EATING AROUND KATHLEEN’S: WHERE DOWN-HOME AND NEW WAVE MEET

Also: Toscana and Chattanooga Cafe

Kathleen’s Cafe and Bar



Kathleen’s is a user-friendly cross between down-home American cooking and upscale New American cuisine. You can start your meal with hearty, homey meatball soup and end it with an old-fashioned chocolate chip cookie still warm from the oven, but the menu also lists New Wave faves like duck breast pizza. It’s open for dinner and has a full bar including several wines by the glass, but the Lovers Lane location makes it a great lunch spot, so we tried it both ways.

There’s no interior design to speak of-an eclectic collection of posters, art, and knick-knacks decorate the yellow walls, but the candlelit rooms are cozy at night. We started dinner with a bowl of venison chili served with cream over one of Kathleen’s terrific herb biscuits (she used to have a bakery and it shows). We also tried the artichoke tart, which was large enough to have been a meal by itself. Its rich filling was slightly overpowered by mustard, but the cheddar cheese pastry was great. Dinner salads were a mix of lettuces, including iceberg, dressed with a slightly sweet, olive-laden vinaigrette. An entrée of seafood lasagna was filled with shrimp, salmon, and lots of cheese and smothered with a thick, rich tomato sauce; another plate of pecan-smoked chicken held a moist breast accompanied by hot and sweet Italian sausages lending spice.

At lunch, the servings were generous again: the smoked chicken salad was a mountain of lettuce, peppers, chicken chunks, and crumbled feta, and the red and green pesto pizza (with what appeared to be canned mushrooms), overloaded with cheese on a too-thin crust, was plenty for two. The real winner for lunch was the grilled meat loaf sandwich served on sourdough bread. Hot pecan pie outshone the chocolate hazelnut torte.

Service at dinner was friendly but confused; the service at lunch was excruciatingly slow. This is a family-run place-Kathleenand her husband, Robert Ellington, taketurns cooking and his father tends bar andplays the genial host. With a little fine-tuning, Kathleen’s could be a welcome low-key addition to Lovers Lane. 4424 Lovers Lane. 691-2355. Lunch Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner Mon-Sat 5-10. Inexpensive to moderate. MC,V, AE. -Mary Brown Malouf



Toscana



This restaurant in far, far North Dallas seems to bring high-end Italian dining to a new part of town. The atmosphere is plush in an old-fashioned sort of way, and there are waiters who manage a professional style-Toscana’s even has separate cocktail waitresses. The food here, though, is also more old-fashioned than deluxe.

There are some nice touches here, like the availability of fresh mussels. But the cooking generally doesn’t match the expectations raised by the setting. Soup or salad comes with a main course, and it seems safer to take the salad-fish and clam chowder tasted too fishy, and minestrone didn’t have the complexity that makes this one of the world’s great soup creations. Two of the dishes we ordered, cannelloni and chicken parmi-giana, came trapped in a web of melted cheese that had hardened to an almost uncut-table rubberiness. The best of the entrées we sampled was the shrimp Fra Diavolo, in a tomatoey sauce over pasta: not too spicy, but lots of earthy garlic taste.

Desserts are not memorable-probably the tastiest is the cannoli, a tube of fried pastry with a sweet, gooey filling. 17610 Midway Rd, at the corner of Trinity Mills and Midway. 248-3737. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner 5-10 Mon-Thur, 5-11 Fri & Sat. MC, V, AE. Moderate. N

-W.L. Taitte



Chattanooga Cafe



This little mostly Italian restaurant in part of the space Piaf’s used to occupy seems misguided in lots of ways, starting with the choice of its name. Supposedly the place is named after a village in Italy, but why confuse the public, which is certainly going to associate the word with a city in Tennessee? The setting has its charms, including brick and plants, and it is in a bustling location across from Travis Walk and in the midst of lots of other popular bars and restaurants. But Chattanooga Cafe was mostly deserted on our visits. Even so, the help manages to make the few straggling customers feel as if they have to compete for its spaced-out attentions. We sampled the only appetizer available on one evening, the fried tortellini, and found them tasty. The selections on the salad bar, however, were skimpy and bedraggled.

The pizza came topped with both white and yellow cheese, but the crust had that cardboard tastelessness that the mass-market chains turn out. The meatballs served with the overcooked spaghetti were chewy and also didn’t have much taste. The New York strip steak was cooked to order, but seemed dried out.

The most pleasant memories we tookaway from Chattanooga Cafe were thedesserts. The chocolate truffle cake and thefresh raspberry tart both seemed appropriateendings for more elegant meals than thosethey were following. But even our memoriesof these confections were marred by thelength of time it took the waitress to get themto the table and then to add up the bill. 4527 Travis. 522-5963. Lunch Mon-Fri 11-2:30;dinner Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri 5:30-11,Sun 5-10:30; open Sat 11-11. All credit cards. Inexpensive to moderate. -W.L.T.



RESTAURANTS



BARBECUE & BURGERS



Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Que. Service at Blue Ribbon is do-it-yourself-amble down the cafeteria line, pile your plate with terrific ribs, slow-cooked beef and ham, and spicy sausage, your choice of hot or mild beans, German potato salad, or crunchy cole slaw, then pick up your longneck and head for a table. After a few bites and a few bars of “Rose of San Antone,’ you’ll forget that’s Mockingbird Lane outside the door. 316 Hillside Village (Mockingbird and Abrams). 823-5524. Inexpensive.

The Bronx. The Bronx’s menu of top-notch burgers (the guacamole and bacon burger is a favorite) and omelettes is augmented by blackboard specials. On a recent visit, we started with potato skins, gooey with melted cheese, and then attempted to finish a hunk of Mom-style meat loaf, covered with onion- and pepper-filled tomato sauce. Garden lasagna was delicious, loaded with all sorts of vegetables and so rich with cheese you didn’t miss the meat. 3835 Cedar Springs. 521-5821. Inexpensive.

Cisco Grill. Both soups we tried were terrific-the baked potato soup was full of skin-on potato chunks and generously topped with melted cheese, crumbled bacon, and scallions. The tortilla soup was a hearty, spicy version with big pieces of avocado and tomatoes and lots of cheese and tortillas. Both are available by the cup or bowl. Cisco’s burgers, served on well-toasted sesame buns, are big; the bacon-cheddar burger we tried had plenty of both. 6630 Snider Plaza. 363-9506. Inexpensive.

Ribby’s. This new, neon, drive-through barbecue shack has two, count ’em. two tables on the premises. First-timers will want the rib sampler. with small portions of three kinds: marinated, beef, and original. The cole slaw is exceptional; the beans and bread are not. 6515 E Northwest Hwy. 361-5555. Inexpensive.

Riscky’s Barbeque. Riscky’s smoked catfish is an out-and-out Texas triumph. Our appetizer portions, a quartet of satiny fillet ribbons, were the stuff of which memories are made; if the whole-fish version offered as an entree is as good. I see no reason to order anything else on the menu. Not that there’s anything wrong with Riscky’s beef. pork, or chicken-all were top-quality meats, nicely spiked with the spice mix the menu calls “Riscky dust” before being slow-smoked in the traditional manner. Honest red beans, bland creamy cole slaw, skins-on French fries were all fresh: onion rings were crisp-battered and almost greaseless. Potato salad was a textureless disappointment. 1701 N Market, Suite 104. 742-7001. Inexpensive to moderate.

Roscoe’s Easy Way. When the Easy Way moved from Lovers Lane to Lemmon Avenue, the faithful were worried. There was no need for consternation. Though the setting is now slicker, the rule of ordering still applies: stick to the barbecue and you’ll be happy 5420 Lemmon. 528-8459. Inexpensive.

Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse In Texas, a barbecue place is rated by the quality of its sliced beef on a bun. and beef on a bun is why Sonny Bryan’s stays on top of the barbecue heap. Yes, there are those who love the ribs and those who. inexplicably, love the inch-thick, hard-crusted onion rings Still, the heart of the matter is the beef and Sonny’s beef is the best. Piled a couple of inches thick, the slices are a study in good barbecue-from the charred outside to the bright red smoke band to the pink-brown interior; this beef is rich and tender and simple, all at once. 2202 Inwood. 357-7120. Inexpensive.



CAJUN



Arcadia Bar & Grill. The Cajun dishes in this funky little bar equal a lot of the best versions in Louisiana itself. The light-colored gumbo is unorthodox, but it and the red beans and rice are both terrific. The fried oysters are large and perfectly crisp, and the barbecued shrimp are better than those served these days at Pascal’s Manale in New Orleans, the restaurant that invented this spicy, buttery dish. Even the garlic bread, dripping with pungently herbed butter, is outstanding here. 2114 Greenville Ave. 821-1300. Inexpensive.

Cafe Margaux. This once stellar new-style Cajun restaurant had lately devolved into confusion, the menu a patchwork of leftover ideas from failed ventures (spa food from Margaux Natural, trendy American from Agnew’s Grill) and former chefs. On my last visit this eclectic list had been pruned a little; it was focused more on what was originally done best here: contemporary Cajun cuisine. An appetizer of Cajun popcorn (fried crawfish meat) was hot and crunchy (accompanying sherry sauce was bland), crawfish étouffée was good, if a trifle spicy, and the crawfish and shrimp enchiladas were terrific. Service was smooth, but the room is strangely soulless. 3710 Rawlins. 520-1985. Moderate.

Crescent City Cafe. The menu here is limited, but what they serve is some of the best Cajun food in Dallas. The barbecued shrimp-served with bib and fingerbowl-are a fine, messy, spicy version of Manale’s original dish, great with an ice-cold Dixie beer. The oyster loaf is stuffed with fat fried shellfish, and the muffaletta gets my vote for Dallas’s best sandwich, a chewy loaf of fresh-baked Italian bread piled with olive salad, salami, provolone. ham, and mozzarella. The beignets, served with honey, reminded me more of sopapillas than the fried wonders of Café du Monde, but they tasted fine with a big cup of cafe au lait. I just wish Crescent City were still open for breakfast. .. 2730 Commerce. 745-1900. Inexpensive.

