Sunday, April 14, 2024 Apr 14, 2024
70° F Dallas, TX


Also: Plaza Cafe

Moline Bar & Grill

Richard Chase, the madman/ barkeep/restaurateur of the West End, has struck again. First came Dick’s Last Resort, a low-down bar, followed by West End Oasis, a high-end restaurant. Now comes Moline Bar & Grill, which Chase describes as “a Joe Miller’s with food.” Tucked away in a basement corner of the Texas Moline building, MB & G is a shuttered, dimly lit retreat from the heat of downtown Dallas. Here is an establishment that caters to warring temperaments: those inclined toward lollygagging will find its relaxed tenor conducive to lingering, while their Type A companions can cut deals on the tabletop telephones.

The place is a nice mix of Southwestern Shtick and Nou-veau Sunbelt Sophistication: wood abounding, a wide-open kitchen, dun-colored booths you can sink into, well-chosen Western art, a turn-of-the-cen-tury bar imported from Wyoming, and Billie Holiday on the sound system to soothe the savage stockbroker.

Chef Mike Dunn, an alumnus of the Mansion, the Loews Anatole, and West End Oasis, has designed the evolving daily menu to hold the interest of regulars. Three dishes that I hope will reappear are seafood blue corn crepes with lobster sauce, grilled shrimp with coconut rnilk and pineapple, and grilled trout. Four constants are the complimentary relish assortment (with bouncing baby carrots), fresh mozzarella salad with tomatoes and (too much) basil, bouillabaisse on Fridays (fine if you like the stuff), and banana ice cream with homemade fudge (which should be a controlled substance).

The well-chosen by-the-glass wine list changes along with the menu. My only liquid complaint is that obtaining espresso means asking a waiter to get some from West End Oasis-a practice that I fear will go by the boards when the joint is jumping. (Espresso addicts worry about these things.) All in all, MB & G promises to be one hell of a hang-out for the discerningly hungry and thirsty. (302 N Marker [entrance on Pacific]. 747-6430. Lunch: Mon-Fri 10-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5-10, Fri & Sal 5-11. All credit cards. $$$)

Plaza Cafe

The Mansion on Turtle Creek is turning out to be an informal school for local chefs and restaurateurs, in the manner of Berkeley’s seminal Chez Panisse. Two recent Mansion graduates to strike out on their own are Patrick Colombo, former food & beverage director, whose San Simeon is scheduled to open in the fall, and Wayne Broadwell, former bar manager, whose Plaza Cafe opened in May.

The dapper Broadwell works the front, while the peripatetic Avner Samuel, formerly of the Mansion, the Hotel Crescent Court, and the Lincoln Hotel, oversees the kitchen.

Ironically-for an establishment whose targeted market is the design community-Plaza Cafe is not aesthetically breathtaking, or even particularly fetching. This could have something to do with the potluck nature of the project-according to a press release, nearly everything on the premises comes from Oak Lawn Design Plaza tenants.

Breakfast and lunch are served on weekdays, but dinner is served only on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. With its pleasing range of made-on-the-premises morning fare and a top price of $4.75, Plaza Cafe bids fair to become the home of the bargain power breakfast. Lunch and dinner are pricier, but still reasonable.

At lunch, the red bell pepper crepe with sour cream, golden caviar, and basil is the sybaritic appetizer of choice. Poached shrimp on corn tortilla with avocado and tomato salsa sounds exotic, but translates to shrimp and guacamole on tostadas. The garden lettuce salad with walnut oil is a refreshing mix of radicchio, Boston lettuce, watercress, and endive. The “original tortilla soup,” as it is billed on the menu (presumably in reference to Samuel’s claim on the dish, which is still on the menu at the Mansion), featured a broth that wasn’t as flavorful as it might have been, though the strips of chicken, chunks of avocado, and pieces of tortilla were all delicious.

Moving on to main courses, bad news first: spinach pasta with sautéed tomatoes, basil, and garlic was irredeemably salty, and a blackened chop steak with Idaho potato skins resembled what we used to call a burned burger in my youth. (But then I have been so over-exposed to blackened foodstuffs in recent months that I tend to get irrational on the subject.)

Things took a definite turn for the better with the Dallas goat cheese pizza with chorizo sausage and herbs, which could not have been better. Ditto for the grilled double breast of chicken with basil vinaigrette and the cold poached salmon with roasted bell peppers (as long as you ignore the funky-tasting bell pepper relish). Then there is the grilled cheese sandwich with Italian parsley. This designer alternative to the Theo’s special is great for those days when one isn’t up to trendier, more complicated fare.

For dessert, the crème brulée du jour should not be missed. (I am immoderately enamored of the ginger-sparked version.) A delicate cheesecake and pecan praline cake were no slouches, either.

All in all, Plaza Cafe promises to be a design community hot spot that has enough going for it to make it worth a visit, even if Interiors isn’t your idea of an exciting read. (1444 Oak Lawn. 742- 4433. Breakfast: Mon-Fri 7:30-10:30; Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-4:30; dinner: Thur & Fri 6-10:30; Happy hour: Mon-Fri 4:30 pm-8:30 pm. MC, V, AE. $$-$$$)

Recommended Restaurants

Superior- and highly recommended – restaurants are flagged with a big, bold D.

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

The pricing structure is based on the cost of dinner for one, including an appetizer, enirée, 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.

American Nouvelle

D Beau Nash. If you haven’t made it to Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in LA, you can meet your California cuisine needs at Beau Nash, where Puck-trained Steve Singer is chef The New Wave pizzas are terrific pizza with smoked salmon, sour cream, lemon, dill, red onion, and golden caviar and pizza with pheasant sausage, cilantro, shitake mushrooms, red chile flakes, green onions, and yellow bell peppers. Fish-such as grilled swordfish with a gingery relish and grilled red snapper- is a good bet here, too. And desserts are simply dy-no-mite: pies, such as rhubarb raspberry and blackberry buttermilk custard, homemade ice creams and sorbets, and cookies. Beau Nash has the look of a tropical brasserie on a Texas scale. and the dress code and service are relatively relaxed, making it an excellent semi-casual alternative. (Crescent Court Hotel, 400 Crescent Court, Maple at McKinney. 871-3240. Breakfast: daily 6:30-10:30; Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30; dinner: daily 6-11 30; Sun brunch: 11-2:30. All credit cards. $$$$)

