Chin Big Wong. The Chinese dining scene is moving drastically uptown, and this new outpost of New Big Wong (the insiders’ Chinatown-style Chinese restaurant on lower Greenville) reconfirms the trend. In this neighborhood spot where Garland, Richardson and North Dallas meet, Chin Big Wong is more attractive than its older cousin, looks cleaner, offers a cheerier welcome and is often quite crowded. Chinese customers (by our visual survey) seem to prefer the various renditions of whole fish and to include a platter of greens among their other dishes. At lunchtime, you can order Dim Sum (dumplings and other Chinese nibbles) off a special menu.
The regular menu seems identical to the one at New Big Wong, which means there are lots of specialties you probably won’t try. (Beef tendons, duck’s web or pig’s intestines, anyone?) You can, however, show off your Asian savoir faire by coming here to order a whole live lobster (ours was two-and-a-half pounds) chopped into large pieces and cooked in garlic sauce or beef with Chinese broccoli. This is one of the few places in Dallas where you can order Peking duck right off the menu-the crispy skin and juicy meat comes with po ping (Chinese pancakes), hoi sin sauce and slivers of scallion, so you can make your own Chinese tacos for appetizers. More standard dishes like moo goo gai pan or shrimp in hot pepper sauce are also offered in good, if not outstanding, versions. (9243 Skillman, Suite 104 (north of LBJ). 343-0545. Mon-Thur 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri-Sun 11 a.m.-midnight. $$) 5.5
Dick’s Last Resort. Richard Chase is working on a fancy restaurant to open down the street this summer. Meanwhile, he has given us a bar and restaurant where you can have more fun than just about anyplace else in the West End historical district.
Outside, all you see is a kind of boardwalk/porch in front of the old building at the west end of Ross Avenue. There’s a neon sign over the door that says “Dixieland,” but (as of this writing) there’s nothing to tell you you’re at Dick’s Last Resort. Inside, though, there’s no mistaking the place. There’s sawdust on the floor, a lot of tables everywhere, a stage at back where various New Orleans-style bands, singers and other musicians perform and an air of camaraderie all over.
For a place that is basically a bar, Dick’s Last Resort serves amazingly good food. The Back Bay crabs-whole spicy boiled crabs served New Orleans style, to be eaten over butcher paper with your clothes protected by a bib-are a great idea, compromised on this visit by a slight, lingering odor of ammonia wafting from the crabs. The beef ribs are huge and meaty, a bit sweet. The spit-turned barbecued chicken is sensational, and the fried catfish fillets are even better-crunchy and juicy. The cocktail sauce served with the fish, made out of horseradish, tomato purée, a bit of fresh basil and other things, is worthy of being bottled and sold independently. These dishes are about all you will find to eat at Dick’s most evenings, accompanied by big, fresh french fries, crusty bread and a small bowl of slaw. At lunch, you might also find a strange version of gumbo (with all the right Louisiana ingredients, but little more taste than dishwater) and a small steak. There are no appetizers, and the only dessert offered is a shot of tequila straight up! You might prefer to drink one of the exotic beers available here with your dinner and then go out looking for something sweet, as we did. But the limited choice keeps Dick’s Last Resort cheap, considering the quality of much of the food. And the bonhomie of the place is so endearing the food doesn’t even have to be this good. (1701 N. Market, Suite 110, Ross at Record. 747-0001. Lunch: 11:30-2:30 Mon-Fri, no lunch hours Sat & Sun; dinner 5:30-10:30. Sun-Thur, 5:30-midnight Fri & Sat. $$) 6.5
Joe’s. The name of this place is the height of reverse snobbery. On the site of Nostromo (where the chic of Dallas dallied before Rome fell), Shannon Wynne (the proprietor of Nostromo and various other collapsed dreams) and Alan Ireland (who was co-owner of the lamented exposure) have opened a simple bar and grill. Or what passes for a simple bar and grill in the minds of scions of the families that founded Six Flags Over Texas (Wynne) or New York’s “21” Club (Ireland). There may be booths instead of tables, and bottles of ketchup, mustard and other condiments (not to speak of flagons of water from which you must serve yourself) on every table, but the atmosphere isn’t like any diner we ever saw.
Wynne and Ireland hired the former chef of the Nana Grill at the Loews Anatole, Kevin Hopkins, for this new venture. His menu vaguely resembles the Southwestern nouvelle foods he used to cook, but with a new simplicity and directness. In fact, if there is a problem with the food at Joe’s, it’s that it can be a bit boring. Almost everything is mesquite-grilled, from lamb and pork chops to all sorts of seafood. There are sauces served on the side (we liked the zes-ty aioli and the tangy tomatillo butter), but they are not sufficiently complex to make many of the main courses here particularly interesting. The basics are done well-when was the last time you had a good version of grilled calf’s liver?-but we do occasionally yearn for a flight of fancy. (The blackened redfish, also well executed, might have counted as such a year ago, but it has become cliché in record time.)
The appetizers are a bit more varied than the main dishes. The pasta with seafood, for instance, profits from the zing of capers in the sauce. The soups we have tried have been outstanding: roasted corn and a shrimp chowder that was tart with what seemed to be yogurt. Salads and vegetables come with every entree. The salads have a sophisticated selection of greens, but the choice of dressings seems to be an attempt to harken back to the “sophisticated diner” premise of the place-they are variations on Thousand Island, Blue Cheese and Italian. The vegetables are obviously fresh-squash and green beans and corn cooked with some real flavor. The desserts are a more mixed lot. We found the apple pie soggy, the pecan pie admirable, the Grand Marnier soufflé tasteless and way overpriced and the sherbets and ice creams first rate. The waiters we encountered were obviously trying hard, but didn’t always manage to be efficient. And all sorts of patrons seem to be at ease here, from families with children (can you imagine them at Nostromo?) to the old glamour crowd.
Joe’s is, on the whole, an admirable attempt to deliver a sophisticated version of an old-fashioned American dining expertence. Still, we’re just not sure you can explore your roots and radiate cool and stylishness at the same time. (4315 Travis. 528-8880. Tue-Fri 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat-Sun 11-11. Closed Monday. All credit cards. $$-$$$) 6.5
Firenze. We’re not quite sure what to make of this attractive new Italian restaurant, on the site of the defunct Fabio’s in the Corner Shopping Center. Nobody else seemed to know it was there on our visits-only a couple of other tables were occupied at dinner, and none at all at lunchtime. The food was mostly good, though the menu didn’t show much imaginative variation from the standard Northern Italian selections one finds all over Dallas these days. In general, we found the antipasti and pastas more appealing than the main dishes at Firenze. The fried calamari are crisp and delicate and come 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 are as good as any in town, the linguini are al dente in a sturdy clam broth, and the tagliolini al prosciutto are fine.
Main dishes at Firenze, though, can be dull. The red snapper floating in a garlicky tomato puree was flaky and fresh-tasting, but ultimately bland. Bland came to mind again when we sampled the veal Martini (with olives in a white cream sauce). The veal Marsala had lovely, nicely cooked meat, but the sauce was sweetish and lacked depth. At lunchtime, the shrimp salad was also decidedly ordinary.
Our letdown (disappointment would be too strong a word) at the main dishes was sad in view of the interest of the courses that went before, and we have the feeling that Firenze could eventually become a contender on the rather dismal Italian restaurant scene in Dallas. One of the desserts we tried strengthened this conviction: the “Italian cake”-really a complex creation of zabaglione and chocolate cream layered with spongecake in the shape of a bombe-was wonderfully festive. The Grand Marnier soufflé, on the other hand, was-like the main dishes-something of a bore, eggy and short on flavor. (9820 N. Central, Suite 504. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Tue-Sun 6-10:30. 373-4700. $$$) 6.0
The Verona. It still looks like Poppa’s Ristorante, but the singing proprietor is gone. The investors have put their money back into the kitchen, and on our recent visit, we confirmed what the local residents already know: This Lincoln Square establishment is on its way to becoming a major contender in the Arlington restaurant scene.
We started our meal with fresh mussels steamed in a white wine broth with herbs and garlic. Although the broth was a little flat, the mussels tasted fresh. When we solicited our waiter’s suggestions for the best dishes in the house, he was unusually helpful, describing in detail each dish on the menu and his personal favorites. We decided to continue in the seafood vein with lin-guine pescatore (linguine pasta with shrimp, scallops, mussels and crabclaws in a white wine sauce), which proved to be a light but substantial entrée. The scallopine alla Toscana was heavier but delicious with mushrooms, ham, artichokes and capers in a light cream sauce.