Louisiana Purchase. The crawfish étouffée (available in two portion sizes) was sufficiently authentic to cause our Louisiana relatives to want to come back. The fried shrimp, oysters, and catfish are as good as any place around. Lots of the dishes, though, as at other putative Cajun places, are simply too hot for most tastes-beware the gumbo and especially the barbecued shrimp. 2901 N Central Expwy at Parker Road, Plano. 422-2469. Moderate.



CARIBBEAN



Bahama Bob’s. Crunchy sweet onion rings, conch fritters, and plantain chips, slices of the blandly sweet fruit in a spicy, crisp coating, were all good. Entrées were less pleasing: our friendly waitress warned us that the Jamaican jerk chicken was hot-very hot-but she didn’t say it was so heavily spiced you couldn’t actually finish it. which it was. On the other side of the coin, my companion’s coconut shrimp were so sweet he could only eat a few of them; they might have been better as an appetizer. The black beans and rice that accompanied the meal were fine. 302 N Market. 655-2627. Moderate.



CHINESE



Chin Big Wong. Dim sum seekers flock here during peak lunch hours on weekends, so expect a wait, and expect it to be worth it. Carts of goodies roll by: steamed dumplings, sate beef sticks, shrimp toast, spring rolls, barbecued pork. Most plates are $1.50. and will provide tastes for three people. 9243 Skillman, Suite 104. 343-0545. Inexpensive.

Crystal Pagoda. Among the appetizers is one of the city’s best versions of Bon Bon chicken (shredded meat topped with a paste of peanuts and hot peppers). The Hunan lamb and the shrimp with cashew nuts are also memorable. But the crispy duck is a major disappointment: not nearly crisp enough and almost tasteless. 4516 McKinney. 526-3355. Moderate.

Han-Chu. Still one of the handsomest Chinese places in town, with its sleek black decor, Han-Chu is one of the better purveyors of the cuisine, too. Standard dishes like the spring rolls can be a disappointment, but the golden coin shrimp proved a worthy appetizer. Among the entrées. Shang-hai smoked pork stir-fried with vegetables is an unusual standout, and the tangerine beef is one of the best versions in town: tender, pillowy pieces of beef in a sauce not too sweet or loo cloy ing. Caruth Plaza, 9100 N Central Expwy at Park Lane, Suite 191. 691-0900. Moderate.

Hao’s. The kitchen uses almost no MSG. which gives many of the dishes a uniquely fresh taste. Almost all the stir-fries come with a bevy of fresh vegetables, including broccoli and snow peas and bell peppers. The food at Hao’s is well prepared, but many of the dishes tend to look and taste alike-even those that are supposed to be spicy, like the beef gui and the garlic shrimp. The Mandarin chicken does have an interesting texture and a refreshing lemon sauce, and the lightly flavored, egg-colored fried rice is a standout. The only real failure among the dishes we tried here was the Chinese chicken salad-something like a taco salad with ro-maine and sesame seeds, about which the less said the better. 8440 Abrams. 343-3998. 6912 Snider Plaza. 361-7970. Inexpensive to moderate.

Hong Kong Royale. The barbecued duck will probably be too fatty for most Occidental tastes, but the special Chinese soup will make lots of converts to authenticity-a hearty beef broth filled with tender, bone-in chunks of meat, bok choy, and other, more unusual Chinese vegetables. Two of the best-prepared Chinese dishes we have been served in Dallas are the scallops in a potato nest and the fresh whole sole steamed under a blanket of black beans, cilantro. garlic, and scallions. These delights don’t come cheap. The sole costs $25 (worth it if you’ve got it). And, come to think of it, even the noontime dim sum can mount up in price awfully fast here. 221 W Post, Richardson. 238-8888 Moderate to expensive.

May Dragon. The drive-in look of May Dragon, along the restaurant strip on Belt Line in Addison, doesn’t prepare you for the sophistication within. A small labyrinth of intimate dining spaces in subtle colors is the setting for some of the best-prepared Chinese food in town, served with the attention due the Last Emperor himself. The menu holds few surprises, but even a doddering standard like moo goo gai pan offers delicately cut meat and immaculately fresh vegetables. 4848 Belt Line at lnwood. 392-9998. Inexpensive to moderate.

Plum Blossom. Chef Steve Chiang’s innovative menu has some real successes and some dull spots. We sampled the Great Dynasty Banquet on our last visit, and were impressed by the dish of wonton filled with shrimp and chicken and stir-fried with Chinese greens. The combination of lobster, crab claws, and prawns was enhanced by a black bean sauce treated in a style reminiscent of French cooking-the seasonings were blended together smoothly rather than left discrete, as is the Chinese wont. But we were less impressed by the gamy-tasting frog legs and flabby-textured rabbit meat in orange peel chili sauce. Loews Anatole Hotel. 2201 Stem-mons Fwy. 748-1200. Expensive.

Restaurant Jasmine. Among the unusual appetizers is a wonderful vegetable roll, surrounded by the crunchiest casing imaginable. The shrimp rolls, on the other hand, are glutinous and fishy-tasting from their seaweed wrappings. Main courses include macadamian chicken that could have used a few more macadamia nuts instead of so much canned bamboo, and abalone Imperial that had chewy, canned-tasting abalone but exquisitely cooked scallops and shrimp just touched with ginger. The single best dish we have sampled here is Eggplant Delite; the single worst, a pastily undercooked sesame apple dessert. 4002 Belt Line Rd, Suite 200, Addison. 991-6867. Moderate.

Uncle Tai’s Hunan Yuan. People in Dallas seem to have forgotten about our local branch of the restaurant the great Chinese chef, formerly a star in New York, set up in Texas. Can it be that Dallasites just don’t want to pay the admittedly steep prices, no matter how fine the food? There can be a few slip-ups here (some crab in a seafood dish tasted a mite fishy). And the portions are smallish despite the high cost. But make no mistake: Uncle Tai’s Beef is soaked in brine so that it is almost like ham. deep-fried, then stir-fried with hot peppers, and the results are spectacular. Appetizers like crispy quail and grilled salmon with hot oil are also outstanding. Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy, Suite 3370. 934-9998. Expensive.



FRENCH/CONTINENTAL



Café Le Jardln. For starters, we found Café Le Jardin devoid of pomp or pretension: service was smooth and properly timed, plate presentations were pretty and polished, but the intimidation factor normally inescapable in French restaurants was totally absent here. The food was in sync with the ambience. Crab-meat-stuffed mushrooms brimmed with texture and flavor, as did a quartet of shrimp sautéed with vegetables julienne. Molten brie bulged divinely from its fruit-garnished puff pastry. A sautéed veal chop was a tender monster, anointed with mushrooms in a rich cream sauce; filet mignon au poivre vert was fist-sized, broiled rare and bracingly bathed in an assertive sauce studded with green peppercorns. Créme brulée was an appropriately light version, but poached pear was overkill, the fruit lost beneath a deep spill of chocolate over ice cream. 4900 McKinney Ave. 526-0570. Moderate to expensive.

Chateaubriand. The Oysters Rockefeller we sampled would have been perfect if their spinach-graced succulence had not been obscured by a too-heavy layer of cheese, and vichyssoise delivered a surprise punch of pepper that outlasted its cool, fresh flavor. Crab-meat crepes, though, were near-ethereal, plumped with moist, fresh crab meat and mushroom slices in delicately lemoned sauce. Our entrees were superior. Veal Marsala, pounded paper-thin, was tender in heady wine sauce, flawlessly complemented by lemon-spritzed wild rice. And a pair of double loin lamb chops, broiled rare, hardly needed the steak knife that came with them. 3701 W Northwest Hwy (at Marsh Lane). 351-2248. Expensive.

Chez Gerard. Though my last visit here began and ended on a high note, the effect was marred by slightly lackluster entrées. A duck liver and spinach Napoleon was flawless- still-rosy slices of liver layered with bright green spinach and flaky pastry-and the onion soup was everything onion soup can be. At the other end, crème caramel was a precise balance of bittersweet syrup and lightly sweet custard. But the grilled swordftsh was slightly dry, and the fennel sauce bathing a fillet of taramia was so subtle it was almost bland, which the accompanying potato and vegetables frankly were. 4444 McKinney. 522-6865. Moderate to expensive.

The French Room. From salads (green bean and green salad with goat cheese croutons) to entrées (salmon and rack of lamb) to dessert (apple tart). the food on our last visit was all that one could ask for. What’s more, the sommelier is both congenial and well informed; he is as happy to advise customers on a single glass of wine as a rare bottle. Adolphus Hotel, 1321 Commerce. 742-8200. Expensive.

Frenchy Cafe. The menu is primarily a list of hot or cold sandwiches along with daily specials; we tried the beef bourguignon, a tender, flavorful stew served over buttered noodles, and a hot ham-and-cheese on croissant. Don’t miss dessert-the son (who waited on us) makes the excellent chocolate mousse; his dad (who walked us to the door) makes the lovely apple tart. 5950-C Royal Ln. 369-1235. Inexpensive to moderate.

Jonathan’s. Dinner started out disconcertingly when our waiter reversed our drink order and forgot who belonged to which appetizer. But the piping hot Australian lamb chops in rosemary butter and a dish of tomato linguette with diced red pepper and Italian sausage in cream cheered us up. And an order of baked Boston bluefish was nicely cooked; the leek, carrot, and celery slivers topping the fillet were crisp-tender. 2917 Fairmount. 954-0028. Moderate.

