left something to be desired, falling short of being cooked al dente. (5404 Lemmon. 526-3331. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2: dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun All credit cards. $$)

Bugattl. This popular Italian restaurant has slipped a long way since the time a couple of years ago when it was (under different management) the best Italian spot in town. But even in decline, Bugatti can be worth a visit. The appetizers we tried contained the best food. A salad of marinated octopus was tender and delicate; the tortellini were just chewy enough in their light cream sauce; and the special of mushrooms stuffed with crab meat was more interesting than the usual cliched version. The various veal dishes we sampled were sauced nicely, but all of them suffered from a heavy coating of batter. Why do so many Dallas Italian restaurants think they have to imitate egg foo yung when sauteing veal? (2574 Walnut Hill Lane 350-2470. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2: dinner: Mon- Thur 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

Café Italia. As usual, we were stuffed when we left this tiny restaurant tucked away on Maple Avenue across the street from Elliot’s Hardware The one thing we love about Cafe Italia is that there is no skimping on the garlic here – particularly on the crispy garlic bread. We were impressed with the creamy fettuccine Alfredo sauce and the spicy linguine with white clam sauce The special of the day was chicken romano, baked in light, buttery bread crumbs and covered with a creamy romano cheese sauce. Pasta and vegetables on the side weren’t especially memorable, and neither were the desserts. The cappuccino pie was bland, and the strawberries in whipped cream were limp – as though they’d been sliced too soon. Despite the shortcomings, you can’t beat the place for its reasonable prices and excellent service. (5000 Maple. 521-0700. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. Mc, V, AE. $$)

Cremona. Hidden away at the end of Routh Street in Oak Lawn, this place gave us one of the most pleasant outdoor dining experiences we’ve had. The tiny little restaurant isn’t elegant or sophisticated, but it is com fortably casual – just the sort of place to take a friend for lunch. There aren’t more than 10 selections on the menu, but the fettuccine with mushrooms and the lasagna were well-prepared and flavorful and were delivered to our table by handsome Italian waiters. The entrees came with a salad that was tasty, although the lettuce could have been fresher. Desserts are typical: cheesecake and mud pie. (3136 Routh. 871-1115. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2: dinner Mon-Fri 6-10:30. Sat 6-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$) Cunze’s. This looks like the Italian restaurants of our youth, and the food fits the memory. Not everything here is made with tomatoes or garlic, but sometimes it seems as if it were. The pasta dishes (usually cooked softer than we would prefer) mostly come with tomato sauce or garlic (either on its own with oil or with seafood perhaps). Our favorite dish here is probably the veal parmigiana, which, of course, is the crown prince of the kingdom of tomato sauce. Other things, like chicken breast sauteed and served with mushrooms, are also touched with a hint of garlic along with a spritz of lemon. (6101 Greenville. 369-5747 Mon-Sat 5-11 pm. Sun 5-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Firenze. In general we find the antipasto and pastas more appealing than the main dishes here. The fried calamari is crisp and delicate and comes with a fresh-tasting light tomato sauce, and the oyster appetizer (the mollusks out of their shells, basking in a creamy, golden sauce) is unusual and delicious. The green tortellini in a rosy sauce is as good as any in town, the linguine is al dente in a sturdy clam broth and the tagliolini al prosciutto is fine. The veal and fish dishes tend to be bland. Don’t miss the “Italian cake” for dessert – a complex creation of zabaglione and chocolate cream layered with spongecake in the shape of a bom be. (The Corner Shopping Center, 9820 N. Central. Suite 504, 373-4700. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11-2; dinner: Tue-Thur 6-10, Fri-Sun 6-10:30. V, AE, DC. $$$)

II Sorrento. With an elegant, serene atmosphere, courtly yet friendly service and food that doesn’t disappoint, II Sorrento satisfies. In this dimly lit dining room, decorated in an Italian piazza motif that might be a bit medieval for some tastes, we enjoyed appetizers of mushroom caps stuffed with crab meat and baked eggplant adorned with shrimp and clams. The sword-fish steak was truly exemplary, although the veal entree we tried was a trifle tough. But the hard rolls-served non-stop – were irresistible, and the side dishes of fresh asparagus and lightly fried zucchini were pleasant accompaniments. Our chocolate mousse desserts were delicious. (8616 Turtle Creek Blvd. 352-8759 Sun-Fri 5:30-11 pm, Sat 5:30 pm-midmght. All credit cards. $$$)

La Tosca. La Tosca was the first restaurant to give Dallas a glimpse of many of the treasures of the Italian kitchen. It’s still the same lovable, frustrating place it has always been-just as you think you are experiencing one of the great Italian meals of your life, along come a dish or two to disappoint you. On our last visit, the octopus salad was perfectly tender and flavorful; the crespelle (Italian crepes) beautifully filled and seasoned; the tortellini alla nonna ideally creamy. We were not as fond of the shrimp-and-pea risotto as of the previous version with various seafoods, but it was a fine dish. But the shrimp provencale and the veal scallops topped with cheese proved lackluster. (7713 Inwood. 352-8373. Tue-Sun 6-10:30 pm. Closed Mon. Reservations Tue- Thur & Sun only. All credit cards. $$$)

Mario’s. Deep red walls and cases of Venetian glass set the tone -if this is Italian food, it is internationalized and glamorized Italian food. Our appetizers showed the ambivalent nature of the place. The highly seasoned cannelloni with a slightly spicy fresh tomato sauce was countered by a dish of shrimp, sweetbreads and mushrooms in a sadly tough puff pastry. Salads followed the pattern: one Frenchified one of bitter endive and rather woebegone watercress, balanced against a lettuce leaf filled with chunks of roasted peppers, cucumber and tomato with strong-tasting fresh basil. The tournedos Mario was tastily topped with a very French perigourdine sauce. The veal with shrimp was one of the best versions of scallopini served in Dallas lately-the meat tender and white, the sauce thickened with minced shallots. (135 Turtle Creek Village, Oak Lawn at Blackburn. 521-1135. Sun-Thur 6-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 6-11:30 pm, All credit cards. $$$)

Massimo da Milano. Essentially, this is an Italian bakery, with cases filled with tempting breads of all sorts, baskets of cookies and sybaritic trays of pastries. We swoon at the memory of the vanilla mousse cake topped with perfect strawberries, the cream horns filled with chocolate pastry cream and the very expensive ($5 for one, and worth every penny), large, crusty envelope filled with apples, pine nuts and raisins. Massimo da Milano also has a selection of other foods: You will find many variations on the theme of bread dough with savory toppings (none, though, is much like the pizza we are used to), pasta salads and a couple of hot dishes like a lasagna rich with a creamy bescia-mella sauce. For all this you will have to wait in line – there is no table service, and you may even wind up clearing away the dishes from the first table you can grab if you come at a busy hour. (5519 W Lovers Lane. 351-1426 Tue- Thur 8 am-9 pm, Fri & Sat 8 am-11 pm. Sun 8 am-9 pm. Closed Mon. MC, V. $)

Nero’s Italian. From the name, the location (way down on Greenville) and the rather dark interior, you might expect early Roman decadence-or at least a bar more than a restaurant. But all those little statues are of saints, not Venus and Mars, and Nero’s has turned thumbs up on good cooking. Foremost among the offerings here are the pizzas-if you like a fairly thick but crunchy crust, you may find these the best around. One page of the menu offers all sorts of combinations, from the fairly routine to New Wave goat cheese and Gorgonzola affairs, and the back of the menu lets you build your own. There are also ingenious appetizers, pastas available as first or second courses, nightly specials and interesting Italian wines by the glass. (2104 Greenville. 826-6376. Mon-Thur 6-11 pm, Fri & Sat 6 pm-midnight. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)

Pietro’s. The owners have added an enclosed porch and made some other decorative changes since our last visit, but even with the extra seating, there’s always a wait on the weekends. We sampled linguine with clam sauce, which was |ust right – not too fishy and not too heavy on the sauce – and one of the chefs suggestions, chicken cacciatora, tender baked chicken with fresh tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms and green peppers in a wine sauce with a side order of spaghetti that was pretty close to Chef Boyardee quality. We also tried a chocolate sundae with Pietro’s homemade chocolate sauce (rich and satisfying) and real Italian cheesecake. The waitress warned us that real Italian cheesecake is made with ricotta cheese, so it’s not very sweet, and she was right. (5722 Richmond. 824-9403. Tue- Thur 5-10:30, Fri & Sat 5-1 1:30 pm, Sun 5-10 pm. Closed Mon. MC, V. $$)



D REVISITS



Pizzeria Uno. The best things about this place for Chicago-style deep-dish pizzas are the pies themselves: buttery crusted, with inch-deep heaps of sausages, cheeses and vegetables. Some come with little or no tomato sauce-the seafood pizza uses lots of garlic for flavor instead. There are some pretty good side dishes, but the best accompaniments are libations from the bar that forms the heart of the restaurant. The main drawbacks at Pizzeria Uno are the noise and the service, which we have found to be slow and spacey even at off hours, let alone at mealtimes, when the place is usually packed. (4002 Belt Line, Addison. 991 -8181. Mon & Tue 11-10:30, Wed& Thur 11 am-11:30pm, Fri & Sat noon-12:30. Sun noon-10.30. MC, V, AE. $$$)

