DINING NEW ARRIVALS

The hottest new restaurants in the Metroplex

La Casita. The name means “little house or home,” and it fits this new Mexican restaurant perfectly. Two sisters from Mexico and their mother opened a place on Lower Greenville to serve real Mexican home cooking. The dishes that they serve are the best, most comforting versions we have had in Dallas-made with lots of tender, loving care, too. It really is like being in their kitchen at home, and you may be regaled with wonderful stories about the family by the sister who has lived in the States the longest. La Casita charges such modest prices that you hardly feel you are eating out.

The cooking is consistently excellent at La Casita, though it’s not exactly consistent. We suspect that what you get depends on which of the three ladies has kitchen duty on that day. The refried beans are marvels of their kind-but one day they are thick and rich with the flavor of pork, another day they zing with a sharp flavor of pickled jalapenos. Ditto the rice-it may be fluffy and dotted with tiny pieces of carrots and potatoes or thicker and redder from extra tomato.

La Casita turns out definitive versions of both Tex-Mex favorites and authentic Mexican specialties. 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 vegetables. Fajitas don’t come on a sizzling platter, which is fine by us, since the meat often gets burned in the show on those things. They aren’t overmar-inated, and they don’t have a heavy charcoal taste. They are accompanied by a pico de gallo that seems to be made of nothing but cilantro and hot pepper, super guacamole and flour tortillas that have been individually toasted on the grill.

The menu lists all kinds of less standard Mexican dishes, and those we have sampled have been up to snuff. The green enchiladas, filled with chicken and smothered in a tomatillo sauce and cheese, are simple and satisfying. The chiles rellenos are much more than that-they have perfect filling and a light, puffy breading that blends into a heavenly dish. The carne guisada is excellent, too-a hearty Mexican stew with a good balance of flavors.

We have a few small reservations about La Casita-tortillas are sometimes dried out and unappetizing, no credit cards are accepted, and we wish there were a few more desserts available. But by and large the food is so good, the people so warm and the prices so reasonable, that La Casita has to be rated as a major find. It is certainly our favorite modest Mexican restaurant in Dallas. (1908 Greenville. 821-8151. Mon, Wed, Thur 10 am-midnight, Fri-Sun 10 am-3 am. Closed Tue. No credit cards. $)

Siam Rose. This is certainly the fanciest Thai restaurant yet to hit Dallas (the wood and glass entranceway alone must have cost a small fortune), and the first Southeast Asian cuisine of any sort to grace the Prestonwood neighborhood. The touristic gewgaws on the walls keep the place from achieving real elegance, but it’s nice to have such amenities as the cushioned floor seating for parties of up to six. These areas are a few steps off the main floor on one wall of the restaurant, and the diners are attended by servers who crouch on their knees to deliver platters of food or to dole out clouds of white rice from embossed silver-colored tureens. The polite solicitousness of the staff is a real treat in this age of hustle and bustle.

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, but sadly the cooking is only about average. Those who are new to the cuisine (probably the vast majority in this neighborhood) will be pleased enough. But those who have sampled the wares of the old Siam or Rheun Thai when they were at their best will come away slightly let down. There are some interesting novelties: The pieces of chicken cooked in cornhusks are a kind of 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 and 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. The spring rolls, for instance, were heavy and greasy, and the deep-fried softshell crabs tasted fishy. The various soups on the menu (chicken with coconut, shrimp with lemon grass, beancurd with pork) all arrived at the table barely lukewarm. One telltale sign of culinary shortcuts taken here is that the fresh herbs that play such a big role in Thai cuisine elsewhere are noticeably lacking here. Our beef salad had no sign of fresh mint leaves, and our Pa-Naing Beef had no visible trace of lime leaves. One compensation for these shortcomings (in addition to the pleasant atmosphere) is the better-than-average choice of unusual Thai desserts, which usually don’t suit Western palates. We actually found ourselves liking the coconut ice cream (with small chunks of coconut in each bite), the pumpkin custard (actually served in small slices of steamed acorn squash), even the sticky rice (served with nicely ripe fresh mango and a slightly sweet, slightly salty clear sauce). (5290 Belt Line, Suite 142. 991-9881. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-3, dinner: Daily 5-11. MC, V, AE. $$)

Imperial Dragon. Both the tasteful decor and the obvious ambition here are real surprises-one doesn’t expect this sort of push from a restaurant in northern Piano. The menu at Imperial Dragon is unlike all the others in town, both in substance and format. In a city where it sometimes seems the printers keep stock forms and just add the new restaurants’ names at the top of the first page, the novelty is welcome. Even the cute little pictures at the bottom of each page are intriguing.

Alas, the reality on the plate does not always match the splendor promised on the menu. Take, for example, the lovely picture of the Chinese rice pudding versus the real thing (which appears only after a long wait). The photograph shows lots of Chinese fruits and nuts arranged in a jewel-like pattern; the dish that arrives at the table is a mound of glutinous rice topped with stewed dried fruits, apparently out of a supermarket mixture. A similar discrepancy between thought and act plagues many of dishes at Imperial Dragon. 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. The deep-fried fish in a Hunan sauce looks regal, but is mushy and fishy-tasting. A dish of chicken with mushrooms turns out to be regular moo goo gai pan (with canned mushrooms, and a small portion at that).

Even though the reach of the Imperial Dragon exceeds its grasp, it is certainly a restaurant worth trying. It began to attract decent-sized crowds before any advertisements or reviews appeared in print, so it is obviously filling a need. 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 and is served the rare, authentic way-with a final dunking of the syrupy fried fruit in ice water to form a crunchy glaze. The service is good and the prices are not unreasonable. (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. $$)

Bel-Air Grill. Food fads follow a pattern not unlike fashion fads-trends start with the pacesetters who have lots of money and trickle down to the less well-heeled. At this point the New American cuisine has gone way past the couture environment and has descended to the ranks of off-the-rack. You can see the evolution of the process just by driving a few blocks down Greenville Avenue. Gershwin’s started the process by selling things like far-out pizzas and blackened redfish to the mass market, but in an elegant way. Only a few hundred yards south, Bel-Air Grill has broadened the target population farther. The inventor of Chili’s, Larry Lavine, is trying to sell these foods to the Upper Greenville youthful singles set. What are those who depended on the idea of ordering grilled fish so as to be set apart from the hoi polloi going to do now?