La Madeleine. Despite the dependably grumpy service, the good food and usual hustle and bustle make this bakery and cafe a pleasant place to eat alone-a rare thing to find for the first two meals of the day, nearly impossible for the evening. The favorite breakfast order is pastry and excellent coffee; for lunch and dinner, the lineup includes a variety of soups, salads, hot and cold sandwiches, and what we call “real food’-that is, a hot meat, and vegetables. On my last visit this was winey beef bourguignon. accompanied by a mild Caesar salad and followed by (part of) a Napoleon. 3072 W Mockingbird. 696-6960. 3906 Lemmon. 521-0182. Inexpensive.

Le Brussels. This little Belgian restaurant in Snider Plaza is a real discovery. We started with a cup of the commendable bouillabaisse accompanied by pungent aioli and garlic toasts, and smoked rainbow trout with zippy horseradish cream. From the entrées we ordered lamb chops in mustard crust, steak au poivre vert, and a mixed grill (ribeye. chicken breast, and a lamb chop). AH the food was forthright, with no frills and lots of flavor. We splurged on several desserts to share along with our pot of Belgian coffee: the day’s special tarte tatin. with its pile of caramel apple chunks, and the luscious chocolate mousse took the prize. 6615 Snider Plaza. 739-1927. Moderate.

Three Vikings. The look of this place is very light, with lots of pale blue and bleached pine. There’s nothing light about the food, though-which is good or bad. depending on how you feel about Scandinavian/Continental food. For my part. I am immoderately fond of the Swedish meatballs, moderately fond of the Finnish shrimp chowder, and not fond at all of the heavy-on-the-beamaise veal Oscar. 4537 Cole. 559-0987. Moderate.



GERMAN/EASTERN EUROPE



The Chimney. It’s still crowded after all these years at this doyenne of North Dallas restaurants. The food-Middle European without much specific ethnic emphasis-is well prepared, if unsubtle. The special appetizer, a crêpe holding a bounteous harvest of seafood, tastes too strongly of capers, for example. The hefty portion of venison tenderloin is cooked to a turn, but the reddish sauce adds little in the way of flavor. Most of the atmosphere comes from the delicate playing of the pianist at the baby grand-The Chimney is one of the few restaurants where live music is an asset rather than a liability. 9759 N Central Expwy. 369-6466. Expensive.

Hofstetter’s Hofctetter’s half-dozen appetizers and seventeen entrées run a daily-changing gamut of fresh creativity applied to traditional dishes, most of them Austrian, but some straying definitely Frenchward. You might start with steamed mussels, bathed in a bracing tarragon-Dijon sauce, then proceed to rosy slices of duck breast, crisp-skinned and sided with walnuts in thyme-scented cassis sauce, with a Zinfondel-poached pear Finishing off the plate. On the more traditional side, pork tenderloin medallions dolloped with Montrachet cheese in port sauce are partnered with deiec-tably tender spaetzle arid a marinated cucumber salad. Plaza at Bachman Creek, 3830 W Northwest Hwy, Suite 390. 358-7660. Inexpensive to moderate.



D REVISITS

Kuby’s at the Brewery. The West End Kuby’s is a for different enterprise from the original delicatessen/lunchroomin Snider Plaza. This is a full-scale German restaurantspread out over two floors, complete with beer-hall decor,an oompah accordion player, and waitresses with Germanaccents (not to mention a good selection of German beers).The menu is short on appetizers, though the hefty littlepotato pancakes and the goulash soup are both tasty. Kuby’sfamous sausages are among the best of the main dishes,along with the beef rouladen and the smoked pork chop(listed on the menu as Kassler Rippchen). The sauerbraten(pot roast cooked with vinegar) is made from a fine cut ofbeef but was not as tender as it should be. And why serveboth purple cabbage and sauerkraut as accompanimentsto the same dishes? The tastiest dessert is not the vauntedapple strode! or even the Black Forest cake but the almondtorte. 703 McKinney. 954-0004. Moderate. -W.L.T.



GREEK



Crackers. The Crackers I visited recently seemed immensely improved since I last dined in its former incarnation. Appetizers were a benediction; tiropetes. the puff pastry-wrapped triangles of feta and ricotta cheeses, symphonic in flavor; tzatziki, a garlic-spiked yogurt cucumber dip, fresh and lively on small wedges of pita bread. Souvlaki was skewered succulence, its tenderloin cubes zipped with olive oil-and-lemon marinade. Baby lamb chops, a special of the day, were bite-sized sorcery, broiled rare as ordered despite our waiter’s dark warnings that lamb should always be cooked well done. Salads, side dishes, and a dessert of warm peach cobbler were all fresh and satisfying. 2621 McKinney Ave. 871-7268 Inexpensive to moderate.

Kostas Cafe. There is no great Greek food in Dallas; in fact, there’s still not much Greek food at all. Accompanied by a glass of retsina and preceded by an order of saganaki, a combination plate at Kostas is as close as you can get to Greece, gustatorily speaking. All the elements are there: the dolma (meat-stuffed vine leaves) were tasty, though their tenderness bordered on mushiness: the souvlaki (grilled iamb chunks) and grilled shrimp were authentically seasoned and nicely cooked; pastitsio, a slightly sweet, tomatolaced casserole of meat and macaroni, was delicious, and the square of spanokopita (layered spinach, filo pastry, and cheese) was savory and flaky. However, everything, even the saganaki. flamed several feet before our eyes, was too cool and the salad was short on feta, olives, and the aromatic oil that normally make salad one of the glories that is Greece. 4914 Greenville. 987-3225. Inexpensive.

Little Gus’. By day a bare-bones breakfast and burger hangout, this little place spreads blue table linens and adds flowers and candles at night to showcase its talents as a consistently topnotch Greek restaurant. The burgers are swell, but the night fare’s exemplary-a recent visit netted a day’s special of roast lamb slices cradled in deeply flavored wine sauce that could not have been more satisfying. A lofty cube of spinach-laden spanokopita was lighter than mountain air and tasted twice as fresh under papery puff pastry. And the establishment’s trademark potato balls. I’m happy to say, were as delectably cheese-influenced as always. 1916 Greenville. 826-4910. Inexpensive.



INDIAN



Akbar. Usually one of our favorite local Indian restaurants, Akbar disappointed us recently. We don’t like our tandoori chicken overcooked and dried out. but surely no one likes it undercooked, and that was the way it was served to us this time around. The accompanying onion kulcha (bread stuffed with onions and also cooked in the tandoor, which is an Indian clay oven) was undercooked and gooey, too. Even the shrimp cooked with large pieces of pepper were underdone to the point of translucence. 2115 Promenade Center, Richardson. 235-0260. Lunch inexpensive, dinner moderate.

Ashoka. This small Far North Dallas Indian restaurant is the only one we know of that offers a buffet in the evening as well as at lunchtime. When we visited, though, the dishes seemed wanned over and were slow to be replenished, so ordering off the menu seems a better choice. The shrimp curry Bombay and the lamb korma were both beautifully sauced. The Iamb cubes grilled in the tandoor, though, seemed a small portion, and both this dish and the tandoori chicken seemed, surprisingly, a trifle spicy. Prestonwood Creek Shopping Center, 5409 Belt Line. 960-0070. Inexpensive to moderate.

Kebab ’N’ Kurry. A visit to the Walnut Hill K ’N’ K to check out the 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 palak panir (spinach cooked with homemade cheese); flavorful lamb kofta (meatballs in a mild curry sauce); and tender naan (flat bread). 2620 Walnut Hill Ln. 350-6466. Inexpensive to moderate.



ITALIAN



Acapella Cafe. Critics who fretted over the fading decor of Adriano’s in the Quadrangle wouldn’t know the place in its reincarnation as Acapella. They’d recognize the menu, though-with the exception of a handful of additions, it’s the same, with a creative catalogue of pizzas playing the lead, a supporting cast of pastas, and a couple of chicken dishes. A new Hawaiian pizza sounds bizarre-fresh pineapple, coconut, ginger, with whole macadamia nuts and optional cubed ham on great crust-but the sum of the parts is splendid; trust me, and try it. Try. too, one of the new filled pastas; I found the ravioli, fragile squares centered with mild cheese and spinach in rich cream sauce, near-ethereal. 2508 Maple. 871-2262. Inexpensive to moderate.

Caffé Paparazzi. This is the best little Italian restaurant in Dallas since Sergio’s (while it was still in its first location) nearly a decade ago. The main dishes do not sound particularly inventive, but they are cooked with an authority that makes them seem like fresh inspirations. Veal scallops cooked with cheese is a cliché that usually disappoints grandly; here, though, the veal valdostana is sheer poetry, flavored with a leaf of fresh sage. Of the pastas we tried, the penne all’arrabiata was the standout. Desserts at Caffé Paparazzi looked as good as they tasted. We especially enjoyed the amaretto custard and the sliced oranges marinated in liqueur and orange zest. 8989 Forest Lane, Suite 112. 644-1323. Moderate.



D REVISITS

Capriccio. The food still seems as much generalized Continental as it does Italian, but somehow Capriccio has moved up in our estimation since it opened. The appetizer of snails (lumache fantasia) in garlicky sauce under puff pastry proved a terrific opener, and the pastas included a fine fetruccine Carbonara as well as a decent but less convincing spaghetti Capriccio with chicken livers and tomatoes. Both main courses we sampled-veal topped with shrimp and sweetbreads Genovese with prosciutto-were cooked to perfection. The rum cake with meringue rounded out the meal magnificently. The setting-a quaintly remodeled house across from The Crescent-is certainly appealing, and the ardent service only added to the pleasure of the experience. 2616 Maple Ave. 871-2004. Expensive. -W.L.T.



II Sorrento. My roasted red bell peppers with anchovy strips were fairly old-style, lavished with olive oil; shrimp dipped in olive oil and bread crumbs, then broiled, were freshly sauced. Tortellini stuffed with Swiss chard and gilded with walnut sauce were outstanding, and homemade tortellini baked in buttery cream sauce were redolent of fresh Parmesan. Veal scallops with crisp asparagus were commendable, too. but the real debauch came with dessert: a zabaglione of surpassing subtlety and rum cake, a longstanding specialty 8616 Turtle Creek Blvd. 352-8759. Moderate to expensive.

