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EATING AROUND PYRAMID RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE: A GLORIOUS RETURN

Plus: Avanti, La Suprema Tortilleria, Fausto’s Oven
By Betty Cook |

Pyramid Restaurant and Lounge



Psst-Dallas has a great new restaurant, and it’s called the Pyramid.

And yes, it’s in the same place where the old Pyramid Room used to blaze in brazen opulence, drawing diners for gaud’s sake as well as for superb French fare before its grandeur tarnished with time.

But no, it’s not the same place at all. This altogether different Pyramid wears its wealth more gracefully, its opulence muted (silken upholstered walls rather than showy suede), its character more classic (a serenely open space, as opposed to tricky tiered levels and pompously high-backed chairs), its manner sophisticated-more comfortable Old Money, you might say, as evolved from former nouveau riche. Even those who mourned the old Pyramid’s closing for a five-month, multimillion-dollar makeover cannot fail to find its new incarnation engaging.

Marked as the transformation is, though, it is the food that makes the new Pyramid magic. Chef Avner Samuel, whose bold New American ways first gave the Mansion stellar status, has been little heard from in the last couple of years. What he’s been doing is maturing, it seems; as chef of the Pyramid, he has created a menu that delivers excitement with almost none of the missteps in concept and execution that occasionally marred his tempestuous earlier career.

Actually, he’s created two menus that function as one. The Table d’Hote pages offer five multiple-choice courses for $50 with three wines, $36 without. A la carte, one can order from any of these or a two-page seasonal selection of others, interchangeably. An admirable wine list includes Cruvinet-held by-the-glass offerings that range from modest whites to Mouton-Rothschild.

With a few exceptions, the dishes we tried on two visits deserved their poetic menu descriptions. Appetizers? The mind lingers over lamb sweetbreads pan-fried tender-crisp, served on vinaigrette-dressed arugula and white chicory with green apple match-sticks. Soups? Chilled tomatillo gazpacho was an eye-opener, its center island of tomato sorbet mild and lovely. A cold-soup whip of cucumber juliennes in sour cream-softened serrano chili purée was lovely, its crown of fresh salmon roe perfection itself, but the baby red snapper that starred in its listing was a tough cube of leather, pretty but tasteless and uncuttable, even with a knife.

Arugula salad with yellow tomato vinaigrette was lovely in its phalanx of spiced, sautéed baby oysters. A Caesar, ordered to follow entrees, was never delivered-unaccountably, since service was otherwise splendid.

Sauéed medallions of axis venison loin mated beautifully with red currant sauce, garnished with baby vegetables, although fried yellow tomato billed as a costar was disappointing: the mild flesh was quite lost in its cornmeal batter. Sautéed Dover sole boned and served with a lobster-scented butter-cream sauce with caviar was subtly breathtaking, although it should have been brought to table on the sauce instead of on a cart, with the sauce and an anachronistic (and puzzling) lemon half on the side (the new Pyramid is just as cart-happy as the old, it would seem).

The best dessert was a green apple tart with goat cheese and nutmeg ice cream on warm caramel sauce; a bouquet of three crème brulées was delectable, but overwhelmed by its sharp raspberry sauce bed.

A couple of old-Pyramid ceremonial riteshave been retained to satisfy nostalgics-pre-entrée sorbets are still served in candlelit iceswans, souffle potatoes accompany maincourses-but the sorbets are fresh and interesting, and service is far more simpaticothan in the old sergeant-barking-order days.In fact, the whole staff, maitre d’ to busboys,seemed fairly bursting with happy pride, andone thing I guarantee: if maitre d’ AdelmoBanchetti has ever heard your name, you’llbe greeted by it. What balm for the soul! 1717N. Akard in the Fairmont Hotel. 720-5249.Lunch Mon~Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner Mon-Fri5:30-10:30, Sat & Sun 6-midnight. All creditcards. Coat and tie required; reservationssuggested. Expensive. -Betty Cook



Avanti



Dallasites have a passion for eating “out.” Every eatery, it seems, has managed to squeeze in a patio for eating al fresco-even, or perhaps especially, on congested, constantly under construction McKinney Avenue. Few are as pleasant as the terrace at Avanti, set back from McKinney’s traffic, elevated and covered, facing a grassy, treed lot left vacant by Southland’s Cityplace project. It opens from the dining room through a row of French doors, so that even dining in has an al fresco feeling.

The name “Avanti” and the modern design lead you to expect fast-forward food in the new Italian style, but Avanti’s style is actually traditional, with more meat and cream than has become fashionable. Mushroom caps, stuffed with a mixture of spinach, prosciutto, and crab, were sprinkled with tart feta cheese and bathed in a lackluster mari-nara. The antipasto platter was a chilly mountain of rolled salami, ham, provolone, and mozzarella, along with shrimp, tomatoes, and olives-enough for four.

Of the entrees we tried, the broiled guinea hen was perhaps the best. Boneless pieces of meat, slightly tart from a lime marinade, were crisp and brown on the outside, but still juicy; they came served, unusually, on a bed of brown rice whose chewy texture complemented the tender bird. Tournedos Avanti, a presentation of beef medallions in a clear, strong cabernet sauce accented with peppercorns, was very establishment and very good, but the sautéed lobster medallions on linguine featured too little lobster on too much linguine in a cream sauce whose bland richness was not cut enough by the addition of sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. Of the desserts, the one we liked best was the richest: a layering of deep chocolate and strong mocha mousse. 2720 McKinney. 871-4955. Lunch daily 11-5; dinner Mon-Fri 5-10:30, Sat & Sun 5-11. All credit cards. Moderate (lunch) to expensive (dinner).

-Mary Brown Malouf



La Suprema Tortilleria



Here is an example of pluck that deserves success-and seems ripe to get it. In the building that used to house a family-run gasoline station, there is now a family-run restaurant. It’s in a part of Southeast Dallas that has few dining choices, and it offers good, unique, reasonably priced food. What more could anybody want?

Well, for starters, more organized service and more consistent availability of some of the menu’s more interesting-looking items. When we visited, we missed some of the most intriguing items on the menu, like turkey fajitas-the kitchen claiming to be fresh out of them. But the staff is very pleasant and helpful, even if not well organized.

La Suprema is first of all a tortilleria-the first we have ever heard claim to use no lard or unhealthy fats in its tortillas, We believe the claim-even the tostadas were crisp and fresh-tasting and absolutely greaseless.