You can’t expect the food at Bel-Air Grill to taste much like that at the Mansion or even at Dakota’s (two of the more elite vendors of some of these delicacies, albeit in more rarefied forms). The basic unit of sale here is probably still going to be the hamburger, whatever fripperies appear on the menu- which are fine, if nothing extraordinary. 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, though, 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, which we found pleasant but not memorable.

We have mixed emotions about the steaks and fish dishes that are supposed to set this place apart from the other bar-and-grill affairs that dot Greenville. The steaks are not especially distinguished in either flavor or texture-one of ours was downright sinewy. The “Cajun” treatment you can choose for the steaks is no big improvement, either. This is essentially the technique for producing blackened whatever-the meat is sprinkled with a preset mixture of herbs and spices, then seared almost to the point of burning. In the case of these steaks, some sautéed mushrooms garnished the beef. It all tastes all right, but we can’t imagine wanting to eat this dish more than once. Fish can be had with similar treatment, or just grilled. From our sample of swordfish plain versus snapper blackened, we think the blackening might improve the taste of some otherwise undistinguished fish.

The Bel-Air does better as a bar than as a grill in some ways-there are a number of wines available by the glass. Curiously, no desserts are served. You can buy milkshakes, however. The servers seem typical of places that cater to young singles crowds-very friendly but not particularly knowledgeable. The atmosphere is also typical enough of the neighborhood (darkish and fern-bar-like, with a lot of sound from both patrons and music), and there is an outdoor deck for those who want the sun. (6950 Greenville. 739-5088. Mon-Thur 11 am-11:30 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-midnight, Sun 11:30 am-11:30 pm. MC, V, AE. $-$$)

Samurai. It’s surprising how a belt of saki will improve your outlook on life-and raw fish. If we were skeptical, we had good reason to be. We were the only diners in the restaurant at 8 p.m. on a weeknight. Could the sashimi and sushi be really fresh? Another belt of saki, and we decided to be adventurous. Four different kinds of tuna arrived on a shredded bed of radish. Dunked in the mixture of soy sauce and hot mustard, sashimi can be one of the best taste sensations found anywhere. All, with the mild exception of the Yellowfin, fulfilled our expectations. (The Yellowfin was just slightly fishy.) We continued with tempura vegetables, teriyaki beef and poached salmon in a dill sauce. The large portion of salmon was a little more done than we prefer in poached fish, but the creamy sauce restored the dish’s vitality. The tempura vegetables, on the other hand, were somewhat lackluster and bland, even though we received a surprising array (zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli-and carrots). The soy sauce did little to enliven them. And the marinated beef was plentiful but tasted as if it had marinated perhaps a bit too long. Between courses, we had our choice of Japanese salad or soup. We opted for one of each. The lettuce salad had a lively vinegary dressing, but the soup was mostly broth. We were still the only diners in the small strip shopping center restaurant at meal’s end, so we threw caution to the wind and ordered another round of saki, this time without the sashimi. (2305D West Park Row, Arlington. (817) 860-2871. Mon-Thur 5-10 pm, Fri & Sat 5-11 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Rich Chicks. Theresa Alexander, whose previous ventures include the Stoneleigh P and the Lounge in the Inwood Theater, had an idea for a new fast-food restaurant-one that would look classy and serve healthier food than the usual places. Apparently the more conservative financial institutions wouldn’t back her grand scheme-there is a sign in the new place that reads “We reserve the right to refuse service to bankers’-but somebody did, and Rich Chicks is open, in Preston Royal Shopping Center. The chickens are butterflied 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. The idea is a good one, though not quite as original as Alexander’s publicity would lead us to believe. Broiled chicken is cropping up in little corners all over town, and two highly organized and advertised chains have already tried marketing a Mexican variety not too dissimilar to these birds.

High-tech, high-fashion, low-calorie fast foods may be a good idea, but we drove right past Rich Chicks on one occasion before getting detailed instructions on how to find it. Somebody working on this business plan might do well to recollect that fast food depends on high visibility. Golden Wishbones on the highway, perhaps? (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. $)

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.

We’re 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



Gershwin’s Bar & Grill. You’ve never seen so much trendiness packed under one roof as you will see here. Every fad of the last two or three years may be found on the menu: pizzas with odd ingredients, homemade pastas, intricate salads, blackened redfish, charcoal-grilled everything, lots of fresh herbs and even kiwi fruit. A large number of wines are available by the glass-everything from the humblest American blend to Chateau Lafite-Rothschild. The decor, of course, features lots of marble and polished wood. The goal proclaimed by the owners of Gershwin’s-to fill the niche between the TGI Friday’s and Houlihan’s of this world and the best and most expensive places in town – is a laudable one, especially since the plan includes relatively moderate prices. It’s perhaps surprising that so much at Gershwin’s works so well, since any menu that attempts so much is bound to have some less successful dishes. (8442 Walnut Hill at Greenville. 373-7171. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-midnight, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-1 am. All credit cards. $$-$$$)

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. Mon-Thur 6:30-10 pm, Fri-Sat 6-10:30 pm; Sun brunch: 10-2: dinner: 6-9:30. Reservations recommended. Jackets and ties 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 sautéed 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 11:30-2:30: 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 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 “gentrifica-tion” 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 entrees, 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, DC. $$-$$$)

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. Sun-Wed 11 am-10pm, Thur-Sat 11 am-11 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)