La Ttattoria Lombardi. It’s amazing that the menu here hasn’t seemed to be influenced by the newer bastions of the Lombardi empire. The offerings here haven’t changed much in a decade-crab cannelloni (a mite fishy-tasting), tortellini, dull and undersalted scallops of veal. One newcomer, a special of grilled snapper topped with bright green cream sauce, proved delicious and more than welcome. Desserts tend to be heavy and old-fashioned, too-things like a white chocolate mousse cake (on the dry side) and Sachertorte (a leaden chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream under a chocolate glaze for the icing). 2916 N Hall. 528-7506. Moderate to expensive.

Mario’s. One of the oldest of Dallas’s fancy restaurants seems better than it has in a long time. For appetizers, the cannelloni and the shrimp with mushrooms in a rich cream sauce are standouts. The veal Milanese is crisp and tender, the red snapper Mario perky in its sauce spiked with capers. For dessert, order one of the soufflés-but do so early, because the wait can be long. 135 Turtle Creek Village, Oak Lawn at Blackburn. 521-1135. Expensive.

Massimo da Milano. If there’s a bad item available at this attractive Italian bakery/café, I’ve yet to discover it despite exhaustive research. Although the changing pizza, pasta, and salad offerings are always alluring, more often than not I find myself opting for the focaccia sandwich, round flat bread filled with ham. cheese, leaf lettuce, and tomato slices. For dessert, there are any number of pastries to choose from, but nothing suits a cup of espresso better than the little amaretti cookies. 5519 W Lovers Lane. 351-1426. Inexpensive.

Momo’s Italian Specialties. At this newest Momo’s location-in Piano-the food can be sensational and can mystifyingly miss the mark. A new dish here is the maccheroni alla chitarra-fat. square-cut noodles in an intriguing sauce made with chopped lamb and bell peppers. Alas, the pasta was cooked past limpness into the depths of sog-giness. There are some absolutely wonderful successes to be found here: a seafood salad with scallops and squid redolent of tomato and fruity olive oil. homemade tortelli stuffed with a mixture of four cheeses, and a veal alla piz-zaiola bravely seasoned with anchovy and olive. Each of these is much more adventurous, authentic, and satisfying than anything you can get at almost any other Italian restaurant in the city. Why then does one have to encounter the often soggy pasta, the not quite crisp pizzas, and the grossly over-alcoholic desserts at Momo’s, too? 3309 N Central Expwy, Suite 370 (in the rear of Ruisseau Village), Plano. 423-1066. Moderate to expensive.

Nero’s Italian. Critics should follow their own advice-after touting the pizzas here for years as the best thing on Nero’s menu, we tried tonier offerings on our last visit, with mixed results. Osso Buco, the traditional peasant’s dish of veal shank baked with garlic, tomato, carrot, onion, and herb-seasoned celery, was a hearty, meaty delight. Pork loin Palermo, on the other hand, was a dry and leathery disaster. To our excellent waiter’s credit, he offered to replace it, but we had already progressed through Caesar salad (fresh and nicely seasoned, although overlight on the requisite anchovy accent) and focaccia (disappointingly thick and doughy), and voted to move on to triple-chocolate cake (ambrosial) and fine espresso. 2104 Greenville. 826-6376. Moderate.



D REVISITS

Pizzeria Uno There’s now a second area location for this Chicago-based emporium of deep-dish pizzas. This style is unique, at least hereabouts a rich, buttery crust that doesn’t lose its crispness, filled to the brim and served in the heavy pan it was cooked in. The fillings come in lots of combinations, a number of which don’t even include tomato. We were skeptical about one of the novelty fillings-chicken fajita pizza? (they had to be kidding). But we ordered it on a dare, and it turned out to be the best dish on the menu, with succulent chicken and lots of sweet red peppers 2811 McKinney Ave. 855-0011. 4001 Belt Line, Addison. 991-8181. N Inexpensive to moderate. -W.L.T.



Pomodoro. Our first lunch here was pure delight: sunny minestrone, crisp-vegetable filled and deeply flavored; a salad of caper-strewn pepper strips. Toothsome spinach linguini held a wealth of shell-free clam meat in the freshest herbed tomato sauce imaginable. The second visit’s sampling revealed a few excesses: Bresaola, the famed sun-dried cured beef, was a trifle leathery; mussels and clams cooked with garlic in olive oil were oversalted. Thin-sliced calf’s liver was cooked past the rare I had ordered, but its white wine and onion sauce was delicate: a Cornish game hen, herbed, split, and broiled, was perfect all the way. 2520 Cedar Springs. 871-1924. Inexpensive to moderate.

Ruggari’s. I couldn’t help regretting that no one warned me the soft-shell crab on my appetizer plate had been frozen, not fresh, before its sautéeing in garlic-spiked olive oil, but its texture and taste were acceptable if its rectangular shape was not. Otherwise, everything on our dinner visit touched happy chords, from al dente angel hair pasta with tomato, fresh basil, and garlic to veal scallops sautéed with artichoke hearts and mushrooms in butter. And if I had the chefs recipe for cioppino, I swear I’d open a restaurant myself- the fisherman’s stew of fresh seafoods in spicy marinara sauce was nothing less than sublime. Sweets-cravers can indulge sans sin on a silken crema caramela or extravagantly wicked chocolate mousse cake-all made in-house. 2911 Routh St. 871-7377. Moderate.

Stevie V’s. Every neighborhood should have an Italian restaurant this good. The kitchen turns out the best conventional (as opposed to New Wave) pizzas in Dallas, with crisp, delicate crust, just the right amounts of cheese and sauce, and bountiful toppings like scrumptious homemade sausage. The best of the pastas we tried was the fettuccine with clam sauce. The noodles were perfectly cooked and coated with a rich cream sauce with lots of meaty pieces of clam. Except for pasta and pizza, the only main dishes offered are veal. chicken, and eggplant parmigiana. We opted for the eggplant and found it delicious, if not quite perfectly crisp. The nicest surprise at Stevie V’s is the high quality of desserts; we went out of our minds for the bread pudding-we’ve never had this dish better prepared. 7324 Gaston Ave, Suite 319. 321-9755. Inexpensive.



JAPANESE/KOREAN



Hibachi-Ya Japanese Restaurant. Applause is due for the beef that stars on Hibachi-Ya’s menu along with chicken and shrimp, not only hibachi-grilled but in less familiar traditional Japanese dishes. Best by far was a traditional entrée. Ume steak, meltingly tender filet perfumed by marinating in plum sauce, then grilled and cubed for easy chopsticking. The best appetizers, too. were beef-notably in sirloin tataki. rare slices served with a fruity ponzu sauce. and in hibachi rolls, bite-sized bits of fresh carrot, bell pepper, onion, and pineapple wrapped in sliced sirloin, with teriyaki sauce for dipping. 3850 W Northwest Hwy, Suite 510. 350-1110. Inexpensive.

Korea Home Town. You won’t find many non-Koreans here, and the proprietors don’t speak much English. But by pointing you can have an interesting meal. The set-up of the Spartan tables shows that you are supposed to order one of the versions of Korean barbecue, spelled here pul koki (marinated beef) and pul kalpi (marinated short ribs). Both are grilled right on the table. The adventurous will also enjoy the stir-fried squid and octopus and the wonderful Korean cold vegetables (barely cooked spinach, crisp bean sprouts in sesame oil. several kinds of radish salad). Take cash, because no credit cards are accepted. 10560 Walnut, Suite 600. 272-9909. Inexpensive.



D REVISITS

Korea House/Club Koryo. Under new ownership since our last visit. Korea House seems to be cooking better than ever-we’ve never had better Korean food in Dallas than this. The fried dumpling appetizer was especially flavorful, and the cold Korean-style vegetables (spicy pickled cabbage, bean sprouts, radish, and cucumber) refreshing as could be. The nuggets of fried chicken in dak gui were optimally crunchy and set off by a tantalizingly peppery sauce. The kalbigui (chewy, meaty short ribs) aren’t cooked at the table, but they still have a smoky taste that puts most of the city’s Texas-style barbecue places to shame. 613 Promenade Center, Coit at Belt Line, Richardson. 231-1379. Moderate. N

-W.LT.



Mr. Sushi. The sushi bar’s offerings may be as fine as ever, but a sushi dinner brought to the table had the look of having been made in advance and left to sit for some time before serving. The hot dishes, though, were satisfying-a creditable beef and chicken teriyaki entree was preceded by an extra-fresh toss of crisp strings of carrot and daikon radish, ginger-sparked. And a traditional dinner called Kaiseki involved a ceremonial parade of ten sampler courses. The sweet-but-not-cloying red bean ice cream may have been the best I’ve had. 4860 Belt Line, Addison. 385-0168. Moderate.

Nakamoto. This Piano restaurant (which used to be named Ishi-Sushi) may be the most decked-out Japanese restaurant in the Metroplex. with everything from Samurai armor to flocks of ikebana birds figuring in the decor. The sushi bar offers a nice variety of fish of exemplary freshness. Among the cooked dishes, fish also stands out-the salmon butteryaki has a pleasantly charred exterior and moist meat. Less impressive are the slightly soggy shrimp tempura and tough pork tonkatsu. Don’t try desserts here unless you can fall in love with green tea or red bean ice creams. Ruisseau Village, Suite 360, 3309 N Central Expressway, Plano. 881-0328. Moderate.



MEXICAN

Brazos. Ensalada paraiso, Brazos’s chefs salad, is a meal in itself and a good one. too Grilled entrees come with black beans, rice, and red or green chili: we tried the chili-marinated redfish the first visit, the beef tampiquena the second, and were disappointed both times. The two special entrees were better: red chili-cheese enchiladas were very good, and King Ranch chicken was tasty too. with lots of chicken and tortillas under the gooey cheese and sour cream. 2100 Greenville at Prospect. 821-6501. Moderate.