D Revisits

Blom’s. I am not a service freak. Ordinarily, what interests me in a restaurant is on my plate At Blom’s, however, the service is so unobtrusively terrific that it deserves recognition. Case in point: when Phil Donahue last hit town, he brought with him the haul from an Arkansas fishing trip. Blom’s obliged by serving the catch for dinner But even if you’re not a television fixture, you’re cosseted at Blom’s, where the tux-edoed staff members quietly knock themselves out to make you happy As for the food, under the direction of Scottish chef Norman Preedy. it’s in-teresting, if not always consistent. This time around we passed on the fixed-price Taste of Biom’s menu and ordered a la carte. The results: an appetizer of overly chewy marinated duck with rosemary honey and soy sauce wasn’t as interesting as it sounded. Clam chowder with roasted corn was also something of a letdown. A farm salad of mixed greens with warm bacon dressing was much better than the overwhelmingly cheesy Belgian endive and mushrooms with Gouda cheese. Things started looking up with entrées: salmon with spinach and Cabernet Sauvignon, and grilled duck breast with rhubarb chutney and sliced apples. And dessert -baked-to-order paper-thin tarts-took dinner over the lop into greatness. Apple was wonderful, but it was surpassed by the lush charm of pear. Partner this with blueberry goat cheese ice cream-sounds strange, tastes great-and you’ve got a dessert for the record books. Blom’s setting – with blond wood walls, tapestry love seats, and pianist on duty -is soothing if undistinguished. (Westin Hotel. Gallena, 13340 Dallas Pkwy. 851-2882. Mon-Fri 6:30-10 pm, Sat & Sun 6-10 Jackets and lies required. All credit cards. $$$$)

D City Cafe. City Cafe gives urban civilization a good name The setting is urbane in a clean-lined, low-key way At night both the lighting and the recorded classical music are subdued, which makes the place romantic, but not too obviously romantic. In fact, the night time is definitely the right time for City Cafe: although lunch can be very good, it never rises to the heights of dinner Both the lunch and the dinner menus change weekly (on Wednesdays). Pick hits from past menus include fresh tomato soup, bacon-wrapped oysters brochette. sautéed fillet of sole, pan-fried Idaho brook trout, blueberry crumble, and coconut cream tart. The all-American wine list is well-chosen and reasonably priced, and the availability of thirteen wines by the glass is a bonus for the relatively absiemious wine lover. (5757 W Lovers Lane [just west of Dallas N Tollway], 351-2233. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

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

D The Mansion on Turtle Creek. Chef Dean Fearing is doing the most exciting cooking in town. The appetizer of rabbit and venison sausage is delightfully audacious, and the rich sauces on dishes like the roast Indiana duck are unmatched. You can’t go wrong with one of Fearing’s complex salads {like asparagus, pasta, and salmon in green apple vinaigrette), grilled fish (like Louisiana grouper with papaya-basil sauce), or any of the mouth-watering desserts. Especially memorable was the chocolate-banana cream cake with orange curd sauce. One element has been retained from the old Mansion menu: to gel the delicious side dishes like the truffle potato or the zucchini, eggplant, and tomato casserole, you still have to shell out extra bucks (and lots of them). (2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 526-2121. Main dining room-jackets and ties required. Lunch: Mon-Fri noon-2:30; brunch: Sat noon-2:30, Sun 11-2:30, dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-10:30; supper Mon-Sat 10:30 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. $$$$)

Catalina. From the owners of Zanzibar and the defunct Chickeria comes this new Lower Greenville attempt to combine New Southwestern Cuisine with various other Texas and California (ads. Paradoxically, the cooking is pretty good but the food is usually odd at best. In the case of the Alamo Bay Noodles, the menu description says almost everything: blackened gulf prawns coated with cayenne, garlic powder, and coriander, sautéed until crisp and served on rice vermicelli noodles with black bean sauce. The chicken satay comes with a gloppy peanut butter sauce rather far from the real Asian 1hmg, and the Uncle Paul’s Popcorn Crawfish are marred by a sauce that claims to be Cajun but is mostly just sweet. The best things at Catalina are grilled – a fish special of amberjack, the veal ribs, and pork chops. (3707 Greenville. 828-0990. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11:30-2:30; dinner: Tue-Tnur 6-11, Fri & Sat 6-midnight, Sun 6-10:30. All credit cards. $$)

Laurels. We couldn’t have been more pleased with the epicurean results on our latest visit to the posh restaurant at the top of the Sheraton Park Central Hotel near Central and LBJ. An appetizer of mesquite-grilled squab with tomatoes and Bibb lettuce was laced with a creamy vinaigrette dressing. The special entree of the evening was poached lobster with a memorable creamy, green basil sauce. The shelled lobster was render, and the chef had taken the time to create a beautiful shell pattern out of the sauce. We finished every bite of the beautiful, fresh blueberries and whipped cream and the ricotta cheese/sponge cake. The next best thing Laurels 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 6:30pm- 10:30pm. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. Jackets required. AH 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 tht the change has been all bad The menu is very much the same, and it there are ’ess adventurous combinations now, there is also less alarm at those that don’t quite work. We liked the grilled oysters with a cilantro and chile pesto, the corn soup, and the black-eyed pea salad (served with fresh artichoke bottoms, strips of peppers, and bacon dressing). The grilted entrees include a fine brochette of shrimp and scallops and a large, well-cooked but underseasoned porterhouse. The wild turkey is still juicy, but the garnish is less interesting than before. The new, shortened selection of desserts is much improved. (Loews Anatole Hotel, 2201 Slemmons Frwy. 748-1200. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: daily &10:30. Resrvations. All credit cards. $$$)

Parigl. I have a love-hate relationship with Parigi. I love its slick, post-modern looks. I hate the pained attitude of its waiters, whose hauteur can put a dent in the best of moods. I love the constantly changing menu when it works (a sublimely refreshing chicken salad with mixed bell peppers, warm peppered chevre, and toasted pecans on mixed greens with sherry vinaigrette). I hate the constantly changing menu when it doesn’t work {as in almost any of the oddball pasta options, which in my experience are ill-conceived and arrive afloat in a sea of butter). One suggestion for those who don’t like gastronomic gambles: to guarantee having a good meal at Parigi, go for lunch and order the cold sliced beef tenderloin. Desserts-including “chocolate glob” and peach cobbler with whipped cream -would fall into the “love” category for many Parigi regulars, but I find them killingly sweet and utterly out of character with the rest of the New Wave menu. (3311 Oak Lawn, Suite 102. 521-0295. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Tue-Thur 6:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 6:30-11; Sat brunch: 10-3. Closed Sun & Mon. MC, V, AE. DC. $$$)

D West End Oasis. Probably the handsomest restaurant in Dallas with its granite waterfall and commissioned art. the West End Oasis boasts ’cuisine du soleil” – a cross between New Southwestern and provencal cuisines. The inventive soups and luscious desserts are almost always impressive, but the entrees (often grilled) sometimes lack oomph. The tender young chicken, for instance, is grilled to juicy doneness, but in these surroundings one expects some sort of sauce or something to give an extra boost of flavor. The most outstanding main course we have tried is the swofdfish Service is attentive- sometimes a bit too much so. (302 N Market [entrance on Pacific]. 698-9775. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-11. All credit cards. $$$$)