D REVISITS



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. The service was excellent, despite the effusive menu description by our captain. We followed his recommendations and he steered us right. An appetizer of mesquite-grilled squab with tomatoes and bib lettuce was laced with a creamy vinaigrette dressing. And hot escargots were not drenched in butter, but served in a light, tart sauce with shredded carrots, tomatoes and mushrooms. 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. The roasted tenderloin of lamb was cooked exactly to the “medium” that we requested, and it was accompanied by a pastry shell full of sweet sautéed onions. We finished every bite of the beautiful, fresh blueberries and whipped cream and the ricotta cheese/sponge cake. We noticed that the staff in general was well-trained and efficient, if not just a pinch stuffy. But 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-midnight. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. Jackets required. All credit cards. $$$$)



BARBECUE/TEXANA



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 mileu just doesn’t translate very well, although there is an ample mix of types ranging from urban cowboys to Highland Park slummers. 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 7am-midnight. MC, V, AE. $$)

Longhorn Bar-B-Que. This far South Dallas restaurant may be lacking in atmosphere, but it serves outstanding beef, sausage and ribs with all the usual side dishes. The beef sandwiches have plenty of lean, tender, tasty meat on fresh grilled buns The french fries and baked potatoes are good, too, and the cafeteria-style service is fast and courteous. (315 S Hwy 67. Cedar Hill. 299-5092 Mon-Sat 11 am 8:30 pm Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)

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. $)

Tolbert’s Texas Chili Parlor. The late, great Frank Tolbert’sbig, open restaurant is an easy place to relax over a beer or get rowdy while watching games on the tube. But it’s an even better place to chow down on some of the area’s best Texas cooking: burgers, na-chos, chicken-fried anything and, of course, Tolbert’s famous bowl of red. The generous portion of chicken nachos (fried flour tortillas topped with big chunks of spiced chicken, lots of melted cheese and jalapenos) was a meal in itself, and the “Wild Bill Hickory” burger, with hickory sauce, pickles, cheese and onions, was a perfectly cooked, satisfying sandwich. The huge taco salad was rather ordinary -a bit heavy on the lettuce and light on the cheese sauce. But the golden onion rings and the delicious “Chicken Fred” sandwich (moist grilled chicken on a wheat bun with crisp bacon and Cheddar) were fine. We appreciated the efficient, friendly service at lunchtime. (4544 McKinney. 522-4340. Mon- Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight. Sun 11:30 am-11 pm. MC, V, AE. $)



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 four or more or for special banquets Bar by membership. MC, V, AE, DC $$)

Bamboo Pavilion. Having been impressed by the owner’s newly opened 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. MC, V, AE, DC.)

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 11-11, 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 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. $$)

Crystal Pagoda. Great Chinese kites loom on the ceiling in this attractive new 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 11:30am-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-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11:30 pm, Sun 11.30 am-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$$)

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. $$)

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. $$)

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. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30-11.30, All credit cards. $$)

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 po chicken, Hunan beef and the braised shrimp in Hunan sauce. (1111 W Airport Frwy at MacArthur, Suite 201, Irving. 252-0126. Mon-Thur 11 am-10pm, Fri 11-11, Satnoon-11 pm. Sunnoon-10pm. Allcredit 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 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, DC. $$)



D REVISITS



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 sautéed 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. But it was barely lukewarm when it was brought to the table. And our waitress’ name must have been whatever the Chinese word is for snail. Her laid-back pace probably accounted for our being there at least 30 minutes longer than we needed to be. (2560 W Northwest Hwy. 353-0129. MonThur 11 am-10:30 pm, Satnoon-11 pm. Sun noon-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$)



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 multi-course 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. Closed Sun. Reservations required-Jackets required. 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 #122. 323-0627. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30, Sat noon-2:30: dinner: MonThur 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 sautéed 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. 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 is their price: $1.75 a plate. (6111 Greenville, 369-8902: 4980 Belt Line, Addison. 387-2333. Mon-Fri 11 arn-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. $$)



D REVISITS



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 – using rather exotic ingredients even for a deluxe Chinese restaurant. Of the four we tried, three were winners. The crispy quail proved a wonderful appetizer – lacquered skin and meaty, juicy flesh. The two main course novelties 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! (Gal-leria. 13350 Dallas Pkwy, Suite 3370. 934-9998. Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10:30 pm. Jackets required lor dinner. All credit cards.



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-10:30 pm. Thur & Fri 11 arn-midnight, Sat noon-1 am. Sun noon-W:30 pm. 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. $)

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. $)

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 paté before biting into our lunch entrees. Although the Frenchy crêpe (with turkey, spinach and blue cheese sauce) and the lasagna weren’t quite as tasty as they appeared, the ham, spinach and pep-peroni 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. $$)

Kuby’s. A visit to this German delicatessen/restaurant is 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 onions and 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 8am-5pm. Closed Sun. MC, V for purchases over $15; personal checks accepted. $)

Ms. Betty’s. The lady has moved her kitchen from the western edge of the Park Cities to the southern one (careful, because the new Turtle Creek Village location is hard to spot). The simple fare of sandwiches (ham or chicken salad on luscious homemade breads), soups and salads is still executed with a lovely touch. You do 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 9 am-2:30 pm, Sat 11 am-2 pm. Supper on Thur 5-7 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)

Pacific Express. 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 Pacific. 969-7447. Mon-Fri 11 am-2 pm. Closed Sat & Sun. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $$)



FRENCH/CONTINENTAL



D REVISITS



Arthur’s. From the moment we entered an almost-empty Arthur’s (it was a rainy Sunday night) we were met with witticisms-jokes from the waiter about the sparsely populated dining room, from the som-melier about the heft of the wine list, from the cocktail waitress about a patron who left the lights in his Colt on. (Get it? Neither did we.) The general jocularity was refreshing in the hushed elegance of this venerable restaurant, and, in general, the food matched the mood. 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 fettucine 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-midnight. 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. 248-2229 Sat-Thur 7:30 am-11 pm, Fri 7:30 am-mid-night. 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 nightly specialties. The 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, 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. $$$$)