Casa Rosa. Fried stuffed jalapenos and tortilla soup were good beginners, both more attractively presented than is usual in Mexican restaurants. The chile relleno that followed was breaded too heavily, but the filling and the ranchera sauce were flavorful. Polio en la concha was a rich dish of chicken chunks and slivered peppers smothered in thick cheese and sour cream in a fried flour tortilla shell. 165 In-wood Village (Inwood at Lovers). 350-5227. Moderate.

Garcia’s Caribbean Grill. What is this world coming to? We’ve had Tex-Mex. Mex-Mex. tropical-Mex. and now, from Garcia’s. fish-Mex-their term, I swear it. Your reviewer, for one. has not been waiting breathlessly for cattish enchiladas, but Garcia’s peerless chili con queso- composed of white cheese and spinach, unlikely as it may seem-is alone worth a visit. Plaza at Bachman Creek. 3830 W Northwest Hwy. 358-2664. Inexpensive to moderate.

Gloria’s. Glorias is in our Mexican category because, technically, there is Mexican food available here. But the point of Gloria’s is the Salvadoran fare: tamaies. pupusas. and a licuado du plantano (a plantain milkshake) for dessert. 600 W Davis. 948-3672. Inexpensive.

J. Pepe’s. J. Pepes Mexican food is a cut above most local Tex-Mexeries. and its setting is exceptionally pleasant. These two facts, plus the availability of outdoor seating (the local appetite for margaritas consumed en plein air is apparently boundless), go far to explain the madding crowds found here on weekend nights. 2800 Routh. 871-0366. Inexpensive to moderate.

La Mansion De Blas. This is Deep Ellum’s only Mexican restaurant, and it’s a fun place to go if only because people-watching is great from the little fenced-in patio, and you’re just a hop. skip, and a jump from what’s happenin”. The food has its highs and lows (chicken molé and tamaies were highs, basic beans and nachos were lows), but the hot sauce and pico de gallo are good and hot, the beer is cold, the margaritas are good. and. as I said, the location is great. 2935 Elm. 939-0853. Inexpensive.

Loma Luna Cafe. Blue corn chicken enchiladas were stacked, not rolled, smothered with green chilies. and layered with lots of chicken and cheese. Sandia Range chicken, from the list of grilled items on the menu, was smoked and grilled over pecan wood. Served with Santa Fe-style beans and rice, the chicken was moist and tender even after its double treatment. For dessert, the flan was excellent; the vanilla ice cream covered with cajeta, caramelized goat’s milk, was a delight. 4131 Lomo Alto. 559-4011. Moderate.

Mario’s Chiquita. This Piano outpost of Mario Leal’s mini-empire is-surprise, surprise-very much like his other two restaurants, from the odd color scheme, with its emphasis on skating-rink pink, to the average Tex-Mex offerings to the superior Mexico City-style specialties. Unlike the original Chiquita, Mario’s Chiquita is big enough that getting seated immediately is rarely a problem. 221 W Parker, Suite 400, Piano. 423-2977. Moderate.

Martinez Cafe. This family-run café in a converted house on Routh Street has a comfortable, home-grown feel. The food is Tex-Mex-standard combinations, but of superlative quality and served with a smile. Outstanding chips and salsa and a plate evenly striped with rice, beans, and cheese enchiladas made me happy: flautas and guacamole were equally good. The menu here is what you expect from a good Tex-Mex restaurant; the food is what you hope for. 3011 Routh St. 855-0240. 1900 Preston Rd (Preston Park Village), Plano. 964-7898. Inexpensive.

Mia’s. Mia’s mystique eludes me. The Tex-Mex served here is good and dependable, the service is fast and friendly, but the ambience is elbow-to-elbow and, for me, Mia’s success is its failure. The long lines make you think too hard about just how good those enchiladas are. Are they worth a forty-five-minute wait? Thirty minutes? Fifteen? Or shall we just go someplace else? If you’re a believer, it’s not too much trouble to call ahead and reserve your chile relleno on Tuesdays, and if you want one, that’s what you’ll have to do. 4322 Lemmon Ave. 526-1020. Inexpensive.

On The Border Cafe. This is Dallas’s original fajita factory, and the room has the appropriate Texas feel-lots of cactus and lots of Western memorabilia. We were introduced to a series of waiters before anyone decided to actually take our order, but once it got going, the service was fine and the food was good. Chicken fajita quesadillas were a satisfy ing beginning; cheese enchiladas were a rich version, and beef fajitas were tender and smoky. The bonus was the Border’s burger; grilled to order and sided by jalapeno French fries, it was one of the best I’ve had. 3300 Knox St. 528-5900. Moderate.

Tejas Cafe. Nearest thing to a standout on a recent visit was a quesadilla filled with fresh spinach and other good things along with molten jack cheese. Tortilla soup was salty and soggy, and carne asada. rather than the promised tenderloin filet. was a dry tenderized cut of the sort that goes into fajitas. A Tex-Mex combination plate named for the place pretty well exemplified its culinary character- enchiladas. taco. and standard accompaniments were adequate but undistinguished and. on the whole, rather bland But we did enjoy the honey-drizzled sopapillas. 2909 McKinney. 871-2050. Inexpensive to moderate.



MIDDLE EAST



Hedary’s Lebanese Restaurant. The menu is identical to the original Hedary’s in Fort Worth, every1 dish is fresh and lovingly prepared, and if there’s better Lebanese food anywhere. I’ve yet to find it. The best way to sample the appetizers is to order maza. an array of nine or ten mini-servings ranging from hearty tabuli and delicate hummus to delectably dressed minted cucumber and yogurt, garlicky lettuce, and onion-spiked tomato. Entrées lean tow-ard beef and lamb: we particularly enjoyed kafta. sausage-like patties of fine ground sirloin and savory spices, charbroiled to succulence and folded into a bread loaf. Promenade Center, 15400 Coit, Suite 2500, Richardson. 669-2112. Inexpensive to moderate.



NATURAL



Bluebonnet Cafe. Bluebonnet Cafe is part of Whole Foods Market, and as the name of the establishment indicates, the food tends 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. Check out the strawberry-banana-papaya smoothie and the black bean nachos with white cheese and guacamole. 2218 Greenville. 828-0052. Inexpensive.

Dream Cafe. I find Dream Cafe’s breakfast and brunch dishes head and shoulders above some of their more solemnly nutritious lunch and dinner specialties. In fairness, my samplings of the latter were limited, but a stir-fry of tempeh and polenta cubes with vegetables was disappointing. Japanese noodles tossed with steamed vegetables in tamari-ginger-miso sauce were microbiotically correct but hardly electrifying. What did knock my socks off was a fresh-as-morning omelette delectably filled with chicken, fresh pears, and blue cheese, the sweet fruit and sharp cheese perfect complements to the milder flavors of eggs and white meat. And a Sunday brunch special of strawberry pancakes almost beggars description, the pancakes airy whole wheat folds over sliced ripe berries, the whole affair lavished with whipped butter and warm syrup. 2800 Routh St, Suite 170, in the Quadrangle. 954-0486. Inexpensive.



NEW AMERICAN



Actuelle. The most innovative and consistently exciting cooking at any Dallas restaurant these days is taking place at Actuelle. Everything on the menu here is an adventure, but be sure to try the fish. Chef Victor Gielisse has won two national contests in fish cooking, and the evidence can be found here in the likes of the grilled Norwegian salmon-light as a puff of smoke, crisp as an autumn day. sauced to perfection in a tomato vinaigrette with fresh marjoram. The pear poached in pinot noir swathed in butterscotch sauce makes an equally glorious final touch to a meal. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh. 855-0440. Expensive.

Baby Routh. Chef Rex Hale doesn’t seem to have hit his stride yet with the sometimes recherché inventions of the New Southwestern cuisine on his menu. Some of these are takeoffs on standard dishes: seafood tamales with ancho cream sauce (rather mealy, without the texture of the best tamales) or seafood jambalaya (interestingly high-picante but with a weird vegetable accompaniment masquerading as gumbo z’herbes). An original dish, a thin slice of venison sauteed with a mustard serrano glaze, also failed to excite. Salads lack oomph here these days, but the desserts have plenty of verve. 2708 Routh. 871-2345. Moderate to expensive.



D REVISITS

Beau Nash. With the new direction of executive chef Dan O’Leary (formerly sous chef at the Mansion) and Russell Hodges (formerly sous chef at Routh Street Cafe). Beau Nash seems to have come into its own. Flavors are still California-style assertive, but not jarringly so. A lovely presentation of smoked salmon carpaccio was ringed with translucent slices of sweet soaked onion: “Buffalo” (as in chicken wings) style shrimp was nicely set off by crunchy three-cabbage slaw. Swordfish was delicately crusted with lemon and sided with a creamy opal basil risotto. Only the wimpy Caesar salad with stale-tasting croutons disappointed. The gracious service and relaxed elegance of the room make dining here all it should be. Hotel Crescent Court, 400 Crescent Court, Maple at McKinney. 871-3240. Expensive. -M.B.M.



City Cafe. In a city of fast lanes, this quiet, understated restaurant is a good place to slow down. The lighting is soft, and so is the music: the service is gracious, and the room is easy to look at. That leaves the food to consider and it was well worth it. The menu, which changes every Wednesday, is gently, not jarringly, original: we were especially pleased with the tomato soup, crawfish cakes, and a version of Jamaican hummingbird cake. 5757 W Lovers Lane. 351-2233. Moderate to expensive.



D REVISITS

Dakota’s. Dakota’s is to downtown lunch what Sam’s is toMcKinney Avenue at dinner-the hot spot. Twodifferences-lunching takes less time than dining, so the waitat Dakota’s isn’t bad, and the women here wear suits andcarry briefcases. Dakota’s is a businessman’s-person’s-favorite, but the place is good-looking enough and the foodgood-tasting enough to please anyone. The new fall menufeatures woodsy wild-mushroom-filled ravioli in richGorgonzola cream sauce and pecan-smoked tuna that areperfectly tuned to the season. 600 N Akard. 740-4001. Moderate to expensive. – M.B.M.