Zanzibar. This Lower Greenville wine bar cum restaurant may be the hippest place in town where you can actually find good food. If the youth and the sartorial exuberance of the clientele don’t faze you, try one of the long list of wines available by the glass and order off the Blackboard of daily specialties, which has provided better results than the regular menu for us The specials of the day in the pasta and fish categories are usually winners-we especially enjoyed the lingutne with clams and bits of tuna. From the menu, the meat and cheese plate proved pedestrian, with no more adventuresome choices than roast beef and Swiss cheese. The house version of chicken tacos. with grilled fowl in rather soggy flour tortillas, did not excite either For desserts there are only various flavors of cheesecake, though jobbed in from a good supplier. (2912 Greenville 828-2250. Mon 6 pm-1 am, Tue-Sat 11:30 am-2 am, Sun 10:30 am-midnight; Sun brunch: 10:30-3. MC, V, AE. $$)

D Revisits

D Routh Street Cafe. When friends visit from out of town, Routh Street Cafe, with its national reputation and ever-changing New American Cuisine, is the gastronomic show-offs firs! thought Of course, if like me, you don’t get around to making reservations until the last minute, you may end up eating a1 an odd hour, given that prime reservations at Routh Street are spoken for weeks in advance Still, dining at the unfashionable hour of 6:30 allowed us to see the effects on the place of natural light. It turns out that the sleek pink Tonny Foy-designed decor looks even better when sunlit (which leads one to hope against hope that Routh Street might someday serve lunch as well as dinner). The food on this visit was imaginative and frequently wonderful, if not perfect across the board For the fixed price of S42 (plus supplementary charges for some dishes) per person, we had the following: blue-cornmeal muffins (extraordinary); appetizers of blue cornmeal-coated catfish with smoked-pepper/mint marigold sauce and black-eyed pea relish (odd but pleasing) and lobster enchilada with red pepper crème fraiche and beluga caviar (richly rewarding); second courses of salads of baby spinach, arugula, and endive with bacon, buttermilk, and blue cheese dressing (too smoky tasting) and radicchio, baby green leaf, baby oak leaf, and savoy (snappily refreshing); third courses of grilled chop and loin of lamb with pecan sauce and garlic custard (sheer perfection) and veal scallops with Mexican oregano pesto and blood oranges (dry veal, close-but-no-cigar sauce); fourth courses of ruby grapefruit-tequila ice and cherimoya-pepino ice (both pleasing), and the damn-the-consequences dessert sampler (warm apple-walnut spice cake with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream: double dark chocolate cake with white chocolate sauce; lace cookie cup with strawberries, cream, and caramel, banana cream-macadamia nut pie with hot fudge; blackberry buckle with cinnamon ice cream; and almond praline tart with orange curd). Service lived up to the standard set by the cuisine: it was crisply efficient, without a trace of haughtiness. (3005 Routh at Cedar Springs. 871-7161. Tue-Sat 6-10 30 pm. Closed Sun & Mon. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)


D Café Margaux. The blackened-everything brigade-those trend-surfing restaurateurs who don’t know their elbows from their étouf-fees- have made many local diners deeply suspicious of all Ca|un food served outside a fifty-mile radius of New Orleans. Happily. Cafe Margaux is another matter altogether. A recent lunch here measured up to Louisiana’s finest: house-made rolls, green salad, crawfish étouffèe, oysters Bienville, trout with crab-meat stuffing, and bread pudding were all flawless. Good news for regulars accustomed to waiting on line for the twelve tables: expansion has brought the number of tables to twenty, and a well-considered selection of American wine is now available. (4424 LoversLane. 739-0886.Sun-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-11. MC, V. $$)


August Moon. The long-awaited new Piano location of this favored Chinese restaurant is bright and airy by day. and spacious and handsome all the time. The food mostly lives up to the high quality that has become the standard at the original Preston site. A Hunan-style whole red snapper we sampled, for instance, could not have been fresher or tastier Another of the “gourmet specialties” also lived up to the claims made for it: Papa Tsay’s Magic Basket included real crab meat (not the ersatz variety found at so many places these days), lobster, scallops, chicken, and tender beef, along with fresh vegetables in a lacy basket of fried noodles Ham and winter melon soup made a line starter. One element here definitely did not live up to our expectations: the service, though well-meaning, was clumsy and agonizingly slow (15030 Preston at Belt Line, 385-7227; 2300 N Central Expwy, Piano. 881 -0071. Sun-Tbur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. Bar by membership. All credit cards. $$.)

D Revisits

Cathy’s Wok. “Creditable” is one of those reviewer’s weasel words that can mean anything from “pretty good” to “can be choked down if you haven’t eaten in days.” In this case, it means that while what emerges from Cathy’s Wok wont knock your socks off and is not worth the haul to the North land if you live in Dallas, it is a worthwhile alternative if you are a resident of Piano From the informative menu (dishes are described in detail, complete with calorie count), we tried decent wonton soup, an egg roll that was heavy on the cabbage, peppery chicken (with lots of green pepper in a savory brown sauce), and shredded pork with garlic sauce (with lots of julienned carrots in an overly sweet sauce). Even when the food here isn’t perfect the ingredients are fresh (and mercifully MSG-free). and the prices are right ($3.95 for lunch. $4.95 lor dinner). You can eat on the premises, which, with its trellis motif and white bent-wood chairs, resembles a yogurt shop more than a Chinese restaurant, or drive through and pick up your order. (4010 W 15th, Piano, 964-0406. Mon 11 am-8:30 pm, Tue-Sat 11 am-9:30 pm. Sun 5 pm-9 pm. No credit cards. $)

Szechwan Pavilion. With its sophisticated peach and gray color scheme, Szechwan Pavilion is an aesthetic knockout. The food very nearly lives up to the setting. The spring rolls- crisp wonton wrappers punctuated by shrimp, sprouts, and carrot shreds-are musts to order. After that, kung pao shrimp with red pepper and peanuts might be in order. Two dishes to avoid: dry, nearly tasteless hot spicy lobster sautéed with ginger in chili sauce, and chicken chow mein with canned, as opposed to fresh, mushrooms. Prices are a bit higher here than at most local Chinese restaurants, but one can see, in such touches as the exotic lilies on the tables, where the surcharge is going. (8411 Preston at Northwest Highway. 368-4303. Mon-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat noon-11 pm. Sun noon-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$$)

D Revisits

Tong’s House. We all have our quirky quests in life, and that of my best friend is to find dan-dan noodles that are worth a damn in Dallas. Provoked by reports that Tong’s House serves first-rate dan-dan, we scoured Promenade Center for Tong’s easily missed entrance. The news on the dan-dan front was disappointing: while this version of thin noodles with sesame-peanut sauce was better than most, it still didn’t live up to Chinatown’s finest. Still, an exceptionally tender, flavorful version of orange beef Szechwan style was worth the search. Tong’s definitely belongs on the must-try list for ethnic-food fiends who delight in discovering restaurants that are authentic enough to frighten their more timid friends. While Tong’s doesn’t really look seedy enough for their purposes, it does have a certain down-at-the-heels charm, and the presence on the menu of such appetizers as pig’s stomach with bean soup, cold cattle stomach, jellyfish, and beef tendons in hot sauce should make this a required North Dallas stop on the adventurous-eating trail. (1910 Promenade Center. Richardson. 231-8858. Tue-Sat 11 am-9:30 pm, Sun 11 am-9 pm. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$)