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 (or maybe he was just too busy thinking about his two new mid-priced restaurants). Our appetizer pate en croute was humdrum, and the sautéed 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 disappointment. 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 sealings at 7 & 9:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. Jackets and ties required. MC, V. AE, DC. $$$$)



D REVISITS



Ceret. This bistro that conjures up a romantic vision of turn-of-the-century Paris doesn’t attract the crowds that came when it was new, and the idea of turning the upstairs sections into a creperie proved shortlived. Ceret, though, still offers good value for the price. Both first courses were actually memorable: a mussel soup with tender mollusks and a creamy golden broth, and a cold pasta salad of a properly al dente texture and lots of seafood (including tiny squid and their tentacles) mixed in. The sautéed scallops over spinach were good, though not ideally brown, and the sweetbreads in a port wine sauce were tasty, if a little mealy. Two desserts could have set any chocoholic’s heart to pounding: the light chocolate mousse cake and the dense, rich chocolate fondant. (703 McKinney in the Brewery. 720-0297 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Sun. 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 pate 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- Thur 6-9:30, Fri & Sat 6:30-11. 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 pate, 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. $$$$)

Enclave Spectrum. After an initial display of independence, this new restaurant in the building at the hub of all the development in the Addison area now shows an increasing resemblance to its namesake on Walnut Hill. Enclave Spectrum no longer has the prix fixe dinner that made it such a bargain. Some of the more adventuresome dishes are still around, but other things on the a la carte menu are in the more old-fashioned continental style of the original Enclave. (5080 Spectrum Or, Suite 115E. 661-3390 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-11:30. Closed Sun. 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 Lunch: Mon-Fri noon-2; dinner: daily 6:30-10:30. Reservations required. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$)

The Grape. This bistro and wine bar has been around for so long that it’s easy to forget how good it is. We enjoyed the light, fresh mushroom soup and the hearty paté with our selections of wine by the glass. For some-thing heavier, try the veal selections (the menu changes frequently). And for dessert, there’s pecan pie spiked with lots of bourbon. (2808 Greenville at Goodwin. 823-0133. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-11. Fri & Sat 6 pm-midmght. All credit cards. $$)

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-and-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. 871-0818. Tue-Sat seatingsat 6 & 9 pm. Closed Sun & Mon. Reservations required. MC, V, AE. DC. $$$$)

Jean Paul. This small Preston Royal restaurant seems to have an older, more loyal crowd than some of the newer, snazzier French places about town. Its owners have chosen (wisely) to invest in good food rather than in plush decor, but some of the dishes were a little too ornate. Escargots in puff pastry were so heavily doused in sauce as to be indistinguishable from mushrooms in puff pastry. The lamb chops topped with bleu cheese, however, were well worth sampling, though too rich to finish. (5934 Royal Lane. 692-9515. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$$)

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. $$$)

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, 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 arn-2 pm & 5:30-10:30 pm. Sat 11:30 am-midnight at Henderson location. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2; dinner: Mon- Thur 6-11 pm, Fri & Sat 6 pm-midnight at Lamar location. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)

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 crème (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-midnight. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$$)



D REVISITS



D La Champagne. This visit didn’t impress us as much as the one before-it must be hard to keep up standards if business is always as slow as when we have been here. The appetizer of goose liver on slices of brioche was made with what tasted like canned foie gras, and the snowpeas in the salad with sweetbreads were small and wilted -were they the frozen variety? The main dishes were more interesting: the Dover sole served with a lobster mousse had a delicate and unusual red burgundy sauce, and the veal and morels were complemented, not overwhelmed, by their mustard sauce. The Sachertorte was a sweeter concoction than any Viennese would ever recognize, but the marjolaine – a block of chocolate and praline layered together and surrounded by vanilla and coffee sauces – was a graceful ending to the meal. (The Registry. 15201 Dallas Pkwy. 386-6000. Tue-Sat 6:30-11 pm. Closed Sun & 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. $)

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 Wor-thington. 826-0660 Mon-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-11:30 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V. AE. $$$)

Le Panler. Since this quiet Snider Plaza spot was being remodeled and enlarged on the occasion of our last visit, we went back to see if things were any different from our last, disappointing experience. Every table was full, but we still found the food uninspired. Several of the limited selection of appetizers seem like something offered by ambitious little restaurants back in the Sixties-there are lots of artichoke hearts and olives sprinkled among the shrimp and the pate, to little purpose. The roast lamb, served in a heavy sauce with mint jelly on the side, also seemed more old-fashioned American than Greek to us, and the one concession to trendiness- blackened redfish, what else? – was fishy tasting. (3404 Rankin. 369-3241 Mon 11 am-3 pm, Tue-Sat 11 am-10 pm. Closed Sun- Reservations recommended. 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-midnight. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

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. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2: dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & 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 is 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 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 Péri-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-mont Hotel. Ross at Akard. 720-2020. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2, dinner: daily 6-10. All credit cards. $$$$)

D The Riviera. It seens as though 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 to be attentive and impeccable (and the welcome from host Franco Bertolasi 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. $$$$)

St. Martin’s. Sometimes a wine bistro isn’t just 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 pate 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-2:30 pm & 5-11 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-2:30 pm & 5 pm-1 am. Sun 5-11 pm: Sun brunch: 11 -3. All credit cards. $$)



D REVISITS



Three Vikings. The Scandinavian brick-a-brack 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 tew 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. Mon-Thur 6-10 pm, Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. 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-midnight, Tue-Sat 11:30 am-2 am, Sun 10:30 am-midnight, Sun brunch: 10:30-3. AE, MC, V. $$)



GERMAN/EASTERN EUROPEAN



Belvedere. Almost everything the chef of this Swiss-Austrian restaurant attempts he accomplishes well, whether it’s perfectly preparing meaty, tender scallops, grilling a T-bone of veal or assembling a rich and colorful veal Oscar. Some pre-meal choices may be better than others, however: The plates of smoked salmon and veal we ordered were tasty but too overwhelming to be served as appetizers. A homemade soup or a house salad dressed with generous amounts of bleu cheese is a better bet. The look of Belvedere has improved substantially since our last visit. (Crestpark Hotel. 4242 Lomo Alto. 528-6510. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11:30-2; dinner: Tue-Sat 6-10:30, Sun 6-9; Sun brunch: 11-2:30. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$$)