And for dessert, the chocolate amarettotorte cake-a chocolate soufflé cake withAmaretto Cream icing-with two forkswrapped up our meal without a crumb tospare. (226 Lincoln Square ShoppingCenter, Arlington. (817) 861-9492. Lunch:Mon-Fri 11:30-2, dinner Mon-Thur 6-10:30,Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Sun. AE, MC, V.$$-$$$) 6.0
Café Acapulco. Southwest Arlington is booming and so are the local amenities. High-tech shopping centers are popping up all over, most notably Green Oaks Village at Green Oaks Boulevard and Pleasant Ridge. Even the local eateries smack of the burgeoning affluent environment, which sets the stage for Café Acapulco, a Mexican café done in smart white stucco arches and cool tiles. The margaritas are potent-always a good sign. And the fajitas, recommended by many as the best in Arlington, are smothered in grilled onions, another good sign. We found both the beef and chicken fajitas worthy of the recognition. And if you’re not up to the healthy portions, the taco salad is a lighter selection. (4001 Green Oaks Blvd., Arlington. (817) 572-4471. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun noon-10 p.m. AE, MC, V. $$) 5.0
D’s listings are updated and supplemented periodically. Visits by our critics are made anonymously to avoid preferential treatment. Inclusion In this directory has nothing to do with paid advertising.
The pricing symbols used are categorical, not precise. They indicate a general price range.
$ Generally inexpensive. Usually indicates a good value.
$$ Middle ground and very general. Usually indicates a menu with a wide price range.
$$$ Expensive. Expect to spend more than $20 for a complete meal for one (excluding wine and cocktails).
$$$$ Very expensive.
“Reservations” indicates that the restaurant will accept reservations.
Credit card notations: MC/MasterCard, V/Visa, AE/American Express. DC/Diners Club, CB/Carte Blanche. “All credit cards” indicates that all five are accepted.
Restaurants have been rated on a 1 to 10 scale, with a rating of 10 being the highest recommendation. Restaurants receiving a rating of 7.5 and above have been designated with a bold D.
D Blom’s. Our last visit here was star-crossed We arrived at the appointed hour of our reservations, only to be told that the kitchen didn’t open for 30 minutes. When our order was finally taken, we waited for our appetizers, only to have one of them whisked away by the waiter when he realized that it was the asparagus soup rather than the asparagus feuillete we had requested When it finally arrived, it was delicious – as were the complex and inventive salads, the platter of assorted fish and seafoods (each cooked to independent perfection) and a tender breast of pheasant. We can’t vouch for the desserts, though – all the delays left us only 20 mminutes before we had to leave. We asked for the two quickest desserts and for the check at the same time. We got the check, paid it and 20 minutes later had to leave without ever seeing dessert or even a captain to complain to. (Westin Hotel, Galleria, 13340 Dallas Pkwy. 934-9494. Mon-Thur 6:30-10 pm. Fri-Sun 6-10:30 pm; Sun brunch: 10-2; dinner 6-9:30 Reservations recommended. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$) 8.5
D Dakota’s. You enter Dakota’s from a kiosk in the middle of an intersection adjacent to the new Lincoln Plaza building. From the jewel-box elevator, you view a waterfall cascading onto a triangular patio. Once you take your eyes off the dazzling surroundings, you’ll find that Dakota’s specializes in mesquite-grilled things -from artichokes and other vegetables to every conceivable meat. Those we tried, including steak and pheasant, were exemplary. The menu also provides some good choices for those who aren’t in the mood for mesquite. Among the appetizers, the barbecued shrimp were as good as any we have had outside New Orleans. The lobster bisque also went to the top of its class, and the fresh lobster was cooked to perfection: tender, rich and meaty. (600 N Akard. 740-4001. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-3. Sun 11-2:30: dinner: Sun-Thur 5-11, Fri & Sat 5-11.30: Sun brunch: 11-2:30. All credit cards. Lunch $$, dinner $$$) 8.0
D The Mansion on Turtle Creek. When you arrive, you feel as if you ought to roll up in a Rolls -or at least a Jag (this is still the toniest place in Dallas). The food can be extraordinary: Our venison with black-bean polenta and our fillets of salmon and halibut in a mild mustard sauce scaled the heights, and the grilled shrimp on a bed of pasta with horseradish sauce was superb. The fillet of sole in a sauce of yellow peppers was an appealing combination. But our desserts- chocolate-chip ricotta cake and chocolate mousse cake – lacked the ultimate refinement that one expects in a restaurant of this caliber. (2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 526 2121. Main dining room (jackets and ties required, except at brunch)-lunch: Mon-Fri noon-2:30; brunch: Sat noon-230, Sun 11-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11; supper: Mon-Thur 10:30 pm-midnight, Fri & Sat 11 pm-midnight. Promenade Room-breakfast: daily 7-10:30; lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; tea: Mon-Fri 3-5:30. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$) 8.5
D D. Michael. Since our previous visit, the menu here has undergone something of a simplification, and the food no longer seems to strain at being daring and original. You can even order a meal that seems old-fashioned and conventional by choosing the spinach salad, the shrimp stuffed with a garlicky lobster and breadcrumb mixture and carrot cake for dessert. Or you can be more adventurous (and have a better meal) and order the bowl of two side-by-side soups (black bean and sweet red pepper), veal medallions with a delicate citrus sauce and the light, flourless chocolate cake. (2917 Fairmount. 871-0123. Mon-Sat 6:30-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$$) 7.5
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 still 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 very much 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 un-derseasoned 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. $$$)
Parigi. Marilyn Romweber, whose previous ventures include The Little Mushroom and Pacific Express, has teamed up with daughter Andree Falls and Californian Jennifer Burns to open this smallish place in one of those slick new buildings contributing to the ’gentrification” of Oak Lawn Someone has said that the place looks like a big closet, but it’s a very chic closet, full of the nicest clothes (albeit informal ones) on the nicest people. The food at Parigi is very chic, too, although mercifully most things are not cooked over mesquite. In the evening, there is a selection of a half dozen appetizers (including several recherche salads and one soup), three or so pastas of some ingenuity and three or so entrées, plus a short list of desserts and a wide-ranging wine list-all on a handwritten menu that changes every few days. (3311 Oak Lawn, Suite 102. 521 0295. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11:30-2:30; dinner: Tue-Thur 6:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 6:30-11. Closed Sun & Mon. MC, V, AE. $$-$$$) 6.5
D Routh Street Cafe. Try not to schedule a hard-to-get reservation here right after the restaurant has been closed for a vacation; it takes awhile for chef Stephan Pyles to get back up to full speed. When he regains his form, he turns out what is probably the best food in town. Everything we had on our last visit was marvelous: sweetbreads and shrimp with chervil and saffron sauces, grilled sea scallops with sun-dried tomatoes and pecans, veal scallops with pomegranate and leek sauces, roast squab with ancho chiles and shitake mushrooms. In between, we were served matchless ices and salads, and spectacular pumpkin-pecan and chocolate brownie pies ended the meal. (3005 Routh at Cedar Springs. 871-7161. Tue-Sat 6-10:30 pm. Lounge: Tue-Sat 6 pm-1:30 am. ClosedSun & Mod. Reservations recommended. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$$) 9.0
D The Verandah Club. Chef Dean Fearing is doing wonders in his elegant dining room one floor above all the swimming pools and tennis courts. Our last meal was perfect and daringly imaginative (and even reasonably healthy and non-caloric). The savory Southwest Vegetable Soup was second only to the incredible salads: slivered warm quail atop a tangle of chicory and endive, and tiny green beans, juilienne jicama and other vegetables with roast pine nuts and cactus pear vinaigrette. Our Gulf snapper with tomato pasta and tomatillo sauce and our pheasant with plum and port wine sauce were poetry, and this time even the desserts (a coconut cake as dense as a macaroon and an ethereal chocolate cake cooked without flour) couldn’t have been better. The service has developed into discreet accommodation, and although this place is in principle a private club, members of the public still seem perfectly welcome. (Loews AnatoleHotel. 2201 Stemmons Frwy. 748-1200. Daily 6-9 pmMC, V, AE, DC. $$$$) 8.5
Chickeria. We can imagine a lovers’ quarrel gettingstarted by a meal here. He has the lamb ribs, the barbecued sausage, the not-too-gooey potato salad andthe pecan pie and claims that Chickeria is one of thefinest inexpensive restaurants in Dallas. She has thedried-out beef brisket and ribs, the oddly sweet turnipgreens and the off-tasting mashed new potatoes andmaintains that it has to be one of the worst. They’re bothright, but who’s going to butt in and adjudicate? (601 NHaskell. 821-9072. Mon-Sat 11 am-10 pm. ClosedSun. AE. $) 5.5