Pranzo’s. When you get right down to it, there aren’t many nice places downtown where you can enjoy a basic business lunch. Despite the good food and location, Pranzo’s doesn’t quite fill that void. We tried a salad of mozzarella, tomatoes and zucchini with basil dressing that would make a delicious light lunch in itself. The sfinciuni – much like a delicate, double-doughed pizza encasing a hearty filling of either cheese and vegetables or sausage and ham – was delicious. But the restaurant has already sparked a reputation of being too slow for anyone with hopes of returning to work with time left in the day, and on our first visit, the service was confused to the point of being comical. (SPG Building, 1530 Main, second floor. 698-0493 Mon-Fri 11 am-3 pm. Closed Sat & Sun. MC. V, AE. $$$)

Ristorante Vlncenzo. When this Italian restaurant opened last fall, it was heralded as the jewel in the crown of a rejuvenated Quadrangle. Despite the facts that the crown remains a ruin-in-restoration and the jewel is at times unpolished, Ristorante Vincenzo endures. If we have caveats, they apply only to the meal’s opening rounds: The antipasto is perfunctory, the minestrone is rather bland, the Caesar salad is short on fanfare and long on croutons. An order of fried cheese, however, was quite spectacular -served in an abundant mound, half sauced with tomato, the other in a lemon caper concoction. Our entrees were outstanding-a perfectly charred veal steak, which was thick and properly juicy; and scampi aligned like a brochette with moist morsels of onion and green pepper. Vegetables del giorno-a deep-fried cauliflower and tender julienne strips of zucchini-were perfect accompaniments. Equally impressive were the authentic cannoli and a rich and exuberant cappuccino pie. (The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh. Suite 165. 871-8898 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)



D REVISITS



Ristorante Savino. For consistency and authenticity, this is probably Dallas’ finest Italian restaurant. Our latest visit gave us opportunities to taste a splendid version of vitello tuna (cold, thin slices of braised veal topped with a sauce flavored with tuna and lemon and crowned with capers). The cro-chette-small croquettes made of fried stuffed crepes- were less exciting, but both pasta courses were cooked magnificently: cavatelli (pasta shells in a sauce strongly flavored with tomato, garlic and exotic cheese) and angel hair pasta in a lobster sauce. Our meat dishes- delicate scallops of veal in a wild mushroom sauce and large shrimp in a golden sauce smelling of saffron -were exemplary. Desserts have improved steadily as Ristorante Savino has matured; the profiteroles are worth every calorie. (2929 N Henderson. 826-7804. Sun-Thur 6-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30- 11 pm. All credit cards. $$$)



Sfizi. This West End Italian place has really picked up steam since our last visit, when it was almost empty. We even had an unexpected 20-minute wait for our table. The menu is brief, but supplemented by a chalkboard specials menu, which the waiter brings to your table and explains thoroughly. The fried calaman was a pleasant appetizer but the shrimp champignon was perhaps a little too ambitious. For our entrees, the chicken marsala was delicious as was the eggplant. The tortellini was also tasty but not served hot enough. The cannoli made an adequate dessert. The minor deficiencies in the kitchen were compensated for by the efficient and pleasant service; if you like concrete-floor-and-neon-light ambience, you should have a pleasant experience at Sfizi. (1718 Market. 698-9390 Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri 11 am-2 am. Sat 5 pm-2 am, Sun 5-11 pm. All credit cards. $$)



JAPANESE/KOREAN



Fu|i-Ya. This tiny Japanese restaurant looks more authentic than it once did (there is now a kind of sushi bar), and the food remains a pleasant introduction to this Asian cuisine. There are the usual combinations of tempura and teriyaki, plus more out-of-the-way items like yaki soba (slightly spicy Japanese noodles), shabu shabu (simmered beef slices and vegetables) and grilled fish. A few varieties of sushi are available either as a main course or an appetizer. (13050 Coit. 690-8396. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10. Fri & Sat 5:30-11 MC. V. AE $$)

Kobawoo. This Korean restaurant reopened after a fire last year. It’s bigger (if not fancier) than before, and the food seems better than ever. The menu lists Chinese and Japanese dishes, too, although they tend to be filtered through a Korean sensibility. (The shrimp fried with vegetables, for instance, has at least a dozen ingredients, including broccoli, cauliflower, squash and two kinds of mushrooms.) The Korean barbecued beef, bulgoki, is good here, as are the fiery-hot pickled vegetables such as kimchee. Kobawoo also offers a number of more unusual dishes, such as the whole fried fish Korean-style, which we found delicious. (3109 Inwood at Cedar Springs. 351-6922 Mon-Fri 11 am-10 pm. Sat noon-10 pm, Sun 1-10 pm. MC. V. AE. $$)

Korea House. As always, we were welcomed hospitably by the Korean ladies who run this place. This time we skipped the appetizers and went right to a selection of main dishes and were rewarded by a satisfying meal. We always enjoy kalbi gui, Korean barbecued ribs that are more like the Mexican version, agujas, than their American counterpart. Tiny shrimp stir-fried with a myriad of vegetables and little chunks of fried chicken coated with a spicy sauce were complemented by the delightful Korean cold vegetables: vinegary cucumbers, bean sprouts touched with sesame and, of course, kimchee, the Korean five-alarm spiced cabbage. (Promenade Center, Coil at Belt Line, Suite610, Richardson. 231-1379. Sun-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 30 am- 10:30 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

Mr. Sushi. Now that it has expanded in size, Mr. Sushi is more than ever Dallas’ most enjoyable Japanese restaurant. If you’ve picked up the taste for raw fish -we read somewhere that 7 percent of Americans have taken the plunge, and our four-year-old is one of them-the sushi bar enables you to pick and choose among the juiciest morsels. Yellowfin tuna is a consistent winner, and this time we found an interesting concoction of scallops in a mayonnaise-like dressing wrapped up in seaweed. If you prefer to sit at a table, the service is extremely polite. You can choose among appetizers like kara age chicken (plump chunks deep-fried-McNuggets were never like this) or tofu steak (fried bean curd sitting atop a gingery sauce). The sukiyaki, though, we found disappointing. (The Quorum,4860 Belt Line, Addison. 385-0168. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11, Sun 5:30-10. All credit cards. $$)

Royal Tokyo. Royal Tokyo has something for everybody: tatami rooms for those who want comparative authenticity, hibachi tables for those who want a show, a sushi bar for those who crave raw fish and even a piano bar for those who just want a drink. The sushi bar turns out the best food: The selection of fish and seafood is wide, and each item we tried was at the peak of freshness (the yellowtail and mackerel were especially fine). On the down side were the sukiyaki (carelessly boiled instead of prepared ingredient by ingredient) and the tempura (with lots of heavy, underdone batter). (7525 Greenville. 368-3304. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2, Sun 11:30-2:30; dinner: Sun 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11:30. Mon-Thur 5:30-11. All credit cards. $$)

Sakura. Sushi may come and sushi may go, but this authentic Japanese (and Korean) restaurant has become a Dallas staple. If you like raw fish, the sushi plate is a winner – a generous and tasty array ranging from salmon and whitefish to octopus. For more traditional diners, Sakura offers a nice fried-food menu (we liked the fried shrimp and pork served on a skewer). Sit at a table, on the floor or belly up to the sushi bar and count on excellent service. On the weekends, also count on fighting the rock ’n’ rollers clubbing next door for a parking space. (Valet parking is offered for those who’d rather switch than fight.) (7402 Greenville. 361-9282. Sun & Mon 5:30-midnight, Tue-Sat 5:30-1 am. Reservations recommended on weekends. All credit cards. $$)

D REVISITS



Shogun. This handsome-looking little Japanese inn never seems to quite live up to the promise of its gleaming white walls and polished woodwork. We are not fond of the combination dinners that dominate the menu, especially when a decent version of chicken teriyaki has to follow a gummy rendition of shrimp tempura. Because the large platter of sushi and sashimi did not seem optimally fresh and cold, the best thing we tried on our most recent visit was the tonkatsu-the Japanese fried pork cutlet. Our Japanese waitress was attentive enough, but glum. (5738 Cedar Springs near In-wood. 351-2281 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon- Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sal 5:30-11, Sun 5-10:30. All credit cards. $$)



MEXICAN



A.J. Gonzales. The West End finally has a Mexican restaurant now that A.J. Gonzales has moved into one of the renovated warehouse buildings there (although the address is on Market Street, the only street entrance to the restaurant is on Record, downtown’s westernmost street). The decor is simple but attractive, and the same might be said of the food. If you have a yen for old-fashioned Tex-Mex, you could do a lot worse than make the trek here. The enchiladas are gooey and tasty, the tamales have more flavor than at most other places, and the puffed tacos have an unusual filling of picadillo (a chopped meat filling that includes a bit of potato) The more ambitious grilled dishes are less satisfying. (1701 Market, Suite 102 651-9507. Mon-Thur 11 am-3 pm & 5:30-10 pm, Fri 11 am-3 pm & 5:30-11 pm, Sat 11-11. Closed Sun. MC, V, DC, CB. $$)