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 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 pm, Fn & Sat 5:30-10 pm. Closed Mon. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

Café Kashtan, We almost hesitate to recommend Cafe Kashtan, despite some unique and very appetizing food, because of the sometimes maddeningly slow service. But after all, just how many Ukrainian restaurants can Dallas boast? It’s the only place in town we know of where you can order chicken Kiev cooked by a native of Kiev. We love the soups and the Kashtan Sampler-mounds of cold salads made from beets, radishes and homemade sauerkraut. The chicken Tabaka (flattened, flavored with garlic and grilled), the mustardy beef stroganoff and the cabbage rolls are all worth exploring. The desserts change every night, but the ones we’ve tried (almond cake with raspberry sauce and a raisin strudel) have been exceptional. (5365 Spring Valley at Montfort. 991-9550. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 5-10. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)

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. $$$)



D REVISITS



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 our veal entree 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 fans. We’ll continue to go back to Rolf’s 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. ClosedSun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)



Rheingauer 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, unpound-ed 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-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-midnight. MC, V, AE. DC. $$)



GOURMET CARRYOUT



Marty’s. One of our writers has a fantasy of being trapped in Marty’s overnight -enslaved to a nocturnal orgy of patés and pesto, chocolate truffles and marzipan cake, endive and escargots. The chef’s 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 (a glorified brownie) 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. $$)

Mirabelte. 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. $$)



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 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, Sun 5-10. MC, V,AE.DC.$$$)

Crackers. We were once crackers about this restaurant in a refurbished old house on McKinney, but our last visit didn’t live up to our memories. We’re glad that the menu concentrates more heavily on the Greek specialties. The spanokopita (spinach pie) was soggy, and the dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) were undistinguished. The moussaka was better than the souvlaki (skewered lamb), which was tough and overdone. Maybe it was just as well that there were no Greek desserts: The coconut chess pie and the walnut cake were the best part of our meal. (2621 McKinney. 827-1660. Sun-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-11:30 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

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 & 6-10pm. Fri & Sat 7:30 am-4 pm & 6-11 pm, Sun 9 am-1:45 pm. No credit cards. $$)

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 |uice, 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. All credit cards. $$)

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. Fri & Sat 11 am-2 am, Sun 11-11. MC, V.AE. $$)



INDIAN/ETHIOPIAN



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 I ndian 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-Fn 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-Fn 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. (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. $$$)

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 as 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. $$)



ITALIAN



D REVISITS



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 escargot 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 & Sat 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 mushroom 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. L unch: Mon-Fri 11 -2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)

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 that 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. $)

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 think they 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. $$$)

Café Italia. This is strictly an unpretentious storefront operation, although there are some nice decorative touches in the apricot-colored tablecloths and the airy white metal chairs. The menu mainly offers Northern Italian dishes, and they are priced at the low end of the local scale for this sort of thing, especially at dinner (when prices are about the same as they are at lunch). Although the kitchen doesn’t make its own pasta, it cooks its noodle dishes so well that we think they are the best bets. The linguine pescatore, flavored with shrimp, clams and scallops (and plenty of garlic) is among the tastiest in town. The veal and chicken dishes are good without knocking your socks off. (5000 Maple. 521-0700. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2: dinner: Mon-Thur5-10. Fri & Sat 5-11. Closed Sun. MC. V. AE. $$)

Campisi’s. Is it still worth jockeying for a hard-to-find parking place and waiting in the inevitable long lines to dine here? We think so. Although the dimly lit dining room is cramped and noisy and the service can be haphazard, the heaping platter of crab claws drenched in garlic butter is, at $9, a bargain; the Italian dishes (we tried veal parmigiana with mostaccioli) are satisfying; and the locally famous pizza (we went “all the way”) is still the tops in town. (5610 E Mockingbird. 827-0355, 827-7711. Mon-Fri 11 am-midnight. Sat 11 am-1 am, Sun 11:30 am-midnight. Reservations tor six or more. No credit cards. $$)

Capriccio. Of all the remodeled old houses that have served as restaurants in Dallas, this one may have kept its character the best and turned out to be the loveliest. Some care has also been given to the food, although it’s not as exciting as the look of Capriccio. The spaghetti topped with chicken livers is an interesting choice for those with a taste for giblets, and the angel-hair pasta in fresh tomato sauce has a lively taste of fresh basil. The entrees we’ve tried have been pleasant but unexceptional; the best is probably the tournedos in a light wine sauce. Desserts at Capriccio, though, are something special. Both the Concord cake (of chocolate and meringue) and the rum cake (something like a cheesecake in texture, with lots of raisins) are memorable. (2616 Maple. 871-2004. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat 6 pm-midnight. MC, V, AE, DC. Lunch $$, dinner $$$)



D REVISITS



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 sautéed 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. All credit cards. $$)



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. 871-1115. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)

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-10pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)

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. $$$)

Firenze. In general we find the antipasto and pastas more appealing than the main dishes here. 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 is as good as any in town, the linguine is al dente in a sturdy clam broth and the tagliolini al pros-ciutto is fine. The veal and fish dishes, though, tend to be bland. Don’t miss the “Italian cake” for dessert – really a complex creation of zabaglione and chocolate cream layered with spongecake in the shape of a bombe. (9820 N. Central, Suite 504, 373-4700. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2; 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-midnight. All credit cards. $$$)