Good Eats Café. It seems odd when an interloper from Austin sporting Texas funk moves into the space formerly occupied by one of Dallas’ great bad restaurants (Phil’s Delicatessen), but it has happened, and we guess we should make the best of it. Still, it’s hard to figure out Good Eats- maybe the Austin milieu just doesn’t translate very well, although there is an ample mix of types ranging from urban cowboys to Highland Park slum-mers. Almost everything the place serves is grilled over mesquite. The barbecue is at least interesting: The sausage is our favorite, with a coarse texture and a homemade flavor, but the paprika-red chicken is tasty, too. The specials at Good Eats are the various kinds of mesquite-grilled fish, but when we visited, all they had was cod, and it was nothing to write home to Austin about. (3531 Oak Lawn. 521-1398. Sun-Thur 7 am-11:30 pm, Fri & Sat 7 am-midnight. MC, V, AE. $$) 5.5
The Ribshack. This admirable establishment offers an interesting range of indigenous Texas foods. Those who come expecting traditional Texas barbecue, however, will be disappointed. The sugar-cured, smoke-cooked ribs (beef or pork) are drier and less crusty than regulation barbecue, and the smoked beef is like very lean roast beef. We prefer the juicier smoked chicken and the three kinds of chili, not to mention the delicious side dishes. (4615 W Lovers Lane. 351-3400. Daily 11am- 10 pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $$) 6.0
Salih’s Bar-B-Que. This rustic restaurant on the Addison strip is a popular lunch spot for North Dallas workers because it serves hearty, home-style meals. Salih’s offers plates of mild barbecued beef, pork, chicken or sausage, as well as sandwiches. Both types of entrees are served buffet-style with surprisingly good vegetables (including green beans, french fries, cabbage, pinto beans and-our favorite – potato salad). And the friendly service makes the place seem even warmer. (4801 Belt Line, Addison. 387-2900. Mon-Sat 11 am-8:30 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)4.0
Sonny Bryan’s. Lordy, can these folks cook barbecue! The brisket is tender and |uicy, with a crisp crust that is the essence of wood smoke; the ribs are perfection. It’s of little consequence, we suppose, that the side dishes are nothing to speak of and that the hubbub and housekeeping are insufferable. If such things really bother you. you can do as many others do and order to go. (2202 lnwood. 357-7120 Mon-Fri 10 am-5 pm, Sat 10 am-3 pm, Sun 11 am-2 pm. No credit cards. $) 6.5
August Moon. Shine on. shine on. August Moon! We don’t know how you manage to keep the quality so high with your awesomely complete menu, the huge volume of your customers and the very moderate prices you charge. But we have never had a better crispy fish Hunan-style than the red snapper you served us on our last visit. Everything we tried was outstanding, from the unusual jalapeno pork to the oldest dish in the book, moo goo gai pan, which was distinguished by evenly cut and perfectly tender chicken, the freshest of vegetables (including mushrooms, so often canned even at expensive Chinese places), and a gravy of just-right consistency made with rich broth. We would have bounced you up into the starry heavens of our “D” rating if your service hadn’t been a bit off – due, no doubt, to the gala wedding party that filled up half the dining rooms. (15030 Preston at Belt Line. 385-7227. Sun- Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. Reservations for four or more or for special banquets. Bar by membership. All credit cards. $$) 7.0
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-Thur 11 am-11 pm, Fri &Sat 11 am-1 am. All credit cards. $) 5.5
Chu’s. Although Addison and the other far north parts of the city have become strong in Chinese restaurants, one of Addison’s first Chinese places, Chu’s, is still one of the finest. You can’t find a better appetizer tray than the one here, 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. $$) 6.5
Dynasty. So many people told us we were wrong about Dynasty that we went back sooner than usual. Sure enough, the food was much better than during the first weeks the restaurant was open. It ranged from excellent (the crispy oysters appetizer) to very good (the sharks’ fin soup and the minced pork in lettuce leaves). Unfortunately, we still found the prices high. No doubt all the luxurious trappings (the silver-and-gilt soup tureens, the rosewood furniture) cost plenty. And to be sure, the portions are quite large, as with the Dragon and the Phoenix, which contained enough shrimp to satisfy the most avid seafood lover. But we wonder whether these factors justify a check that can easily total $35 a person. (Garden Inn, 4101 Belt Line. Addison. 385-7888. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-11:30 pm, Sun 11:30 am-10:30 pm. Jackets required after 6 pm. All credit cards. $$$) 6.5
Forbidden City. Our last meal here was our best to date. The beef with scallops was succulent, with lots of crisp vegetables, and the shrimp with hot garlic sauce, though hardly incendiary, was assertive enough. The chicken with cashew nuts rounded out the meal perfectly. Our waitress took rather a long time to take our order, but once the meal began, it proceeded at a good pace. (5290 Belt Line. Suite 144. 960-2999. Mon-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-3 am. Sun noon-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$) 6.0
Fortune Garden. Amazingly enough, Richardson is reported to have the highest percentage of Chinese residents of any city in Texas, and it contains the beginnings of a new, middle-class Chinatown. Among the fanciest and best of the new places is Fortune Garden. The hot and sour soup is unequivocally the best in the Metroplex, with good flavor and no extraneous ingredients. The Steak with Orange Flavor is an unusually fine version, with large, pillowy pieces of meat that aren’t drowned in a gooey sauce. The Pan Fried Shrimp (Chinese-style) are delicious but hard for a Westerner to eat – you have to peel the crustaceans at the table and still find a way to get the flavor of all the garlic and ginger they’ve been cooked in. (Keystone Park Shopping Center, 13929 N Central Expwy, Richardson. 235-3032. Daily 11 am-10:30 pm. MC, V, AE, DC. $$) 5.5
Han-Chu. The most sophisticated-looking Chinese restaurant in town, with black-mirror tiles and hand-painted murals, also offers some of the best food. Dishes that are ordinary elsewhere, such as spring rolls and hot and sour soup, take on real elegance here. The menu includes lots of innovative dishes, but not all of them are cooked with the finesse that one might expect. The beef with asparagus, for instance, was marred by raggedly cut and overcooked meat. The Wu Shi spareribs, though, are tantalizing in their camphor-flavored sauce. (Caruth Plaza, 9100 N Central Expwy at Park Lane, Suite 191. 691-0900. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30-11:30, Sun 5-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$) 7.0
Hunan Dynasty. We were most pleasantly impressed by the look of this second-story restaurant (overlooking only Highway 183, sadly), with its tasteful colors and appointments and unusual wooden furniture. There is some talent in the kitchen, too. The shrimp toast we sampled had a tingly flavor of fresh ginger, and the fried dumplings (with a tasty filling and slightly crunchy skin) came with a garlicky sauce for dipping. The main courses demonstrated that Hunan Dynasty can execute the new standard Chinese menu with flair. The ’gourmet specialties” are really just wholesale mixtures of ingredients or platters presenting several different dishes from the regular menu, but it was fun to try the Jewels of Hunan, which gave us a chance to sample Kung Pao chicken, Hunan beef and the braised shrimp in Hunan sauce. (1111 W Airport Frwy at MacArthur, Suite201, Irving. 252-0126. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri 11-11, Sat noon-11 pm. Sun noon-10 pm. All credit cards. $$) 6.0
No. 1 Chinese Seafood. 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 refinement-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. $$) 5.0
Plum Blossom. The fate of some restaurants parallels the fate of certain rock stars and TV miniseries: Their delivery can’t match their hype. Or did we catch the chef on an off night? It was his Great Dynasty Banquet, after all, that began the evening with crispy shrimp and soft noodles that were both far too salty; his Mongolian fire pot was a forgettable blend of beef, pork, chicken and green noodles salvaged only by some tender scallops. The bad dream was momentarily dispelled by the arrival of the main course: duck, lobster and sea trout, the latter in a fine kumquat sauce. But these top-flight dishes were followed by a disappointing afterthought of dessert, a yawn-inducing mix of pineapple and other fruit. If our banquet was indicative of the other multicourse meals here, we’d suggest ordering a la carte from the regional dishes of China, which include a lovely chicken and eggplant in garlic sauce. (Loews Anatole Hotel, 2201 Stemmons Frwy. 748-1200. Mon-Sat 6-10:30 pm. Reservations required. All credit cards. $$$) 6.0
Taiwan. One of the city’s nicest Chinese restaurants in the evening, Taiwan also offers less formal dim sum meals by day. Traveling carts bring around all sorts of unusual delicacies. We haven’t worked up the courage to try the duck’s feet or the sticky rice topped with Chinese sausage yet. But the various styles of dumplings (stuffed with beef, pork, shrimp or vegetables) are always a hit. One of the best things about the dim sum meals are their price: $1 75 a plate. (6111 Greenville, 369-8902:4980 Belt Line, Addison, 387-2333. Mon-Fri 11 am-3 am, Sat 11 am-3 arn, Sun 10:30 am-10:30 pm 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. $$) 7.0
D Uncle Tai’s. This is a great restaurant if you know your way around the menu, but there are some ordinary things here. too. Among the best appetizers are the Two Delicious Platter (shrimp with peppercorns and Hacked Chicken) and the Chicken Packets. The spicy dishes on the list of specialties generally stand out. In addition to the fabled Uncle Tai’s Beef, we are partial to the boneless frog’s legs with eggplant. Standard things such as chicken with walnuts and crispy duck are good, but they’re no better than what you’d find at a number of less expensive Chinese restaurants. (Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy, Suite 3370. 934-9998. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$) 8.5