Alaman’s. This is a completely different place, both in looks and in menu, from its first incarnation as a branch of Raphael’s some years back. Now it is very individualistic: neither authentically Mexican, for the most part, nor conventionally Tex-Mex. You might call it an American response to Mexican cuisine. It is also wildly uneven from dish to dish. The version of ceviche is excellent, and the chicken mole is the best version we have had in a restaurant in the United States-the sauce was obviously homemade and marvelously complex, despite the ring of pineapple on top. But we heard a waiter scaring an inquisitive customer away from the mole toward one of the less successful combination plates, in which the adaptations of Mexican ideas seemed to us sometimes just plain odd. (13601 Preston Road. 387-2620. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30, dinner: Mon-Sat 5-10. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE, DC $$-$$$)

Baja Louie’s. This is not the first Mexican restaurant to occupy this space, but perhaps the first to do so with such pizzazz. The atmosphere is festive and loud (even on a Sunday afternoon live music alternates with music videos on a giant screen, and at night you have to be of age even to get in the door). The food probably doesn’t matter much amid the flurry, but it may well be better than it has to be. Baja Louie’s fajitas may no longer be the best in town, but they certainly are honest and meaty- not overmarinated and served on a bed of onions to keep the meat from getting burned. The Tex-Mex plates are for hearty eaters-the portions are most generous. (The Corner Shopping Center, 8021 Walnut Hill at Central Expwy. 361-5192. Mon-Thur 11 am-11:30pm, Fri 11 am-12:30am, Sat 11:30 am-12:30 am, Sun 11:30-11:30. MC, V, AE. $)

Blue Goose Cantina. Exposed heating ducts, bare concrete floors and cases of Mexican beer everywhere give the Blue Goose a kind of high-tech-Mex atmosphere. The menu looks challenging, too, with everything from quail to lobster available grilled over mesquite, but the cooking often seems perfunctory. Great chunks of meat are served in huge portions, but the pork cubes we tried were underdone, and both they and the beef fajitas had been robbed of any subtlety by an excess of lemon juice. The Tex-Mex we sampled at the Blue Goose wasn’t much more convincing. Friendly service in an outgoing style couldn’t really make up for the disappointment in the food. (2905 Greenville. 823-8339. Mon-Fri 11 am-2:30 pm & 5:30-11 pm, Sat & Sun 11 am-4 pm & 5-11 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Cafe Cancun. We found the atmosphere of this Mexico City-style restaurant quite airy, a pleasant departure from the typical close seating in most Mexican restaurants. We also found the service exceptional. Our waiter was courteous and helpful, our glasses were filled often, and a new basket of chips was on our table before we finished the first. But we saw no marked improvement in the cuisine since our last visit. The chicken nachos, made with black beans, Chihuahua cheese, chicken, guacamole, sour cream and jala-pefios, were average, as were the fajitas and sour cream chicken enchiladas. We remember when the food here was better. (4131 Lomo Alto, 559-4011: Caruth Plaza, Park Lane at Central Expwy. 369-3712. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri 11-11, Sat5-11 pm. Sun noon-10 pm, at Lomo Alto location: Mon- Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun noon- 10 pm at Caruth Plaza location. MC, V, AE. $$)

Cantina Laredo. How many places catering to gringos serve the homey Mexican dish of chicken and rice, ar-roz con polio? (We have had more exciting versions, in truth, but hardly any versions at all are available in Dallas.) Even enchiladas (chicken), tacos (made with machaco, slivered meat) and tamales are authentic here. And the search for definitive fajitas and other grilled specialties ends right on this doorstep: The mesquite taste balances perfectly against the marination, and the accompanying grilled scallions, frijoles al charro, guacamole and flour tortillas are all outstanding too. The churros (long Mexican cinnamon-dusted fritters) are to die for, and the flan is also outstanding. We are also impressed with the smooth and courteous service. (4546 Belt Line. Addison. 458-0962 Sun- Thur 11-11,Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight. All credit cards. $-$$)



D REVISITS



Café Rincón. We had heard some complaints about both food and service here, but when we returned to check them out all seemed well as before. Our server was not as cordial as some we have had here, but was efficient. And the food was delightful. Flautitas (crisp tortillas rolled around spicy chicken meat) made a great starter. The red snapper was touted as very fresh, and so it was, with its garlicky sauce. The carne asada a la tam-piquena boasted tenderloin that melted in the mouth alongside searing-hot peppers, an enchilada and a tiny cilantro-laden pot of beans. Flan for dessert was the only unexciting dish we sampled. (2818 Harry Hines. 871-7280. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri 11:30 am-midnight. Sat 5 pm-midnight. Closed Sun. MC, V. AE. $$)



Chiqulta. We’d say that Chiquita-with its festive, oversized paper flowers everywhere – never changes, only the “new specialties” that are periodically rotated on and off the menu constantly add variety. This time we tried the appetizer of rajas con crema – tender strips of chile poblano, tiny pieces of diced zucchini, cheese and cream all wrapped up in flour tortillas-and found them soothing and satisfying. The other dish new to us was the filete encebollada, strips of beef sauteed with onions and peppers. We also liked the “pipos” (tiny flautas filled with shrimp). The chicken breast in a mole sauce, though, was a tad disappointing -the sauce lacked the complexity and richness that this Mexican classic can have. (3810 Congress. 521-0721. Mon-Thur 11:30 am- 10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11 pm. Closed Sun. MC. V. AE. $$)

Chlto’s. If you are looking for authentic Tex-Mex in a down-to-earth setting and Herrera has a line down the block, you might drive on down the street to Chito’s. This place may actually be more authentic – it doesn’t feel so self-consciously picturesque, and you will probably encounter a larger percentage of Mexican clientele. The standard Tex-Mex items are well done-tacos and enchiladas are particularly appealing. The menu doesn’t go in for many newfangled fancy items, either; even the now standard fajitas are strictly down-home. The meat is grilled instead of charcoal-broiled, it hasn’t been marinated to death and it doesn’t come on a sizzling platter. But the dish, like the restaurant that serves it, is pleasant in its unassuming way. (4447 Maple. 526-9027:3437 Walnut Hill, 351-9554. Sun-Tue & Thur 9 am-9 pm, Fri & Sat 9 am-3 am. Closed Wed, at Maple location: Tue-Sun 9 am-10 pm. Closed Mon, at Walnut Hill location. MC, V. $)

Garza Blanca. You may recognize the name as that of a famous resort in Puerto Vallarta. The ceviche is spectacularly fresh and tasty, with a strong taste of lime, olive oil and especially capers. The best choices for main dishes here are the charcoal grilled specialties, which are oddly identified by the sounds that the animals being served made when they were alive (beef is Moo, frog’s legs Ribbet Ribbet – combination dinners make a whole barnyard of sounds). The meats are deliciously seasoned with vinegar, oil and oregano before cooking, and the butterfly pork chop and the fa-jita steak are particularly tender and moist. The mango ice cream topped with perfectly ripe slices of fresh mangos are an exciting dessert, with Mexican anise and cinnamon cookies served on the side. Return visits have sadly revealed that service declines and noise abounds on a busy evening here. (2508 Maple. 871-0530. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 4:30-10, Fri-Sat 4:30-11. MC, V, AE. $$)

Genaro’s. This cool, tropical oasis would be great – for people-watching, sipping margaritas, dancing on Sunday nights-even if no food were available. But it is. and most of it’s quite reliable. On recent visits we’ve tried ceviche, seafood nachos, flautas, the excellent torta del mar and basic Tex-Mex, and come away smiling every time. (5815 Live Oak at Skillman. 827-9590. Sun-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sal 11 am-midnight. All credit cards. $$)

Gonzalez. Over the years, this funky little Mexican place (where you can order and drive through to pick up) has suffered both from overpraise and from too summary a dismissal. It does serve some very good Mexican food, though it’s by no means consistent these days. Not everybody likes the exotically flavored fajitas (the secret is lots of oregano), but we do. And the bur-ritos made of all sorts of authentic fillings (such as the stews called guiso and carne guisado) are well worth investigating. (4333 Maple. 5282960. Daily 7 am-9 pm. All credit cards. $$)



DRBVISITS



Javier’s. This is Yankee Mexican food: pricey, prettier than a combination plate, peculiar to natives weaned on crispy tacos. Things like red snapper mojo de ajo (succulent fillets dripping with buttery garlic, lime juice and white wine) and filete pimienta (mouth-watering tenderloin in a piquant black pepper sauce) don’t crop up too often at Rosita’s. But we are blessed that they do appear with consistency at Javier’s, surely one of the most enjoyable restaurants in Dallas. Oh, and don’t miss the appetizer of cheese panela (grilled Monterrey Jack with Mexican sausage) flamed a tavola, or the chocolate mousse laced with Tia Maria and walnuts. (4912 Cole. 521-4211. Sun-Thur 5:30-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 5:30-11:30 pm.AII credit cards. $$$)