The style of much of the rest of the food is authentic and unusual, too. The carne guisada (of beef-they were out of our first choice, the pork) was tender meal in a stew with a flavor that reminded a South Texas family member of home. There are many styles of cheese enchilada-the Tejano style, with yellow cheese and chili with meat, had the true taste of Tex-Mex, while the Mexican style, with white cheese and a bright red chili sauce, had clear blood lines from south of the border. The adventurous can try versions with goat cheese and even cottage cheese. Beautifully tender chicken fajitas were a much better choice than the chewy came tampiquena. Even side dishes like Spanish rice are done with special care here.

Authenticity can go too far for sometastes-the bakery turns out the sweet Mexican breads known as pan dulce, which lookinviting but are too dry and tasteless for mostAmerican palates. The scrumptuous homemade pralines are better bets-deeply caramelized and hinting of a touch of coconutalong with the pecans. 7630 MilitaryParkway. 388-1244. Mon-Thur 10-9:30, Fri10-10:30, Sat 8-10:30, Sun 8-3, MC, V, AE.Inexpensive. -W.L. Taitte



Fausto’s Oven



The place is chic and sleek, Italian style reinterpreted again, with lots of clean edges and hard surfaces reflecting light and sound. Taut black chairs are offset by a witty faux-classical painting; in the best style of Paul Draper, who designed Dallas favorites Sfuz-zi, San Simeon, and Beau Nash, this room is both cool and cozy. It would be a hip lit-tle hangout if it weren’t tucked away on the mezzanine of a typically cavernous Hyatt lobby-by the time you’ve parked the car, navigated the lobby, and ascended the escalator, you’re in hotel land, which could as easily be in Des Moines as Dallas.

The food, like the style, is a twist on Italian-unauthentic dishes in the Italian style, original ideas with roots. A selection of starters, a list of pizzas, and some entrees comprise the menu. But the combinations are untraditional-in addition to conventional toppings for design-your-own pizzas, the pizza list includes a “fajita pizza”; the name sounds like the worst fast food, but the layering of grilled meat, salsa, guacamole, cheese, and sour cream actually came off well. Better yet was the Thai pizza-the same thin crust loaded with peanut butter, chicken, carrot strips, cilantro, and scallions, then glazed with cheese. You might wish the crust stayed a little crisper, you might wish for a little more chili heat, but, as it was, the pie was good.

In fact, the kitchen seems at its best when it’s most offbeat-a traditional mozzarella and tomato salad, which depends entirely on the excellence of its ingredients, was prepared with fresh cheese but the tomato slices were pale and watery. Nevertheless, the cheese was good when dressed with herbed oil. Caesar salad was actually Ro-maine in a creamy Italian dressing with bits of anchovy-good, but not as pungent as thebest. However, a preparation of shrimp,wrapped in pancetta, sauced with Marsala,and dressed with wilted tri-color peppers,was pretty and tasty, the salty bacon andheady wine sauce perfectly complementingthe sweet shellfish. There was an unusuallylarge selection of wines, both American andItalian, by the glass, and cappuccino to capthe meal. 300 Reunion Blvd., in the HyattRegency Hotel. 741-3304. Lunch Mon-Fri11:30-2; dinner Mon-Sun 5 pm-11 pm. Allcredit cards. Moderate. -M.B.M.



RESTAURANTS



BARBECUE



D REVISITS

Anderson’s Barbecua House This Harry Hines headquarters for the hospital-working set doesn’t need ourhelp-the place opens at 11 a.m., and an hour and a half lateron the weekday of our visit, the entire day’s ration of bakedpotatoes was gone. No matter-the fried okra was prime,and both pinto and butter beans were cooked exactly as theyshould be, lender and long-simmered, plain and simple(none of that raw-chili-powder nonsense here). The barbecue’s plain and simple, too-tender sliced beef and ham,plump link sausage, fairly meaty ribs-and best eaten thatway, without the too-sweet, tomato-based sauce that was mysole disappointment. An honest, no-frills, family-run enterprise, Anderson’s holds a few surprises (a broader-than-ordinary array of salads is one) for its swift-movingcafeteria-style line of customers, but the atmosphere’s affable, and it did seem to me the place delivers more valuethan most for the money-the day’s special sandwich andtwo vegetables comes in at $2.99, which is small potatoesindeed. Delivery can be arranged, too, if you’re office-bound. 5410 Harry Hines Blvd. (across from Parkland).630-0735. Inexpensive. -B.C.



Austin’s Barbecue. Among other items, the menu offerschicken, catfish, and shrimp, but the main staple isbarbecue-billed as “tender as ol’ Austin’s heart”-Austinbeing Austin Cook, genial founder and proprietor. On ourvisit, a combination plate of beef, ham, and ribs lived up tothe slogan with a formidable serving of almost too-tendersliced brisket, creditable ham, and meaty ribs that lookedstringy but weren’t, all heaped on a giant platter and adornedwith sweet peppers, sliced tomatoes, a single scallion, andsome fairly ordinary potato salad. 2321 W Illinois.337-2242. Inexpensive. -B.C.



D REVISITS

Gene’s Stona Pit Bar B Que. The owner of this Deep Ellum neighborhood smokery is as proud of his beans and French fries as of his barbecued meats. Not without reason-the fries are fresh and thick-cut, mealy and tender inside a thin crisp of skin; the beans are pintos, gussied up with chopped tomato and onion, a little spicy but nicely assertive in character. The beef was outstanding on our visit,juicy and smoky, pungently sauced. And hey, the jukeboxselection was terrific, a twangy treasury of Bob Wills, et al.,beating out “If you’ve got the money, honey” and “Deep inthe Heart of Texas”-which, boy howdy, this place certainly is. Deep in the heart of Deep Ellum, too: where elsewould you find an atmosphere that’s pure country funk except for walls hung with art as avant as any you’d find in anupscale Dallas gallery? Counter service is the style here, andthere’s no hassle-Gene’s is as laid-back as you’d expect.3002 Canton. 939-9419. Inexpensive. -B.C.



D REVISITS

Roscoe’s Easy Way. More ambitious than I had expected, this Lemmon Avenue barbecue bastion branches outinto brunch on weekends, with some pretty fair fare: agrilled ribeye was thin but flavorful, paired with two nicelypoached eggs-a bargain at $6.95. Barbecue’s still themainstay here, though-the sliced beef sandwich was thickand tender, sausage and ribs were juicy and flavorful, potatosalad and cole slaw were both fresh and appetizing. Frenchfries and hashbrowns were excellent, and a side order ofsteamed spinach proved uncommonly good. A generousdessert of bread pudding was pleasant, although I’d havepreferred it without coconut. Still, you can’t have everything,although Roscoe’s certainly tries to deliver it-service iswarm, the atmosphere’s homey, and checked oilcloth tablecovers, dark woodwork, and a look of general cleanlinessmake the place pleasant enough for lingering. 5420 LemmonAve. 528-8459. Inexpensive. -B.C.