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


Bluebonnet Cafe. If you are a yuppie of a certain age, here is where, to the tune of James Taylor, you’re likely to run into friends, acquaintances, or the ex-spouses of same. Bluebonnet Cafe is part of Bluebonnet Natural Foods Grocery, and as the name of the establishment indicates, the food lends toward the healthful. Happily, however. Bluebonnet doesn’t take a doctrinaire stand. Burgers, wine, and coffee – three controlled substances at hard-line health establishments – are allowed here. I love a number of Bluebonnet’s offerings, including the strawberry-banana-papaya smoothie and the black bean nachos with white cheese and guacamole. What I don’t love is how complicated life at Bluebonnet can seem: at lunch food is served cafeteria-style, but at dinner there is table service, albeit frequently spacey, and the customer isn’t allowed to take a look at the specials at the steam table. I notice that every visit to Bluebonnet includes being thwarted on some front: smoothies, for instance, may not be available The waitress suggests that the blenders aren’t working, or perhaps they haven’t been washed. I cant quite get an explanation. Still, the lure of one-stop grocery shopping and nacho noshing makes Bluebonnet a useful stop on the yuppie trail. (2218 Greenville. 828-0052. Daily 9 am-10 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

D Revisits

City Market. City Market has acquired a loyal following of downtown habitues hungry for fresh, imaginative soups, salads, sandwiches, and desserts However, in the past the pleasures of this light, airy, upscale cafeteria were unpredictable. if, for instance, you loved the marigold mint chicken salad, it might be weeks before you and it were on the premises on the same day. Now, with the advent of menus printed every week, City Market regulars can predict with assurance when it will be possible to eat pasta salad with Indonesian peanut sauce or marinated beef salad with multi-colored bell peppers. Whatever else you get, the light, soufflé-like apricot-raisin bread pudding should not be missed. Alas, there is no espresso available to accompany that supernal bread pudding, and the coffee that is available is weak stuff. Given that this is the only complaint that can be made about the place, City Market is worth a trip even if you don’t work downtown (park in LTV Center parking and bring your ticket with you for validation). (200 L TV Center. 2001 Ross a! Harwood. 979-2696. Mon-Fri 7.30 am-4:30 pm. MC, V. $)


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

D Revisits

Café Royal. Why a top-flight restaurant does or does not succeed is a subtle mystery. The bottom line comes down to this: does the idea of a return visit inspire anticipation? Thus, although almost nothing-with the exception of a misconceived duck liver terrine in broccoli mousse and cherry vinegar- was wrong with the food at Cafe Royal on my last dinner visit, not enough was actively right to make me look forward to the next time around. And given the level of culinary competition in Dallas, a lovely setting and proficient service are not enough to endear a restaurant to thrill-seeking restaurant-goers. The “problem” was simpiy a lack of gastronomic excitement: starting with the appetizer of snails with chablis, grapes, and walnuts in herb butter, and continuing in the main courses a combination of beef and veal with Madeira and basil sauce and a combination of veal mignon and shrimp with tarragon sauce: both were well-prepared but altogether unexceptional. Desserts of champagne custard and hazelnut souffle were similarly humdrum, and crème brutée was for orange peel fans only. Given that the aforementioned dishes were ordered a la carte, the $34.50 fixed-price dinner may be the way to go at Cafe Royal (Plaza Of the Americas, 650 N Pearl. 747-7222. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6:30-10.30. Fri & Sat 6:30-11. Closed Sun. Reservations. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$)

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

D Revisits

D The Grape. The Grape occupies a pivotal place in Dallas restaurant-goers’collective unconscious. Since it opened in 1972, the neon grape cluster in the window of Dallas’s oldest wine bar/French bistro has been an irresistible signpost for bohemian/yuppie types. For a lesser institution, such long-term popularity might engender complacency But a recent check-up dinner laid to rest such fears about the Grape: the dark green ceiling, hanging grape lights, red-checked tabiecloths, and flickering candles have stayed the same, but the food has moved with the times-with remarkable results. After herbed goat cheese, quantities of warm bread, and glasses of peppery Iron Horse Zinfandel and stern Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon, we moved on to the Grapes signature mushroom soup, which was as rich and intensely flavored as ever. Norwegian salmon with a Creole mustard sauce was smashing, but the real surprise of the evening was an unlikely linguine and duck breast Bolognese. Chef Boyardee never dreamed of pasta reaching such Himalayan heights of excellence Dessert-a lop-quality dreamsicle ice cream-was marred only by the weak coffee we had to settle for after learning that the espresso machine was on the fritz. (2808 Greenville at Goodwin. 823-0133. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-11. Fri & Sat 6 pm-midnight. All credit cards. $$)

D Jennivine. Over the years, Jennivine has in-creasmgly lived up to its claim to be a wine bar as well as a restaurant by offering a larger selection of wines by the glass. We like to sample them to the accompaniment of some cheese and the rich, gamy pate maison (which we like better than either the pate de campagne or the salmon pate). As for the main courses, our salmon was delicately cooked, with a mustard sauce almost too tame for the name. A more robust mushroom sauce topped tender scallops of veal, and the fan of accompanying vegetables set them off nicely About the only dish around here that smacks of England (the declared ethnic origin of the place) is the English triffe, an unusual dessert for Dallas. (3605 McKinney. 528-6010. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11.30-2:30; dinner- Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

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D L’Ambiance. My memories of L’Ambiance were such that the thought of a return visit did not inspire joy. “Tired French food” was the category under which the place was listed in my mental filing cabinet. Happily, however, the food was beyond reproach on a recent visit. A suave potato-leek soup and watercress salad with bacon, mushrooms, and goat cheese made for excellent appetizers. Next we opted for lamb chops and duck with the fruit sauce of the day Both were memorably well-prepared; the red bell-pepper garnished lamb chops crusty on the outside and juicy on the inside, with a subtly garlic- and basil-spiked natural-juice sauce; the duck with crispy skin and moist meat, lifted to the realm of transcendence by the vibrant taste of the raspberry sauce. For dessert, floating island with pecan praline and chocolate souffle cake enlivened by coconut and macadamia nuts served with vanilla sauce were both on the money. (2408 Cedar Springs. 748-1291 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

German/Eastern European

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Belvedere. Perfectly tender Weiner schnitzel is what keeps me coming back to Belvedere, a Swiss/Austrian restaurant that adjoins the Crest-Park Hotel, a retirement home. Unfortunately, this time around the rehsteak Hubertus, a Montana venison preparation that I had fond memories of from past dinners, was dry and uninteresting. I had to console myself with an extra order of spaetzle (fat, freshly made dumplings). Salads, appetizers, and desserts, while not egregious, have never been advisable here unless you’re extremely hungry. The setting, with its warm brick and cream color scheme, is pleasant and unimposing, as is the service. (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 $$$)