La Botlca. The mishmash of Dallasites who have found La Botica (it’s nearly hidden on Haskell Avenue about a mile east of Central) must like it for the same reasons we do: It’s casual, fairly quiet and steeped in family-run friendliness. The food – Mexican staples with a hefty addition of beef dishes- is fine but rarely exciting. Particularly good: the tangy enchiladas verdes, the simple tacos and the spicy chicken soup. Our otherwise happy visits met with two disappointments: the ho-hum and smallish carne asada and La Botica’s tendency to be out of things we want to order. (1900 N Haskell. 824-2005 Lunch: Tue-Fri 11-2; dinner: Tue-Sal 5-10. Closed Sun & Mon. MC. V, AE. $$) La Casita. Two sisters from Mexico and their mother opened a place on Lowest Greenville to serve real Mexican home cooking. The dishes they serve are the best, most comforting versions we have had in Dallas-made with lots of tender, loving care, too. The cooking is consistently excellent at La Casita, though it’s not exactly consistent. We suspect what you get depends on which of the three ladies has kitchen duty that day. The retried beans are marvels-but one day they are thick and rich with the flavor of pork and another day they zing with a sharp flavor of pickled jalapenos. You can’t find a better beef-and-cheese enchilada than here; the tamales are homemade and flavorful; the crisp tacos are filled with an appealing picadillo that includes tiny pieces of vegetable. The chiles rellenos have a perfect filling and a light, puffy breading that blend into a heavenly dish. (1908 Greenville. 821-8151. Mon, Wed. Thur 9 am-midnight, Fri-Sun 9 am-3 am. Closed Tue. No credit cards. $)

Mario & Alberto. We were in the mood for a fiesta when we last visited this uptown Mexican restaurant, and it did not disappoint. The nachos and shrimp flautas distracted us from the tostadas and cilantro-laden hot sauce until the main courses arrived. Then we delighted in beef dishes: alambres (Mexican shish kebab), puntas de filete (tiny slivers of beef sautéed with garlic) and filete de la casa (a slice of rare tenderloin topped with herbs and garlic). On the way out, we couldn’t resist a cinnamon-rich praline. (Preston Valley Shopping Center, LBJ Frwy at Preston, Suite 425 980-7296. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11 pm. Closed Sun. Drinks with $5.50 membership charge. MC, V, AE. $$)

Mario’s Chiquita. This northernmost venture of Mario Leal (who owns Chiquita and Mario & Alberto) features a fine version of chorizo flameado (Mexican sausage and cheese melted and dolloped into a flour tortilla), excellent flautas and even a passable version of ceviche as appetizers, in addition to the ubiquitous nachos. We find it difficult to force ourselves to sample the various Tex-Mex combination platters (all decked out with girls’ names), because the true Mexican specialties are so much more exciting. Mario’s Chiquita does an especially pleasing job with its beef dishes-the filete de la casa and the filete pimienta vie for top honors (221 W Parker, Suite 400. Piano 423-2977 Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11.30-11. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)

Mia’s. Every city needs its celebrated holes in the wall, and Mia’s has been Dallas’ for the last year or so. It made its reputation with the fajitas, which do have a distinct flavor (is it liquid smoke?). The little pots of stewed pinto beans soak up the tastes of smoked pork and cilantro, and the standard Tex-Mex numbers are better than okay. We like the friendly neighborhood feeling of the place, but the service can be a bit scatterbrained. (4418 Lemmon. 526-1020 Mon-Fri 11 am-2 pm and 5-10 pm. Sat noon-10. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)

Moctezuma’s. It’s a jungle out there, but no matter how many Mexican restaurants pop up around Dallas, this one will remain a staple of fine Mexican cuisine, from the hot sauce and chips to the “especiales”- specialty dishes that make this south-of-the-border menu distinctive. We were also favorably impressed with some of the more simple Mexican dishes: the enchiladas de polio (sour cream chicken enchiladas) and the puffed taco dinner. The decor is nothing fancy, but this is nonetheless a pleasant place to sip tasty margaritas. (3202 McKinney. 559-3010 Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri-Sun 11 am-midmght. Reservations for parties of six or more. All credit cards. $$)

On The Border. This Knox Street cantina is still a very popular spot – even with the addition of an extra room, there’s usually a wait for a table, either indoors or on the patio. And there’s a reason: The food, especially the fajitas, is very good, and the margaritas are wonderful. We could make a meal of the appetizers: chips and flavorful hot sauce, perfect guacamole and a mouthwatering layered dip of beans, onions, guacamole and sour cream topped with melted cheese. But we find the service frustratingly slow. On two occasions, we waited 15 minutes after the arrival of the chips for our drinks. (3300 Knox. 528-5900: 1350 Northwest Hwy at Saturn, Garland, 686-7867, 2011 E Copeland, Arlington, (817) 460-8000. Mon-Thur 11 am-midnight, Fri & Sat 11 am-1 am. Sun 11-11 at Knox location; Sun-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight at Garland location. Sun-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight at Arlington location. MC. V. AE, CB. $$)

Raphael’s. We had almost given up on the old locations of Raphael’s on McKinney and on Greenville, but the new place on the Addison strip seems to embody the virtues that once made Raphael’s the top Mexican restaurant in town. The food is good, from a simple plate of enchiladas to such complexities as carnitas of beef, grilled shrimp with lots of garlic and a chicken breast covered with cheese and lots of cooked fresh peppers, onions and olives. Even more refreshing is the solicitous service we encountered at the new Belt Line location (the waiters at the older ones sometimes have seemed to be competing for new levels of churlishness). Our only problem with the new spot is that everyone else in North Dallas seems to have discovered it, too. (3701 McKinney, 521-9640; 6782 Greenville, 692-8431; the Quorum, 4900 Belt Line, 991-3610. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-3 pm & 5:30-10:30 pm, Sat noon-10:30 pm, closed Sun at McKinney location; Mon- Thur 11:30 am-3 pm & 5:30-10:30 pm, Fri 11:30 am-3 pm & 5:30-11 pm,Sat noon-11 pm,Sun 6 pm-10 pm at Greenville location; Mon- Thur 11:30 am-3 pm & 5:30-10 pm, Fri 11:30 am-3 pm & 5:30-11 pm, Sat noon-11 pm, Sun 6-10 pm at Quorum location. All credit cards. $$)

Rosita’s. Every neighborhood ought to have its Rosi-ta’s – but in Dallas you mostly have to go out to Mexican-American neighborhoods to find good, solid Tex-Mex. (Don’t get the wrong idea, Rosita’s; we don’t want you to establish any branches elsewhere. That has been the downfall of too many wonderful Dallas sources of prime enchiladas.) Here you can get good nachos and tacos and even chiles rellenos. The fajitas were cooked to burned-tasting crisps on the sizzling platter on which they arrived, but the delightful sopapillas and flan afterwards made up for them. (4906 Maple. 521-4741; 5705 Southwest Green Oaks, Arlington. 572-1009. Mon-Thur 7 am-10 pm, Fri 7 am-11 pm. Sat 9 am-11 pm. Sun 9 am-10 pm at Maple location; daily 7 am-10 pm at Arlington location. MC. V,AE.$)

Via Real. Dramatic abstract pictures dominate the walls, and even the menus are original handcrafted works by the same artists. The contents of the menu are as fresh as the look of the place-you might call the concept New Wave Mexican, with a hint of Continental Spanish influence. The appetizers include such novelties as crepa de salmone (thin slices of smoked salmon enfolded in crepes and served dry except for a garnish of pico de gallo) and rellenos de pescado (long cylinders of fish mousse studded with salmon and surrounded by a rich sauce). Main courses at Via Real also tilt toward the seafood end, with skewered scallops and swordfish among the specialties. We found the scallop kebabs dominated too strongly by the taste of the bacon that enwrapped it, but the swordfish was firm-fleshed and tasty.(Towne North Centre, 3591 N Belt Line at Northgate, Irving. 255-0064. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-5; dinner: Sun- Thur 5-10:30, Fri-Sat 5-11:30; Sun brunch 11-3. MC, V, AE. $$)



SEAFOOD



D Atlantic Café. Having your own yacht couldn’t be much nicer than the experience of dining here: It’s probably the best -and certainly the sleekest-seafood restaurant ever to hit Dallas. Sashimi here consists only of immaculate slices of the freshest salmon – a good appetizer if you don’t want to hazard the richness of pasta crowned with shrimp and crab meat. The Dover sole, simply sauteed, will make converts of even the most resolute landlubbers. Even the salads (such as the Caesar and the fabulous mozzarella-and-tomato) and the desserts are special. (4546 McKinney at Knox. 559-4441. Lunch: Mon-Fri & Sun 11 -2:30; dinner: Sun- Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)

