The hottest new restaurants in the Metroplex

La Bonne Auberge. The Calluauds have done it again! Following closely upon the success of Chez Gerard, the French restaurateurs have opened a second mid-priced bistro in partnership with long-time employees. This one is in the building that used to house the Seascape Inn and is called La Bonne Auberge (French for “the good inn”). The restaurant doesn’t look very different from its former incarnation, but the improvement in the kitchen could hardly be more dramatic. Whether you classify La Bonne Auberge as a seafood restaurant or a French one, it is near the top ranks in its category.

The selection of hors d’oeuvres contains several interesting innovations such as a brochette of escargots along with the standards (all of which fall squarely into the seafood category except the onion soup and terrine du chef). The lightly breaded and delicately fried calamari, seafood mousse with Nantua sauce and shrimp Cap d’Antibes (sauteed with onions, tomato, garlic and basil) are all done in exemplary versions, and Palourdes Farcies (stuffed clams on the shell) boasts enough garlic to satisfy the most addicted.

It is in the main dishes, though, that La Bonne Auberge really shines. The menu offers a half page of grilled fish and seafood selections with a choice of seven accompanying sauces. We tried the Dover sole with beurre blanc and found it perfect. The seafood specialties derive from several traditions-French, Spanish and New Orleans. The version of paella is the best we have had in a restaurant-the rice could have used a bit more saffron, but it was brimming with pork, chicken, shrimp, langoustines, clams and tiny squid. The redfish “Louisiane” is, of course, the blackened variety. We don’t know when we have seen a dish become a cliche faster, but La Bonne Auberge does it as well as any restaurant this side of Canal Street in New Orleans.

For those who don’t want seafood, there are a half-dozen other selections ranging from liver and sweetbreads to steaks. We tried the saute d’agneau Cote d’Azur-really a kind of winey, tomatoey lamb stew served over fresh noodles-and were very pleased. La Bonne Auberge also does a wonderful job with desserts: a mousse-like chocolate cake, puits d’amour (caramelized cream in a light shell surrounded by an ocean of raspberry purée), the first rendition of the heavy French pudding with cherries called clafoutis we have ever really liked. The service is punctilious; the wine list is filled with excellent choices under $20; the food is a genuine bargain. Is it any wonder that La Bonne Auberge, before a single review or advertisement appeared, was an instant hit? (6306 Greenville. 692-6920. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 5:30-10. All major credit cards. $$-$$$)

La Fogata. This brightly painted little house sits next to the Spanish-language cinema on Fitzhugh. Inside, there are only a few tables, but the menu hints that this is more than the routine ethnic hole-in-the-wall. In fact, La Fogata offers some of the most distinguished versions of a number of classical Mexican dishes you will find in Dallas. To be sure, there are Tex-Mex inventions like nachos and fajitas on the menu, but there are also such appetizers as a notable ceviche (the Mexican soused fish, here sparkling with tomato and cilantro). Many of the specialties will alarm those who don’t like spicy foods-the table hot sauce, with those little black flakes of roasted hot peppers, will warn the wary that there is some muy picante stuff around. But for those with a tolerance for it, this hot food is hot stuff.

The full range of Mexican stews at La Fogata-the carne guisada of beef, the asado de puerco of pork, the mole of chicken-all have their proper and very distinct flavors. We haven’t found better carne guisada or asado de puerco anyplace in town. The chiles rellenos are also much more interesting than the usual versions; the beef filling contains chopped potatoes and other vegetables mixed with a sure hand, and the peppers are real poblanos. The shrimp enchiladas are similarly complex and delicious, with a sour cream topping. The grilled chicken, served with cheese drizzled on top, is marinated before cooking and tastes wonderful. The side dishes are all right (after the excitement of the entrees, we expected the refritos to be something special and were sad to find them rather ordinary), and the sopapillas make a festive, if heavy, end to a meal. The proprietress served us with just the right degree of solicitude when we visited, but we don’t know how the place will fare if it attracts the crowds the food deserves. (2414 N. Fitzhugh. 826-3978. Sun-Tue & Thur 11 am-10 pm. Fri & Sat 11 am-11:30 pm. Closed Wed. No credit cards. $-$$)

Hunan Wok. This new Chinese Restaurant in a development just north of Loop 820 looks spiffy outside and inside, its attentive service belies all the cliches about waiters in Chinese restaurants and it serves very good food to boot. The chef was brought in from the family’s New York restaurant, and he turns out some of the best Chinese dishes in the Fort Worth area. The selection is not quite as wide as at some competing establishments, but everything we have tried here has been worth ordering again. In addition to a plump, appetizing-looking eggroll (which didn’t taste quite as good as it looked), starters include cold noodles with chili sesame that needed some hot pepper paste from the kitchen to give them some zing and a very garlicky foil-wrapped Silver Treasure Chicken. Along with the standard Chinese soups, there is something called Royal White Mountain Soup, a melange of white ingredients such as shrimp, chicken, pork and vegetables.