BRITISH



Jennivine. This British-cum-French establishment is dependably creative in the daily specials listed on its blackboard menu. Alas, not everything we tried last visit was up to the restaurant’s standard: a potato-scallion soup tasted more of flour than either named element, and the venison paté was dry and almost tasteless. English salad with Stilton was the stuff of which dreams are made-leaf lettuce and curly endive strewn with jicama sticks and red onion, the lusty cheese suffusing a vinaigrette dressing. Poached salmon with tomatillo relish was a happy marriage, as was duckling with watermelon sauce and a garnish of red chili jam. I’m a sucker for bread and butter pudding, bat this one, warm and rich, struck me as superior. 3605 McKinney. 528-6010. Moderate to expensive. -B.C.



BURGERS



Chuck’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers. Chuck’s burgers are old-fashioned in some ways-they are not in the super-thick modem mold, though they are hefty enough. And they come with mustard and pickles and such. But the real secret to the great old-feshioned hamburger is a grilled bun, and they don’t go to that trouble here. Still, the burgers and chili are good. Avoid the unsatisfactory innovation called cheddar fries and order the onion rings instead. 502 Spanish Village, Arapaho as Coil. 386-7752. Inexpensive. N -W.L.T.

Prince of Hamburgers. Lined up in a row with our trayshooked to the window and a waitress bearing beer andburgers heading our way, we felt a bit of a flashback, sort oflike Peggy Sue in the movie. But the food brought us backwith a jolt: the burgers, served on a well-toasted bun in abasket with superlative fries, are tops; the chili dogs areserved burger-style, and the old-fashioned milkshakes comein real glasses. Now, if only I had a convertible.. .5200Lemmon Ave. 526-9081. Inexpensive. -M.B.M.



CAJUN



Atchafalaya River Café. We started with a cup ofcreditable gumbo-the spice was right, though the rouxtasted a bit floury. Our red beans and rice were rich andsmoky; crawfish étouffée had the same roux problem as thegumbo, but was full of meat and came with good dirty rice.The best entree we sampled was chicken Tchoupitoulas, twobreasts pounded thin and sautféed in butter, lemon, and Ca-jun spices-just the right amount. 4440 Belt Line Rd.960-6878 Moderate. N -M.B.M.

Cafe Margaux. On my last visit the eclectic menu wasfocused more on what was originally done best here: contemporary Cajun cuisine. An appetizer of Cajun popcorn(fried crawfish meat) was hot and crunchy (accompanyingsherry sauce was bland), crawfish étouffée was good, if a trifle spicy, and the crawfish and shrimp enchiladas were terrific. 3710 Rawlins. 520-1985. Moderate. -M.B.M.

Crescent City Cafe. The menu here is limited, but whatthey serve is some of the best Cajun food in Dallas. Thebarbecued shrimp-served with bib and fingerbowl-are afine, messy, spicy version of Manale’s original dish. Theoyster loaf is stuffed with fat fried shellfish, and the muf-taletta gets my vote for Dallas’s best sandwich, a chewy loafof fresh-baked Italian bread piled with olive salad, salami,pfovolone, ham, and mozzarella. 2730 Commerce. 745-1900.inexpensive. -M. B. M.



CARIBBEAN



Bahama Bob’s. Really more for drinkers than eaters,Bahama Bob’s does make a stab at serving up a few of thetrendy Caribbean dishes. The platter of assorted appetizersis dauntingly heavy and spicy (especially the Buffalo chickenwings). The conch fritters on it were tasty, even if indistinguishable from crab cakes. Jerked chicken {made with themost insistent of all spices, cloves) isn’t too overbearing here,and the fish that was alleged to be river trout (it looked andtasted more like flounder to us) had a fine flavor but enoughbones to daunt all but the most intrepid seafood lovers. Keylime cheesecake made a refreshing, soothing ending after allthose spicy things that had gone before. 302 N Market.655-2627. Moderate. -W.L.T.



CHINESE



China Green’s Restaurant. The food here is authenticMandarin, Hunan, and Szechwan. Smoked fish was a novelappetizer, the dry-smoked chunks firm and almost jerky-likein mildly herbed dark-red sauce. Our star entice, one of thebest Chinese dishes 1 have ever tasted, was called exactlywhat it was: Fresh Oysters with Green Onion in Hot Plate.The plate, indeed, was sizzling; the scallions mated perfectlywith shreds of fresh ginger in a muted sauce to which theplump oysters were added tor a brief tableside sauté themoment before serving. 200 W Polk St. Richardson. 680-1034. Inexpensive to moderate. N -B.C.

Plum Blossom. 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 orangepeel chili sauce. Loews Anatole Hotel, 2201 Stemmons Fwy.748-1200. Expensive. -W.L.T.

Stum Pea. Spinach with bean curd soup was a happydeparture from the ordinary, the spinach leaves bright andfresh in a nicely seasoned chicken broth, the curd cubestender’ and smooth. Shrimp toast was rather leathery anddry, but orange chicken was properly zesty, and that belovedold standby, pepper steak, came through nobly, the thin-sliced beef tender against the crunch of fresh green bellpepper chunks. 2007 Abrams Parkway (off Caston). 824-4354. Inexpensive. ’ -B.C.



FRENCH/CONTINENTAL



Café Royal. The food has changed relatively little over thenearly nine years the place has been open (except for the introduction of a less pricey table d’hote menu in addition tothe top-dollar à la carte choices). There was still a touch ofthe first days of nouvelle cuisine in the beautifully grilledshrimp and scallops surrounding a tangle of greens in an appetizer salad, and the veal here still comes as a thick, tendersteak just barely grilled to doneness. New to us were a delectable opener of vineyard snails in a winey sauce surrounding a delicate garlic custard. Vegetables still includea very French little square of scalloped potatoes and (for anextra tariff) giant, intricately whittled stalks of fresh asparagus cooked to perfection. Only a prosaic selection ofdesserts keeps Café Royal from the very lop ranks of Dallasrestaurants these days. Plaza of the Americas, 650 N Pearl.979-9000. Expensive to very expensive. -W.LT.

L’Amblance. The standout courses are salads and desserts. Ruby-red tomatoes and creamy mozzarella come drenchedin herbs and olive oil, and the floating island (with crunchyalmond praline drizzled on top of the meringue) is comfortfood with pizazz. Appetizers of shrimp in a Dijon sauce andescargots with plenty of garlic and parsley pleasantly beganour latest meal, and two different treatments of fish made anice contrast for those who like to share bites-a delicatesalmon steak with basil cream and a more full-blooded red-fish Cajun style, which could have done with less of the topping of sautéed onions and pecans. 2408 Cedar Springs.748-1291. Expensive. -W.L.T.