Best Pacific. This new restaurant wouldn’t attract much notice if it were on McKinney Avenue, but in northwest Garland, it’s enough of a sensation that it has a lot of business on weekends. The proprietor, branching out from a small Chinese takeout place in Piano, has created an unassuming neighborhood restaurant devoted mostly to seafood. Although the recipes aren’t Oriental, there are some benefits from the Asian heritage, such as the indisputable freshness of most of the foodstuffs, including even some barely cooked green beans accompanying our entrees. The two standouts among the entrees we sampled were the sauteed scallops-brown and slightly crunchy on top, but tender and juicy within -and the crisp, cornmeal-coated fillets of catfish, which only needed a bit of salt to be considered really first-rate. (4750 N Jupiter at Arapaho, Garland. 530-1574 Mon-Fri 11 am-2:30 pm & 5-10 pm, Sat & Sun 5-10 pm. All credit cards, personal checks accepted $$)



D REVISITS



Aw Shucks. For many good reasons, this disarm-ingly casual shuckery has become one of the most popular Lower Greenville dining spots. Your search for the perfect catfish may end here-and nobody in Dallas fills a basket with fish for a cheaper price. The same cannot be said of the skimpy shrimp and oyster combo, but skip it and “pick up a dozen’ – shucksese for a dozen plump oysters on the half shell. Combine with a big bowl of sure-’nuff gumbo, and welcome to New Orleans West. (3601 Greenville. 821-9449; 4535 Maple. 522-4498. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-11 pm. Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11:45 pm. Sun noon-10 pm at Greenville location: Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-11:45, Sun noon-10 pm at Maple location. No credit cards. $)



Bourbon Street. Don’t come here for the feel of New Orleans. With the exception of a few imitation gas street lamps and |azz Muzak in the background, this eatery looks more like a fern bar than a Cajun joint. The food, however, is a different story. The crab meat stuffed in the baked shrimp, for instance, is very tasty, and the grilled swordfish is worth a return trip. The meal is rounded out by a generous serving of some of the best green beans, carrots and rice we’ve eaten in recent memory. (Caruth Plaza. 9100 N Central Expwy. 363-2333. Sun- Thur 11:30 am-10 pm. Fri & Sat 11 30 am-11 pm. MC. V. AE. DC $$)

Café Margaux. Tom Agnew’s new restaurant has only a few tables and very simple decor limited to wine posters on the wall, but the food is some of the best in town. The short menu always has some of the basic Louisiana favorites. The gumbo is dark and rich-tasting, which means that the roux is properly made. The crayfish etouffee (available as an appetizer or a main course) has plenty of bite. All the other versions of blackened redfish in town (and there are dozens of them) fade from the memory in the presence of this definitive one -and the redfish Margaux is a mar-velously crunchy fried fillet floating on a delicate butter sauce. The bread pudding in a whiskey sauce is subtle -not too much bourbon, not too sweet. The sweet potato pie, on the other hand, is very sweet and utterly captivating. (4424 Lovers Lane. 739-0886 Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10. MC. V. $-$$)

D Café Pacific. Glossy but relaxed, this place epitomizes the often-deceptive Highland Park mystique for us. Except for a crisp Caesar salad (blessedly served for one), all our preliminaries were disappointing. Our appetizer portion of pasta with salmon suffered from the strong taste of the fish, the tortilla soup was too thick and tomatoey and the smoked chicken salad-though bounteous with meaty chunks of chicken and perfect walnut halves-didn’t really meld into a unified dish. But the main dishes included a good version of the ubiquitous blackened redfish and the splendid Seafood Pacific (crab, scallops and shrimp in a creamy sauce atop puff pastry) proved again one of the richest concoctions in town. Lovely details like a yellow rice that really tasted of saffron, a luxurious dessert of chocolate satin pie and professional service all restored our faith in the virtues of Cafe Pacific. (Highland Park Village. Preston at Mockingbird, Suite 24 526-1170. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30, Sun 10:30-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. MC, V,AE.$$$)

Don’s Seafood and Steakhouse. We keep giving Don’s one last chance, for old time’s sake. The original location in Lafayette, La., was the mecca of Cajun cuisine before Cajun was cool. Its various branches all over Louisiana and Texas have been unpredictable-often dreary, but occasionally dishing up the real thing. On our last visit to Don’s, dreariness was the order of the day. The seafood gumbo at least tasted of a real roux, although the soup was thicker than it ever is in Lafayette. The fried seafood was acceptable, but the broiled snapper and the various dishes comprising Ashby’s Special-shrimp etouffée, stuffed eggplant, crab au gratin-were disappointing. (2361 W Northwest Hwy. 350-3667. Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. All credit cards. $$)



D REVISITS



Jozeph’s. On our last visit to this cozy little restaurant on McKinney. we enjoyed a truly relaxing meal – a courtly, but not hovering waiter and a laid-back, almost seaside-like atmosphere close to downtown Dallas. Our appetizers, stuffed mushrooms and shrimp bisque, were delicious. The shrimp du chef, shrimp in a cream sauce, was light yet satisfying, and the scallops in yet another cream sauce were fresh and very good, but a little too dense. The praline parfait (skimpy on the praline sauce) and chocolate mousse cake (soggy) didn’t really measure up to the rest of the meal. (2719 McKinney. 826-5560. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11 -2:30; dinner: Sun- Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-11. All credit cards. $$$)



Joe’s Seafood. There are no tables at this serve-yourself oyster bar, just counters and stools, but the lack of amenities doesn’t hurt the taste of the seafood. The whole catfish is served with the fillets miraculously peeled away from the bone, the shrimp are succulent and the oysters are sweet and tender. The french fries are satisfying if you don’t mind a little grease (we don’t in this case), the cole slaw is serious, garlicky stuff and the hush puppies are the real thing (we had to go back and order more). The gumbo is better than average, and there are boiled shrimp and oysters on the half shell. (4324 Ash Lane (eastbound service road of 1-30, Peak/Carroll exit), 823-3681. Mon-Sat 11 am-midnight, Sun noon-midnight. MC, V, AS. $)



L&N Seafood Grill. You might not expect a seafood restaurant named after the landlocked cities of Louisville and Nashville to have much going for it, but this outpost of a chain based in the Southeast, which overlooks the central courtyard of NorthPark mall, fills a valuable niche in Dallas-somewhere between the simplicities of an S&D Oyster Company and the expense of a Cafe Pacific. It fries well, as both the bountiful appetizer of fried calamari (served with a racy fresh tomato sauce) and the main course of mixed fried seafood attested. There are fairly elaborate dishes like the seafood strudel appetizer (a triangle of phyllo pastry encasing a richly sauced portion of shrimp and scallops) and pasta Nicoise (firmly cooked linguine with large shrimp seasoned with lots of garlic and other Mediterranean goodies). There is also a large selection of grilled fish -we found both yellowtail and grouper good but not outstanding. (701 NorthPark Center. 363-4722. Lunch: Mon-Sun 11:30-5; dinner: Sun-Thur 5-10, Fri-Sat 5-11. MC, V, AE. $$)



Li’l Palm. This new Addison eatery, though basically Continental in its menu, is run by a family from Hawaii and is trying to evoke a South Pacific milieu. It’s an uphill battle, stuck away in the back of an obscure strip center, but Li’l Palm does manage to project a pleasant sense of place with tropical fish and ceiling fans. The food, though, is more mixed. The lumpia (Philippine eggrolls, a mark of the restaurant’s Asian-Pacific leanings) were large and filled with lots of beef, shrimp and sprouts; the frying had, however, contributed something of a stale taste, and the accompanying sauce was very sweet. Blackened redfish was dry and fishy-tasting (a common result in this dish if the contact with the heat is not controlled exactly) and mesquite-broiled halibut was undistinguished. Maryland-style crab cakes had an interesting texture, a bit like egg foo yung, but were underseasoned. Desserts, except for a fine chocolate layer cake, were disappointing too. (14849 Inwood, Addison. 788-1223. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10. Fri-Sat 5:30-10:30. Sun 5:30-9:30. All credit cards. $$$)



DNewport’s. This stylish, handsome West End purveyor of seafood isn’t always perfect, but you can usually count on at least one major success per meal. We were impressed with the crab cocktail – long strips of meat from the leg served with a sweetish sauce for dipping -and the grilled Gulf snapper. More ordinary were the ceviche (slightly over-marinated so that the shrimp and scallops were tough) and the trout amandine (it turned out to be freshwater trout rather than sea trout and was too oily). We were appeased, though, by the excellent salads, the nonpareil french fries and the silk pie of dark, dark chocolate. (703 McKinney in the Brewery. 954-0220 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30:dinner:Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. MC. V, AE, DC. $$$)



Ratctlffe’s. This spiffy seafood place has a new chef named Richard Chamberlain (he does come from California, although he’s not the former Dr. Kildare, and he worked with Dean Fearing at Agnew’s before his stint on the coast). So far the menu hasn’t gone over-board with New Southwestern touches, though the specials of the day, such as striped sea bass with mushrooms and buerre blanc, seem to surpass the dishes still on the old menu (like fresh lobster in a far too sweet Americaine sauce). We did like some of the nouvelle-ish touches – a thick raspberry vinaigrette on an avocado and artichoke salad and the delightful side dish of grilled vegetables. Though Ratcliffe’s can be excellent, be warned -it can easily vie in steepness of price with all but the city’s most flamboyant French restaurants. (1901 McKinney. 871-2900. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11 30-2; dinner: daily 6-11. Reservations recommended All credit cards. $$$)