D India Palace. This new Indian restaurant has a larger menu, a slightly fancier decor, and slightly higher prices than other spots. We think it is worth the extra cost to sample the new dishes and have the extra comfort. If you are feeling adventuresome, try the red snapper (stuffed with finely chopped fruits and vegetables and piquantly sauced) or the lamb shahi korma. The tandoori dishes (meats roasted in the Indian barbecue oven, served with delicious bread called na’an) are perfect for the more cautious. (13360 Preston. 392-0190. Lunch: Mon-Fn 11-2. Sat & Sun 11:30-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 5 pm-10 pm, Fri & Sat 5:30 pm-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Kebab ’n’ Kurry. Let’s see if we can straighten this out: there used to be one Kebab ’n’ Kurry on Central Expressway in Richardson Then there was a sibling spinoff on Walnut Hill. Now there are still two Kebab ’n’ Kurries. but they are no longer related. In any case, a visit to the Walnut Hill K ’n’ K to check out the $7.95 weekend brunch was rewarding. Although a few items (mushy strawberry and banana fruit salad, fishy fish curry) didn’t send me, plenty of choices did, including succulent tandoori chicken; fragrant kashmiri pillau (rice with peas, currants, almonds, and cashews); savory patak panir (spinach cooked with homemade cheese); flavorful lamb kofta (meatballs in a mild curry sauce); and tender na’an (flat bread). Dessert was a lesson in the outer limits of sweelness-if there is anything on the planet sweeter than gulab jamun (pastry balls in cardamom-flavored syrup). I hope never to taste it. The dark side: service tends to be out of it. and the setting verges on the depressing, thanks to the oppressive shade of gray the walls are painted (2620 Walnut Hill Ln. 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. All credit cards. $-$$)


Adriatic’s. Adriano’s, which seemed to be on the cutting edge of New Wave Italian dining when it opened, is looking a bit timeworn these days. The setting is still sunny and high-lech in nature, but the walls could use a paint job, and the menus are looking extremely weather-beaten. The trademark pizzas, however, have maintained their appeal – particularly the pancetta version with fresh tomatoes and mushrooms. Pasta is available, too, and it’s not bad, but you can do better elsewhere, as demonstrated by the fettuccine casa with ham, mushrooms, cheese, and a too-gluey cream sauce and slightly charred, heavy-on-the-oregano lasagna of my last visit (The Quadrangle. 2800 Routh. Suite 170. 871-2262. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30 pm-midrvght, Sun 11.30-9. MC, V, AE.)

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Alessio’s. Not all top-notch restaurants have the proprietor on the premises more often than not, but nearly all of them do. Alessio’s is a case in point. If you’re not happy with your meal at Alessio’s, it will only be because you have failed to apprise the ever-watchful Alessio Franceschetti of any problems. Happily, on a recent visit, there were no problems to report (other than the aesthetic one of the inelegant decor). Crab cannelloni, an appetizer of the day, was estimable enough to warrant on-the-menu status. Shrimp provencale, with mushrooms and tomatoes, was quite good, if not as seductive. The subtly dressed romaine lettuce salad that accompanied entrees was simple perfection. Linguine with shrimp and scallops in a delicately spicy tomato sauce was agreeable, though not as meritorious as the perfectly breaded veal par-migiana accompanied by buttered, parslied mostaccioli. For dessert, amaretto macaroon ice cream was extremely sweet but still easy to finish off. (4117 Lomo Alto. 521-3585. Tue-Sat 6-10:30 pm, Sun $ Mon 6-10 pm. MC, V, AE. $$$)

Nero’s Italian. The food is good enough here, but it isn’t great, and it certainly doesn’t come cheap. What, then, accounts for the two-hour waits on weekends? I suspect it’s that ol’ debbil ambience. Nero’s is made to order for dates or get- reacquainted- with -your- spouse sessions, a! least if your date or spouse is a stylish, ironic character. (Diana Vreeland and Catholic-school veterans should feel particularly at home here because of the red walls and the Michael the Archangel lamps.) There is an extensive menu of pasta, veal, and seafood, but the two things to concentrate on are the Italian wine-the selection is great, and the staff well-informed-and the pizza, which comes in both traditional and New Wave varieties. (2104 Greenville. 826-6376. Mon-Thur 6-11 pm, Fri & Sat 6 pm-midnight. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)

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D 311 Lombard’s. What is the Italian translation of “good karma*? Our waiter didn’t know, but 311 Lombardi’s has achieved it. Here, surrounded by the glow created by creamy apricot walls, happy hordes of downtown workers gel what may well be the best Italian food in town at reasonable prices. No pasta was visible in the pasta and bean soup, but it was a hearty, herb-enlivened delight anyway. A pizza with leeks, pancetta, goat cheese, and mushrooms could have held its own against New York’s best. Our next stop on the menu was good enough to be required eating for potato-philes: potato gnocchi with two sauces (tomato and irresistible gorgonzola). A tender, thin veal cutlet topped with arugula and diced tomatoes was simply immense. Dessert of raspberry ice cream and respectable espresso rounded off a repast that was pure pleasure from start to finish. (311 Market. 747-0322. Mon-Thur 11 am-midnight, Fri 11 am-midnight, Sat 5 pm-midnigbt. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)


Casa Rosa. This has long been a preppy hangout supreme, and in this instance those well-scrubbed WASPs in Ralph Lauren attire are on to something The decor is attractive-with terracotta tile floors, melon-colored walls, and a tree in the middle of the restaurant wittily decorated with red chili pepper lights. Happily, the food lives up to its setting. From chili con queso to botanas especiales (bean, chicken, and beef nachos; marinated beef strips; and flautitas with sour cream and guacamole) to the Puerto Vallarta combination (beef taco, enchilada with chili con carne, chicken enchilada with sour cream sauce, and Spanish rice) to praline cheesecake for dessert, everything (except for the underdone, too-tomatoey Spanish rice) was well- | prepared, it not in the forefront of culinary innovation. (Inwood Village, Inwood at Lovers Lane, Suite 165. 350-5227. Mon-Thur 11 am-3 pm & 5-10 pm, Fri 11 am-3 pm & 5-11 pm, Sat 11 am-11 pm, Sun 11 am-10 pm. All credit cards $$)

Gonzsles. Some dining establishments are as much in the business of purveying comfort as of purveying cuisine. Gonzales is such a place. Here, for very little money, one can have a beer and hunker down in the dark wood-grain booths and achieve low-budget Tex-Mex-style salon This is not to say that there aren’t good things to eat available at Gonzales. There definitely are, but one needs to know the topography of the menu to find them. They are most notably the numerous varieties of burritos made with tat, tender flour tortillas: the bean and cheese and the potato and egg are two good choices for those in search of hangover cures that do not require as much machismo to ingest as menudo does. The drive-through window provides a good, fast option for on-the-run diners. (4333 Maple. 528-2960. Daily 7 am-9 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Mario ft Alberto. The standards of Mario Lear’s second restaurant don’t seem to have suffered with the opening of a third one – this popular North Dallas spot seemed as fine (and as busy) as ever To start with, a tart ceviche or tortilla soup is a good choice. Among the main courses, the filete de la casa (tenderloin strongly flavored with garlic, accompanied by lightly fried potato slices) remains a favorite. Those who crave fa-jitas will find a relatively restrained version here-a manageably modest serving, and no sizzling fireworks The Tex-Mex plates continue to run way behind the specialties in excellence. Coconut or cinnamon ice cream makes a refreshing dessert. (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. A return visit confirmed that Mario Leal is doing a good job of reproducing the high quality of food and service found in his older restaurants at this one way up in Piano. The new specialties are available even at lunch, and include beef tips sautéed with onions and gently seasoned. The kitchen turns out several excellent renditions of shrimp-our favorite is a ring of large ones cooked with abundant garlic, served with a classic version of Mexican rice If you don’t have time or room to order dessert from the menu, be sure to pick up one of the unique cinnamon-flavored pralines. (221 W Parker, Suite 400, Piano. 423-2977. Mon-Thur 11.30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30-11:30. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)