The Riviera. Early on, the food turned out by chefs LoriFinkelman Holben and David Holben was very good, but not always exciting. Now there is excitement aplenty in such dishes as the Mediterranean appetizer tart made of semolina gnocchi dough or the rich mussel soup. A halibut fillet, which can so easily turn hard and rubbery, arrives at thetable moist and tender. A mixed grill includes portions oflamb and veal beside a superb rabbit sausage-not to speakof a gorgeous array of vegetables. 7709 Inwood. 351-0094.Very expensive. -W.L.T.



GERMAN/EASTERN EUROPE



Belvedere. The appetizer of a seafood-filled crêpe is richand rewarding, and the various treatments of veal range from a crisp schnitzel to tender scallops swimming in cream andmushrooms. Accompaniments include buttery spaetzle (little homemade noodles) and crusty scalloped potatoes.Salads come with a topping of fried onion, and desserts in- clude a sinfully dense and chewy chocolate mousse. 4242homo Alto. 528-6510. Expensive. -W.L.T.

Kuby’s Sausage House Inc. Stand in line here for the requisite noontime half-hour, and you can watch the social ’set mingle meekly for a shot at German classics served ex- actly as they have been for twenty-seven years: plump knackwurst partnered with pastrami-flecked German potato salad, a brimming bowl of superior sauerkraut on the side;onion-spiked tartar steak, red as cherries (not an atom of fat ’in it), spread thick between rye bread slices; moist, freshcarrot cake framed in a full half-inch of buttercream icing,with a plastic tumbler of iced tea to wash it down. 6601Snider Plaza. 363-2231. Inexpensive. -B.C.



GREEK



Cafe Nelu. Really more Romanian than Greek (though | many of the dishes are the same), this one-man operation oc- cupies the space a neighborhood hamburger shop was in for years. You can still get hamburgers and roast beef, but there is a reasonably wide selection of Balkan specialties. The dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) were the best we’ve ever tasted-fat and juicy and flavorful. The homemade soup of . the day, with chicken and vegetables, also promised much. Sadly, the main dishes didn’t fully deliver. The moussaka proved a strange version, with large and rather dry pieces ofeggplant. A stuffed breast of chicken was too ambitious-the mititei, earthy homemade sausages, were a much betterchoice. 30 Arapaho Village, Richardson. 235-5387. Inexpensive to moderate. N – W.L.T.



D REVISITS

Kostas Restaurant and Taverna. On a lovely day, youare close enough to the shore of Bachman Lake that the outdoor tables are inviting-and inside there are the attractionsof a Greek band and bellydancers. Sampling the rather perfunctory versions of the standard Greek dishes like thespanokopita (spinach in phyllo pastry) and pastitsio (a kindof macaroni casserole) on the Greek appetizer plate, youmight think that Kostas was more notable for atmospherethan for food. But the main courses can be superb. The lambsouvlaki, the shrimp in a tomato and feta cheese sauce, themoussaka (a casserole based on eggplant), and even a version of chicken parmigiana are all first-rate. Prices at Kostascan mount up if you order indiscriminately, so the beststrategy is certainly to spend the greater part of your budgeton the delicious entrées. 2755 Bachman. 351-4592.Moderate. -W.L.T.



HOME COOKING



Highland Park Cafeteria. The original HPC is comfortingly without peer-from the scrupulously squeaky-clean dining rooms and conscientious service to the encyclopedia of Southern-style home cooking that is the menu, including jello-as-salad and overcooked vegetables for authenticity gluttons, but also a variety of really fresh salads and fruits and just-baked breads (onion-dill has replaced zucchini as the favorite muffin). Generally, smothered, stewed, and casseroled foods-beef and cheese, stuffed peppers, and smothered chicken-are better than broiled items, but you can’t go wrong with fried, either. And be sure to save room for dessert. 4611 Cole Ave at Knox. 526-3801. Inexpensive. -M.B.M.



The Mecca. The Mecca is under new ownership, but you can’t tell by looking, or by eating. The menu remains part of a continuum of American comfort food that stretches back without a break to 1948. Slide into a vinyl booth and start your day right: your short stack of hot cakes keep their taste and texture even when doused with butter and syrup, neverdisintegrating into the fluffy mush chat passes for pancakesat most places. The side of bacon is cut thick and cookedmedium so there’s still some chew left. Biscuits arc two inches high, eggs are hot and tender, and the ham tastes of morethan smoke and salt. It’s tempting to linger till lunchtime,because The Mecca’s chicken-fried is hard to beat. 10422Harry Hines. 352-0051. Inexpensive. -M.B.M.



D REVISTIS

Tolbert’s. Because of the vogue for things Texan, Tolbert’s can seem almost touristy, especially now that there are threelocations. The decor is aggressively Lone Star and the menuborders on cute. But it doesn’t take long to realize thatTolbert’s is an original-countless photos of chili cook-offsand other “chilibilia’” remind you that Frank X. Tolbert wasa genuine chilihead, one of the pioneers. And Tolbert’s bowlof red is still excellent-thick, rich, and meaty, not too hotor too sweet, and no beans. Besides the basic bowl, the chilicomes ladled over good burgers and in an enormous saladlayered with cheese, lettuce, Fritos, and scallions. Extras-fries, onion rings, nachos-and other “native” foods likechicken-fried steak are fine; we especially liked the homemade root beer and, yes, the donkeytails-cheese-stuffed hotdogs rolled up in flour tortillas and deep-fried. One DallasCenter, 350 St Paul & Bryan. 953-1353. 1800 N Market.969-1310 8121 Walnut Hill as Central. 739-6700. Inexpensive. -M.B.M.



INDIAN



Kabab-N-Kurry. This standby still serves up some of the most succulent Indian fere in town. On our recent visit, its samosas were definitive-crisp-skinned turnovers plump with potatoes and peas-as was its raita, the soup-like salad of whipped yogurt with cucumbers, potatoes, and peas. Boti masala, tender Lamb cubes sautéed in a curry and tomato sauce, was lusty indeed; palak panir, cheese-spiked spinach in herbed cream sauce, was our vegetable standout accompaniment. On the mild side, tandoori chicken was superb as always-juicy from its overnight yogurt bath, tender and toothsome from its tandoor oven sauna. The tandoori-baked Indian breads were fine, too, from the traditional leavened naan to onion kulcha, deliriously stuffed with onions and herbs. 2620 Walnut Hill. 350-6466. Inexpensive. -B.C.