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 in look, 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 succulently 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. $) 6.5
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 week-night, the place is crammed full of Orientals and Oc-cidentals alike, feasting on dishes like kung po scallops and beef with Chinese 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-Sun 11:30 am-9 pm. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$$) 6.0
Bagelstein’s. This used to be a somewhat surly bagel factory with a few tables; now it’s a spacious, inviting deli-restaurant with a long, long menu. Maybe the menu is too long-the shrimp quiche we sampled was strong-tasting. But lots of the deli standbys are respectable: borscht, pastrami sandwiches, blintzes (a bit sweet for our taste, but still perhaps the best version in town) and cheesecake. And you can pick up an assortment of bagels to take home as you pay your bill. (8104 Spring Valley. 234-3787. Tue-Sun 6 am-9 pm, Mon 6 am-3 pm MC, V, AE. $) 5.5
Frenchy Café. The neighborhood deli is alive and well in Preston Royal: Step into Frenchy’s, and you step into a world that’s immediately intimate and familiar. Friendly and gracious service is provided by Josey, Yvon and Chris Bouguyon, and the dishes they serve generally match the ambience they’ve created. We enjoyed a hot croissant drizzled with baby Swiss cheese and a good truffle pate before biting into our lunch entrées. Although the Frenchy crépe (with turkey, spinach and bleu cheese sauce) and the lasagna weren’t quite as tasty as they appeared, the ham, spinach and pepperoni quiche (as well as the cappuccino pie we had afterward) proved outstanding. (5940 Royal Lane. 369-1235. Mon 11 am-3 pm, Tue-Fri 11 am-7 pm, Sat 11 am-5 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V; personal checks accepted. $$) 5.5
Kuby’s. A visit to this German delicatessen/restaurantis truly a European experience. The store is crammed with German foodstuffs, meat, pastries and other delicacies. The lunch menu in the restaurant includes a variety of sandwiches, both German and Americanized, as well as soups (a different one each day of the week) and plates of Polish sausage, knackwurst or bratwurst. We opted for a sandwich of peppered beef rolled in a slice of cheese and served on a delicious light rye. The tartar sandwich of raw lean beef seasoned with onion sand spices and the jagdwurst sandwich of sausage and pistachio were very good, too. We also enjoyed the hearty, tangy German potato salad. (6601 Snider Plaza. 363-2231. Store hours: Mon-Sat 8 am-6 pm; restaurant hours: Mon-Fri 8 am-5:30 pm, Sat 8 am-5 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V for purchases over $15; personal checks accepted. $) 5.5
Pacific Express. New downtown restaurants are popping up as fast as skyscrapers; one of the nicest is Pacific Express, next door to the Majestic Theater. You’ll never eat in a fancier place where you carry your own food on a tray. The food might be characterized as “New Wave tearoom”: You’ll find salads, sandwiches and desserts, plus suitable accompaniments such as fresh-squeezed orange juice and wines available by the glass. The meat in the chicken salad is smoked, and it’s coated with shallot-vermouth mayonnaise. Fresh pasta salad comes with peas, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and pesto sauce. (Pacific Place Bldg, 1910 Elm. 969-7447. Mon-Fri 11 am-2 pm. Closed Sal & Sun. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $$) 5.5
Richard’s Café Americain. How delightful to venture to the top of Dallas’ only downtown apartment building (the Manor House) and find a bright and lively luncheon respite. The delicate sea green and ivory decor, drenched (weather willing) in sunlight and spotted with various and changing works of art, may outshine the food, but there are some successes on a menu that includes salads, sandwiches, soup and quiche du jour. We sampled a chicken sandwich on rye that was just right and a cold spinach fettuccine that wasn’t (too vinegary). The vegetable quiche was flavorful and chock-full of vegetables, but our favorite items were the miniature muffins served with fruit-flavored butter that changes each day with the whim of the chef (we had scrumptious strawberry). (Manor House. 1222 Commerce, 25thfloor. 761-0143. Tue-Fri 11 am-2:30 pm & 4-7 pm. Closed Sat, Sun & Mon. All credit cards. $$)5.0
D Café Royal. Trying to reclaim its place at the top of the heap, Cafe Royal has lowered prices (to $31.50 prix fixe) and has become more classical and less nouvelle in its cooking style. The food can be marvelous, as with the terrine of fresh American foie gras or the mullet with a watercress sauce that we sampled. Or it can be ordinary, as with the beef Wellington that the captain recommended. Besides the lapses in the food, what keeps Café Royal from the highest rank in Dallas restaurants is the service, which we found courteous but woefully inefficient on our last visit. (Plaza of the Americas, 650 N Pearl. 747-7222. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6:30-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$) 8.0
D Calluaud. Our latest visit produced the richest, most masterly meal we have ever had here, with the most courteous and cordial service. We began with a terrine of fresh American foie gras, satiny and lush beyond all expectation. For entrees, we had a fillet of salmon (which tasted a tad strongly of smoke and was accompanied by a Madeira sauce that seemed a bit too much), but the venison was succulent and satisfying. The lemon souffle at the end was as light as gossamer. (2619 McKinney. 823-5380. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30: dinner: Mon-Thur 6:15-10, Fri & Sat seating sat 7 & 9:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$) 9.0
D Chez Philippe. The food here may not always be perfect (we were served tough, overdone scallops and a heavy, cakey chocolate soufflé on our last visit). But most of it is so audacious in conception and expert in execution that we still think Chez Philippe is among a handful of the most memorable restaurants in Dallas. The menu changes frequently, but among the standouts are quail stuffed with paté, a whole lobster in a vanilla-bean and ginger sauce and medallions of veal with plums. Sauces tend to be very bold, heightened with pepper and just the right touch of spices and vinegar. Even apparently simple things, such as a green salad or a cranberry soufflé, can be revelatory. (5027 W Lovers Lane. 353-9444. Tue-Thur 6-9 pm, Fri & Sat seatings at 6 & 9 pm. Closed Sun & Mon. All credit cards. $$$$) 9.0
Chez Gerard. In the few short months that this bistro (owned by the Calluauds) has been open, it has grown more competent and confident. The menu changes monthly, so you never know what will turn up on your plate. We tried the earthy cassoulet (a garlicky bean stew with pork and two kinds of sausage) and the tonier sweetbreads and chicken with mushrooms in a pastry shell. Both were superb. So were the mussels marinieres-the tenderest we’ve ever had in Dallas. The desserts included such delicacies as a cake au trois mousses and a homemade chocolate-walnut ice cream. (4444 McKinney. 522-6865. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-9:30, Fri & Sat 6:30-11. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. Lunch $$, dinner $$$) 7.0
D The French Room. Like something out of a Fragonard painting with its Corinthian columns and swags of drapery, the French Room offers the most lavish table in town. It can be difficult to get a reservation (we called a week ahead and had to settle for a 10 o’clock seating), but the food was worth it, from the opening pithiviers of snails to the concluding pastries. The lamb cooked in a brioche-dough crust and the garlicky loup (a European sea bass) topped with an eggplant puree were both mightily impressive. The service, although still quite polished, didn’t seem quite as stately as before. (Adolphus Hotel, 1321 Commerce. 742-8200. Daily 6:30-10:30 pm. Reservations required. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$) 9.0
D Jean Claude. We hope that the pleasures of our last meal here mean that Jean Claude is back on track. The food was much better than it had been on several previous visits, and many new dishes on the oral menu showed a refreshingly enterprising spirit. Even before we ordered, we were served marinated salmon heaped with cuttings of fresh dill. An appetizer of duck liver in translucent cabbage leaves was set off by a delicate sweet-sour sauce. Sea bass and salmon fillets cooked to melting perfection lay on a bed of chervil sauce. And a poached pear was filled with white chocolate mousse and surrounded with raspberry and apricot sauces. (2404 Cedar Springs. 748-6619. Tue-Sat seatings at 6 & 9 pm. Closed Sun & Mon. Reservations required. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$$) 8.0
The Grape. This bistro and wine bar has been around lor so long that it’s easy to forget how good it is. We enjoyed the light, fresh mushroom soup and the hearty pate with our selections of wine by the glass. For something heavier, try the veal selections (the menu changes frequently). And for dessert, there’s pecan pie with lots of bourbon in the recipe. (2808 Greenville at Goodwin. 823-0133. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat 6 pm-midnight. All credit cards. $$) 6.0