We found the main dishes at Hunan Wok a little on the salty side and full of flavor. Spicy dishes such as the House Hunan Beef (a version of orange beef) have plenty of dark red peppers to daunt the cowardly, and you don’t have to guess at the predominant seasoning in the shrimp in black bean sauce. Even those who normally don’t find sweet-and-sour dishes appealing might like the delicate, not-too-sugary version here, available in a combination with shrimp, pork and chicken. But the stir-fried dishes tend to rely on canned ingredients such as mushrooms and bamboo shoots. This is a small complaint to make, however, when the total impression of the restaurant is so good. (5142 Rufe Snow Drive, Suite 121, North Richland Hills. (817) 656-0817. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm. Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Café Tel-Aviv. In a town where Middle Eastern restaurants and even Kosher delis are both pretty scarce, the last place we would have expected to become an instant hit is Cafe Tel-Aviv, which combines the two genres. The only thing that looks Israeli about the place is the travel posters, but the bright white walls and floors do conjure up the pioneering spirit of the city for which the little restaurant is named. Several employees are Israeli, and that helps give Café Tel-Aviv character, too. (How many restaurants do you know where the maitre d’ periodically sings a few rounds of Havenu Shalom Alei-chim, accompanying himself on the tambourine?)

The restaurant doubles as a bakery and makes excellent pita bread that is served with Israeli hot sauce and pickles, the appetizer dips of chickpeas, sesame-seed paste and eggplant, the felafel (chickpea fritters rather overseasoned with cumin) and the signature shishkebabs of beef, chicken and ground meat. For our taste, the shishkebabs were charred a trifle much, but the flavor of the meat-especially in the tender, marinated Haifa Shishkabab-was delicious. We also liked the lamb chops, but found the sauted chicken livers mushy.

We’d like to tell you about the two varieties of fish on the menu, but our waitress adamantly warned us against them. (She had lots of charm, but organization is not one of the virtues of the service here.) For dessert, there are cheesecakes (Café Tel-Aviv doesn’t serve milk, since it isn’t pareve with meat, but the cheesecakes have been given a dispensation). They are splendid, especially the variety that is topped with sour cream. (2527 Royal Lane, Suite 135. 247-1944. Bakery and lunch Mon-Fri 10 am-3 pm; dinner Tue-Thur 5:30-10, Fri-Sun 5:30-11. No credit cards. $-$$)


BEGINNING this month, we are omitting the numerical ratings that have 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)

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.


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, Gallena, 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 Dakota’s. You enter Dakota’s from a kiosk in the middle of an intersection adjacent to the new Lincoln Plaza building. From the jewel-box elevator, you view a waterfall cascading onto a triangular patio. Once you take your eyes off the dazzling surroundings, you’ll find that Dakota’s specializes in mesquite-grilled things-from artichokes and other vegetables to every conceivable meat. Those we tried, ’including steak and pheasant, were exemplary. The menu also provides some good choices for those who aren’t in the mood for mesquite. Among the appetizers, the barbecued shrimp were as good as any we have had outside New Orleans. The lobster bisque also went to the top of its class, and the fresh lobster was cooked to perfection: tender, rich and meaty. (600 N Akard. 740-4001. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-3. Sun 11-2:30; dinner: Sun- Thur5-11, Fri & Sat 5-11:30; Sun brunch: 11 -2:30. All credit cards. Lunch $$, dinner $$$)

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. $$$)


D The Mansion on Turtle Creek. Dean Fearing, perhaps Dallas’ most talented chef, has returned in triumph to the Mansion, where he got his local start. To begin with, he kept his predecessor’s menu and added some of his own characteristic inventions as daily specials. We found these to be the restaurant’s best dishes- a salad of warm St. Pierre fish with a chiffonade of spinach and radicchio with a tomato-shallot vinaigrette and sauteed baby Coho salmon on corn-cakes 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, except at brunch)-lunch: Mon-Fri noon-2:30; brunch: Sat noon-2:30. Sun 11 -2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11; supper: Mon-Thur 10:30 pm-midnight, Fri & Sat 11 pm-midnight. Promenade Room – breakfast: daily 7-10:30; lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; tea: Mon-Fri 3-5:30. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)

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


Chickeria. We can imagine a lovers’ quarrel getting started by a meal here. He has the lamb ribs, the barbecued sausage, the not-too-gooey potato salad and the pecan pie and claims that Chickeria is one of the finest inexpensive restaurants in Dallas. She has the dried-out beef brisket and ribs, the oddly sweet turnip greens and the off-tasting mashed new potatoes and maintains that it has to be one of the worst. They’re both right, but who’s going to butt in and adjudicate? (601 N Haskell. 821-9072. Mon-Sat 11 am-10pm. Closed Sun. AE. $)

Good Eats Café. It seems odd when an interloper from Austin sporting Texas funk moves into the space formerly occupied by one of Dallas’ great bad restaurants (Phil’s Delicatessen), but it has happened, and we guess we should make the best of it. Still, it’s hard to figure out Good Eats-maybe the Austin milieu just doesn’t translate very well, although there is an ample mix of types ranging from urban cowboys to Highland Park slum-mers. Almost everything the place serves is grilled over mesquite. The barbecue is at least interesting: The sausage is our favorite, with a coarse texture and a homemade flavor, but the paprika-red chicken is tasty, too. The specials at Good Eats are the various kinds of mesquite-grilled fish, but when we visited, all they had was cod, and it was nothing to write home to Austin about. (3531 Oak Lawn 521-1398 Sun-Thur 7 am-11:30 pm. Fri & Sat 7 am-midmght. MC. V. AE $$)


Sonny Bryan’s. Some things never change, and thank goodness Sonny Bryan’s still seems to be one of them. The barbecue is unequalled 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. $)


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 & Sat 11:30 am-11 pm, Sun noon-10:30 pm. Reservations recommended. MC, V, AE, DC.)