D REVISITS



Oysters. This seafood place is cloning itself so fast we wondered if the food or service might be suffering. But, at the original location on Belt Line in Ad-dison at least, we found things better than ever. The seafood gumbo had a rich, smoky flavor, and the shrimp remoulade (though the sauce lacked a real Creole bite) was tasty. A platter of fried seafood had sweet oysters and crunchy shrimp and scallops, and this time even the cole slaw and the french fries were a plus. As a special of the day, we even tried the ubiquitous blackened fish-in this case, snapper rather than redfish. It was furiously peppery and meltingly tender. (4580 Belt Line, 386-0122; 2901 N Central Expwy at Parker, 422-2469 Mon- Thur 11 am- 10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. Sun 5-10 pm. MC. V,AE.$$)



Rusty Pelican. This first Dallas outpost of a California-based chain of quality seafood restaurants seems to have weathered the storm of the transition from the first days (when out-of-city help kept things running smoothly) to the takeover by the local staff (when service was shaky at first). Now things are on an even keel, and you may wait half an hour if you pop in without a reservation. The speciality here is exotic fish, either charbroiled or sauteed. We found that ahi, a Hawaiian fish, took well to the grill -served pink in the center, it really did remind us of a juicy, thick veal chop. The mahi mahi had a grainier texture and just seemed dull, with only tartar sauce to add variety. Plain old Gulf snapper, sauteed nicely enough, seemed drab next to the fancy imports. (14655 Dallas Pkwy, Addison. 980-8950 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner; Mon-Thur 5-11. Fri 5-midnight. Sat 4:30-midnight, Sun 4:30-11 pm. MC. V. AE, DC. $$$) Shrimper’s Seafood Cafe. We’ll say it again: The homemade potato chips and shrimp dip here are the best free snack in town. Bank on it. That said, we add this caveat: After savoring the dip, you may want to get up and walk out without ordering anything more. If only we’d done that on a recent visit. Sadly, we ordered gumbo (canned is better); oysters on the half shell (plump but largely tasteless); and a disaster called stuffed shrimp that ignored an immutable law of cooking. For A to be stufied with B, A must first be larger than B. In this case, A (tiny, tough shrimp) was not stuffed with anything, but a few sodden lumps of alleged crab stuffing were dolloped on top of the shrimp. Also at the scene of the crime was a chemically abused slew of brown rice. Anyway, love that shrimp dip. (4040 A brams. 827-5955 Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-10. All credit cards. $$)



SOUTHEAST ASIAN



La Pagode. This handsome, homey little place is our favorite for Vietnamese food in Dallas. The Imperial rolls and the Vietnamese-style crepe (really a paper-thin omelette stuffed with sprouts and shrimp) are both wonderful ways to start a meal here. The hot pot – a rich broth brimming with morsels of meat, seafood and vegetables-is a good choice for a main dish for a small crowd. The charbroiled beef strips come with lettuce leaves and fresh herbs for making Southeast Asian tacos. But we have mixed feelings about the frog legs in French butter-the jumbo-sized gams need more browned garlic. (4302 Bryan. 821-4542. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sal 11-11, Sun noon-10 pm. MC, V, DC, CB. $-$$)

Mai’s. This little Vietnamese cafe-long a word-of-mouth underground favorite-recently moved into larger quarters. The operation doesn’t seem to have grown in efficiency along with the space -orders get mixed up, and tables take awhile to be cleared. There are some good dishes on the menu – the beef in coconut has a pleasant curry flavor, and the various stir-fried dishes like chicken with snow peas have crisp vegetables and a peppery punch. But you can’t expect to enjoy the full range of Vietnamese cooking here- the beef with lemon grass, for instance, had nary a sign of that delectable herb. (4812 Bryan, Suite 100. 826-9887. Sat & Sun 9 am-10 pm, Wed-Fri 11 am-10 pm. Closed Mon & Tue. MC. V. $)

Siam Rose. It would be nice to report that the food at Siam Rose is as much a step up for Thai restaurants in Dallas as the ambience is, but sadly, the cooking is only about average. There are some interesting novelties: The pieces of chicken cooked in cornhusks are a kind of masa-less Thai tamale, and the duck in a red wine sauce is a subtle mixture of slightly sweet and salty tastes. We liked the chicken satay and beef salad among the appetizers, the shrimp cooked with lots of garlic and black pepper, the perennial Siamese favorite pud thai (noodles in a tangy sauce with shrimp and ground peanuts). But a number of standard Thai dishes can be under par here, like the spring rolls and the fishy-tasting deep-fried softshell crabs. (5290 Belt Line, Suite 142. 991-9881. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-3, dinner: daily 5-11. MC, V, AE. $$)

Thai Lanna. This unassuming place has been touted as the best Thai restaurant in Dallas. We enjoyed the hospitable welcome and admired the very extensive menu, but we didn’t think the cooking was all that good. It may be a question of the quality of ingredients – the various meat dishes we tried had strong smells, as though the meat was old. And the spicy beef salad was stringy and overcooked – not at all like the delicately charcoaled version we have had elsewhere. The delightful idea of eggplant curry, heavy on the mint leaves, was also compromised by the taste of the pork. (4315 Bryan. 827-6478. Mon-Fri 11 am-2:30 pm & 5-10 pm, Sat & Sun 11 am-10 pm. MC, V. $$)



SOUTHERN



Celebration. What’s to celebrate? Plenty. Thick, zes-ty slabs of meat loaf, succulent baked chicken and other Southern staples, supported by crunchy salads and a rotating cast of home-style vegetables. Best of all, it’s an all-you-can-eat affair at surprisingly modest prices. (4503 W Lovers Lane. 351-5681 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Sun 5-10. All credit cards. $$)

Dick’s Last Resort. You can have more fun in this bar-restaurant than just about anyplace else in the West End historical district. There’s sawdust on the floor, New Orleans-style bands, singers and other musicians performing on stage and a general air of camaraderie all over. For a place that is basically a bar, Dick’s Last Resort serves amazingly good food. The beef ribs are huge and meaty, a bit sweet. The spit-turned barbecue chicken is sensational, and the catfish is even better-crunchy and juicy. (Ross at Record. 747-0001. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11.30-2:30; dinner Sun-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri& Sat 5:30-midnight. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)

Dovie’s. With so much that’s new in Addison, it’s a real treat to spend an evening dining in the old. elegant ranch house of soldier/actor Audie Murphy. But, frankly, we think Dovie’s charges too much for the ambience. The specials of the day, at $15 each, included a tasty tenderloin and a huge slice of charbroiled swordfish. Side orders of sauteed veggies were fresh but a little bland. In spite of the fact that 5 of 12 entrees were not available, the service was excellent. We still think the onion soup is one of the best we’ve had, but the desserts could stand major improvement. (14671 Midway. 233-9846 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30: dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-9:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-10. Sun 5:30-9: Sun brunch: 11-2:30 All credit cards. $$)

Fran’s Cafe. Fran’s has moved uptown in a metaphorical as well as in a literal sense. It used to be a quaint spot dedicated to home cooking in a homey location off McKinney. Now it has joined a covey of franchise and chain operations in a strip center north of L.BJ. The menu is largely the same, but the ambience is now closer to that of slick places nearby than to Grandma’s. The food doesn’t seem quite so reassuring, either. The chicken-fried chicken was a good down-home version of this oddly named dish (the chicken breast is off the bone and the gravy is served on top, of course). The baked chicken is better than the turkey and dressing, which is no better than most cafeteria versions. (9247 Skillman. 553-1330. Mon-Thur 11-10. Fri & Sat 11-11. Sun 1130 am-10 pm. MC. V. AE. $)

Highland Park Cafeteria. We don’t know why the Dallas Parkway branch of this venerable local institution can’t quite keep up the standards of the original place. Perhaps the demand isn’t there- we notice you can seldom get the signature spinach salad with horseradish at the far North Dallas location. And fried chicken, usually definitive on Knox, is often soggy and tasteless uptown. But even at the lesser branch, you can come away feeling coddled by Southern hospitality. We love to make a meal of such regional delights as chicken and dumplings, collard greens, yams with marshmallows and lemon pie. The German chocolate cake is also worth the calories. (4611 Cole, 526-3801: Sakowitz Village. 5100 Belt Line at Dallas Pkwy, Suite 600, 934-8800. Mon-Sat 11.30 am-2 pm & 5:30-8 pm at Cole location: Mon-Sat 11 am-8 pm, Sun 10:45 am-3 pm at Sakowitz Village location. No credit cards: MC. V, AE for takeout and buffet orders of more than $10. $)



STEAKS, BURGERS, ETC.