Papa’s. Next door to the Routh Street Cafe sits this unpretentious Mexican spot. Pepe’s probably does otd-fashioned Tex-Mex as well as any place in Dallas. The beef tacos, for instance, came in a light, fresh-lasting shell. Enchiladas have been dependable, too. Came asada was made from tender beef, chiles rellenos from authentic poblano peppers (though the filling proved to be unexciting). (3011 Routh. 871-9445. Mon-Fri 11 am-2:30 pm & 5:30-10 pm, Sat 10:30 am-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)

Ricardo’s. This is a Mexican restaurant in the new polished style – the colors are rose and plum, with only a few cacti around to give away the restaurant’s ethnic orientation. The menu is conventional but appealing We enjoyed the beef fajitas (neither overmarinated nor overcharred) and the broiled chicken breast, which had a pleasant flavor and a light melting of cheese on top. A few less frequently seen dishes like carne guisada {beef stewed wilh potatoes and green peppers) also are executed deftly. The conventional Tex-Mex plates were better than average. (17610 Midway. 931-5073 Mon-Sat 11 am-10 pm, Sun 11 am-9 pm. All credit cards $$)

Rio Grande Grill. North Greenville Avenue’s unique cross between a yuppie bar and a Mexican restaurant has new management and a new menu, but much remains the same. You still have (in a Back to the Future scenario) slender people piaying backgammon at high tables. And you still have pretty good food with an alarming tendency to be drowned in an excess of glop-py cheese and indiscriminately applied sauces. One might expect appetizers like the Mexican pizza and Rio Grande Dip (layers of beans, guacamole, cheese, peppers, sour cream, olives, and so on) to be soupy messes, but chiles reltenos and basic combination plates should not be so overburdened with toppings. For those who can’t stand to order fajitas again, there are alternatives like chicken fingers. (5111 Greenville. 692-9777. Sun-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11 am-1 am. All credit cards. $)

D Revisits

On The Border. Here is one lor the Book at Dallas Restaurant Mysteries, to accompany an explanation of why otherwise normal Dallasites stand in line for Campisi’s pizza. It was mysterious enough when the On The Border at Travis and Knox brought preppy crowds spilling over onto the sidewalk by serving margaritas and fajitas the likes of which can be found at any number of deserted Tex-Mex restaurants Still, one cou!d reason that the corner of Travis and Knox streets exerted some geographic magic on nearby Highland Park residents. But a recent trip to the Addison branch of On The Border revealed that masses of clean-cut customers are willing to wait for tables in Addison, too. We ordered the Border Blast, a fajita test for four that should be subtitled “Henry VIII goes to Tijuana.” Once the firestorm of sizzling and smoke had settled down, we tackled the mountain of food and found the rice to be nearly inedible, the guacamole definitely inedible, the pork fatty, the shrimp tasteless, and the chicken and beef tasty and tender. The margaritas were strong but not tart enough. So go figure it. (3304 Knox, 528-5900; 1350 Northwest Hwy at Saturn, Garland, 686-7867; 4400 Belt Line, Addison. 788-4400. Men-Thur 11 am-1 am, Fri & Sat 11 am-2 am, Sun 11 am-midnight at Knox location; Sun-Thur 11-11. Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight at Garland location. Sun- Thur 11 am-midnight. Fri-Sat 11 am-1 am at Addison location. All credit cards. $$)


D Atlantic Cafe. Unlike bad relationships, restaurants sometimes do change for the better. In the case of Atlantic Cafe, the big change in recent months is in service. Having heard tale after tale of insulted customers who vowed never to return because of waiterly rudeness, on two recent visits was pleasantly surprised to observe service that was warm as well as efficient. Another change is the addition of a glassed-in gazebo area, which provides a sunny seating alternative that seems ideal for Sunday brunch What has not changed is the cooking, and that’s good news, since it was always admirable. Fish, presumably, is what you come here for, and it’s first-rate, at least in its sautéed and broiled forms. (The fried seafood is okay, but it’s not a strong point here ) However. Atlantic Cafe also does itself proud in other departments, such as the sourdough bread, fruit salad, eggs Benedict, crème caramel, and strawberry or banana crepes. (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. $$$)

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 entrées. The two standouts among the entrees 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. (4750 N Jupiter a! 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. $$)

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Bay Street. A while back Bay Street was moved in our listings from seafood to Cajun on the strength of a barrage of press releases hailing the place’s extensive new Cajun menu A recent visit did confirm the presence of a few Cajun dishes, respectably prepared, to judge from sampling the Caiun popcorn (tried crawfish tails), gumbo, and crawfish étouffée. Still, these Cajun upstarts were outshone by a simple charbroiled swordfish, which was impeccably fresh and juicy. (And if you are optimistic enough to order swordfish on a regular basis in restauranis, you know how rare it is for the meaty fish not to emerge with the texture of fish jerky ) Given that Bay Street’s menu still overwhelmingly emphasizes non-Cajun seafood, were moving it back to seafood where it belongs. In the area of accessory food items. Bay Street does well in bread and dessert (creamy, dense cheesecake and intensely flavored chocolate cake are both worthy choices), but falls down in the salad department because of heavy use of tasteless iceberg lettuce and the presence of weird strips of what appears to be fried dough. The setting-a handsome hangar-like space – is noteworthy. (5348 Belt Line, Addison. 934-8502. Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. MC, V, AE. $$)

Rocco. Revisiting Rocco inspires mixed emotions not unlike those one has upon seeing an old flame. The years may have taken a toll, but the magic can be recalled, at least with the aid of a couple of glasses of good Chardonnay Which is to say that these days at Rocco. the food may not shine as consistently as in its earlier days and the stainless steel tables may be looking rather limeworn, but the jukebox is still a blues and roots-rock treasure, the quality of light is still subaqueous, and the other-worldly Judy DeSanders marine-themed stained-glass windows are still in place. A fine, reasonably sized (one pound) and priced ($14) lobster was the highlight of my most recent meal. Gumbo, crab and corn soup, a mixed fried seafood platter, and ice cream with raspberry liqueur all fell into the okay-to-moderately-good category. I liked the relaxed, brassy attitude of our waiter- who actually pulled up a chair to the table to discuss the specials of the day -but this sort of service is not to everyone’s taste, (2520 Cedar Spings. 747-6226. Tue-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm. Fri-Sun 11:30 am-M pm. Closed Mon. MC, V, AE. $$)