La Bella. This cozy neighborhood restaurant has a lot of potential. We say that because the entrees – except for veal dishes- are superb, but the soup (with canned veggies) and salad (of white iceberg lettuce) are dismal in comparison. We tried the linguine with white clam sauce, the fresh red snapper and a spicy sautéed chicken that was the special of the evening. Each was extremely fresh, and there was no skimping on the garlic and fresh spices. Our waiter was especially attentive, and he convinced us to try the cappuccino pie for dessert. Prices are reasonable, but your dinner could get expensive if you succumb to the tempting list of wines. (6757 Arapaho, Suite 721. 991-2828. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Tue-Thur & Sun 5:30-10, Fri 5:30-11, Sat 6-11. Closed Mon. 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 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-Thur 7 am-9 pm, Fri & Sat 7 am-11 pm, Sun 7 am-9 pm. Closed Mon. MC. V. $)



D REVISITS



Mario’s. After a surfeit of trendy New Wave decor and New American style cooking, the old-fashioned comforts of Mario’s can seem awfully winning. 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 lots of strong-tasting fresh basil. The tournedos Mario was tastily topped with a very French periogourdine sauce, while 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 lots of 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. $$$)



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 upon 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. $$)

Prego Pasta House. Although Prego is a bit hard to peg – with a casual menu 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 linguine 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-midnight, Sun noon-11 pm. All credit cards. $$)

D Ristorante Savlno (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 with fresh tomato and basil. The salads were gently dressed with good olive oil, 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. $$$) Ristorante Vincenzo. When this Italian restaurant opened last fall, it was heralded as the jewel in the crown of a rejuvenated Quadrangle. Despite the facts that the crown remains a ruin-in-restoration and the jewel is at times unpolished, Ristorante Vincenzo endures. If we have caveats, they apply only to the meal’s opening rounds: the antipasto is perfunctory, the minestrone is rather bland, the Caesar salad is short on fanfare and long on croutons. An order of fried cheese, however, was quite spectacular-served in an abundant mound, half sauced with tomato, the other in a lemon caper concoction. Our entrees were outstanding-a perfectly charred veal steak, which was thick and properly juicy; and scampi aligned like a brochette with moist morsels of onion and green pepper. Vegetables del giorno-a deep-fried cauliflower and tender julienne strips of zucchini-were perfect accompaniments. Equally impressive were the authentic cannoli and a rich and exuberant cappuccino pie. (The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh, Suite 165. 742-3872. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

Sergio & Luciano. The pasta dishes and the veal are the two main reasons to try this tasteful restaurant/bar on Addison’s restaurant row. The linguine dishes come with a bewildering array of sauces, and the veal sautéed with brandy, cream sauce and truffles was superbly and delicately seasoned. Try some of the off-menu specials, as well as the ingenious salads prepared with baby shrimp and other delectables. (The Quorum, 4900 Belt Line. Suite 250. 387-4441. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11. Sun 6-10. All credit cards. $$$$)

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 linguine pescatore (linguine pasta with shrimp, scallops, mussels and crab claws in a white wine sauce), which proved to be a light but substantial entree. The scallopine alla Toscana was heavier but delicious with mushrooms, ham, artichokes and capers in a light cream sauce. And for dessert, the chocolate amaretto torte cake-a chocolate souffle cake with Amaretto cream icing-with two forks wrapped up our meal without a crumb to spare. (226 Lincoln Square Shopping Center, Arlington. (817) 861-9492. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. AE, MC, V. $$-$$$)



JAPANESE/KOREAN



Fuji-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, Coit at Belt Line, Suite 610, Richardson. 231-1379. Sun-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)



D REVISITS



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. Yel-lowfin 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 – McNug-gets were never like this) or tofu steak (fried bean curd sitting atop a gingery sauce). The sukiyaki, though, we found disappointing, as it so often is; the beef was simply boiled with the vegetables rather than turned in oil first, and the sauce was too strongly flavored. (The Quorum,4860 Belt Line. Ad-dison. 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. $$)



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. 651-9507. Mon-Thur 11 am-3 pm & 5:30-10 pm, Fri 11 am-3 pm & 5:30-11 pm. Sat 11-11. $$)

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 far and away the best version we have had in a restaurant in the United States-the sauce was obviously homemade and mar-velously 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. $$-$$$)



D REVISITS



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 on the sizzling platter. 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-11:30 pm, Fri 11 am-12:30 am, Sat 11:30 am-12:30 am, Sun 11:30-11:30. MC, V. AE. DC. $)



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. MC, V, AE. $$)

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 pescado de résistance: one of the juiciest 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 5 pm-midnight. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)



D REVISITS



Chiquita. 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 sautéed 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 11:30am-11 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)



Cantina Laredo. This new place in Addison purports to serve comida casera (real Mexican home cooking). Well, if most of what Cantina Laredo serves isn’t quite that authentic, it certainly has things on its large menu that few other upscale Metroplex Mexican restaurants serve. Cabrito (baby goat), for instance, is unusual enough in these parts, but Cantina Laredo doesn’t do any better job with it than the other North Texas places where we’ve tried the dish. But we had excellent quesadillas, tacos al carbon and guacamole. The beef fajitas had perhaps the richest, smokiest flavor of any we have tried, and even the grilled red snapper (topped with tomato and peppers a la veracruzana) was fresh-tasting and tender. (4546 Belt Line, Addison. 458-0962. Sun-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight. All credit cards. $$)

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 & Sat 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. 528-2960. Daily 7 am-9 pm. All credit cards. $$)

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, fried 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. Mon-Fri 11 am-3:30 am, Sat & Sun 10 am-3:30 am. All credit cards. $$)



D REVISITS



La Botica. 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-Sat 5-10. Closed Sun & Mon. MC, V. $$)



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 pimento 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. $$)

Mla’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 enchilada 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-midnight. Reservations tor parties of six or more. All credit cards. $$)

Puerto Valletta. So far, this small but ambitious Mexican restaurant doesn’t seem to have caught its stride. The tasty hot sauce has bits of cilantro, and the service is polite. Some of the food is fine. From the name, we expected to find some seafood dishes on the menu, but the only one – shrimp – was unavailable when we visited. We enjoyed some of the more unusual dishes, such as the vegetarian enchiladas and the chicken Mil-anesa (a breast beaten thin and sauteéd with a bit of garlic). But the standard Tex-Mex items, such as beef enchiladas, tacos and guacamole, were dull, and the fajitas lacked taste. (2525 Wycliff, Suite 126. 522-9173. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-3 am. 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. $)