Baskets Eatery. This mecca for informal diners hasn’t been around long, but it’s already opening several branches. You order at a counter, and your meal comes in-what else? -a basket, but there’s a wider choice than at similar places where you can only get burgers. Here there are shish kebabs and fried chicken as well. The chicken we found less greasy than at fast-food emporia, but the speed with which it was served, and the lack of just-fried, finger-burning freshness, suggested it had been cooked a while in advance. Our hamburger came with excellent homemade chili on top, but we can’t get used to the idea of paying nearly five bucks for a sandwich. Baskets also has an ice cream bar for those who have room for dessert. (4343 W Northwest Highway. 351-2575: 1603 LBJ Freeway. 484-3681. Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm. Fri & Sat 11-11 at Northwest Highway location: Mon-Fri 11 am-3 pm at LBJ location. No credit cards, personal checks accepted. $)

Hoffbrau. It’s tough enough to find a good steak these days, much less one for under 10 bucks. This restaurant, chock full of things Texana, is living proof that not everyone these days is turning to chicken and fish. No wonder. The specialty here is definitely meat, and judging by the crowds at both lunch and dinner, Hoffbrau’s tasty steaks are no secret. All dinners here include a large salad (with a house dressing), a plate of bread and crackers and pan-fried chunky potato slices. Waitresses clad in T-shirts and blue jeans set an informal atmosphere. Good food, good service and good luck finding a parking place. (3205 Knox. 559-2680 Mon-Fri 11-11, Sat noon-11 pm. Sun noon-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)

D Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Don’t be alarmed that Dallas’ premier steakhouse is part of a small New Orleans-based franchise chain – group buying is the only way to be sure of getting beef this good out of the distributors. And good it is. The rib-eye is our favorite – though the indulgence in so much rich, fatty beef may raise our cholesterol levels for a week. But that’s the difference between prime and choice beef- the fatty marbling that gives the best beet its incomparable flavor. The softball-size tenderloins are a bit less flavorful but very tender. The expense account eaters who come here seem to be mostly meat-and-potatoes people – which is fine, since potatoes are the only side dishes that match the quality of the beef You can have them fried four different ways, baked, au gratin, lyonnaise, etc. (6940 Greenville. 691 -6940. Mon-Fri 11:30-11.30, Sat & Sun 5-11 30 pm. All credit cards. $$$)



D REVISITS



The Palm. The floors are littered with sawdust, and the decorations consist mainly of doodled caricatures of the famous (and not so famous). So what makes this the playground of the biggest spenders around? The old-pro waiters give the place a certain air, and the food is certainly the sort high rollers go for. Steaks are the number one item-our tenderloin was as delicious as it was pricey. Lobsters are another specialty, and luckily this time we found one weighing in at only three and a half pounds The accompanying potatoes of various kinds are usually tempting (though on one recent occasion we found the wafer-thin fried slices unpleasantly bitter-tasting). Appetizers and desserts are mostly not worth the additional (hefty) expense. At lunch there is a much more reasonably priced menu, but do you really go to the Palm to eat shrimp salad or steak tartare? (701 Ross. 698-0470 Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm. Fri 11:30 am-11 pm. Sat 5-11 pm. Sun 5-9:30 pm. All credit cards $$$$)



Stetson’s. When the Registry opened, and for some time thereafter, Stetson’s was trying hard to compete in the big league as a steakhouse. Its new menu makes it seem much less ambitious. The steaks are still good, but they’re not the fabulous hunks of steer they seemed before. The selection of seafood, too, has dwindled to a few standard items. The service does seem to have improved, but maybe that’s because the place was nearly empty the evening we were there. (The Registry Hotel. 15201 Dallas Pkwy. 386-6000 Mon-Sat 5 pm-11 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. Reservations recommended. $$$)



LAS COLINAS/MID CITIES



Cafe Acapuico. Southwest Arlington is booming and so are the local amenities. Even the local eateries smack of the burgeoning affluent environment, which sets the stage for Cafe Acapuico, a Mexican cafe done in smart white stucco arches and cool tiles. The margaritas are potent – always a good sign. And the fa-jitas. recommended by many as the best in Arlington, are smothered in grilled onions, another good sign. We found both the beef and chicken fajitas worthy of the recognition. (4001 Green Oaks Blvd. Arlington. (817) 572-4471. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm. Fri & Sat 11-11. Sun noon-10 pm. AE. MC. V. $$)

The Café. The prospect of enjoying homecooking at a restaurant held relatively little appeal since we could, theoretically, stay home and enpy similar fare. That’s what we thought before we ate at The Cafe. Mom never thought about cooking like this: stuffed jalapenos, smothered steak with mushrooms and chicken-fried ribeye-all to the beat of Motown’s best. This Arlington spot is riding the crest of Fifties nostalgia with flashing neon and lots of chrome, but a second look at the impressive menu and beer list (more than 100 brands) will tell you that The Cafe is firmly entrenched in the Eighties. (715-A Ryan Plaza. Arlington. (817)261-1000. Mon-Thur 1130 am-11 pm. Fri & Sat 11 30 am-midmght. Sun 11-11 MC. V. AE. DC $$)

Café Cipriani. A brass-and-glass elevator sets the tony mood, but the food sometimes is a letdown The mixed seafood appetizer (including tiny squid), the shrimp provencale and the earthy risotto with wild mushrooms were fine, but the crab cannelloni were bland and the fresh lobster came served over a shockingly green (and not very appetizing) spinach sauce The veal fiorentino suffered from the same treatment, and the salmon was a tad fishy. The raspberry souffle was light and refreshing, but the German chocolate cake should have been sent back to the old country. (220 E Las Col-mas Blvd. Irving. 869-0713. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

D Enjolie. The menu here hasn’t changed a great deal, but the promotion of a new chef in the kitchen some months back seems to have blunted the edge of the cooking. A recent dinner was good, but not as exciting as some of those we remembered from the past. The duck pate with prunes had little flavor, and the lobster in an appetizer salad was overcooked and chewy. The little rounds of venison and of veal in our entrees lacked seasoning, and the accompanying sauces didn’t wow us. The desserts, though – three kinds of homemade ice cream (including a delectable pistachio) in pastry tulips and apples in the butteriest puff pastry imaginable- retained their old glamour. (Mandalay Four Seasons Hotel. 221 E Las ColinasBlvd. Irving. 5560800, ext. 3511. Lunch:Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$$)La Dell. An honest-to-goodness Lebanese restaurant in the middle of the old Hackberry ranch? Well, the proprietors think so. And so do we. except that the menu has been more or less Americanized. You can begin and end your meal with the Generous Tray alone: 18 (count em) dishes of assorted salads and appetizers, from rolled and stuffed grape leaves to fresh yogurt. This is a very enticing – and filling – beginning. Our favorite is the crushed eggplant in which you dip steamy pita bread. But be sure to leave some room for an entree. The combination dinner is a good choice because you can sample some of Lebanon’s most famous (and sometimes unpronounceable) dishes: Kibbi, falafel and shish kebab. (5433 N. Macarthur. 258-1163. Lunch: Mon-Sat 10-3; dinner: Tue-Thur 5:30-10. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)



D REVISITS



Piccolo Mondo. We were pleasantly surprised to find gnochi on the evenings menu at this neighborhood Italian restaurant in Arlington. (Although it’s located in a strip shopping center off congested Collins – FM 157 – it has the fuel of a quiet neighborhood place.) Gnochi are light potato dumplings in a creamy sauce that are truly a delicious appetizer. Sated, we followed that great beginning with fettuccine alia putanesca and veal scallopine Virginia. The fettuccine was unusual in its light, tomatoey sauce, but the light and creamy veal was predictable. (829 East Lamar. (817) 265-9174. Lunch: Mon-Fri: 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur: 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. All credit cards. $$)



Samurai. It’s surprising how a belt of Saki will improve your outlook on life-and raw fish. Dunked in the mixture of soy sauce and hot mustard, sashimi can be one of the best taste sensations found anywhere. All here, with the mild exception of the Yellowfin, fulfilled our expectations. The large portion of salmon was a little more done than we prefer but the creamy sauce restored the dish’s vitality. The array of tempura vegetables, on the other hand, was somewhat lackluster and bland. And the marinated beef was plentiful, but tasted as if it had marinated perhaps a bit too long. But another belt of Saki put everything right. (West Park Row, Arlington. (817) 860-2871. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner Mon-Thur 5-10 pm, Fri & Sat 5-11 pm. All credit cards $$)

FORT WORTH



Angelo’s. How much of Angelo’s reputation is warranted and how much mere mystique? We found the sliced barbecue and the chopped beef sandwich both lacking in smoky flavor (though tender and lean enough) on our most recent excursion. The extras here have never been worth hooting about, so that didn’t leave much besides the cold beer and the folksy sawdust on the floor to make our visit memorable. (2533 White Settlement Rd (817) 332-0357. Mon-Sat 11 am-10 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)



D REVISITS



Autumn Moon. This East Side establishment tries a little bit too hard to be-a great restaurant when it should be content that it’s a very good one. With not much ethnic competition on the East Side, Autumn Moon has a pretty clear field, so it’s hard to understand why, on a recent visit, we were serenaded with the sounds of a live electric guitar player throughout our dinner of crispy soup, spicy chicken and “two taste delicious,” a daring mix of spicy shrimp and pork. Our meal was, as usual, prompt and satisfying, but as far as we could tell, the music was more akin to Muzak than ballads of the Far East. (5516 Brentwood Stair. (817)496-6633. Sun-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 11 am-11 pm. MC, V. AE. DC. $$)