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Shucker’s. Usually, a dramatic overhaul of a menu suggests that a restaurant is floundering to find its audience. It was, therefore, with a heavy heart that I trudged to Shucker’s. formerly a fried-seafood emporium, now a purveyor of Continental-style seafood. However, after a good green salad, an unlikely-sounding but successful swordfish dish with a red-wine vinegar and currant sauce, decent fried shrimp (there is still a token fried section on the menu), and desserts of blackberry pie and chocolate bread pudding that were excellent far beyond the call of duty, my heart was considerably lightened Now, if only Shucker’s would learn to make less sodden french fries and save the George Winston “December” tape for that month, everything would be copacetic. (4620 McKinney. 522-7320. Mon-Thur 11 -10, Fri & Sat 11-midnight, Sun 5 pm-10 pm. All credit cards. $$-$$$)

Southeast Asian

Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is the name of a city in northern Thailand, reputedly one of the loveliest in the country – and judging from this namesake, we are ready to believe it. The pretty decor and the courteous, helpful service make this one of the best places in Dallas to get acquainted with this delightfully exotic cuisine. Pick hits on the menu include meaty, tender pork moo satay; masterfully spicy shrimp coconut soup; perfectly prepared red curry shrimp; light, fresh-tasting eggplant Thai-slyle, delicious beef basil, and textbook versions of pud Thai and pineapple fried rice. In fact, the only treacherous section of the menu is the dessert selection Thai desserts (such as sweet syrup in which tapioca nodules and corn kernels float) are not for the gastronomically faint of heart. (11277 E Northwest Hwy, Suite 148. 340-4499. Lunch: Sun-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner Sun-Thur 5-10:30, Fri & Sat 5-11:30. MC, V, AE. $$)

Sawatdee. For a long time this was one of the top Asian restaurants in Dallas, but on the evidence of our last visit it has slipped considerably. The stuffed chicken wing had a tough, tasteless filling and a soggy coating, and the Plar Kung (a spicy shrimp salad) proved too sour and salty. The green curry beef- in a dull, watery sauce-was similarly disappointing, and the Crab Pud Chan (a noodle dish) tasted slightly fishy The one really fine dish, the whole red snapper with spicy sauce, boasted plenty of flavor and succulent flesh, but one had to struggle with the small fish to make sure one had removed all the bones. (4503 Greenville at Yale 373-6138, Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner daily 5-10:30. MC, V, AE. $$)

Siam. Gone from the scene for more than two years, Siam has returned in a new location. The signature dishes that made the original Siam’s reputation are as good as ever the pork satay comes with peerless curried peanut sauce, the spring rolls are commendable, the beef salad is rolling in leaves of fresh mint, and pud Thai, a dish of rice noodles with shrimp, ground peanuts, and scrambled egg, tastes better here than anywhere. With its new amenities and more professional service, Siam is one of Dallas’s all-time great Asian restaurants. (Northwest Corners Shopping Center, 2415 Northwest Highway #108 [accessible from Harry Hines]. 358-3122. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun 5-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)


Bubba’s. Forget the catfish, forget the chicken-fried steak, forget the vegetables (especially the amazingly tasteless mashed potatoes) All of these things are beside the point. At Bubba’s you will be wanting the fried chicken, a high-rise yeast roll or two, and the fruit cobbler Order this sacred trinity of Southern food, and you will be rewarded with a matchless high-cholesterol, high-carbohydrate repast. You could drive through at Bubba’s and take your order home, but that would deprive you of hanging out in the lipstick-red booths that punctuate the black-and-white deco decor. (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. $)

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Celebration. My friend suggested that we should have an argument at dinner to make Celebralion authentically family-style. Even if you can’t manage to stage a family feud. Celebration is likely to live up to its billing. The simple concept-Southern fare, with salad, rolls, muffins, vegetables, and most entrées in all-you-can-eat quantities- packs them in every night of the week. The delectable, if over-sweetened, little biscuits and muffins and the immense wooden bowl filled with green salad would be enough for those of normal appetite. Still, most patrons press on to such entrees as pot roast (Mom never did better) or chicken-fried steak (Mom did much better) and vegetables {broccoli, squash, and mashed potatoes on our visit). For dessert, peach cobbler was pleasingly doughy and cinnamon-scented. Celebration’s rustic, woody setting is comfortable, and service is pleasant and efficient. (4503 W Lovers Lane. 351-5681. Lunch: daily 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5-11, Sun 11 am-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Crescent City. Crescent City serves the best muffa-letta sandwich in the area. It may well be the only muffaletta sandwich in the area, but this is not to detract from the accomplishment For those who haven’t been to Central Grocery on Decatur Street in New Orleans, a definition of a muffaletta sandwich is in order. Crescent City’s version consists of a round loaf of chewy, sesame seed-topped bread filled with ham. salami, three kinds of cheeses, and a mixture of marinated, chopped olives and vegetables. There are other things on the menu-including laudable oyster and shrimp poor boy sandwiches and eminently skippable French bread pizzas – but the muffaletta is the reason to make the trek. The beignets and cafe au lait, while reasonably good, are no rivals to Cafe du Monde’s. Service is in the quick and “hon”style tradition. (10819 Garland Rd. 321-1613. Daily 8 am-10 pm. MC, V. $)

Highland Park Cafeteria. We don’t know why the Dallas Parkway branch of this venerable local institution can’t quite keep up the standards of the original place. Perhaps the demand isn’t there – we notice you can seldom get the signature spinach salad with horse* radish at the far North Dallas location. And fried chicken, usually definitive on Knox, is often soggy and tasteless uptown. But even at the lesser branch, you can come away feeling coddled by Southern hospitality We love to make a meal of such regional delights as chicken and dumplings, collard greens, yams with marshmallows, and lemon pie. The German chocolate cake is also worth the calories (4611 Cole, 526-3801. Sakowitz Village, 5100 Belt Line at Dallas Pkwy, Suite 600, 934-8800. Mon-Sat 11:30 am-2 pm & 5:30-8 pm at Cole location, Mon-Sat 11 am-8 pm, Sun 10.45am-3 pm at Sakowitz Village location. No credit cards; MC, V, AE for takeout and buffet orders of more than $10. $) ,

Steaks, Burgers, Etc.