Mumtaz. Among the appetizers, vegetable pakoras, slicesof eggplant, onion, and potato battered and fried, were quiteappetizing, and the paper-thin discs of papadum, the crisplentil wafer, were sheer peppery delight. From naan, theplain leavened white, to aloo paratha, wheat rounds stuffedwith peas and potatoes, the breads were heavier and greasierthan desirable. But entrees were outstanding. Saag paneer,puréed spinach cooked with cubed yogurt cheese in creamsauce, transcended its simple ingredients. Lamb curry wassubtly spicy, the lamb cubes tender in their musky darksauce. The Atrium. 3101 N Fitzhugh at McKinney Ave.520-2400. Inexpensive to moderate. -B.C.



ITALIAN



Acapella Gafe. We especially enjoyed the shrimp pizza-a small one, split among two or three people, makes a goodappetizer. There is an international assortment of salads-Greek, Thai, Mexican, as well as Italian-which seemedlike a good idea, but none of them quite worked. Fettuccinewith salmon was delicious, but very rich; manicotti wasnicely light, filled with fluffy ricotta and zapped with atangy, fresh-tasting tomato sauce. Cappuccino pie was thehands-down, mouth-full winner in the dessert category.2508 Maple. 871-2262. Moderate. -M.B.M.

Alfonso’s. This is a small place, of the red-checked tablecloth variety, serving hearty Italian food of the red saucevariety, and the large portions of rib-sticking pasta, veal,and chicken keep the regulars happy and no wonder.Chicken parmigiana was a large double breast smotheredwith red sauce and cheese-the meat was both lender andjuicy, and the sauce was spicy. Lasagna was a slab of pastawelded with cheese, and spaghetti came with a length offennel-spiked Italian sausage topped with thick red sauce.Sided with a simple salad and a basket of chewy garlic rolls,this is a meal that will last you, but the real star at Alfonso’sis the pizza, a big round of yeasty crust heavy with moltencheese. 328 Casa Linda Plow. 327-7777. Inexpensive tomoderate. -M.B.M.



D RIVISITS

Chianti’s. This is the sibling of a popular Italian spot on Webb’s Chapel that I’ve heard about, but never visited. So I can’t compare the new with [he original, but if the latter is anyching like the former, it’s definitely worth a visit. The service was welcoming and helpful, and our meal, from the tender artichoke stuffed with savory bread crumbs to the white chocolate ice cream, was first-rate. In between, we especially enjoyed a special of veal and shrimp piccatta, both the tender meat and the just-cooked shellfish bathed in a thin lemon butter sauce, and a Caesar salad, properly prepared tableside-an extravagance of service in a reasonable restaurant. 4820 Greenville Ave. 691-6769. Moderate. -M.B.M.



D REVISITS

La Tosca. The crisp black and white interior, the wallslined with work by local artists and the shutters painted abright David Hackney blue, is as timely and stylish-lookingas ever. The food, in comparison with the newer, brighterstyle of Italian cooking now current, seems a trifle outré.Some sauces were too rich and servings were too large. Thelow point of our meal was a crespelle appetizer, served sohot it was still bubbling and so thickly sauced both flavor andtexture were buried. The soup, a clear broth with freshspinach leaves, was better, and. though the portion was huge,I loved the veal chop primavera, a big cue smothered in asavory sauté of match stick carrots, zucchini, and freshtomatoes with a Marsala sauce. Orecchiete all’Arrabbiatawas a big bowl of little ear shapes cooked al dente and tossedwith a hot, hot mixture of tomatoes and peppers. It wasn’tcutting edge, but it was delicious. A new light menu includescalorie, cholesterol, and fat counts. 7713 Inwood. 352-8373.Expensive. -M.B.M.



D REVISITS

Lombardi’s at Travis Walk. Judging by the usual crowds and by past experiences. Lombardi’s in Travis Walk is an especially good bet for lunch; the service is well-paced for midday, the menu strikes a balance between light and satisfying, and the sun-filled room is both comfortable and stylish. However, on a recent lunch, everything seemed a little lax. Service was inattentive-we had to request silverware after our food arrived and waited far too long for our check. And though the focaccia was fragrant with rosemary and cheese, and a special of John Dory and pasta was moist (the former) and al dente (the latter), the Caesar salad was bland, and the grilled chicken salad was chilled to stale ness. Surely the pace still picks up at dinner: or perhaps (we hope) this was just a bad day. 4514 Travis. 521-1480. Moderate. -M.B.M.



Rodolfo’s. The difference here is the “Ital-lite” menu, alist of low-fat dishes designed to meet the American HeartAssociation guidelines-sauces are made with wine andbroth instead of cream, margarine is used instead of butter,and cheeses are part skim milk. Calorie counts are given byeach listing. If all this makes eating out sound like work instead of play, rest assured. The “lite” food tastes like plaingood cooking. The vegetable lasagna was a wonderful layering of firm pasta and fresh vegetables: eggplant parmigianawas topped with a lively tomato sauce. However, there’s alsoa list of regular Italian dishes-Rodolfo’s pizzas, especiallythe white one with herbs and olive oil instead of tomatosauce, are worth the calories, 5957 Royal Lane (at Preston).36S-5039. Inexpensive to moderate. -M.B.M.

Sfuzzi. On a recent revisit, the special soup, roasted eggplant, was enlivened with bits of bacon and tomato; the shrimp pizza held lots of sweet shellfish on its thick, tender crust. Imaginative entrées-grilled salmon in a sauce/garnish of grapefruit and basil, and veal crusted with Romano and sautéed. were good ideas well executed, and more expected dishes, such as chicken and spinach lasagna, were surprisingly distinctive. The baby chicken, served to us by mistake, was flavorless, as baby chickens are apt to be; the special grilled breast, with its complicated garniture of braised endive, asparagus, tomatoes, and basil, was more interesting. 2504 McKinney. 871-2606. Moderate. -M.B.M.



JAPANESE/KOREAN



Fuji Ya. This little storefront Japanese restaurant just northof LBJ Freeway has managed to stay in business for a longtime, though the crowds have always seemed sparse at dinnertime. The quality of the food is mixed. There is a smallbut impeccably fresh selection of sushi, the gyoza (pan-friedmeat dumplings) are delicious, and the shrimp tempurastands out as among the lightest, crispiest, most delicate intown- But other dishes, like fatty, undercooked teriyakichicken and overboiled, tasteless sukiyaki, can be mostdisappointing. 13050 Coil ltd. 690-8396. Inexpensive tomoderate. -W.L.T.

Mr. Sushi & Hibachi. The light, bright upstairs bar wasFull of happy minglers quaffing Japanese beer; most of thecrowd seemed to be there for the hibachi part of the menu.and the sushi was not as pristine as we prefer. The beef andchicken from the slice-and-dice show was good, the shrimpwere tasteless, and the hibachi rice-a fried rice combination of egg, scallions, onions, and carrots-was excellent.Altogether, it was much more than a meal’s worth; most ofour fellow diners left with doggie bags. 9220 Skillman.349-6338. Moderate. -M.B.M.