Deep Ellum Cafe. This café in Deep Ellum has become a local favorite for all the right reasons-the food is exciting, delicious, and reasonably priced. On my last visit, starters were tops: goat cheese and sweet roasted garlic, sun-dried-tomato toasts with savory garlic and basil, and crabcakes with a spicy Thai-style sauce. Entrees were just as good, from the succulent salmon steamed in a corn husk to the roast chicken with rich aioli. The dill dumplings were so large they seemed heavy, but that’s a minor quibble-overall. I go along with the crowd. This place is one of my favorites. 2704 Elm St. 741-9012. Moderate.

The Mansion on Turtle Creek. Aside from an incoherent list of specials (I was tempted by an entrée of Indian-inspired yogurt-marinated lamb with curry and chutney, but couldn’t find anything to complement it), the kitchen’s work was up to par. Mansion standards-lobster tacos with yellow tomato salsa, tortilla soup, chicken baked with maple-pecan crust-and specials-soft-shell crab with barbecued crust and Cajun sausage with onion pasta-scaled the expected peak of perfection, which at these prices, they should. However, the front of the house didn’t measure up. Our reservation was lost and so was our waiter for much of the meal-errors that might be forgiven in a lesser establishment, but are inexcusable at the Mansion. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 526-2121. Expensive.

Parigi. On my last visit, a sage pesto pizza was the prize appetizer, followed by a terrific Caesar salad, lightened up with lemon juice and zest-the balance of rich and tart is so right you wonder why everyone doesn’t prepare it this way. Entrees, especially a veal chop with mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes, and chicken and spinach lasagna in spicy arrabiata sauce, were excellent: unfortunately, desserts didn’t measure up. Peach cobbler was a mushy mass of soft fruit and softer dough, and the berry tart on passion fruit cream looked lovely, but lacked flavor. Still, the wine list is nice, and all in all. there’s nothing in Dallas quite like Parigi. 3311 Oak Lawn. 521-0295. Moderate to expensive.

The Promenade at the Mansion. Lunch at the Promenade features some terrific examples of New Southwestern cuisine. The Southwest ancho pizza with smoked chicken, jalapeno jack cheese, poblano peppers, and ciiantro may be the best New Wave pizza in Dallas. Southwestern-style soups, especially the yellow-tomato gazpacho. are also outstanding. The pork loin scaloppine with a sauce of capers, tomato, smoked bacon, and parsley is yet another winner. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 559-2100. Moderate to expensive.

Routh Street Cafe. The muffins, salads, sorbets, and desserts here always blow away all criticism: this time even the unlikely-sounding sorbets (chocolate sapote-sarsaparilla ice?) were as spectacular as the down-home-sounding desserts (banana-cream macadamia-nut pie with fudge sauce and blackberry buckle). But the appetizers and main courses are spectacular only some of the time: they can also be just a bit too experimental. We loved our quail with saffron fet-tuccine and our venison with a blue-corn tamale. but our black bean cake with sea scallops and our lamb with a guajillo-chili waffle (!?) didn’t entirely work. 3005 Routh at Cedar Springs. 871-7161. Very expensive.



D REVISITS

Sam’s Cafe. The bar scene is a perfumed riot, we had to wait twenty minutes for our reserved table, and our waitress actually had 10 yell the dessert selection to us. That’s Sam’sCafe any night of the week, but the place may have been buzzing more than usual last v visit because Mariel Hemingway,one of Sam’s co-owners, was in the restaurant. After a periodof hits and misses under former chefs. Sam’s kitchen is ona winning streak, thanks to the direction of the current chef,David Feder. Lobster pizza was outstanding, as was a specialpasta paired with chunks of tenderloin, and homemade”vulgar chocolate” ice cream that may be the most intenseever. 100 Crescent Court, Suite 140. 855-2233. Moderate toexpensive. -M. B. M.



San Simeon. This sleek-looking spot has the undeniable cachet of chic, as well as one of the most experienced teams of maitre d’ and waiters in town. But we are yet to be convinced that the food matches the ambience and the reputation. Attempts at the flashy eclecticism of New Southwestern cooking seem halfhearted; the crab in a Mandarin pancake in a spicy sauce, for instance, seemed awfully like an old-fashioned crêpe in a classic French sauce americaine (and the crab seemed limp, with an unacceptable number of shell bits). Fish is the strong sun of chef Richard Chamberlain. formerly of Ratcliffe’s; the swordfish with a black-bean citrus sauce was the highlight of our meal. 2515 McKinney at Fairmount in Chateau Plaza. S71-7373. Expensive.

Spatz. I had heard that Spatz is a great little neighborhood bistro, and it is actually in my neighborhood. Still. Spatz is worth stopping at even if it’s not in you r neighborhood-the service is friendly, the place is cozy, but light and bright, and the food is imaginative and good. Highlights of our visit: shrimp and mango quesadillas. fettuccine with pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and garlic in a cream sauce, steak with chèvre and roasted shallots, and orange macadamia nut cheesecake. 2912 Henderson. 827-7984. Moderate.



SEAFOOD



Atlantic Cafe. After several disappointing meals at Atlantic Cafe in the last year. I had given up on the place. However, after hearing of recent changes. I returned and found the food to be back on track. The new menu includes such winners as shrimp and crab ravioli and nicely sauteed soft-shell crab. 4546 McKinney at Knox. 559-4441. Expensive.

Café Pacific The star turn at our table was veal Oscar, an impressively thick, tender cut enhanced with crab meat, snapping-fresh asparagus spears, and zippy hollandaise. Admittedly, a ceviche of lobster, baby scallops, and shrimp was opulently presented, spiked with tomato and cilantro confetti, but its lime marinade struck me as a trifle sharp. And an entrée of jumbo shrimp sautéed scampi style, while fresh, was not nearly as exciting as the veal. A wedge of light cheesecake with kiwi and strawberry sauce held our combined attention, I must say. And the service could not have been more competent. Highland Park Village. Preston at Mockingbird, Suite 24. 526-1170. Expensive.



D REVISITS

Fishmonger’s Seafood Market and Café. ThisPiano spot has expanded greatly over the years, but stillmanages to be packed every time we try its appealing freshseafood served in a purely utilitarian setting. Simple disheslike the boudin sausage appetizer and fried catfish or shrimpcome off as well as expected (though the boiled peel and eatshrimp proved unappetizingly mealy in texture). The surprise is the excellence of the more elaborate dishes like theredfish Pontchartrain (grilled and topped with shrimp, crab,and mushrooms) and the scallops baked in lemon butter andtopped with cheese. 1915 N Central at Chisholm, Suite 600, PLano. 423-3699. Moderate. N -W.L.T.



Hampton’s Seafood Bar, Market & Grill. Pluses include an enthusiastic staff, fresh fish, and generous cocktails. We enjoyed the grilled mahi-mahi in a beurre Wane sauce with baby shrimp, but the tortellini marinara had been sitting too long in the kitchen, and we missed the warm sourdough bread we remembered from the last visit. Berkshire Court, 8411 Preston Rd. 739-3474. Moderate.

Hard Shell Cafe. This seafood restaurant fills a real need. It gives Dallas a chance to buy simply prepared crustaceans at reasonable prices. Both the New England clam chowder and the peel and eat shrimp make excellent beginnings here-neither of these standards is done better in Dallas. For the main course, we ordered the New England combo for two. At $33.95 this most expensive dish on the menu seemed quite a bargain, since it included two one-pound Maine lobsters, a pound each of cultured mussels and either Lit-tleneck or Ipswich steamer clams, and new potatoes and corn on the cob. All the shellfish was first-rate, but the potatoes and corn didn’t add much to the meal. 6403 Greenville Ave. 987-3477. Moderate.

Leo’s Seafood Grill. Among the starters, the shrimp in the cocktail are firm and resilient and flavorful, the gumbo is fine if you like the dense, highly spiced variety, and the fried calamari are tasty and crisp, if chewier than you might like. Main courses include exemplary versions of fried catfish and cornmeal-coated fried shrimp. The only seafood dish that disappointed us was the so-called seafood stew- the dish came with a thick sauce rather than as a soupy-type stew, and the shellfish included some rather over-the-hill mussels and tough scallops. The biggest surprise at Leo’s is the desserts-the Key lime pie is surprisingly tart and authentic, and the chocolate-pecan pie has a splendid filling and a flaky crust. 12255 Greenville, Suite 130. 234-3474. Inexpensive to moderate.

Newport’s. Newport’s is at its best in its simplest dishes-grilled silver salmon, on our last visit, was perfectly plain and perfectly wonderful; a sampler appetizer tray of raw clams, shrimp, oysters, and ceviche could not have been fresher. Some of the trendier offerings are as delightful-a crab quesadilla, for instance, was to swoon over, tender flaked meat with cheese between crisp flour tortilla triangles-and some are not: a boned rainbow trout was eclipsed by its roasted tomatillo sauce, itself delicious but too heavy for the delicate fish. Desserts, ranging from a flawless crème caramel to a chocolate truffle pie of surpassing richness, are exceptionally good. 703 McKinney in the Brewery. 954-0220. Expensive.

Rusty Pelican. The many available varieties of fresh fish are mostly either charbroiled or sautéed (sadly, the sautéed versions are sometimes underseasoned and bland). The more elaborate preparations are chancy. The ahi marinated in a Chinese pesto sauce was succulent-glazed a mahogany brown from its soy marinade and spiked with ginger. The mahi-mahi Hawaiian style, though, was a big disappointment: the macadamia nut coating couldn’t disguise the whiff of ammonia that indicated the fish might have been sitting around a few too many days. The oversized ice cream desserts are more than mere mortals can finish. 14655 Dallas Pkwy, Addison. 980-8950. Expensive.