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 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. (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. $$$)

Bachman Café. We can’t say enough nice things about this comfortable little cafe (especially since it’s owned by a rather large fellow named Mean Joe Greene). We enjoyed the live music and the simple but filling fare. The menu has a slight hint of New Orleans; anything made with oysters is a winner. And don’t miss the cheesesteak sandwich with mushrooms and green peppers. Joe, one problem: The service was just a bit slow- not much, mind you. Just a little. (3049 W Northwest Hwy. 351-0959. Mon-Fri 4:30 pm-1:30 am, Sat 7 pm-1:30 am, Sun 5-10 pm. MC, V, AE. $)

Banno Brothers. Like so many good, moderately priced seafood restaurants, Banno Brothers is cool and dimly lit, with a garish decor no doubt salvaged from a closeout sale in Davy Jones’ Locker The menu can be trusted from top to bottom, from oysters on the half shell (shucked on location) to large, meaty fantail shrimp drenched in butter. The fried snapper has taken a quantum leap for the better since our last visit; now it’s tender, not too crusty and large. By the way, this is the sort of place where you can still order a “schooner” of beer and be understood. Ignore Banno’s venial sin of charging for hush puppies, and enjoy. (1516 Greenville. 821-1321. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri 11-11, Sat 5-11 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)

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 entées we sampled were the sautéed 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 excellent. (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



Bourbon Street Oyster Co. Don’t come here for the feel of New Orleans. With the exception of a few imitation gas street lamps and jazz 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. $$)



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 buerre blanc. The fish dish was a notable success. The pasta wasn’t, nor was the ceviche of shrimp. 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 service here 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: Sun-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. MC, V, AE. $$$)

Charley’s Seafood Grill. Charley’s has been around longer than most of the places that grill seafood over mesquite, and it doesn’t make such a big thing of it. Both swordfish and a mixed brochette of shrimp and scallops take well to the treatment. Or, if you like, you can get good fried or sautéed fish instead. For starters, we prefer the boiled shrimp or the chowder to the gumbo. (5348 Belt Line, Addison. 934-8501 Sun & Mon 11 am-10pm. Tue-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. 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 unpredicta-ble-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 ettouffée, 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. $$)

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 french fries are satisfying if you don’t mind a little grease (we don’t in this case), the coleslaw 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. No credit cards. $)

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 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 for our taste). We were appeased 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. ClosedSun. MC, V. AE. DC. $$$)



D REVISITS



Pop Bailey’s. Now here’s a deal. The catfish fillets are luscious and tender, perhaps the best we’ve had in the area; the same goes for the baked crab. All the essentials of a fine seafood restaurant-fresh oysters on the half shell; not-too-sweet cole slaw; genuine, never-frozen hush puppies and decent french fries-can be found here in a casual, low-key setting with a price to match. An unexpected nice touch; the yeast rolls with honey butter, reminiscent of New Orleans beignets. Bring a large appetite or some large friends. (3750 W Northwest Hwy. 350-9748. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri 11-11, Sat 4-11 pm, Sun 4-9:30 pm. All credit cards. $$)



Ratcliffe’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 under Dean Fearing at Agnew’s before his stint on the coast). So far the menu hasn’t gone overboard 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 res taurants (1901 McKinney. 748-7480. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: daily 6-11. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

Rocco Oyster Bar. The white-tiled walls and stark surroundings are a bit too high-tech to remind us of New Orleans, but the food here is much more characteristic of the Crescent City. To start our meal, we indulged in fresh oysters on the half shell and a cup of hearty spicy gumbo that ranked with the best we’ve ever tasted. Our friendly, efficient waitress suggested the house specials (displayed on a blackboard above the serving bar), so we tried that trendy favorite, blackened redfish, and a steamed Maine lobster. The lobster was rather tough, but the redfish was a sensation, with a spicy, char-broiled flavor and an incredibly tender texture. From a list of side dishes, we ordered fat homemade fries, chunky coleslaw and fried okra. (2520 Cedar Springs. 747-6226. Tue-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm, Fri-Sun 11:30 am-11 pm. Closed Mon. MC. V, AE. $$)

Shrimper’s Seafood Cafe. We’ll say it again: The home-made 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 which ignored an immutable law of cooking. For A to be stuffed 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 Abrams. 827-5955. Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm. Fri & Sat 11-11. All credit cards. $$)



SOUTHERN



Bubba’s. We continue to come here for the crisp, juicy fried chicken and the sweetish, yeasty rolls (dripping with honey, if you like). But the rest of Bubba’s food is problematical. The selection of vegetables is commendable, but the greens, green beans and pinto beans are all cooked (authentically) with salt pork, and all come out saltier than any sailor’s language. And the mashed potatoes taste like cardboard. Neither the catfish nor the chicken-fried steak can be recommended, either. Still, Bubba’s is prettier than Church’s and offers unbeatable opportunities for preppy-watching. (6617 Hillcrest. 373-6527. Mon-Fri 6:30 am-3 pm & 4-10 pm. Sat & Sun 6:30 am-10 pm No credit cards: personal checks accepted. $)

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. (1701 N Market, Suite 110. Rossat 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 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. $$)

Southern Kitchen. The crowds at these two venerable Dallas institutions at either end of Northwest Highway reflect the American love of plenty. All the shrimp, crab meat and oysters you can eat (and that’s just for appetizers!) is a powerful draw. It matters little that the supposed main course (fried and barbecued chicken, fried seafood and trimmings, again in unlimited quantities) is just a bit better than good cafeteria level. If you prefer -and you might -you can order a steak or broiled swordfish instead. The homemade biscuits and cinnamon rolls and the very hard-working service are also major attractions here. (6615 E Northwest Hwy. 368-1658; 2356 W Northwest Hwy. 352-5220. Mon-Sat 5:30-10 pm, Sun 5-9:30 pm. All credit cards. $$$)



D REVISITS



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 LBJ. 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 reaasuring, 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. Grilled porkchops and beef stew are both adequate, but not distinctive. We were disappointed in the cobblers and pies we sampled for dessert. (9247 Skillman. 553-1330. Mon-Thur 11-11. Fri &, Sat 11 am-midnight. MC, V, AE. $)



STEAKS, BURGERS, ETC.