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) clevered into large pieces and cooked in garlic sauce or beef with Chinese broccoli. At lunchtime, 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: 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 chef’s 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 McKinney. 526-3355. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri 11:30 am-11 pm, Sat noon-11 pm, Sun noon-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Dynasty. So many people told us we were wrong about Dynasty that we went back sooner than usual. Sure enough, the food was much better than during the first weeks the restaurant was open. It ranged from excellent (the crispy oysters appetizer) to very good (the sharks’ fin soup and the minced pork in lettuce leaves). Unfortunately, we still found the prices high. No doubt all the luxurious trappings (the silver-arld-gilt soup tureens, the rosewood furniture) cost plenty. And to be sure, the portions are quite large, as with the Dragon and the Phoenix, which contained enough shrimp to satisfy the most avid seafood lover. But we wonder whether these factors justify a check that can easily total $35 a person. (Garden Inn. 4101 Belt Line. Addison. 385-7888. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11.30 am-11:30 pm. All credit cards. $$$)

Golden Chopsticks. We thought we knew all about Far North Dallas, but Far North Addison was terra incognita even for us. This new Chinese restaurant is attractive enough without being fancy, and it has some excellent dishes, especially in the spicy (though not very hot) Hunan and Szechuan styles. The most impressive one we tried was General Chio’s Spicy Chicken: large chunks of chicken breast fried and then stir-fried, flavored with lots of sweet pepper and fresh ginger. The Pork and Shrimp Hunan Style was a lovely dish, contrasting chewy shreds of pork flecked with black beans and tiny shrimp in a mild, tomatoey sauce. (16601 Ad-dison Rd, Addison. 931-6868. Mon-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 11-11. Closed Sun. 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-10 pm, Fri 11-11, Sat noon-11 pm. Sun noon-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Joy Inn. It’s too bad. but this middle-aged Chinese restaurant seems to be in decline, like much of the rest of the Bachman Lake area. “Okay” sums up the food: A dinky appetizer plate featured okay ribs (make that “rib,” singular), a smidgen of foil-wrapped chicken and some good beef strips. Our Madras Curry was the best thing on the table- just hot enough (the Bombay is fiery) and generously laden with shrimp, beef and chicken. The shrimp in the Snow Pea Shrimp were plump and large, but the snow peas lacked that crisp snap. The service was not okay at all: We were largely forgotten after the meal, had to ask twice for much-needed water refills and waited 10 minutes for the waitress to pick up our money. (9404 Ovella at Northwest Hwy. 352-1088. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm. Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11 pm. All credit cards. $$)

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. $$)


Royal China. This neighborhood place is well worth a visit, for owner Buck Kao’s warm welcome as well as for the very good food. The sizzling rice soup lives up to its name, and although the dry stir beef doesn’t -it’s saucier than the authentic version – it tastes fine, too. From the bean sprouts sauteed with shredded pork to the kung po shrimp topped with peanuts, Royal China is dependable and enjoyable. Service is usually exemplary, but on our last visit it was a bit unsmiling. (Preston Royal Shopping Center, Preston at Royal, Suite 201.361-1771. Lunch: daily 11:30-2:30; dinner: daily 5:30-10. All credit cards. $$)

Royal Panda. The name of one of our entrees, Three Delights, set the tone for a delightful meal. That dish – shrimp, scallops and crab meat with chopped vegetables in a white sauce-was almost matched by the moo shi chicken, with its tangy sauce and Chinese pancakes cut wonderfully thin. Our appetizers, especially the Royal Panda soup, were nicely presented but lacked significant taste, while the surprisingly large shrimp toast was some of the best we’ve had. (8021 Walnut Hill Lane. 363-3858. Sun-Thur 11:30-4 am, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-6 am. All credit cards. $$)

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

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

D Uncle Tal’s. This is a great restaurant if you know your way around the menu, but there are some ordinary things here, too Among the best appetizers are the Two Delicious Platter (shrimp with peppercorns and hacked chicken) and the chicken packets. The spicy dishes on the list of specialties generally stand out. In addition to the fabled Uncle Tai’s Beef, we are partial to the boneless frog’s legs with eggplant. Standard things such as chicken with walnuts and crispy duck are good, but they’re no better than what you’d find at many less expensive restaurants. (Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy, Suite 3370 934-9998. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. Jackets required for dinner. 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-andrum cake or a crunchy chocolate chip cookie. (17370 Preston Road. 248-2229 Sat-Thur 7:30 am-11 pm, Fri 7:30 am-midnight. All credit cards, personal checks accepted. $$)

D Café Royal. Trying to reclaim its place at the top of the heap, Cafe Royal has lowered prices (to $31.50 prix fixe) and has become more classical and less nouvelle in its cooking style. The food can be marvelous, as with the terrine of fresh American foie gras or the mullet with a watercress sauce that we sampled. Or it can be ordinary, as with the beef Wellington that the captain recommended. Besides the lapses in the food, what keeps Cafe Royal from the highest rank in Dallas restaurants is the service, which we found courteous but woefully inefficient on our last visit. (Plaza of the Americas. 650 N Pearl. 747-7222. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2: dinner: Mon-Sat 6:30-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$)