SOUTHERN



D REVISITS

The Blue Onion Restaurant. In the recesses of a largeshopping center, this offshoot of a tearoom in an old Pianohouse still manages to look old-fashioned and homey inside.The food is all honest and well prepared, even if it seldomexcites. Probably the best is the pot roast, so tender it hasfallen apart before it reaches the plate and rich with the sweettaste of carrots and slow-cooked beef. The fried shrimp aremuch better than average, and the chicken pot pie tasteshomemade, though the biscuits on top are a flimsy substitutefor a crust. Portions for everything are huge, and you maybe confused by the redundant complimentary servings ofsoup and veggie appetizers in addition to a choice of soupor salad. Desserts are supersweet and a bit bland-just likeMomma used to make? 221 W Parker Rd at Central Expressway, Plano. 424-2114. Inexpensive. N -W.L.T.



Brownie’s. The food here runs to plate-lunch daily specials (a fine, simple meat loaf, real chicken-fried steak, not-so-fine fried trout fillets on our visit, each with a choice of three vegetables, well seasoned and invariably overcooked, for $3.95) along with a broad selection of any-time breakfast and lunch standards. Desserts are down-home-admirable pies and cobblers, bread pudding too sweetly fruit-sauced. 5519 E Grand Ave. 824-2996. Inexpensive.

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. There’s also a drive-through window if you’d rather take your order home. 6617 Hillcrest. 373-6527. Inexpensive.

Good Eats. My companion’s strip steak was perfect, and my chicken pie. which looked deceptively like a lunar slab of cardboard pastry, turned out to be a miracle mix of tender chicken, new potato, carrot, com. and green beans under its flaky crown. Black-eyed peas were blank-eyed from lack of seasoning, which we’re inclined to applaud these days (for health) even as we salt (for taste). Broccoli-rice casserole was a trifle dry but flavorful, and corn on the cob was gloriously not overcooked. 3531 Oak Lawn. 522-3287. 6950 Greenville. 691-3287. Inexpensive.

Highland Park Cafeteria. As cafeterias go. the original HPC is the mama of them all, a homey dispensary of all the revered classics (chicken-fried steak with cream gravy, crisp-battered fried chicken, sautéed calves’ liver and onions mercifully not cooked to death) Where else can you find a good country sour slaw, or the minced crunch of carrots and celery in Jello? Closest thing to a new wrinkle here is mashed potatoes lavished with sour cream and all the other trimmings you’d pile on a baked one. And closest thing to paradise is getting the all-over-frosted end piece of a fresh-baked chocolate cake, or the highest meringue-piled wedge of creamy caramel pie. 4611 Cole. 526-3801. Village on the Parkway. 5100 Belt Line at Dallas Pkwy, Suite 600. 934-8800. N Downtown, 500 Akard at San Jacinto, Suite 220. 740-2400. Inexpensive.

Kingsley Country Cafe. The big. delicate, crunchy catfish fillets are winners, and the chicken-fried steak is one of the better versions around. Our party was divided on the merits of the country-grilled pork chops; they had a smoky, intriguing, hard-to-place taste, but were rather chewy in texture. The barbecue tasted as though all its flavor came out of a commercial bottle of sauce, but the portions-in fact, all the portions here-were humongous. Some effort has gone into the vegetables, but why do all these country-style places think they have to douse their mashed potatoes in enough black pepper to cause a body to get a sneezing fit? Desserts are best skipped over. Skillman at Kingsley. 340-0600. Inexpensive.

Lena’s Place. Lena’s Place turns out definitive chicken-fried steak, fried chicken, and crunchy catfish fillets-not to mention very good meat loaf and the juiciest hamburgers in Dallas. The side dishes are just as remarkable: exemplary green beans and black-eyed peas, just-right red beans and rice, fresh squash that is not at all watery or bitter, and mashed potatoes that belong in the Dallas culinary hall of fame. But the waits for the food are either maddening or laughable, depending on one’s disposition, and the kitchen is forever running out of things on the menu. Forewarned is forearmed. Caruth Plaza, 9100 N Central Expressway, Suite 117 (at Park Lane). 987-9152. Inexpensive.

Mama Taught Me How. Breakfast offers thin, delicate pancakes and homemade cinnamon rolls. Lunch gives us a variety of choices: chicken-fried steak, quiche, and specials. The home-baked pies have tasty fillings. The lemon-meringue is tart with the real juice of the fruit, and the buttermilk has a homey nutmeg twang. But make sure you get a piece freshly baked so the crust won’t have gotten soggy. 14902 Preston Rd, #512, in Pepper Square. 490-6301. Inexpensive.

Mama’s Daughters’ Diner. The plate lunches we tried were generous models of no-nonsense nostalgia, the chicken-fried cutlet tender in crisp-browned batter with mashed potatoes under perfect cream gravy, all from scratch; the green vegetables-pork-seasoned turnip greens, cheese-whizzed broccoli-overcooked (weren’t they always, back then?); the cole slaw a fresh crunch, cream-dressed and Southern-sweet. Navy beans were actually big white Northerns, but their flavor was fine, and a pot roast’s rich juices almost made me forget I prefer my beef rare. Homemade rolls and cornbread would have aced out any dessert less formidable than the lofty meringue pies baked here-coconut cream strewn with golden gratings was more than satisfactory. 2014 Irving Blvd (between Wycliff and Oak Lawn). 742-8646. Inexpensive.



STEAKS



Del Frisco’s The best steak you can buy in Dallas-if you can stand beef so laden with cholesterol and if you have the money-is Del Frisco’s ribeye. It’s lush and perfectly aged and likely to be perfectly cooked. Another plus in Del Frisco’s favor is that the side dishes are much tastier than those usually found even in high-priced steakhouses. The shrimp remoulade. the au gratin potatoes, and the rich desserts are all worth ordering The one drawback is that now Del Frisco’s is more expensive than ever. The prices of the steak haven’t gone up, but now you don’t get a potato unless you pay extra-only marvelously crusty French bread and a salad are included in the basic price. 4300 Lemmon. 526-2101. Scheduled to move in late November to The Crescent, 2200 Cedar Springs. Expensive.

Huntlngton Grill. The à la carte appetizers were some of the best dishes we tried here. The seafood bisque was perfectly flavored, the fettuccine with snails sauteed in a cream sauce extremely rich, and the Scottish smoked salmon pristine and satiny The salad with goat cheese topped with raspberry dressing, though, turned out to be inferior to the dinner salad with a Louis dressing. Of the dishes offered ’From Our Broiler.” the best was the large, perfectly broiled lobster tail on the steak and lobster tail combination. The tenderloin on that combination, like the hefty twenty-four-ounce T-bone, suffered from a too heavily charred crust. Desserts were a mixed lot: the broiled berries (a kind of crème brulée with strawberries) were delicious, but the chocolate pot had a curious bumed-chocolate taste that some of us liked and others did not. Westin Hotel, Galleria, 13340 Dallas Phwy. 851-2882. Expensive to very expensive.

Morton’s of Chicago. The porterhouse steaks are magnificent chunks of beef, and they are likely to be served just as specified. Some of the other dishes are fine. too. The lump crab meat is simplicity itself, perfectly fresh (though with a few too many flecks of shell) The Caesar salad is robust, and the chocolate souffle for two a fine end to a meal. For those who don’t want beef, the lobsters here are plausibly priced and nicely prepared Our only complaints on our most recent visit were tasteless hash-brown potatoes and the style of service that recites the menu in rote fashion. 501 Elm. 741-2277. Expensive.

The Palm Restaurant. Garish caricatures of the famous and infamous cover the walls of the noisy Dallas branch of this New York steakhouse. The place is a circus, but the food is serious, though almost absurdly abundant. The gargantuan servings of meat and potatoes defy all rules of portion control; however tasty the food, it’s hard to believe anyone could finish a meal here. 701 Ross Ave. 698-0470. Very expensive.



TAKEOUT/DELI



Everyday Gourmet. Recent highlights include fried catfish with smoked red pepper butter, you’11-never-miss-the-meat meatless tasagna, rich seafood enchiladas, beef, shrimp, and vegetable skewers, rice with apples and basil, and fried com. Not to mention a peach cobbler, still warm from the oven. There’s a selection of sandwiches and fresh salads for lunch, and don’t miss the lemonade and chocolate chip cookies. 4446 Lovers Lane. 373-0325. Moderate.

The Good Life. Owner-chef Christine Carbone’s creative touch with light New American and Italian fare yields such happy daily features as flawless vichyssoise and fruit soups (garnished, on our visit, with tiny lavender chive blossoms), imaginative sandwiches (try the chicken with apricots and almonds), and hearty tortas-domed layers of spinach, cheeses, and garlic-spiked roasted red bell peppers, for instance, wrapped in pastry and sold by the wedge. An immaculate array of salads ranges from pastas to seafoods, seasonal vegetables, and fruits, all intriguingly dressed, and Saturday mornings find locals lining up for spicy Scotch eggs with homemade tomato thyme mayonnaise. 6340 Gaston Ave. 821-3194. Inexpensive to moderate.

Marty’s. The selection is enormous and eclectic-you can purchase all or part of any meal, to prepare at home or ready-to-heat. Everything is here, from chicken fingers to pate, caviar to potato salad. We took home supper: chicken breasts Marsala, lemon pasta, marinated vegetables, and Key lime pie. My immediate treat, a piece of orange marmalade cake, was the only disappointment-it was a little too moist to be pleasant. 3316 Oak Lawn. 526-4070. Moderate.

Tommaso’s. The pasta’s fine at this Italian to-go shop, but the takeout is really tops. Classic dishes like lasagna and cannelloni hold up well after reheating, and the rotolo, pasta rolled with ricotta. spinach, and mozzarella and topped with your choice of sauce, makes an impressive first course or, sided with salad and bread, an elegant lunch or supper entree. Even desserts-such as cappuccino cheesecake-are delicious. There is also a limited selection of Italian essentials-good quality olive oil, pesto, fresh Parmesan. and bread, so this really is one-stop shopping for the gourmet on the go. 5365 Spring Valley at Montfort, 991-4040. Inexpensive to moderate.