D Jennivine. The more we revisit the reborn Jennivine, the more we are persuaded we like her before her conversion to a middle-of-the-road nouvelle type of cooking. The pates, always one of the best things about this place, don’t seem quite as exciting as they used to be. And an entree we sampled recently of a thick cut of salmon sitting on a pool of unremarkable sauce seemed rather fishy-tasting in comparison with some of the old-fashioned, simple fish dishes of the restaurant and winebar’s youth. Jenny, old dear, could we persuade you to reconsider that old-time religion? (3605 McKinney. 528-6010. Lunch: Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$) 7.5
D L’Ambiance. The unchanging character of this place might strike some as a bit dull, but we value the dependability of L’Ambiance. Our favorite dishes never disappoint. The salad of watercress, bacon and goat cheese, for instance, is always perfect, and the Floating Island dessert, with its high cloud of meringue topped with crunchy caramel and almonds, has never been better executed. Entrees such as lamb in a dark herbal rosemary sauce or grilled medallions of veal brightened with ginger come with a selection of vegetables (potatoes dauphinoise, a terrine of carrots, a puree of turnips). In a city in which restaurants have shorter lives than spring flowers, L’Ambiance is bidding fair to becoming an old master. (2408 Cedar Springs. 748-1291. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$) 8.0
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 more rare than we had ordered it, and the special of the day, a lamb stew, was stringy and undistinguished. The desserts, pot de crème (a soft custard flavored with caramel) and a chocolate cake dusted with cocoa, were some compensation, however. (5637 Alta. 826-0006. Tue-Sun 6:30 pm-1 am. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$$) 7.5
La Cave. We’ve never taken very seriously the pretensions of the original La Cave on Henderson to being a restaurant rather than merely a pleasant wine bar. But the new branch, located in a rather deserted corner of the West End warehouse district (where Lamar runs into Woodall Rodgers Freeway), serves food that clearly should be reckoned with. In addition to the patés, cheeses and sandwiches that make up most of the fare at the original location, there are some more ambitious dishes at the new La Cave. We found the arlequin of fish (sole wrapped around spinach served alongside perch in a coral-colored sauce) buttery and delicious. (2926 N Henderson. 826-2190; 2019 N Lamar, 871-2072. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2 pm & 5:30-10:30 pm. Sat 11:30 am-10:30 pm, closed Sun at Henderson location. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6 pm-midnight at Lamar location. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE, DC. $$) 6.0
D La Champagne. Numerous staff changes since its 1983 opening have made this most elegant of Far North Dallas restaurants a much better bet for dinner, but the news doesn’t seem to be out yet. An intricately designed terrine of duck and lobster sausage and a flamboyant salade composée of julienne vegetables and a variety of lettuces all make good openers. We admire the sea bass cooked with a touch of fennel and the veal topped with three kinds of mushrooms, too. We like a lot of things about La Champagne these days, from the little tidbits served “on the house” (nicely sauced venison sausage, brandied cherries, a gateau of Roquefort) to the Mexican harpist. But we wish that business would pick up enough to permit the rehiring of a sommelier to guide patrons through the wonderful wine list. (The Registry, 15201 Dallas Pkwy 386-6000. Tue-Sat 6-11 pm. Closed Sun & Mon. All credit cards. $$$$) 8.0
La Madeleine. This slowly growing group of bakeries boasts Dallas’ finest croissants and other wonderful goodies (an almond tart we tried recently was heavenly). The old-country ambience of the original Mockingbird location may tempt you to sit down and rest a spell, and you can order quiches and other meals to eat on site. The roast beef sandwich we sampled was creditable, and the vegetables in the ratatouille kept their individual textures and flavors, although they were coated with too much gloppy tomato sauce. (3072 Mockingbird, 696-6960; 3906 Lemmon, 521-0182. Daily 7 am-9 pm at Mockingbird location; Daily 7:30 am- 9:30 pm at Lemmon location. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $) 6.5
D La Vieille Varsovie (The Old Warsaw). If soft lights, lavish trappings and a violin-and-piano duo can entrance you, this is your spot. The food can be very good, as with the tournedos Rossini and the sea bass garnished with lobster and crab that we sampled on our last visit. It can also be dull, as the salmon feuillete and oysters arlequin proved. On the whole, this doyenne of Dallas restaurants has slipped a bit from the heights it had attained a year or so ago. (2610 Maple. 528-0032. Sun-Thur 6-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 6-11:30 pm. Reservations. Jackets required. Ail credit cards. $$$$) 7.5
Le Boul’ Mich. This cozy gray house across from the Quadrangle has been the favorite “little French restaurant” of many Dallasites for many years. But lately we’ve noticed a little graying around the temples, a fading from glory, a surrender to Old Man Time. The food is basically sound: A seafood omelette and a lunchtime quiche we had recently were definitively French and first-rate. The veal Francais was tender and tasty, although underwhelmingly sauced in a simple lemon butter. But the accompanying string beans and carrots arrived shriveled, presumably from overcooking, and the overall presentation just wasn’t impressive. What’s missing here is the aura of festivity so prevalent at Dallas’ more popular French restaurants; Le Boul’ Mich offers the laid-back comfort of home. (2704 Worthington. 826-0660 Mon-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-11:30 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$$) 5.5
Le Panier. On our last visit, this place, which serves simple lunches at noon and more elaborate fare in the evening, was preparing to expand. We hope that the forthcoming change was responsible for the drop in the quality of the cooking we experienced. This kitchen has been using the technique of charring food since before it became fashionable-the menu has long boasted something called “Oklahoma Burn,” a blackened steak-but the blackened fish we tried was not impressive. Nor was the skewered shrimp, which tasted mostly of bacon. (3404 Rankin. 369-3241. Mon 11 am-3 pm, Tue-Sat 11 am-10 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations for evenings only. All credit cards. $$) 5.5
La Touraine. La Touraine is the name of one of the loveliest regions of France, and its namesake here is one of the loveliest-and most reasonably priced-French restaurants in Dallas. The high ceilings and stout beams of the old building have been fitted out with elegant blond wood, mirrors and brass trim. La Touraine offers everything from a light meal to the most substantial and hearty old-fashioned French fare. The main dishes mercifully shy away from nouvelle cuisine, which is paradoxically seeming more and more old hat. The kitchen at La Touraine seems much more comfortable with homey stews like a navarin of lamb or boeuf bourguignon-these needed only a bit more seasoning to be very satisfying. As you would expect at a place whose co-owner is the proprietor of La Madeleine, the baked goods are among the best things to eat here. (1701 N Market. 749-0080. Mon-Fri 7:30 am-11:30 pm. Sat 5:30-6:30 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$-$$$) 6.5
D Pyramid Room. After some years of wandering about, this great Dallas institution seems to be back on track. We had a wonderful meal here at the peak of luxury. The splendor of the room is restored, so we felt we had to live up to it with splendiferous dishes: blinis with caviar, lobster salad, pheasant sauced with foie gras and rack of lamb. Aside from the canned asparagus in the lobster salad, everything satisfied our expectations. And the Linzertorte for dessen (a tart made with raspberry jam) even exceeded them. (Fairmont Hotel, Ross at Akard. 720-2020. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: daily 6-10. All credit cards. $$$$) 8.0
D Restaurant Silvano. It’s not necessarily a good sign when a fine restaurant begins to offer a fixed-price menu – it may be a bargain for the buyer, but it may also mean that the restaurant is scrambling for customers (especially in the newly overcrowded downtown market). The new fixed-price menu at Silvano lowers the price of the evening meal, but the dishes we tried from it were disappointing. The shrimp appetizer still had a bit of the old magic, but the entrées (stuffed quail and grilled veal) were lackluster. Even the desserts (cheesecake and Floating Island) couldn’t measure up to our memories. (311 Market. 7470322. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$$) 8.0
D The Riviera. Carpeting has taken away some of the glossy country look of this fashionable haven, but we are grateful for the reduction in decibel levels. The food continues to be impressive, from a saffron yellow oyster bisque and a delectable platter of broiled fish and seafood to roast duck in a sauce lightly sweetened with honey and a delightful mocha-iced cake. We have always found the service impeccable (and the welcome from host Franco Bertolasi particularly warm), but have heard complaints from younger diners that they were rather neglected. (7709 In-wood. 351- 0094. Mon-Thur 6:30-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 6:30-11 pm. Sun 5:30-10 pm. All credit cards. $$$$) 8.0
St. Martin’s. Sometimes a wine bistro isn’t |ust a wine bistro. Granted, this is an ideal nightspot for a romantic interlude-the tables are candlelit and covered with crisp white tablecloths and freshly cut red carnations-and its claim to fame seems to have been built on its wine and cheese-and-fruit or paté board offerings. But St. Martin’s also has a small yet varied menu ranging from roast beef and veal to pasta and swordfish. Although we are usually wary of varied menus, we were pleasantly surprised with the swordfish and veal medallions we were served. And the service is tops. (3020 Greenville. 826-0940. Mon-Thur 11 am-3 pm & 5-11 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-3 pm&5 pm-1 am, Sun 5-11 pm; Sun brunch: 11-3. All credit cards. $$) 6.0