D Calluaud. Our latest visit produced the richest, most masterly meal we have ever had here, with the most courteous and cordial service. We began with a terrine of fresh American foie gras, satiny and lush beyond all expectation. For entrees, we had a fillet of salmon (which tasted a tad strongly of smoke and was accompanied by a Madeira sauce that seemed a bit too much), but the venison was succulent and satisfying. The lemon souffle at the end was as light as gossamer. (2619 McKinney. 823-5380. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30- dinner: Mon- Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat seabngs at 7 & 9:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. Jackets and ties required. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$$)

Chez Gerard. In the few short months that this bistro (owned by the Calluauds) has been open, it has grown more competent and confident. The menu changes monthly, so you never know what will turn up on your plate. We tried the earthy cassoulet (a garlicky bean stew with pork and two kinds of sausage) and the tomer sweetbreads and chicken with mushrooms in a pastry shell. Both were superb. So were the mussels mari-nieres- the tenderest we’ve ever had in Dallas. The desserts included such delicacies as a cake au trois mousse and a homemade chocolate walnut ice cream. (4444 McKinney. 522-6865 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon- Thur 6-9:30, Fri & Sat 6:30-11. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. Lunch $$, dinner $$$)

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. $$$$)


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 6-10:30 pm, Sat 6-11 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards $$$)

D The French Room. Like something out of a Fragonard painting with its Corinthian columns and swags of drapery, the French Room offers the most lavish table in town. It can be difficult to get a reservation (we called a week ahead and had to settle for a 10 o’clock seating), but the food was worth it, from the opening pithiviers of snails to the concluding pastries. The lamb cooked in a brioche-dough crust and the garlicky loup (a European sea bass) topped with an eggplant puree were both mightily impressive. The service, although still polished, didn’t seem quite as stately as before. (Adolphus Hctel, 1321 Commerce. 742-8200 Daily 6:30-10:30 pm, lunch: Mon-Fri noon-2. Reservations required. Jackets and ties required. 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-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 seatings at 6 & 9 pm. Closed Sun & Mon. Reservations required. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$$)

D Jennivlne. The more we revisit the reborn Jen-nivine, the more we are persuaded we liked her better before her conversion to a middle-of-the-road nouvelle type of cooking. The pates, always one of the best things about this place, don’t seem quite as exciting as they used to be. And an entree we sampled recently of a thick cut of salmon sitting in a pool of unremarkable sauce seemed rather fishy-tasting in comparison with some of the old-fashioned, simple fish dishes of the restaurant and wine bar’s youth. Jenny, old dear, could we persuade you to reconsider that old-time religion? (3605 McKinney. 528-6010. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30 am-2:30 pm; dinner: Mon- Thur 6-10. Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

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. $$$)


Le Panier. 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 trend-iness-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 tor evenings only. All credit cards. $$-$$$)

D La Viellle Varsovie (The Old Warsaw). If soft lights, lavish trappings and a violin-and-piano duo can entrance you, this is your spot. The food can be very good, as with the tournedos Rossini and the sea bass garnished with lobster and crab that we sampled on our last visit. It can also be dull, as the salmon feuillete and oysters arlequin proved. On the whole, this doyenne of Dallas restaurants has slipped a bit (2610 Maple. 528-0032. Sun-Thur 6-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 6-11:30 pm. Reservations. Jackets required. 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 and 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. Mon-Fri 5:30 pm-10:30 pm. Sat 5:30-11 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 Perigourdine 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. (Fairmont Hotel, Ross at Akard. 720-2020. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: daily 6-10. All credit cards.

D Restaurant Silvano. It’s not necessarily a good sign when a fine restaurant begins to offer a fixed-price menu -it may be a bargain for the buyer, but it may also mean that the restaurant is scrambling for customers (especially in the newly overcrowded downtown market). The new fixed-price menu at Silvano lowers the price of the evening meal, but the dishes we tried from it were disappointing. The shrimp appetizer still had a bit of the old magic, but the entrees (stuffed quail and grilled veal) were lackluster. Even the desserts (cheesecake and floating island) couldn’t measure up to our memories. (311 Market. 747-0322. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$$)

D The Riviera. Carpeting has taken away some of the glossy country look of this fashionable haven, but we are grateful for the reduction in decibel levels. The food continues to be impressive, from a saffron yellow oyster bisque and a delectable platter of broiled fish and seafood to roast duck in a sauce lightly sweetened with honey and a delightful mocha-iced cake. We have always found the service impeccable (and the welcome from host Franco Ber-tolasi particularly warm), but have heard complaints from younger diners that they were rather neglected. <7709 lnwood. 35-0094. Mon-Thur 6:30-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 6:30-11 pm, Sun 5:30-10 pm. 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 fettuc-cine 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, inaroom 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-midnignt, Tue-Sat 11:30 am-2 am, Sun 10:30 am-midnight, Sun brunch: 10:30-3. AE. $$)


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. $$$)