MEXICAN



D REVISITS

Caliente Ranch Grill and Cantina. The recent renaming of this place from a “border cafe” to a “’ranch grill” has also entailed a change in the menu. A kind of barbecue is now given equal emphasis with the sometimes far-out versions of Mexican food. The smokehouse yields “’surf tacos” (grilled shrimp in flour tortillas) and overly sweet babyback ribs along with a tender, delicious (but still rather sweet) smokehouse chicken. A novel accompaniment is the green chili cole slaw, spiked with cilantro as well as peppers. The Tex-Mex platters have an unusual style; the most interesting Mexican items, though, come from the new nacho and quesadilla bar. Quesadilla recipes include one with grilled shrimp, pineapple, red bell pepper, guajillo pesto. goat and jack cheeses, and lemon sour cream-surprisingly, it works. The nacho toppings include barbecued chicken and jalapeno relish over brisket. The desserts include the best flan in town, with one layer of honey custard and another of chocolate. 6881 Greenville Ave. 369-8600. Moderate. -W.L.T.



D REVISITIS

Cantina Laredo. It’s ironic that the front of the menu bears the words “Comido casero.” which is Spanish for home cooking, with a copyright notice attached-because the homestyle Mexican dishes, like Arroz con polio, that were one of the glories of the menu when this place opened are all gone. These days Cantina Laredo tries harder to match the image of its actual name-like so many other Dallas-area restaurants, it has a menu and an atmosphere that do their best to conjure up the border-town bar/restaurants that feature game dinners and good drinks for not very adventuresome tourists. Within those limits, the food re-mains good. Tacos al carbon on the appetizer platter comealready doctored up with so much spicy pico de gallo thatthe faint-hearted will demur. Grilled shrimp and barbecuedcabrito (baby goat) make a good combination for thefeatured dinners; the accompanying frijotes a la chatro,(hough, had been cooked with tomatoes as well as peppersand onions, which lent a very un-Mexican taste. The dessertsare outstanding, especially the churros-long Mexicandonuts liberally dusted with cinnamon. 4546 Bell Line,Addison. 458-0962. Moderate. N -W.L.T.



D REVISITS

Genaro’s Tropical. This “trop-Mex” place has reopenedin an unexpected location-north of LBJ Freeway. The newsetting doesn’t have the cruise-ship chic of the original place,and sadly, the food seems to lack the old zip too. The restaurant’s most famous dish, pez espada-cubes of swordfishwrapped in spinach leaves, skewered, and grilled-seemedtired, not quite fishy but not impeccably fresh-tasting. TheTex-Mex standbys like chicken fajitas and combination platesare adequate. We normally don’t much like liqueurs pouredover ice cream, but the coconut ice cream lopped withKahlua here is subtle and refreshing. 9247 Skillman at LBJ.553-8872. Inexpensive to moderate. N -W.L.T.



Graciela’s. This is good basic Tex-Mex, with especially crisp tacos and satisfying chicken enchiladas. There are also good versions of more adventuresome dishes like the melted cheese appetizers with big chunks of shrimp. You can also choose between came asada (beef sautéed with peppers and onions) and carne guisada (Mexican stew). 3957 Belt Line, Addison. 702-8051. Inexpensive to moderate. N -W.L.T.

Javier’s. This place, which serves a kind of internationalized Mexican haute cuisine (no tacos or enchiladas), has a loyal clientele-mostly from the nearby Park Cities, to judge by the look of them. Our last meal showed us why. The tortilla soup and scallop ceviche were both full of flavor, and the main courses were even better. Big shrimp were tossed in a sauce of orange juice and coffee. One of our party proclaimed the steak Cantinflas “the best piece of meat I ever put in my mouth”-tenderloin cut thin and wrapped around Mexican cheese, then cooked crisp and topped with a mulato chili sauce. 4912 Cole. 521-4211. Expensive. -W.L.T.

MIDDLE EAST



D REVISITS

Hadary’s. We had heard some odd reports-especially about the service-on the newish Dallas outpost of theoutstanding Fort Worth Lebanese restaurant, so we wentback to check. At lunchtime, things could hardly have beenbetter-excellent food, served up quickly enough to make itback to the office on time. In the evening, we learned to takethe helpful server’s hints to heart. If you are warned therewill be a delay, expect a long one. In our case, the delay wasover a baked snapper, which ironically turned out to be theonly dish not worth the effort. The two introductory dips,hummus (chickpea) and batinjan mtabbal (eggplant), areheavenly and more economical ordered separately than onthe elaborate appetizer array called maza. Among the maincourses, the lahm mishwi (a kind of shish kebab) will pleasethe least adventurous, while explorers can sample the kibbi(crushed wheat and ground sirloin) stuffed with pine nutsand the frarej (chicken baked with lemon juice and lots ofgarlic over potatoes and tomatoes). The traditional MiddleEastern desserts, baklava and shabiei (milk pudding in filopastry with honey and pistachios), were never done betterthan here. Promenade Center, 15400 Coit. Suite 2500, Richardson. 669-2112. Moderate. N -W.L.T.



NATURAL



D REVISITS

Dream Cafe. The line extending to the parking lot or weekend mornings is a mixed bunch-black-clad Deep Ellum types and North Dallas families all waiting patiently for breakfast at this neo-health food restaurant. Lunch and dinner are more earnestly nutritious; at breakfast the approach is less purist. Breadstuffs tend to be whole grain and “vege” sausage is on the menu, but the latter is listed along with bacon, and what would be considered controlled substances by many health followers-coffee and sugar-are thankfully available. You do feel good about the food you ea here; “wholesome” is the most apt description of its food value, “delicious” fits the creamy ricotta pancakes topped with fresh blueberries that started one Saturday. Migas, a scramble of red chili tostados and eggs, sided with black beans, brawn rice, and guacamole, were equally good. The light room and adjoining patio, with the pastoral view of the fountain and green lawn, are soothingly pleasant; the dreamily slow service is slightly maddening, 2800 Routh St in the Quadrangle. 954-0486 Inexpensive. -M.B.M.



D REVISITS

Francis Slmun. This tiny place on Greenville is daunting-ly healthy-the brief selection of lunch and dinner specialsis strictly macrobiotic. The bakery case is filled with verynutritious muffins, breads, and doughnuts, made with freshfruits, whole grains, and sweetened with apple juice. Theyare better hot, but I must admit I am not a convert. I likemine with butter and honey. 3613 Greenville Ave. 824-4910.Inexpensive. -M. B. M.