Bohemia. This tiny, romantic jewel never fails to leave us happily replete after a sturdy. country-Czech meal served in a room dancing with Viennese waltzes and flickering candlelight on lace tablecloths. Our favorite is sauerbraten served with cranberries, soup or salad, several choices of vegetables and boiled potatoes or thick, pasty dumplings. The sauce is dark and viscous in appearance, but one bite proves it light and delightfully spiced, a waltz in itself. Pfefferhasen (roasted rabbit) is a real native treat. And. as always, we didn’t pass up the homemade apple strudel. Bohemia offers perhaps the most filling and romantic under-$40 meal for two-including two glasses of Czech wine and dessert-in the city. (2810 N Henderson. 826-6209. Sun & Tue-Thur 5:30-9:30 pm. Fri & Sat 5:30-10:30 pm. Closed Mon. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$) 6.5
The Chimney. The warm atmosphere, delicious food and attentive service here adds up to an evening of pure pleasure. In the restaurant’s cozy setting, we found time to savor every bite of the buen-derfleisch, a thin, air-cured beef, before moving on to a simple salad topped with a tangy house dressing and fried onions. The veal cordon bleu, served with noodles and snow peas, was prepared to perfection. So was the sole almondine. so tender it crumbled at the touch of a fork. The Austrian snowball, an uptown version of the ice cream sundae, was so sinfully rich with chocolate that we didnt think twice about downing at least 1,000 calories worth. (Willow Creek Shopping Center. 9739 Central Expwy at Walnut Hill Lane. 369-6466. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11.30-2; dinner Mon-Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations requested. All credit cards. $$$) 6.5
Lecturer’s Brass Bull. Here, in a pleasant room tucked away in the labyrinthic 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 streudel-which was tasty but rather skimpy on the apples for our Americanized tastes. (The Regent Hotel, 1241 W Mockingbird. 630-7000. Daily 5-11 pm. All credit cards. $$$) 6.0
D Rolf’s. On our last visit, we had the most German – and probably the best – meal we’ve ever eaten at Rolfs. The appetizer of smoked eel, served with dark bread and thinly sliced onions, was much more delicate than it sounds and not at all oily. The sauerbraten was beautifully braised and sliced, and its sauce was not too emphatic. We were amused by the platter of smoked pork and sausages, which came with a puree of split peas and sauerkraut that were the Cinderellas of the table, promoted from downtrodden handmaidens to true royalty. Even the Black Forest cake transcended its middlebrow reputation and proved extraordinary. With its subdued, romantic atmosphere, Rolfs is a treasure. (Caruth Plaza, 9100 N Central Expwy, Suite 117. 696-1933. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$) 8.0
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 patés, 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. $$) 6.5
Augustus. After a rough start, this Greek/Continental restaurant in Addison is making a name for itself. Two visits produced two outstanding meals. The menu features a large selection of fresh seafood, including shrimp sautéed in garlic butter and some of the tastiest broiled red snapper we’ve ever been served. But don’t forget the Greek food! The specials of the day have proved exceptional, especially the tender marinated lamb chops. The traditional moussaka was too timidly spiced for our taste. The atmosphere is pleasant, and the service is exceptional, if not a little too attentive The only real disappointment was the lack of traditional Greek wines. Don’t miss the desserts, particularly the nutty, sweet baklava. (15375 Addison Road. 239-8105 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner Mon-Sat, 5-11 pm, Sun 5-10 pm. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$) 7.0
Mr. Shishkabab. Finally Dallas has a really good Middle Eastern restaurant again, 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 northof North west Highway. 350-9314. Daily 11 am-11 pm. MC, V, $$) 6.5
Pantell’s. This Lowest Greenville Avenue restaurants and wine bar gets high marks for its mostly Greek menu. Among the appetizers, the fried potato balls shouldn’t be missed. As for the main courses, the gyro pocket sandwich with yogurt dressing, the keftethes (Greek meatballs) and the souvlaki (a Greek version of shish kebab) are all excellent choices. The only disappointment was our waitress, who was pleasant but inattentive. (1928 Greenville. 823-8711. Mon-Thur 11 am-1 am, Fri& Sat 11 am-2 am, Sun 11-11. MC, V, AE. $$) 5.5
D Kebab ’n Kurry. “A Passage to India”? It’s as simple as a trip up Central Expressway or down Walnut Hill Lane to Dallas’ premier Indian restaurant. The decor may be unspectacular, but the food is outstanding. On our last visit, we ordered a mixed grill of the tandoori specialties, and the barbecued meats were all delicious. The lamb in a delicately spicy spinach sauce and the curry of mushrooms and peas were both sublime. We love to splurge on one of the Indian desserts-the cakelike cheese fritters called gulab jamun or the cheese patties in cream called roshmalai. (401 N Central Expwy, Suite 300, 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. All credit cards. $) 7.5
Tanjore. This Indian restaurant across from Preston-wood Town Center offers lots of pleasures. Most of the dishes, from the spicy fritters and other savory appetizers on the Tanjore tray to the delicious Indian breads, are cooked with authority. The chicken Tanjore (like chicken tandoori, except that the restaurant lacks a tandoor oven) is moist and delicate, and the spicy curried eggplant and potato dish has plenty of zing. Some dishes, such as a lackluster lamb shahi korma and a tough shrimp masala, aren’t quite so successful. The staff works hard to please, but the kitchen seems daunted by a complicated order-take the menu’s warning of long preparation time to heart if you order more than a couple of dishes. (Prestonwood Creek Shopping Center, 5409 Belt Line. 960-0070. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: daily 6-10; brunch: Sat & Sun 11:30-3. Bar membership available. All credit cards. $$) 5.5
Alfredo Trattoria. Our meal got off to a slow start, with some contusion as to just who was waiting on us and bringing our drinks. But we were quickly appeased by the arrival of our octopus salads. Those with a taste for tentacles will find this one of the best in the city. Our portions of fettucini with mushroom and ham were more than generous; the cannelloni and manicotti were somehow robust, yet delicately seasoned; only the linguini left something to be desired, falling short of being cooked al dente. (5404 Lemmon. 526-3331. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$) 5.5
Alfredo’s. This small pizza joint has attracted a lot of notice, and one of the biggest surprises is just how far north it turns out to be (there’s a lovely view of the Ad-dison airport, way to the south). The pies Alfredo’s makes have a wonderfully crisp crust, and they’re made entirely to order. We do wish the pizzas had more tomato sauce to give them a bit more flavor, though. There are also some other standard Southern Italian dishes available; we liked the cannelloni and the eggplant parmigiana very much. (4043 Trinity Mills at Midway. 242-7135. Mon-Thur 11-11. Fri & Sat 11 am-mid-night, Sun noon-10 pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $) 5.0
Bugatti. 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 clichéd 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 thinkthey have to imitate egg foo yung when sautéing 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. $$$) 5.5
Cremona. Hidden away at the end of Routh Street in Oak Lawn, this place gave us one of the most pleasant outdoor dining experiences we’ve had. The tiny little restaurant isn’t elegant or sophisticated, but it is comfortably casual-just the sort of place to take a friend for lunch. There aren’t more than 10 selections on the menu, but the fettuccine with mushrooms and the lasagna were well-prepared and flavorful and were delivered to our table by handsome Italian waiters. The entrees came with a salad that was tasty, although the lettuce could have been fresher. Desserts are typical: cheesecake and mud pie. (3136 Routh. 742-4330. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$) 5.0
DiPalma. This crowded deli/wine store/pastry shop/restaurant may be the most exciting and lively Italian restaurant in Dallas, but it’s hardly the most consistent. Our most recent meal had everything from a wonderful shellfish soup with succulent scallops and shrimp in a garlicky broth to inedibly underdone veal grilled on a skewer with chicken and sausage. Pasta is usually impeccable here (although the pasta salads are sometimes overcooked and mushy). But the decorative desserts sometimes don’t taste as good as they look. (1520 Greenville. 824-4500. Mon-Thur 11 am- 10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$) 6.0
Ferrari’s. The veal dishes are wonderful here, but on a recent visit, the service was uneven. The veal drenched in lemon-wine sauce and the fettuccine were worth waiting for. The tomato-based sauces are fresh, and the pastas include a rich cannelloni. When the dessert cart finally arrived, we found the chocolate mousse cake to be especially good. (1713 Market. 741-5538. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$$) 6.5
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 swordfish steak was truly exemplary, although the veal entree we tried was a trifle tough But the hard rolls – served nonstop-were irresistible, and the side dishes of fresh asparagus and lightly fried zucchini were pleasant accompaniments. Our chocolate mousse desserts were sinful but delicious. (8616 Turtle Creek Blvd. 352-8759. Sun-Fri 5:30-11 pm. Sat 5 30 pm-midnight. All credit cards. $$$) 6.0