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

Lechner’s Brass Bull. Here, in a pleasant room tucked away in the labyrinthine lobby of the Regent Hotel, are the folks who bring you German specialties with a few Texas favorites. Werner Lechner, the personable chef, is accomplished in both old-country dishes like Wiener schnitzel and schnitzel a la Holstein and in flown-in fish specialties from the seafood markets of Boston. 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 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, Sun 5-10:30 pm. 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, unpounded cuts of veal, and the sauerbraten lacks a certain sparkle.) By far the most memorable of the desserts is the only one made on the premises, the apple cake. (European Crossroads. 352-1175. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-3, dinner: Tue-Thur 6-10. Fri & Sat 6-midnight. MC, V. AE. DC. $$)

D Rolfs. On our last visit, we had the most German – and probably the best – meal we’ve ever eaten at Rolfs. The appetizer of smoked eel, served with dark bread and thinly sliced onions, was much more delicate than it sounds and not at all oily. The sauerbraten was beautifully braised and sliced, and its sauce was not too emphatic. We were amused by the platter of smoked pork and sausages, which came with a puree of split peas and sauerkraut that were the Cinderellas of the table, promoted from downtrodden handmaidens to true royalty. Even the Black Forest cake transcended its middlebrow reputation and proved extraordinary. With its subdued, romantic atmosphere, Rolfs is a treasure. (Caruth Plaza. 9100 N Central Expwy, Suite 117. 696-1933 Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30: dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)


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

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


D Kebab ’n Kurry. “A Passage to India?” It’s as simple as a trip up Central Expressway or down Walnut Hill Lane to Dallas’ premier Indian restaurant. The decor may be unspectacular, but the food is outstanding. On our last visit, we ordered a mixed grill of the tandoori specialties, and the barbecued meats were all delicious. The lamb in a delicately spicy spinach sauce and the curry of mushrooms and peas were both sublime. We love to splurge on one of the Indian desserts-the cakelike cheese fritters called gulab jamun or the cheese patties in cream called roshmalai. (401 N Central Expwy, Suite 300, Richardson, 231-5556; 2620 Walnut Hill Lane, 350-6466. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-10:30; brunch: Sat & Sun 11:30-2:30. Reservations Fri & Sat only. All credit cards. $)


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 Bhujana with lots of herbs and bits of onion and peppers, and the chicken Noorani in a curiously bright pink sauce. But all the typical appetizers like the samosas (vegetable fritters) and pakoras (dough filled with meat and potatoes) now have a decidedly off taste, and the Indian bread called puri is greasy and heavy. (Caruth Plaza, 9100 N Central Expwy. 987-2301. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur & Sun 5:30-10. Fri & Sat 5:30-11; Sun brunch: 11.30-3. All credit cards.


Alfredo Trattoria. Our meal got off to a slow start, with some confusion as to |ust 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 fettucine 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 L emmon. 526-3331. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11 Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)

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 cliched version. The various veal dishes we sampled were sauced nicely, but all of them suffered from a heavy coating of batter. Why do so many Dallas Italian restaurants think they have to imitate egg foo yung when sauteing veal? (2574 Walnut Hill Lane. 350-2470. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

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. $$)

Firenze. In general we find the antipasti 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 are as good as any in town, the linguini are al dente in a sturdy clam broth and the tagliolini al pros-ciutto are 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,

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

La Tosca. La Tosca was the first restaurant to give Dallas a glimpse of many of the treasures of the Italian kitchen. It’s still the same lovable, frustrating place it has always been-just as you think you are experiencing one of the great Italian meals of your life, along come a dish or two to disappoint you. On our last visit, the octopus salad was perfectly tender and flavorful; the crespelle (Italian crepes) beautifully filled and seasoned; the tortellini alla nonna ideally creamy. We were not as fond of the shrimp-and-pea risotto as of the previous version with various seafoods, but it was still a fine dish. But then the shrimp provinciate and the veal scallops topped with cheese proved decidedly lackluster. (7713 Inwood. 352-8373. Tue-Sun 6-10:30 pm. Closed Mon. Reservations Tue-Thur & Sun only. 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 10 am-9 pm, Fri-Sat 10 am-11 pm, Sun 10 am-9 pm. Closed Mon. MC. V. $)

Nero’s Italian. From the name, the location (way down on Greenville) and the rather dark interior, you might expect early Roman decadence-or at least a bar more than a restaurant. But all those little statues are of saints, not Venus and Mars, and Nero’s has turned thumbs up on good cooking. Foremost among the offerings here are the pizzas-if you like a fairly thick but crunchy crust, you may find these the best around- One page of the menu offers all sorts of combinations, from the fairly routine to New Wave goat cheese and Gorgonzola affairs, and the back of the menu lets you build your own. There are also ingenious appetizers, pastas available as first or second courses, nightly specials and interesting Italian wines by the glass. (2104 Greenville Ave. 826-6376. Mon-Thur6-11 pm, Fri & Sat 6 pm-midnight. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)

D Ristorante Savino (formerly Ristorante Valentino). Our last meal here was marked by an elegant simplicity. Our opening pastas were marvelously subtle: The lasagna contained tiny bay scallops and a light cheese (and no tomatoes, of course), and the cavaletti proved to be small elongated shells sauced with fresh tomato and basil. The salads were gently dressed with good olive oil, the scallops of veal were crowned with wild mushrooms, and a veal chop was anointed with a delicate marsala sauce. Desserts had improved since our first visit – the profiteroles were first-rate – but the quality of service had declined somewhat. (2929 N Henderson, 826-7804. Sun-Thur 6-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 5:30-11 pm. All credit cards. $$$)