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D Del Frisco’s. In this age of Perrier, fish, and steamed vegetables, every so often it is important to balance the system with red wine, beef, and baked potatoes. Del Frisco’s, a straight-ahead steak house with premium fare and prices to match, is made for just such occasions. An appetizer of shrimp remoulade was as good a version as you’ll find this side of New Orleans (which happens to be where owner Del Frisco hails from). I was quite happy with my softball-sized eight-ounce Me! until I fasted the twelve-ounce rib-eye that my partner in cholesterol had ordered. This was a steak to remember- a supremely flavorful piece of meat. Some things to bear in mind: your steak will arrive in a pool of melted butter unless you nix this idea Side dishes are ordered a la carte, and in portions immense enough for four. And bread pudding fans are advised to plan their meal to allow for Del Frisco’s version with raisins, coconut, and Jack Daniel’s sauce. (4300 Lemmon. 526-2101. Mon-Thur 5 pm-10 pm. Fri & Sat 5-11. Sun 5 pm-9 pm MC. V, AE. $$$)

Lawry’s The Prime Rib. For those who like their meal and potatoes dished up with a maximum of show, this is the place In the elegant setting (somewhat funereal, appropriate to the location’s former use as a mortuary), waitresses masquerading as chambermaids from Upstairs, Downstairs spin salads over bowls of ice, and carvers wheel around great chrome carts bearing beef. The only choice of entree in the evening is in the size of the slice of roast – we favor the thickest, “Dallas” cut, complete with bone, and warn against anything cooked past medium. Accompaniments and desserts are generally mediocre at best, but the baronial camp-iness of the place lends charm to the beef. (3008 Maple. 521-7777 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2, dinner Mon-Thur 6-10:30, Fri 6-11:30. Sat 5:30-11:30, Sun 5-10; Sun brunch: 11-2:30. All credit cards. $$$)

Las Colinas/Mid Cities

Cedars Village Cafe. The Cedars, a Lebanese cafe, is wedged between retail shops and across the parking lot from a teen-infested Taco Bell drive-through. But park the car and take the few steps over to a new world of take-out You can take-out, but we prefer not to. Rather, we’re inclined to take a bottle of wine (the café is dry but you can bring your own} and have a leisurely meal inside on the patio chairs and table-a sort of urban Picnic. Everything on the limited menu is worth a try. but the eggplant dip is especially praiseworthy. And as far as the prices go. you can’t go wrong when a complete meal for two has a hard lime reaching ten dollars. (6801 Green Oaks Plaza, Suite 360, 5301 W I-20. (817) 483-1988. Mon-Sat 11-11. Sun noon-9. All credit cards. $$)

D Enjolie. Although we have recently suffered from underdone lobster and unimaginative sauces, there are still enough delightful touches like the tart grapefruit sorbet, the selection of French cheeses, and the chocolate truffles to make a visit to Enjolie extremely rewarding. (Mandalay Four Seasons Hotel, 221 £ 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. $$$$)

D Revisits

Tandoor. Fighting words for a fan of non-Western cuisines. “You wouldn’t like it.” Intrigued by the idea of jeera pani, a harmless-sounding aperitif of cumin, mint, and lemon water on Tandoor’s menu, we practically had to arm-wrestle our waitress to obtain a glass of the advised-against liquid. One by one, we three die-hard gastronomic tough guys tasted humiliation as we choked down a sulfurous concoction that could have passed for Trinity River water. Our waitress whisked away the evidence of our defeat, and we moved on to a superior assortment of appetizers: minced lamb patties, vegetables fried in chickpea batter, poiato/chili patties, turnovers with potatoes and peas, and cheese fritters stuffed with mint chutney. A tomato and coconut milk soup provided a pleasurable interlude before our main dishes, which were a relative let-down: tough curried lamb, stightly overcooked tandoori chicken, and dull cheese and vegetable dumplings. Tandoor’s setting, with dim lighting and blue walls, is plain but pleasant. (532 Fielder North Plaza, south of 1-30, Arlington. 261-6604. Lunch Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-10:30; brunch: Sat & Sun 11:30-2:30. $$0

Fort Worth

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

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

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 consis-tent Incase you haven’t heard, the standard Mexican dinner is the big specially 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 cou-ple 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 hold-outs against tradition, a version of fajitas called bistec is a worthy (and the only) alternative. (2201 N Com-merce. (817) 626-4356 Mon-Fri 11 am-2:30 pm & 5-10:30 pm, Sat 11-11. Sun 1-10 pm. No credit cards. $$)

Juanita’s. The Juanita in the restaurant’s name is the wife of novelist Dan Jenkins The food served in her pretty establishment is interesting, but inconsistent at this point. It ranges from blackened redfish to heavy-on-the-ancho-chiles enchiladas to shrimp in “fiery” garlic butter that lacked detectable fire. The dessert of choice is a Dove Bar- high-quality ice cream covered with a thick layer of dark chocolate. (115 W Second. (817) 335-1777. Mon-Thur 11 am-1 am, Fri 17 am-2 am. Sat noon-2 am. Sun noon-1 am. MC. V, AE. $$)

Michel. Is there no escape from blackened redfish? This Paul Prudhomme-populanzed menace to restaurant menus has infiltrated even the classically French confines of menus like Michel’s Happily, however, there were no other unseemly lapses on my last visit to this handsome, subdued restaurant. We passed on the $38 50 fixed-price menu de degustation and ordered a la carte instead. Practically everything was up to par: salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, walnuts, and creamy Stilton dressing; veal pate with hazelnuts; warm lobster terrine with beurre blanc-champagne sauce; steamed Maine lobster and crab meat in an orange, celery, and saffron sauce; pheasant breast sautéed with port sauce; crème brulée and what was described as a raspberry shortcake but was ac-tually a Bavarian cream The only disappointment was the grilled veal scallopini with a cilantro coulis, which had a weird dried-herbal aftertaste. Service was im-pressively discreet and efficient (3851 Camp Bowie. (817) 732-1231. Tue-Sat 6-10 pm. Closed Sun & Man. Jackets and ties required. MC, V, AE. $$$$)

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 pm, 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 re-turned to snatch the plate away, saying that this order would never do. She returned just moments later with some of the plumpest crustaceans we’ve seen in a long time. Lying on a puffy bed of pilaf. the shrimp made a big hit at our table. (1660 S University. (817) 336-0815. Lunch Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon & Tue 5-9, Wed-Sat 5-10 Closed Sun. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)

D Saint-Emllion. Proprietor Bernard Tronche grew up in Saint-Emilion, a village in France’s Bordeaux area. Happily for the sake of Fort Worth residents, he moved to Cowtown and opened a charming restaurant that serves the best straight-ahead French food in Fort Worth or Dallas Considering the four-course fixed price of $20 per person-an aston-ishing bargain by Dallas standards – it’s surprising that more Dallasites don’t make the trek. The last time I did, the results were impressive A thoughtfully put together salad (leaf lettuce, radicchio. watercress, walnuts, and bits of bacon dressed with walnut oil). textbook lobster bisque, rich spinach cannelloni, and creditable snails in garlic butter made for a great start (Order the last with the boneless quail and you’ve got the snail-and-quail special.) Actually, the over-complicated quail stuffed with Belgian endive was the one entrée I was less than taken with, Juicy swordfish provencal and nicely roasted duck with cherry sauce were all one could ask for. For dessert, I would advise passing on the fluffy, lightweight chocolate mousse and opting for the extraordinary crème caramel. (3617 W Seventh. (817) 737-2781. Mon-Fri 11:30am-2 pm & 6-10 pm, Sat 6-10 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards.)

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