Massimo da Milano. Essentially this is an Italian bakery, with cases filled with tempting breads of all sorts, baskets of cookies and sybaritic trays of pastries. We swoon at the memory of the vanilla mousse cake topped with perfect strawberries, the cream horns filled with chocolate pastry cream and the very expensive ($5 for one and worth every penny) large, crusty envelope filled with apples, pinenuts and raisins. Massimo da Milano also has a selection of other foods: You will find many variations on the theme of bread dough with savory toppings (none, though, is much like the pizza we are used to), pasta salads and a couple of hot dishes like a lasagna rich with a creamy besciamella sauce. For all this you will have to wait in line – there is no table service, and you may even wind up clearing away the dishes from the first table you can grab if you come at a busy hour. (5519 W Lovers Lane. 351-1426. Tue-Thur10 am-9 pm, Fri-Sat 10 am-10 pm, Sun 10 am-6 pm. MC, V. $) 6.0
La Tosca. La Tosca was the first restaurant to give Dallas a glimpse of many of the treasures of the Italian kitchen. It’s still the same lovable, frustrating place it has always been -just as you think you are experiencing one of the great Italian meals of your life, along come a dish or two to disappoint you. On our last visit, the octopus salad was perfectly tender and flavorful, the crespelle (Italian crepes) beautifully filled and seasoned, the tortellini alla nonna ideally creamy. We were not as fond of the shrimp-and-pea risotto as of the previous version with various seafoods, but it was still a fine dish. But then the shrimp provinciate and the veal scallops topped with cheese proved decidedly lacklustre. (7713 In-wood. 352-8373. Tue-Sun 6-10:30 pm. Closed Mon. Reservations Tue-Thur & Sun only. All credit cards. $$$) 7.0
Prego Pasta House. Although Prego is a bit hard to peg-with a casual menu reminiscent of Campisi’s served in a simple, elegant setting – that hasn’t affected its popularity. And why should it? Here you can have the best of both worlds: Whether you’re dressed in denim or Dior, you can dine on such delicacies as linguini with white clam sauce and chicken breast piccata or opt for the inexpensive (and always enjoyable) pizza. Indulge in an amaretto freeze or a brandy Alexander for the ultimate culinary conclusion. (4930 Greenville. 363-9204. Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri 11 am-midnight, Sat 5 pm-mid-night, Sun noon-11 pm. All credit cards. $$) 5.0
D Ristorante Savino (formerly Ristorante Valentino). Our last meal here was marked by an elegant simplicity. Our opening pastas were marvelously subtle: The lasagna contained tiny bay scallops and a light cheese (and no tomatoes, of course), and the cavaletti proved to be small elongated shells sauced witn fresh tomato and basil. The salads were gently dressed with good olive oil, the scallops of veal were crowned with wild mushrooms, and a veal chop was anointed with a delicate Marsala sauce. Desserts had improved since our first visit-the profiteroles were first-rate- but the quality of service had declined somewhat. (2929 N Henderson. 826-7804. Sun-Thur 6-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 5:30-11 pm. All credit cards. $$$) 7.5
Ristorante Vincenzo. This restaurant in the location that Sergio’s and Via Veneto used to occupy offers an interesting assortment of dishes from all over the Italian peninsula. The pasta selections are unusual, ranging from spaghetti with julienne eggplant to small pasta shells in a sauce rich with ricotta. Main courses include a flavorful grilled swordfish steak with a sauce loaded with olives and garlic, chicken topped with Swiss cheese and mushrooms and classics such as scampi and veal (with ham in a brown sauce flecked with sage). (The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh, Suite 165. 742-3872. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-10:30. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)6.0
Fu|i-Ya. This tiny Japanese restaurant looks more authentic than it once did (there is now a kind of sushi bar), and the food remains a pleasant introduction to this Asian cuisine. There are the usual combinations of tempura and teriyaki. plus more out-of-the-way items like yaki soba (slightly spicy Japanese noodles), shabu shabu (simmered beef slices and vegetables) and grilled fish. A few varieties of sushi are available either as a main course or an appetizer. (13050 Coit. 690-8396. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. MC, V, AE. $$) 5.0
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 lnwood at Cedar Springs. 351-6922. Mon-Fri 11 am-10 pm, Satnoon-10 pm, Sun 1-10 pm. MC, V, AE. $$) 6.0
Sakura. Sushi may come and sushi may go, but this authentic Japanese (and Korean) restaurant has become a Dallas staple. If you like raw fish, the sushi plate is a winner – a generous and tasty array ranging from salmon and whitefish to octopus. For more traditional diners. Sakura offers a nice fried food menu (we liked the fried shrimp and pork served on a skewer) Sit at a table, on the floor or belly up to the sushi bar and count on excellent service. On the weekends also count on fighting the rock ’n’ rollers clubbing next door for a parking space. (Valet parking is offered for those who’d rather switch than fight.) (7402 Greenville. 361-9282. Mon-Thur & Sun 5:30-11 pm. Fri & Sat 5:30 pm-midnight. Reservations recommended on weekends. All credit cards. $$) 5.5
A.J. Gonzalez. The West End finally has a Mexican restaurant now that A.J. Gonzalez 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. 651-9507. Mon-Thur 11 am-3 pm & 5:30-10 pm, Fri 11 am-3 pm & 5:30-11 pm. $$) 5.5
Blue Goose. Exposed heating ducts, bare concrete floors, cases of Mexican beer everywhere and a few exotic cacti give the Blue Goose a kind of high-tech-Mex atmosphere The menu looks challenging, too. with everything from quail to lobster available grilled over mesquite, but the cooking often seems perfunctory. Great chunks of meat are served in huge portions, but the pork cubes we tried were underdone, and both they and the beef fajitas had been robbed of any subtlety by an excess of lemon juice. The Tex-Mex we sampled at the Blue Goose wasn’t much more convincing. Friendly service in an outgoing style couldn’t really make up for the disappointment in the food. (2905 Greenville Ave 823-8339. Lunch 11-2:30, dinner 5:30-11. $$) 4.5
Café Rincón. We wish the dinner menu here didn’t have such small type-with the dim lighting, it’s especially hard to read – but otherwise we love this fine little restaurant. The queso is not overwhelmingly cheesy; the jalapenos have a sweat factor of eight, and the cheese on the nachos has a stretch factor of seven, although the meat is slightly salty. The snapper Veracruz is the pescano de resistance: one of the juiciest, meatiest fish imaginable resplendent in a delicious herb and tomato sauce. That, plus a tasty flan for dessert, made up for the rather pedestrian chicken enchiladas. And the lighting, with the right company, gets better as the evening goes on. (2818 Harry Hines. 742-4906. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri 11:30 am-midnight, Sat noon-midnight. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$) 7.0
Gonzalez. Over the years, this funky little Mexican place (where you can order and drive through to pick up) has suffered both from overpraise and from too summary a dismissal. It does serve some very good Mexican food, though it’s by no means consistent these days. Not everybody likes the exotically flavored fajitas (the secret is lots of oregano). but we do. And the burritos made of all sorts of authentic fillings (such as the stews called guiso and carne guisado) are well worth investigating. (4333 Maple. 528-2960. Daily 7 am-9 pm.All credit cards. $$) 5.5
Guadalajara. Some of the finest Mexican cooking in Dallas can still be found in this classic dive just east of downtown. On our last visit, we had an excellent mil-anesa (which is rather like a Mexican chicken-fried steak) and a tasty, if rather tough, steak cooked with garlic and chile pequin. The side dishes, such as guacamole, tried potatoes and retried beans, were exceptional. But if you venture to this place, be prepared for funky surroundings and service that can border on abusive. (3308 Ross at Hall. 823-9340. Sun-Thur 11 am-3 am, Fri & Sat 10 am-3 am. All credit cards. $$)6.0
Mia. Every city needs its celebrated holes-in-the-wall, and Mia’s has been Dallas’ for the last year or so. It made its reputation of the fajitas, which do have a distinctive flavor (is it liquid smoke?). The little pots of stewed pinto beans soak up the tastes ofsmoked pork and cilantro, and the standard Tex-Mex numbers are better than okay. We like the friendly neighborhood feeling of the place, but the service can be a bit scatterbrained-we’re still waiting for the nachos we ordered to start our meal here. (4418 Lemmon. 526-1020. Mon-Fri 11-2 and 5-10. Sat noon-10. No credit cards. $) 5.5
Mario & Alberto. We were in the mood lor a fiesta when we last visited this uptown Mexican restaurant, and it did not disappoint. The nachos and shrimp flautas distracted us from the tostadas and cilantro-laden hot sauce until the main courses arrived. Then we delighted in beef dishes: alambres (Mexican shish kebab), puntas de filete (tiny slivers of beef sautéed with garlic) and Were de la casa (a slice of rare tenderloin topped with herbs and garlic). On the way out, we couldn’t resist a cinnamon-rich praline. (Preston Valley Shopping Center. LBJ Frwy at Preston. Suite 425. 980-7296. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30pm. Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11 pm.Closed Sun. Drinks with $5.50 membership charge. MC, V, AE. $$) 7.0