Sergio & Luciano. The pasta dishes and the veal are the two mam 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 sauteed 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. $$$$)


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 |ewel 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. $$$)


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 tem-pura 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, bul-goki, 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, kim che, 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. $$)

Sakura. Sushi may come and sushi may go, but this authentic Japanese (and Korean) restaurant has become a Dallas staple. If you like raw fish, the sushi plate is a winner – a generous and tasty array ranging from salmon and whitefish to octopus. For more traditional diners, Sakura offers a nice fried-food menu (we liked the fried shrimp and pork served on a skewer). Sit at a table, on the floor or belly up to the sushi bar and count on excellent service. On the weekends, also count on fighting the rock ’n’ rollers clubbing next door for a parking space. (Valet parking is offered for those who’d rather switch than fight.) (7402 Greenville. 361-9282. Mon 5:30-11:30 pm. Tue-Sun 5:30 pm-1:30 am. Reservations recommended on weekends. All credit cards. $$)


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-3pm & 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 marvelously complex, despite the ring of pineapple on top. But we heard a waiter scaring an inquisitive customer away from the mole toward one of the less successful combination plates, in which the adaptations of Mexican ideas seemed to us sometimes just plain odd. (13601 Preston Road 387-2620. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30. dinner: Mon-Sat 5-10. Closed Sun. MC, V. AE, DC. $$-$$$)

Blue Goose Cantlna. Exposed heating ducts, bare concrete floors, cases of Mexican beer everywhere and a few exotic cacti give the Blue Goose a kind of high-tech-Mex atmosphere. The menu looks challenging, too, with everything from quail to lobster available grilled over mesquite, but the cooking often seems perfunctory. Great chunks of meat are served in huge portions, but the pork cubes we tried were underdone, and both they and the beef fajitas had been robbed of any subtlety by an excess of lemon juice. The Tex-Mex we sampled at the Blue Goose wasn’t much more convincing. Friendly service in an outgoing style couldn’t really make up for the disappointment in the food. (2905 Greenville Ave. 823-8339. Mon-Fri 11 -2:30 & 5:30-11,Sat & Sun 11 am-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 resistance: one of the juiciest, meatiest fish imaginable, resplendent in a delicious herb and tomato sauce. That, plus a tasty flan for dessert, made up for the rather pedestrian chicken enchiladas. And the lighting, with the right company, gets better as the evening goes on. (2818 Harry Hines. 742-4906. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri 11:30 am-midmght. Sat 4 pm-midmght. 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 burritos made of all sorts of authentic fillings (such as the stews called guiso and carne guisado) are well worth investigating. (4333 Maple. 528-2960. Daily 7 am-9 pm. All credit cards $$)

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. $$)

J. Pepe Gonzalez. A turquoise and pink decor defines this Oak Lawn establishment as Viouveau-Mex,’ and the shrimp and spinach enchiladas confirmed our judgment. This is a successful hybrid, with a plethora of excellent traditional Tex-Mex dishes sometimes tempered by annoyingly mild sauces. Desserts like the praline pie and sopapillas with strawberries make it worthwhile to linger over your meal. (The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh. 871-0366. Mon-Thur 11 am-2:30 pm & 5:30-10 pm, Fri 11 am-2:30 pm & 5:30-11 pm, Sat noon-11 pm, Sun noon-9 pm. MC. V, AE. $$)

Los Vaqueros. LosVaqueros, Highland Parks longtime favorite place to eat an enchilada, is one of the most dependable places in town for old-fashioned Tex-Mex. Over the years, the management has added fancier dishes to emulate the upscale competition. But we found the tacos al carbon tough, and the filete de casita had a dispirited color that reminded us of boiled beef. From now on, we’ll stick to the first-rate tacos and tamales. (Highland Park Village. Preston at Mockingbird, Suite 77. 521-0892. Sun-Thur 11 am-9:30 pm. Fri & Sat 11 am-10 pm.AII credit cards. $$)

Mario & Alberto. We were in the mood for a fiesta when we last visited this uptown Mexican restaurant, and it did not disappoint. The nachos and shrimp flautas distracted us from the tostadas and cilantro-laden hot sauce until the main courses arrived. Then we delighted in beef dishes: alambres (Mexican shish kebab), puntas de filete (tiny slivers of beef sauteed with garlic) and fiiete 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 girl’s names), because the true Mexican specialties are so much more exciting. Marios Chiquita does an especially pleasing job with its beef dishes-the fiiete de la casa and the fiiete 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. $$)

Mia’s. Every city needs its celebrated holes in the wall, and Mias 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-wete still waiting for the nachos we ordered to start our meal here. (4418 Lemmon. 526-1020 Mon-Fri 11-2 and 5-10. Sal 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 & Sat 11 am-midnight, Sun 11 am-10:30 pm. Reservations for parties of six or more. All credit cards. $$)

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

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


Rosita’s. Every neighborhood ought to have its Rosita’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 burn-tasting crisps on the sizzling platter on which they arrived, but the delightful sopapillas and flan made up for them afterwards. (4906 Maple. 521-4741. Mon- Thur 7 am-10 pm, Fri 7 am-11 pm. Sat 9 am-11 pm. Sun 9 am-10 pm. MC. V, AE. $)