Chuggs. Chuggs has opened a back room and put up a mural, but it’s still the same lovable place we discovered last year. The Chicago-style sandwiches are something special: Vienna hot dogs, huge hamburgers, definitive Reubens. There are even gyro sandwiches for those who are in the mood for something a bit more exotic. The revolving glass case full of homemade desserts holds some real treasures. (730 W Centerville, Garland. 686-1500. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 -11, Sun 11 am-5 pm. 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. $$)

Lawry’s. There’s something reassuring about Lawry’s unabashed adulation of thick, juicy red meat. Here’s an establishment that has refused to succumb to the nouvelle bent, and the result is solid, satisfying fare: top cuts of prime rib cooked the way you like them, a choice of potatoes (we liked the oven-roasted version best), thick slices of hot sourdough bread and a wine list that’s appropriately strong on full-bodied reds. We like the Old World look of the neoclassical facade and the clubby feeling of the bar and dining rooms. It seems a little like another era -even another city. (3008 Maple. 521-7777. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11.30, Sun 5-10; Sun brunch 11-2:30. All credit cards. $$$)

Prospect Grill. This Lowest Greenville restaurant is a quaint dining spot, but we have mixed feelings about the food and service. The fresh chips with mild guacamole and pico de gallo were fine, but the french fries were too greasy. And the special salad with chunks of chicken, bacon and bleu cheese was a little heavy on the onions and bleu cheese. We did enjoy the mild chicken fajitas and the mesquite-grilled chicken-breast sandwich, but our order was served haphazardly: Entrees came before appetizers, guacamole came without chips, and the chicken sandwich was forgotten until we reminded our waitress. We hope these inconsistencies can be remedied, since the Prospect has much potential. (2100 Greenville. 828-2131 Daily 11 am-2 am. AE. $$)



Purdy’s. The format is familiar: big burgers, hot dogs and steak sandwiches ordered at a window, then dressed by the diner at a great big “fixin’s” bar. The sandwiches are of high quality (although the meat in the steak sandwiches could be more tender), and the homemade buns are grilled. The bakery has other goodies, too – we were impressed by the brownies and chocolate chip cookies. (The Quorum, 4812 Belt Line. 960-2494 Mon-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun noon-10 pm. MC, V, AE. $)



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 6 pm-11 pm. Closed Sun All credit cards. Reservations recommended. $$$)



D REVISITS



D Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Don’t be alarmed that Dallas’ premiere 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 personal 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 beef its incomparable flavor. The softball-size tenderloins are a bit less flavorful but incomparably 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, lyon-naise, etc. The salads, vegetables (like cauliflower, dreary unless you ask for the cheese sauce), and the desserts (except for a passable pecan pie) are mostly menu fillers. (6940 Greenville. 691-6940. Mon-Fri 11:30-11:30, Sat & Sun 5-11:30 pm. All credit cards. $$$)



LAS COLINAS/MID CITIES



Café 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 Café 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. $$)



D REVISITS



La Deli. Las Colinas is harboring a split personality. By day, this shopping center locale caters to the local business trade with the usual deli fare – pastrami and the like. But as the sun sets over the gleaming new buildings and carefully manicured thoroughfares, the true personality of this restaurant emerges. 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. For true authenticity, we still look to the area’s other family-run Lebanese restaurant (Fort Worth’s Hedary’s). But La Deli is certainly gaining ground. 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. $$)



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 provinciate and the earthy risotto with wild mushrooms were fine, but the crab cannelloni were bland and the fresh lobster came served over a shockingly (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 Colinas 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. $$$)

The Verona. 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. We decided to continue in the seafood vein with linguine pescatore (linguine pasta with shrimp, scallops, mussels and crabclaws in a white wine sauce), which proved to be a light but substantial entree. The scallopine alia Toscana was heavier but delicious with mushrooms, ham artichokes and capers in a light cream sauce. (226 Lincoln Square Shopping Center, 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. $$$)



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. $)

Aventino’s. This small West Side Italian inn is becoming a consistent winner with us. On our last visit, we had some of the best tortellini in Fort Worth – perhaps the entire Metroplex. The pasta-wrapped bites of veal and beef were delissima. Perhaps we were so impressed with the tortellini Aventino that our accompanying entree of sautéed veal paled by comparison (it was bland and had too much breading). But everything else shone: The melted-cheese appetizer (to dunk piping-hot bread in) was gooey and rich; and the live classical guitar music was a perfect backdrop for our dessert of espresso and coconut flan. And although the diminutive restaurant is enjoying a big business, you can still get a table on weekends without a reservation. (3206 WinthropAve. (817) 731-0711. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon- Thur 5-10, Fri & Sat 5-11, Sun 5-9. MC, V, AE. DC. $$)



D REVISITS



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 all the time. 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. $$)

The Balcony of Ridglea. 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. $$$)



D REVISITS



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. To start the meal, we had splurged on a dozen Louisiana oysters on the half shell and a cup of lobster bisque. The former smacked of having just been plucked from the tide; the latter lacked substance, although it was generously laced with sherry (we found nary a piece of lobster). Overall, we had a fine meal here, but a word of caution for those with sweet tooths: Skip the keylime pie-if you’ve ever had the real thing, it’s hard to accept less. (1660 S University. (817) 336-0815. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2, dinner: Mon-Sat 5-10. Closed Sun. MC. V, AE, DC $$$)



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. Tue-Thur 6-10 pm, Fri & Sat seatings at 6 & 9 pm. Closed Sun & Mon. Reservations required. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$)



D REVISITS



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. $)

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