The Balcony of Ridgles. Overlooking the streaming lights of Camp Bowie is even more pleasurable while you sip a glass of crisp, cold white wine and savor the piquant taste of tender Norwegian salmon, steamed and sauced with a light hollandaise. A recent visit to this West Side vanguard yielded both – in ample and satisfying portions. In addition to the redfish, we also sampled a house specialty, double-cut lamb chops, and found them moist and tender, perfectly cooked to order. We would have stopped there, but our waiter pleasantly surprised us with a sudden availability of a Grand Marnier souffle of which we eagerly took advantage. It was delicate-albeit loaded with the sweet liqueur-and could have stood alone sans the dollop of whipped cream, which only added to its richness. (6100 Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 731-3719. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. All major credit cards. $$$)

Calhoun Street Oyster Co. The decor and the menu at this place are borrowed from New Orleans, but the service we encountered during a recent visit had an inviting Texas flair. The veggies with dip kept us busy until the main course – lobster tails – arrived. The oysters were so good you could easily make a full meal out of them, and the waiter who customizes the sauce at your table knows how to please customers’ palates. The night we visited, the amaretto cheesecake was made more tasty by the addition of chocolate swirls. If you’re not set on oysters – the house specialty – choose from the selections on the blackboard, where fresh seafood items vary daily. (210 E Eighth at Calhoun. (817) 332-5932 Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm. Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun 5-9:30 pm MC. V. AE. $$)

The Carriage House. Leisurely service is the byword here. Nothing is rushed, and given the ambition of the new menu, you need the time to carefully peruse the bountiful offerings of steak, seafood and veal. We could have made an entire meal of the fresh, perfectly seasoned pate maison. Our grilled swordfish was taken from the flames not a moment too soon, but the large tenderloin suffered under a suffocating blanket of peppercorns. Despite competition, the Old Guard Carriage House remains one of the most popular places in Fort Worth-and by our observations, it is aging as gracefully as its clientele. (5136 Camp Bowie. (817) 732-2873. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-11, Sun 6-10; Sun brunch: 11-2. MC. V, AE. $$$)

City Park Cafe. When was the last time you went to a restaurant and found the food even better than you remembered and the prices lower? If it’s been as long for you as it has been for us, then you haven’t stopped by the City Park Cafe, that quaint little strip restaurant in the TCU district, lately. We’re making a resolution not to let so much time slip by from now on. We tried a tender veal marsala in a brown sauce that was different from what we had expected but nonetheless a great choice and a plate of seafood fettuccine that was as good as we’ve had in many more expensive places. City Park Cafe is a jewel of a neighborhood restaurant. (2418 Forest Park Blvd. (817) 921-4567. Lunch: daily 11-3; dinner: Mon-Thur 5-10, Fri & Sat 5-11. Sun 5-9. MC. V. AE; personal checks accepted. $$)

El Rancho Grande. Our high opinion of this North Side establishment was tarnished a bit during our last visit. First, we were kept waiting for more than 20 minutes before our drink order was even taken, despite a bevy of waitresses hovering over nearby tables. Then we tried to console ourselves with the house special margarita (a heavy portion of gold tequila and other liqueurs), but the steep price tag drowned our somewhat rejuvenated spirits. Despite these disappointments, the beef fajitas and chicken enchiladas drenched in sour cream were still in our good graces, and the light-as-a-feather nacho chips are still our favorites. (1400 N Main. (817)624-9206. Mon-Thur 11 am-9:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)

D Escape. Closing shop after a successful run at the Fort Worth dining scene because of neighborhood zoning problems, Escape owners remained undaunted and moved – 100 feet away into a new office building (that the owners built). The same fixed-price menu ($25) is served as before, but several offerings are now offered a la carte for those who are intimidated by seven courses. Fortunately, we were not dainty eaters and welcomed each and every course. (Not only did we find the fixed-price menu more economical, it allowed us to sample selections from the entire menu.) We were delighted to find that the chef had not lost his touch From the beginning shrimp appetizer, through the heavenly lobster bisque and house salad, to the delicious veal Oscar and closing cheesecake, our appetites were amply satisfied. (3417 Wellington, Suite E. (817) 738-9704. Sun-Thur 6-10 pm, Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. All credit cards. $$$)

Joe T. Garcia’s. The fame of Joe T.’s can get in the way of enjoyment when tourist buses pile up outside, but if you can go at an off hour a lot of old magic is still there. There is less bustle, and the (mostly gringo) waiters are more solicitous. The food is pretty consistent In case you haven’t heard, the standard Mexican dinner is the big specialty here, and it’s almost the only thing Joe T.’s serves. It consists of round cheese nachos with a sprinkling of chopped jalapenos, a couple of cheese enchiladas with a purist’s cumin-flavored sauce and a couple of tacos made the old-fashioned way, with meat fried right in the crimped-together shell. On the side, thick retried beans, a lovely guacamole and fluffy Mexican rice are served family style. For holdouts against tradition, a version of fajitas called biftec is a worthy (and the only) alternative. (2201 N Commerce. (817) 626-4356. Mon-Fri 11 am-2:30 pm & 5-10:30 pm. Sat 11-11. Sun 1-10 pm. No credit cards. $$)

La Palma. No ritzy ferns. No cute little fried appetizer things. And no frosty margaritas- they don’t even have a hard-liquor license. But jumpin’ jehosaphat, you don’t need those frills when you’ve got the best fajitas in town. That’s a high honor we don’t bestow lightly. We’ve long been on the trail of the best fajitas in Fort Worth, and this restaurant had eluded us for quite some time. It’s located on far north Main. (If you think you’ve gone far enough, you haven’t And don’t let the bright red win-dowless exterior daunt you. This is the right place.) And now that we know where it is. it’ll be a permanent stop on our dining circuit. (3810 Main. (817) 626-0292 Mon 11 am-2:30 pm, Tue-Thur 11 am-9 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-9 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V. $)

La Poele D’or. This restaurant, in its storefront location, is very small, with crowded tables, slow service and decor that’s nondescript at best. But don’t let that stop you. The food is still worthy of consideration, even though the appetizers are unexciting and the salads are simple. We tried sauteed fillets of orange roughy, a fish from New Zealand, and found them delicate, and the specialty of the house (called shrimp Vance) is divine- lightly battered and crunchy crustaceans in a buttery sauce. The veal normande was heavy but tasty, and the chicken aux champignons was satisfying, too. (5718 Locke. (817) 738-6670. Mon-Thur 6:30-10 pm, Fri & Sat 6:30-11 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

Michel. For the second time running, we found things just a bit below par on our last visit. The packets of smoked salmon surrounding a fish mousse did not strike us as a happy inspiration (despite the visual appeal of the red caviar garnish), and the sauce on our lobster was thin and tasteless. The buffalo steak, in a heavy, rather German-tasting paprika sauce garnished with pickles, was the most interesting dish we sampled. (3851 Camp Bowie (817)732-1231. Mon-Sat 6-10 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$)

The River House. When you decide to eat out at The River House, the trick is to arrive early enough on a weekend night to be seated right away That way, you’ll have the entire selection of specials to choose from. You’ll be sorry if you miss out on the King Salmon. On a recent visit, this special vanished at 7:30 p.m., but our order was taken in the nick of time. We also tried the house scampi-twice. (The first order the waitress brought us resembled curled-up snails in a brown sauce, but before we could even venture a bite, she returned to snatch the plate away, saying that this order would never do.) She returned just moments later with some of the plumpest crustaceans we’ve seen in a long time. Lying on a puffy bed of pilaf. the shrimp made a big hit at our table. (1660 S University. (817) 336-0815. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2, dinner: Mon-Sat 5-10. Closed Sun. MC, V. AE, DC $$$)

Rodolfo’s. Have you ever had a hankering for pasta-and you wanted it right now? On the way to the movies recently, we were faced with such a dilemma. Entertainment or sustenance? Crisis averted. We found Rodolfo’s. Within minutes of being seated, we found ourselves in front of steaming tortellini and linguine in clam sauce. Somehow it seemed like destiny to be sitting in an Italian restaurant in Fort Worth being waited on by a French waitress who assured us that our order would be served “rapide.” The tortellini was part of a pasta sampler plate that also included manicotti and ravioli, all in a cream sauce. The linguine, basking in a highly seasoned red sauce, was like a magnet for the heavily dosed garlic bread. Indulging ourselves, we almost forgot the show. (6103 Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 731-3801. Mon-Sat 11 am-10 pm, Sun 5-10 pm. All credit cards. $)

D Saint-Emllion. There’s no doubt in our minds any more- this is Fort Worth’s premier restaurant and a wonderful bargain. The shrimp provencale is a masterpiece, and everything from salads with bacon and walnuts to the berry tarts is most worthwhile. Something as simple as sole meuniere can be a treat here, though the comparably unfussy skewered lamb finally lacked something in the way of excitement. The main problem with Saint-Emilion is that everybody in Fort Worth seems to know about it already. Make reservations, and go early enough that they haven’t run out of the marvelous roast duck. (3617 W Seventh, Fort Worth. (817) 737-2781. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2 pm & 6-10 pm. Sat 6-10 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

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