D Atlantic Café. Having your own yacht couldn’t be much nicer than the experience of dining here: It’s probably the best-and certainly the sleekest-seafood restaurant ever to hit Dallas. Sashimi here consists only of immaculate slices of the freshest salmon-a good appetizer if you don’t want to hazard the richness of pasta crowned with shrimp and crab meat. The Dover sole, simply sauteed, will make converts of even the most resolute landlubbers. Even the salads (such as the Caesar and the fabulous mozza-rella-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. $$$)

D Café Pacific. Has this bastion of fresh seafood cooked with a continental flair gone New Southwestern on us? The specials of the day we tried were fettuccine (cooked with fresh mussels and julienne peppers) and blackened fillets of salmon and halibut, sauced with an Anaheim pepper beurre blanc. The fish dish was a notable success. The pasta wasnt, nor was the ceviche of shrimp, lobster and scallops, in which the shellfish were overmarinated and chewy. We were pleased, though, with the rich, tender pepper steak and the desserts of silk pie and cheesecake with two sauces (strawberry and kiwi). No one could accuse the 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 $$$)


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

D 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 and the trout amandine (it was too oily for our taste). We were appeased, though, by the excellent salads, the nonpareil french fries and the silk pie of dark, dark chocolate. (703 McKinney in the Brewery 954-0220. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. MC. V. AE, DC. $$$)


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 beurre blanc, seem to surpass the dishes still on the old menu (like fresh lobster in a far too sweet Americaine sauce). We did like some of the nouvelle-ish touches-a thick raspberry vinaigrette on an avocado and artichoke salad and the delightful side dish of grilled vegetables Though Ratcliffe’s can be excellent, be warned – it can easily vie in steepness of price with all but the city’s most flamboyant French restaurants. (1901 McKinney. 748-7480. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: daily 6-11. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

S&D Oyster Co. This often-crowded haven for landlocked lovers of the bounty of the sea never fails to satisfy. Everything is prepared perfectly here, from the seafood gumbo to the broiled redfish and hush puppies that aren’t too greasy. (2701 McKinney. 823-6350. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. Closed Sun. No reservations. MC. V. $$)


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 Bin 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. $$)


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 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-5pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)

Hamburger Hut. You couldn’t guess from the name or the very plain storefront exterior that this is perhaps the only Argentinian restaurant in the Metroplex. The delightful family that runs the place serves first-rate charcoal-broiled hamburgers and cheap steaks-which shouldn’t be too surprising, since the land of the gau-chos is cattle country. In the evening, there are a few ethnic specialties such as steak Milanesa (a slightly spicy chicken-fried steak) and Argentinian sausage. But the accompanying limp salad, canned peas and frozen french fries aren’t very exciting. The real discovery here is the empanada, a fried pastry filled with meat, eggs and potatoes and served with spicy chimichurri sauce- a bargain at $1 25. (30 Arapaho Village, Arap-ahoat West Shore, Richardson. 235-5387. Mon-Sat 10-10. Closed Sun. No credit cards, personal checks $$)

Joe’s. There may be booths instead of tables, and bottles of ketchup, mustard and other condiments (not to speak of flagons of water from which you must serve yourself) on every table, but the atmosphere of this successor to Nostromo isn’t like any diner we ever saw. Almost everything on the menu is mesquite-grilled, from lamb and pork chops to all sorts of seafood. There are sauces served on the side (we liked the zesty aioli and the tangy tomatillo butter), but they are not sufficiently complex to make many of the main courses here particularly interesting. The basics are done well-when was the last time you had a good version of grilled calfs liver? – but we do occasionally yearn for a flight of fancy. (4315 Travis. 528-8880 Tue-Fri 11:30 am-11 pm. Sat-Sun 11-11. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$$)

D Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Reward food with a vengeance is what you get here: the biggest, tastiest steaks imaginable. We lean toward the rib-eye, which is anything but lean. It is rich, marbled and sinful, and we never even take home a doggie bag. The sirloin is also of superb USDA Prime quality, perfectly cooked in its butter and parsley sauce. If you don’t want to break the bank, forego appetizers and desserts- your bill will be big enough just paying for the beef. (6940 Greenville. 691-6940. Mon-Fri 11:30-11:30, Sat & Sun 5-11:30 pm. All credit cards $$$)


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 and noisy with a honky-tonk ambience, 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, Sunnoon-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)


Stetson’s. When the Registry opened, and for some time thereafter, Stetson’s was trying hard to compete in the big league as a steakhouse. Its new menu makes it seem much less ambitious. The steaks are still good, but they’re not the fabulous hunks of steer they seemed before. The selection of seafood, too, has dwindled to a few standard items. The service does seem to have improved, but maybe that’s because the place was nearly empty the evening we were there. (The Registry Hotel, 15201 Dallas Pkwy. 386-6000. Mon-Sat 6 pm-11 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. Reservations recommended. $$$)



Café Acapulco. Southwest Arlington is booming and so are the local amenities. Even the local eateries smack of the burgeoning affluent environment, which sets the stage for Cafe Acapulco, a Mexican cafe done in smart white stucco arches and cool tiles. The margaritas are potent-always a good sign. And the fajitas, recommended by many as the best in Arlington, are smothered in grilled onions, another good sign. We found both the beef and chicken fajitas worthy of the recogni tion (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. $$)