THAI



Satay. To begin, we tried the namesake satay-bamboo skewers of thin pork (or beef or chicken) strips, accompanied by a lovely-to-look-at but flavorless cucumber salad and a good spicy peanut sauce; it also came with “toasts.” which looked and tasted like salted styrofbam. Entrees were better-honey-roast pork, a platter of tender-crisp slices of rich pork loin, was unfortunately smothered with a cloyingly sweet sauce; ubol beef, a toss of beef strips, onion slivers, mint, and other greens in a searingly hot sauce, was exactly the kind of flavor blend that makes Thai food so addictive-near-painfully hot. but wonderful. 4503 Greenville Ave at Yale. 696-3210. Inexpensive to moderate.

Thai Lanna. Thai Lanna does all the spicy, tangy Siamese specialties with pizazz, but it has a special way with vegetable dishes, such as eggplant, and noodle dishes. The soups, loo, are terrific. The chicken and coconut milk soup, for instance, contains a potpourri of mysterious fresh herbs and aromatic roots-but be careful, because it’s hotter than any Mexican dish you’re likely to get this side of Monterrey. 1490 W Spring Valley. 690-3637. Inexpensive.

Thai Soon. Thai Soon was created to demonstrate that a vegetarian and seafood menu can work in an ethnic restaurant. Judging from the waiting lines at this tiny place on Lowest Greenville, the idea appeals to a sizable body of patrons. Almost a dozen vegetarian dishes start out the main course section of the menu. Others are based on tofu-the Thai green curry with coconut cream has a knockout flavor, but you may findyourselfknockedoutby thespiciness of the dish. Almost nothing is bland or even passably neutral in taste at Thai Soon; even dishes cooked without the ubiquitous Thai chilies-like shrimp with garlic sauce and broccoli-come with a spicy dusting of white ground pepper. 2018 Greenville. 821-7666. Inexpensive to moderate.



VIETNAMESE



Arc-en-Cial. The French name (which means “rainbow”) points to the former French dominion in Southeast Asia, for this restaurant is mostly interesting because of its Vietnamese cooking, though a large menu of Chinese dishes is also available. The servers are willing but not able to help much about the terse Vietnamese menu. The Seven Courses of Beef turned out to contain the best dishes-some homemade sausages of various shapes and textures that had been grilled to a turn. Most everything on the Vietnamese side of the menu is supposed to be rolled up in rice paper with julienned vegetables and dipped in a vinegary hot sauce, producing a kind of Southeast Asian taco. 3555 W Walnut at Jupiter, Garland. 272-2188. Inexpensive to moderate.

East Wind. Spring and summer rolls were extremely mild-flavored, even dipped in the fish sauce that accompanied them; the latter’s carrots were threads, not shreds, and needed more of those lethal little red-pepper flecks to zip up their spirits. A day’s-special roast duck was succulent, but hardly seasoned at all. Charcoal-broiled pork, diced and attractively mounded on a lettuce leaf, was dust-dry; plum sauce, brought only at our request, was unpleasantly sweet. A melange of chicken, mushrooms, scallions, and vegetables cooked and served in a hot clay pot had more flavor, thanks more to its ingredients than to seasoning. 2711 Elm St. 745-5554. Inexpensive to moderate.

Mai’s. Lunch specials at Mai’s are a great, inexpensive way to be introduced to Vietnamese food if you haven’t discovered it. The garlic shrimp or the subtly fiery lemongrass chicken makes for a great lunch, especially if you follow it with Vietnamese-style iced coffee with condensed milk. You don’t come here for the atmosphere: Mai’s decor is distincdy utilitarian. 4812 Bryan, Suite 100 (at Fitzhugh). 826-9887. Inexpensive.



LAS COLINAS/MID CITIES



Cacharel. This pretty establishment with a glassed-in exhibition kitchen has a fixed price of $10 for lunch and $24 for dinner. The fare-including such Gallic classics as green salad with goat cheese, asparagus soup, scallops with an assertive tarragon sauce, and lamb with a natural-juice sauce-would be worth twice the tariff. Brookhollow Two, 2221 E Lamar, Suite 910, Arlington. (817) 640-9981. Moderate.

Moretti’s. Somebody wised us up on this little Italian restaurant in Grapevine-we would certainly never have found it on our own, tucked into its little shopping strip in a country setting, sitting opposite a gargantuan trailer park. There are real Italians doing the cooking, and the food is as good as we had heard. The luncheon menu is dominated by standard dishes like tonellini in a buttery broth, lasagna with a hearty tomato sauce, and veal Marsala with a delicious sauce (though the veal itself was a bit pasty from imprecise sautee-ing). The dinner menu lists more intricate creations, like veal with prosciutto and fresh zucchini and capellini with scallops-we want to return to try them. 2709 Mustang Drive, Grapevine. (817) 481-3230. Inexpensive to moderate.

Via Reál. The appetizers include such novelties as crepa de salmone (thin slices of smoked salmon enfolded in crepes and served dry except for a garnish of pico de galio). Main courses also tilt toward the seafood end. Town North Centre, 3591 N Belt Line at Northgate, Irving. 255-0064. Moderate.



FORT WORTH



Benito’s. This funky little spot on the near South Side of Fort Worth serves some of the best Mexican food in Cowtown. Not Tex-Mex, real Mex. The menu features such uncommon appetizers as sopes, sort of a super-thick soft corn tortilla filled with beans, cheese, and green sauce, and chilies en rajas, strips of poblano peppers in cream. Entrées follow suit: tamal oaxaqueno is wrapped in a banana leaf, and the shredded (not ground) beef tacos are fried after they’re filled. Two kinds of moid, red and green, are offered as well as a selection of guisadas. The standards are well done, but this is a place to go exploring. 1450 West Magnolia. (817) 332-8633. Inexpensive.

Hedary’s. They say the Lebanese are the French of the Middle East, culinarily speaking: the fore at Hedary’s bears this out. Middle Eastern cuisine is full of strong flavors- mint, onion, and garlic-combined here with finesse that makes them all balance. For a one-visit overview, order the maza. a selection of salads, and a meat combination plate. That way you can sample a little of everything: tabuli (wheat, tomato, and parsley salad), hummus (garlicky puréed chickpeas), savory fried falafel, lentils, cucumbers in yogurt, and a delicious batinjan mtabbal (roasted eggplant dip), along with freshly baked puffed pita bread. The meat plate features homemade sujuk (hot beef sausage), kafta (ground beef rolls). Lebanese shish kebab, and a version of the national dish of Lebanon, kibbi, that compared favorably with my mother-in-law’s. 3308 Fairfield at Camp Bowie. (817) 731-6961. Moderate.

Le Chardonnay. Former Ceret chef Philip Lecoq is a co-owner of this bistro, and its combination of serious food and an informal atmosphere is reminiscent of that late, lamented establishment. The lamb chops topped with goat cheese, served with a rosemary sauce and accompanied by herbed French fries, are a standout. 2443 Forest Park Blvd. (817) 926-5622. Moderate.

Reflections. Fort Worth’s most beautiful and most serene dining room is the scene for some of its best food. The goat-cheese ravioli, served as an appetizer, sat in a creamy sauce and was dotted with caviar. Both the blackened redfish (accompanied by Maryland crabcakes) and the juicy, pink rack of lamb were perfectly cooked. And the dessert cart offered a raspberry tart with a firm, crisp crust and a chocolate cake with rich buttercream frosting. Our only reservations concerned some of the sauces-both the vinaigrette poured over the salads and the sauce accompanying the lamb had touches of sweetness that were not quite subtle enough. The Worthington Hotel, 200 Main. (817) 870-1000. Expensive.

Tejano Mexican Cuisine. Fort Worth Tex-Mex lovers wait in line to sample this West Side establishment’s not-your-normal-enchilada fere. One of the trendier touches that doesn’t work: an appetizer misleadingly called Arizona nachos and consisting of a lake of molten cheese on a single oversized flour tortilla, the whole hard-to-handle affair presented on a fiery foot-tall iron mini-grill. Forget it and order instead one that does: milk-fed cabrito (baby goat), roasted to a tender turn and lavished on a standard planer. If you must have fire on your table, a for-two specialty called parilla Tejano brings you the grill with a more manageable melange of sizzling chicken and beef fajita strips, grilled with onions and peppers, plus all the trimmings. 5716 Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 737-7201. Inexpensive to moderate.



D REVISITS

Tuscany. Both the look of this place and the style of thecooking are meant to be reassuring-not stodgily old-fashioned but not so experimental that anyone is going to bealarmed. The solid comfort is reinforced by especiallysolicitous and professional waiters, too. The food is notwithout some original touches: the appetizer of eggplantfried and stuffed with ricotta and spinach is hardly old hat.and the fettuccine Carbonara is spiked with choppedscallions. The veal Livornese comes with very fresh-tastingshrimp, mussels, and clams still in their shells-and so muchgarlic butter that some might be put off. One dessert standsout-the puff pastry filled with berries and a pastry cream. 4255 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth. (817) 737-2971. Moderate to expensive. -W.L.T.



Tutti Pazzi. Neither the appetizers we sampled (oysters baked with a pesto topping and a coarse rabbit pate with hazelnuts and dried figs) nor the salads (a version of Caesar and a house salad with greens, black olives, and marinated pinto beans) were impressive. The pastas and the small boutique pizzas proved more appealing. The fusilli dell’or-to are corkscrew noodles tossed with grilled zucchini and eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes, yellow peppers, and roasted garlic-fine if you like the pungency of the garlic. The grilled lamb chops were a fairly standard version. Their marinara mint sauce turned out to be a minty glaze and some chopped tomatoes on the side. 300 Main St. (817) 332-2664. Moderate to expensive.

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