NEW AMERICAN



Actuelle. Acruelle for dinner is predictably excellent;lunch can be an unexpected bargain. You can order soup andentree for under $20 and feel completely pampered. Ahearty winter menu reflected Chef Victor Gielisse’s Dutchroots-our beef with barley soup was a sophisticated interpretation of a hearty classic; ragout of chicken came with apotato pancake. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St. 855-0440.Expensive. -M.B.M.

Deep Ellum Cafe. Red snapper sauced with thyme-scented beurre blanc under diced tomato was beautifullyprepared and presented, and the hallmark chicken, a braceof peerlessly grilled boneless breast halves flanked by tenderdill dumplings, proved itself yet again. Spinach and ricottaravioli were rich and bland in too-smooth walnut sauce, butthe café salad of fresh greens and vegetables with Parmesanin balsamic vinaigrette was freshness redefined. 2706 ElmStreet. 741-9012. Moderate. -B.C.

Landmark Cafe. Under executive chef Kenneth E. Dunn’s hand, the Landmark’s cuisine fairly yodels with creative exuberance. Excessively, in some instances: an entree of fresh Texas quail stuffed with combread dressing would have been adequately partnered with its tart tomato and com relish and black currant sauce, sided with sautéed vegetables; the fried-to-leather sweet potato strings gave theplate an overproduced look. Sautéed medallions of blackbuck antelope, though, were lovely, served with crisp-edgedruffles of thin ham on natural sauce. And the soup of the day,a peppery. stout-hearted rabbit vegetable version, would beenough to bring me back to this room, which is, to my mind,one of the city’s prettiest. Omni Melrose Hotel, 3015 OakLawn Are. 522-1453. Expensive. -B.C.

Laureis. If our recent visit was representative. Laurels hasat last ascended to this city’s most stellar rank. The menu dedegustation’s $38.50 five courses equaled our a la carteselections: potato leek soup was garnished with baconcrisps; mixed baby greens were delectably dressed in aroasted pine nut-basil vinaigrette, with a fling of fried okrafor crunch: lamb loin was a rosy joy wrapped in a delicatespinach-oregano mousse and served sliced on rosemarysauce. An a la carte romaine and mizuna Caesar saiad, subtly dressed, was ringed with fried baby Gulf shrimp; an all-natural beef sirloin rose above the common herd with acrown of crisp cumin-scented zucchini chips in merlot redwine sauce. Dessert souffles are outstanding here, but mypassionate favorite is the pecan crème brulée, infused withBailey’s Irish Cream and served on vanilla sauce. SheratonPark Central Hotel. 12720 Merit, off Cots near LBJ.385-3000. Expensive. -B.C.

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. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 526-2121. Expensive. -M.B.M.



D ERVISITS

San Simeon. Recent rumor had it that Sfuzzi’s tar-flung success might have spoiled San Simeon a little-we didn’t find it so on our last visit. The food was as inventive as ever, uneven but interesting. Main disappointment was a rack of lamb disconcertingly sided by heavy, globby black beans; perhaps I’d have liked it better if it had been the dish I pancakes. Starters were flawless, though-shrimp andscallop ceviche shone delicately against tart papaya arid richavocado; tri-color penne pasta was generously studded withsucculent crab meat, tortilla soup with shrimp and grilledasparagus was a refined variation. San Simeon salad was aslovely as remembered, its multi-greens toss spiked withbalsamic-kissed vinaigrette; Caesar was acceptable, if blandby comparison. Pan-seared sea scallops were superb in asauce of avocado, cucumber, and asparagus-exactly thelight touch the lamb dish lacked. And desserts were fine,particularly an airy apple-raisin tart served warm on caramelsauce. Service was cordial, if unevenly limed-the wait fora couple of courses seemed rather too long-but the displayof pretty people and changing lights made for a pleasantevening on the whole. 2515 McKinney at Fairmount inChateau Plaza. 871-7373. Expensive. -B.C.



SEAFOOD



Oyster’s. We had heard that Anne Lindsay Greer, notedSouthwest cuisine consultant and cookbook writer, had beenchanging things at Oyster’s, but when we asked our waiterwhat was new, he confided, “Not much.” That suits us fine.Beyond the addition of a salad sampler and a few pasta andchicken dishes, the menu is pretty much the same: fresh,simply prepared seafood. The fried shrimp were sweet andcrunchy; the grilled salmon juicy, the blackened catfish freshand spicy. Accompanying potatoes, baked and fried, weregood; preceding orders of crab salad and shrimp nachosprompted us to send back clean plates. 4580 Bell Line Rd.386-0122. Inexpensive to moderate. N -M.B.M.

S&D Oyster Company. This is Dallas’s favorite oysterbar. Before this was the hip part of McKinney, the lines snaking around the block proved the place’s popularity, in a bettermousetrap sort of way. And the food, fast and dependable,holds its own. The menu is simple and has been the same foryears: shrimp, oysters, and fish fillets, fried, raw. or broiled.You can also get a hamburger or a shrimp or oyster loaf-the latter two are good ideas. We tried it all on our last visit.The raw oysters were not as briny as the best, but the friedshrimp were just cooked under their hot brown crust, andthe broiled snapper was moist and sizzling under butter,lemon, and paprika. Coleslaw, good skin-on fries, andround, dry hushpuppies filled out the meal. 2701 McKinneyAve. 880-0111. Inexpensive to moderate. -M.B.M.

STEAKS



D REVISITS

Arthur’s. Having tried the trendy. Arthur’s has surrenderedto the tried, dropping its New American false lace to resumeits true identity as a mecca for steak-loving traditionalists.Not all the food we sampled lived up to its pricey promisein execution-a haphazardly arranged quintet of greenmussels, for instance, was nice enough in rich cream sauce,but hardly nine dollars’ worth; roasted red bell pepperstrewn with carrot and pepper confetti was dully dressed;cream of broccoli soup held precious little broccoli, and ahouse salad of romaine and bibb lettuces skimped on thetender bibb, loading the plate with rough outer leaves ofcoarse romaine. Main courses, though, were flawless-asalmon fillet with straw mushrooms was perfectly cooked,firm and succulent, and a huge filet mignon was magnificentin fiery green peppercorn sauce. A dish of à la carte wild riceplayed perfect accompaniment to the latter; understeamednew potato, broccoli, and carrot held little flavor. A house-made chocolate mousse was burdened with too muchwhipped cream, but crime caramel was exquisite with fresh,ripe strawberries. Service was suave, as was the setting,although the rowdy music from the adjoining lounge was ill-suited to dining. If you want to see where the mature grownup singles mingle in North Dallas, this is, as always, theprime place to go. 8350 Central Expwy, Campbell Centre.Suite 1000. 361-8833. Expensive. -B.C.