Café Cipriani. Cafe Cipriani, across the street from the Mandalay Four Seasons Hotel in Las Colinas, is the sleekest of the Lombardi restaurants to date and offers the most interesting menu. The food is an intriguing mixture of cucina nuova (the Italian answer to nouvelle cuisine) and a more internationalized, Italian/ continental style. The artichoke appetizer offers beautifully cooked and trimmed fresh artichokes, and the duck salad has meaty slices of duck over lettuce. Pasta offerings are more traditional, we’re crazy about the delicate linguini carbonara and the standard Lombardi specialty of crab cannelloni. The main courses tend to be heavily sauced and lush. (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. $$$)

D Enjolie. The menu here hasn’t changed a great deal, but the promotion of a new chef in the kitchen some months back seems to have blunted the edge of the cooking. A recent dinner was good, but not as exciting as some of those we remembered from the past. The duck pate with prunes had little flavor, and the lobster in an appetizer salad was overcooked and chewy. The little rounds of venison and of veal in our entrees lacked seasoning, and the accompanying sauces didn’t wow us. The desserts, though – three kinds of homemade ice cream (including a delectable pistachio) in pastry tulips and apples in the but-teriest puff pastry imaginable -retained their old glamour. (Mandalay Four Seasons Hotel, 221 E Las Colinas Blvd. Irving. 556-0800, ext. 3155 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$$)

Grapevine Steakhouse. It’s worth a 30-minute drive from Dallas to Grapevine just to see the yaks’ heads on the walls of this restaurant and the real-live urban cowboys down below. You can also bite into an inch-and-a-half-thick T-bone here. The meat we sampled was melt-in-your-mouth tender, but it arrived far under-cooked. The waiter willingly took it back to the kitchen to finish grilling it, so we were happy at last. Service was a bit slow, but there was a live band and a dance floor to keep us busy while we waited, and the long, family-style tables made eavesdropping interesting. But we advise skipping the calf fries. (909 Bushong, Grapevine. (817)481-4300. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Sun, Tue & Wed 5:30-10 pm, Thur-Sat 5:30 pm-12:30 am. MC, V, AE. $$)


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 alla 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. $$$)



The Balcony of Rldglea. 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. All major credit cards. $$$)

Crystal Cactus. From salad to dessert, the food was even better this time around than on our last visit. The appetizer of salmon wrapped around ratatouille sparkled, and so did our veal Diane, with a sauce that was both piquant and delicate. The atmosphere, which is the epitome of highbrow Texas chic, is relaxed – maybe too relaxed, given the extreme levels of noise that tables close to the bar area have to suffer. The service wasn’t quite as elaborate as we remembered it, but we were still amused by the after-dinner bonbons that arrived on a tray over a container of smoking dry ice. (Hyatt Regency Hotel, 815 Main. (817) 870-1234. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-11: Sun brunch: 10:30-2. All credit cards. $$$)

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

D Hedary’s. Some things at Hedary’s were better than ever on our last visit, including the service by the members of the Lebanese-American family that owns the place. The assortment of appetizers was nothing short of spectacular, with definitive eggplant and chickpea dips, falafel. vegetables and salads. And the baklava and other desserts were light, delicate and delicious. We confess to some disappointment with our main dishes, though. Our skewered lamb was tough, and our frarej (chicken broiled in olive oil) didn’t taste as boldly of garlic as we remembered. (3308 Fair-field at Camp Bowie. (817) 731 -6961. Tue- Thur & Sun 5-10 pm. Fri & Sat 5-11 pm. Closed Mon. No reservations. All credit cards. $$)

D Michel. In a stately old house that’s been nicely redecorated, the owner/chef offers a fixed-price dinner with five courses and exudes his own personal charm (he makes it a point to visit each table during the evening). It takes a photographic memory to recall all the dishes the waiter describes. We settled on sweetbreads and red snapper, and both were done to a turn. Little things like the sorbet of raspberries and the very French green salad were executed with panache, but we were surprised that the highly touted chocolate-Grand Marnier dessert was flavorless. And for a restaurant of such pretensions, the housekeeping was a bit careless. (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. $$$$)

Reflections. Tall columns shaped like lotuses grow out of the tiny reflecting pool that flows through the center of this sophisticated hotel restaurant. The food invites meditation, too: We found the lobster bisque and the lamb served with lamb sausage especially worthy. (200 Mam. (817) 870-9894. Mon-Thur 6:30-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 6:30-11 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

D Saint Emilion. Inside an inconspicuous A-frame building, this new restaurant achieves the feel of a country inn in France better than any other place in the Metroplex. If the food gets any better. St. Emilion will be the best restaurant in Fort Worth. And with a $20 prix fixe for four courses, it’s already the biggest bargain. On the blackboard menu (eventually there will be a written one), there’s a choice of about a half dozen choices of both appetizers and entries. Among the appetizers, the seafood salad-marinated shrimp and salmon seasoned to a turn-was a knockout. Perhaps the most striking entree was the roast duck, which could be seen turning on a spit in the rotisserie imported from France-simple and very crisp, garnished with slices of orange and julienne orange peel atop a bed of fresh spinach. (3617 W Seventh, Fort Worth. (817) 737-2781 Mon 6-10:30, Tue-Fri 11:30 am-2:30 pm & 6-10:30 pm. Sat 6-11 pm. Closed Sun. MC. V, AE. $$$)


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