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. 686-7860; 2011 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 and Arlington locations. MC, V, AE. CB. $$) 5.5
Moctezuma’s. It’s a |ungle out there, but no matter how many Mexican restaurants pop up around Dallas, this one will remain a staple of fine Mexican cuisine, from the hot sauce and chips to the “especiales” – specialty dishes that make this south-of-the-border menu distinctive. We were also favorably impressed with some of the more simple Mexican dishes: the enchilada de pollo (sour cream chicken enchiladas) and the puffed taco dinner. The decor is nothing fancy, but this is nonetheless a pleasant place to sip tasty margaritas. (3202 McKinney. 559-3010. Mon-Thur 11-11. Fri & Sat 11 am-11:30 am, Sun 11 am-10:30 pm. Reservations for parties of six or more. All credit cards. $$) 5.5
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 sautéed, 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 here. (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. All credit cards. $$$) 8.5
D Café Pacific. Has this bastion of fresh seafood cooked with a continental flair gone New Southwestern on us? The specials of the day we tried were fettuccine (cooked with fresh mussels and julienne peppers) and blackened fillets of salmon and halibut, sauced with an Anaheim pepper beurre blanc. The fish dish was a notable success. The pasta wasn’t, nor was the ceviche of shrimp, lobster and scallops, in which the shellfish were overmarinated and chewy. We were pleased, though, with the rich, tender pepper steak and the desserts of silk pie and cheesecake with two sauces (strawberry and kiwi). No one could accuse the servicehere of being warm and overly familiar, but it is efficient and professional. (Highland Park Village, Preston at Mockingbird, Suite 24. 526-1170. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30, Sun 10:30-2:30: dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11, Sun 5:30-10. MC, V, AE. $$$) 8.5
Turtle Cove. We have experienced wide swings of response to the food at Turtle Cove, and don’t believe it’s because we’re moody. On our last visit, several shrimp dishes smelled slightly of ammonia. We found both shrimp and vegetables cooked over mesquite wood far too smoky tasting-this isn’t always the case here, so perhaps it has to do with how recently the grills were cleaned. Our best choice was a broiled swordfish steak, but the pleasure we took in it (and in wine from the remarkable all-American wine list) wasn’t 3nough to compensate for our other disappointments. (2731 W Northwest Hwy. 350-9034. Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. All credit cards. $$$) 5.5
D Newport’s. This stylish, handsome West End purveyor of seafood isn’t always perfect, but you can usually count on at least one major success per meal. We were impressed with the crab cocktail – long strips of meat from the leg served with a sweetish sauce for dipping – and the grilled Gulf snapper. More ordinary were the ceviche (slightly overmarinated so that the shrimp and scallops were tough) and the trout amandine (it turned out to be freshwater trout rather than sea trout and was too oily for our taste). We were appeased, though, by the excellent salads, the nonpareil french fries and the silk pie of dark chocolate. (703 McKinney in the Brewery. 954-0220. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$) 7.5
Mai’s. This little Vietnamese café- 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. 826-9887. Sat-Sun 9 am-10 pm. Mon, Thur-Fri 11 am-10 pm. Closed Tue & Wed. MC, V. $) 4.5
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 char-broiled swordfish. Side orders of sautéed veggies were fresh but a little bland. In spite of the fact that five 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. $$) 5.5
STEAKS, BURGERS, ETC.
Jasons. This Sakowitz Village spot is more notable for its crowded, noisy bar than for the food in the snazzy-looking restaurant (where all dishes are accompanied by the sound of music and voices coming from the adjoining revelers.) Having been tipped off that things had changed for the better at Jasons, we went back to find that things were pretty much la meme chose. The same old things included an overpriced, underseasoned shrimp cocktail, a rather chewy New York cut sirloin and a decent cut of prime rib. We learned not to get fancy here from our experience of trying a special of veal topped with crabmeat. (Sakowitz Village, 5100 Belt Line at Dallas Pkwy. 960-2877. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$) 4.5
D Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Reward food with a vengeance is what you get here: the biggest, tastiest steaks imaginable. We lean toward the rib-eye, which is anything but lean. It is rich, marbled and sinful, and we never even take home a doggie bag. The sirloin is also of superb USDA Prime quality, perfectly cooked in its butter and parsley sauce. If you don’t want to break the bank, forego appetizers and desserts- your bill will be big enough just paying for the beef. (6940 Greenville. 691-6940. Mon-Fri 11:30-11:30, Sat & Sun 5-11:30 pm. All credit cards. $$$) 7.5
Angelo’s. Is Fort Worth’s most famous barbecue joint slipping, or did we just have some bad luck on our last visit? The huge portion of ribs was as satisfying as ever, and the side dishes, such as potato salad and slaw, were far above average. But the thickly sliced brisket was so dried-out that the tangy sauce could hardly redeem it. Angelo’s mystique can’t survive many disappointments in the quality of the beef. (2533 White Settlement Rd. (817) 332-0357. Mon-Sat 11 am-10 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $) 6.0
Calhoun Street Oyster Co. The decor and the menu at this place are borrowed from New Orleans, but the service we encountered during a recent visit had an inviting Texas flair. The veggies with dip kept us busy until the main course-lobster tails-arrived. The oysters were so good you could easily make a full meal out of them, and the waiter who customizes the sauce at your table knows how to please customers’ palates. The night we visited, the amaretto cheesecake was made more tasty by the addition of chocolate swirls. If you’re not set on oysters-the house specialty-choose from the selections on the blackboard, where fresh seafood items vary daily. (210 E Eighth at Calhoun. (817) 332-5932. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun 5-9:30 pm. MC, V, AE. $$) 5.0
D Hedary’s. Some things at Hedary’s were better than ever on our last visit, including the service by the members of the Lebanese-American family that owns the place. The assortment of appetizers was nothing short of spectacular, with definitive eggplant and chickpea dips, falafel, vegetables and salads. And the baklava and other desserts were light, delicate and delicious. We confess to some disappointment with our main dishes, though. Our skewered lamb was tough, and our frarej (chicken broiled in olive oil) didn’t taste as boldly of garlic as we remembered. (3308 Fair-field at Camp Bowie (817) 731-6961. Tue-Thur & Sun 5-10 pm, Fri & Sat 5-11 pm. Closed Mon. No reservations. All credit cards. $$) 7.5
El Rancho Grande. Our high opinion of this North Side establishment was tarnished a bit during our last visit First, we were kept waiting for more than 20 minutes before our drink order was even taken, despite a bevy of waitresses hovering over nearby tables. Then we tried to console ourselves with the house special margarita (a heavy portion of gold tequila and other liqueurs), but the steep $4.50 price tag drowned our somewhat rejuvenated spirits. Despite these disappointments, the beef fajitas and chicken enchiladas drenched in sour cream were still in our good graces, and the light-as-a-feather nacho chips are still our favorites. (1400 N. Main. (817) 624-9206 Mon-Thur 11 am-9:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10:30 pm. Closed Sun All credit cards. $$) 4.5
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 are not dainty eaters and welcome 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 has not lost his touch. From the beginning shrimp appetizer, through the heavenly lobster bisque soup and house salad, to the delicious veal Oscar and closing cheesecake, our appetites were amply satisfied. We are happy to reinstate Escape’s D award. (3417 Wellington. (817) 738-9704. SunThur 6-10 pm, Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. All credit cards.$$$) 7.5
LAS COLINAS/MID CITIES
D Enjolie. The menu here hasn’t changed a great deal, but the promotion of a new chef in the kitchen some months back seems to have blunted the edge of the cooking. A recent dinner was good, but not as exciting as some of those we remembered from the past. The duck pate with prunes had little flavor, and the lobster in an appetizer salad was overcooked and chewy. The little rounds of venison and of veal in our entrees lacked seasoning, and the accompanying sauces didn’t wow us. The desserts, though – three kinds of homemade ice cream (including a delectable pistachio) in pastry tulips and apples in the butteriest puff pastry imaginable- retained their old glamour. (Mandalay Four Seasons Hotel, 221 E Las Colinas Blvd. Irving. 5560800, ext. 3155. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30 Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$$) 9.0
Chin Big Wong. The Chinese dining scene is moving drastically uptown, and this new outpost of New Big Wong (the insiders’ Chinatown-style Chinese restaurant on lower Greenville) reconfirms the trend. In this neighborhood spot where Garland, Richardson and North Dallas meet, Chin Big Wong is more attractive than its older cousin, looks cleaner, offers a cheerier welcome and is often quite crowded. Chinese customers (by our visual survey) seem to prefer the various renditions of whole fish and to include a platter of greens among their other dishes. At lunchtime, you can order Dim Sum (dumplings and other Chinese nibbles) off a special menu.