Mike’s Del Frisco’s. A four-shrimp starter (two boiled, with remoulade; two fried, with red sauce) was ordinary, but the house turtle soup, while mock, was deep-flavored and nicely sherry-spiked. Salads were over-refrigerated and globbed with last-minute dollops of dressing, but a side dish called “Our Spinach” was delightfully fresh and buttery. The steaks, as expected, were perfection-my fist-sized filet was butter-smooth and fork-tender, my companion’s ribeye a splendid sin, laced with the flavor only fat (ah, the forbidden F-word) can give to beef. Del Frisco’s beef has never been frozen, and I believe it-their flavor and texture were worth a little health-risking. 2200 Cedar Springs Rd in The Crescent. 720-4454. Expensive. -B.C.



TAKEOUT/DELI



D REVISITS

Pataluma. For so highly touted a takeout outlet, Petalumadoesn’t promise much when you walk in midafternoon wanting something to take home for dinner. The hot special of theday is likely to be gone, and we found even the selection ofsandwiches limited But the accent here is on quality andvalue rather than a dazzling selection, and on those groundsPetaluma is certainly a winner. For once all the chi chi saladcombinations work: who would have thought that grilledchicken combined with black beans and a tomato salsawould be good cold, or that a stir-fried combination ofscallops, snowpeas. and sprouts would delight? The Cajunshrimp and rice salad is merely comforting, but even that isbelter than so mary experiments in other places that justdon’t work at all. Similarly, the ham and Swiss cheese sandwich on focaccia and the spinach quiche were models oftheir kind. Desserts were true to form: they looked okay, buttasted great. The impossibly rich cheesecake, the perfect lit-ile strawberry tarts, [he brownies, and the blondies allshowed that you shouldn’t judge by outward appearances.2515 McKinney. 871-2253. Inexpensive. -W.L.T.



THAI



D REVISITS

Sala Thai. The management and most of the menu havesurvived from the days when this was Satay, and Sala Thairemains a good choice among the city’s Thai restaurants forits combination of accessibility and comfort. The food isquite good, too. The pork satay (skewered strips of curriedmeat grilled and served with a curried peanut sauce) and theyum nua (a cold salad made of strips of barbecued beef,fresh mint, sliced onions, vinegar, and lots of peppers) arethe outstanding appetizers. The lime shrimp soup is a better bet here than the chicken coconut soup (normally ourThai favorite). The panang beef (a red curry with limeleaves), the red snapper with chili sauce, and the chickencashew nut (tasty with ginger root and fresh pineapple) makea good combination of entries. 4503 Greenville Ave.696-3210. Moderate. -W.L.T.

VIETNAMESE



D REVISITS

BaLe. There are only six tables in this little place-muchof the tiny space is taken up with a cold case containing Vietnamese mysteries and French pastries. But the barely bilin-gual service is utterly friendly and the food is some of thebest Vietnamese available. Shrimp and pork rolls were lovely, fresh and lender, beef and noodle soup a strong, clearbroth with thin, wide slices of meat, Tightly rolled egg rollswere packed with pork, and a big platter of fresh cilantro,serrano peppers, sprouts, and lettuce, and bowls of hot andfish sauce encouraged you to play with your food. The Vietnamese crepe turned out to be a sort of omelette with shrimpand pork; the enigmatically named “split rice combo” wasa flattened, highly seasoned pork chop and a savory cake ofegg and pork-with rice. Desserts were left untranslated onthe menu, except for the French pastries: acting on past experiences, we left them untasted. 4812 Bryan at Fitzhugh.821-1880. Inexpensive. -M.B.M.



LAS COLINAS/MID CITIES



D REVISITS

Esparza’s. Tarrant County relatives had told us that Espar-za’s was the North Texas restaurant whose food most reminded them of the South Texas Mexican food they had grown up on, We checked the place out and found they were right. Grapevine still manages to feel amazingly rural and homey so close to bustling D/FW Airport, and Esparza’s fits right in-the airy surroundings filled with knickknacks in a rambling remodeled house manage to feel relaxed even in the midst of lunchtime crowds. The food includes definitive chili con queso, cheese enchiladas, and refried beans (especially the version served with the fajitas, cooked to crunchiness in a tiny skillet). Big chimichangas are stuffedwith shredded, not ground beef, and fajitas are wellmarinated and not overcooked. Our one complaint about theTex-Mex standards is that Esparza’s has succumbed to thesuperannuated North Texas fad of the puffed taco, but at leastthe shell is freshly fried Finish off a meal with one of thegenerous, sugary homemade pralines. 124 E Worth St,Grapevine. {817) 481-4668 Inexpensive. -W.LT.



D REVISITS

Via Real. The atmosphere recalls Santa Fe, and the menu combines a few Spanish influences with variations on Mexican and Tex-Mex standards. But the combination is greater than the sum of the parts, and Via Real is one of the outstanding Mexican restaurants in the area. This place was serving tapas before tapas were cool, and both the em panadas (pastries filled with ground beef and vegetables) and the cold crepes rolled around salmon, cream cheese, capers, and onions justify the current craze for Spanish-style appetizers. Came tampiquena is, a worthy version of the classic Mexican steak dish, but the real standouts are the seafood entrees. Skewered scallops wrapped in bacon and grilled are tantalizing, but the grilled shrimp in a superb garlic butler sauce lift that overworked crustacean to new heights. Flan and the pecan pie are both worthy codings to a meal. 3591 N Belt Line, Irving. 255-0064. Moderate to expensive. -W.LT.



FORT WORTH



Reflections. Far and away the loveliest dining rendezvousin Fort Worth-and lovelier than most in Dallas-this mainrestaurant of the downtown Worthington might have beenconceived as a backdrop for romance. Service was impeccable on our visit, and the food lived up to the setting inevery way. A first-course lobster bisque, in fact, may havebeen the best I’ve ever tasted, rich and subtly complex withseasonings that defied definition. The salad’s mixed greenswere a medley of young lettuces, in a vinaigrette tuned totheir delicacy. Entrees equaled their introduction-salmonWellington was an intriguing treatment of fresh flesh,wrapped in phyllo leaves with a fragile seafood mousse, anda hearty mixed grill combined a lamb chop, a vealmedallion, and a small beef filet with surprising effect on apear demi-glace that held only a him of pear texture in itsreduced-stock essence. Closest we came to disappointmentwas in a banana souffle dessert that tended toward leaden inits center; my companion’s bowl of fresh raspberries was abetter postscript to The meal. The Worthington Hotel. 200Main. (817) 870-1000. Expensive. -B.C.

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