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EATING AROUND ELM STREET WINERY: SNAPPY SIBLING

Also: Beijing Grill, Brasserie Calluaud, !Caramba!, Spaghetti Inn-Mike’s Italian Restaurant
By D Magazine |

Elm Street Winery



Restaurant critics sigh and moan over a calling that requires them to eat everywhere and digest the bad with the good, but it is their companions who deserve sympathy. I have one fairly frequent partner, for instance, for whom the potluck of the dining draw last year decreed a string of low-ebb experiences. But he bore up uncomplainingly despite being presented time after time with the culinary equivalent of sautéed rubber glove or smothered carpet.

I mention his run of bad luck only because it was the Elm Street Winery that broke it, This slightly upscaled sibling of the next-door Deep Ellum Cafe is every bit as delightful a discovery as the barely folksier firstborn of Don Cass, Patrick Davis, and chef Brian Hennington. Physically, the Winery is a touch more polished, with candlelit tables nicely spaced between walls of brick on one side, and rough glazed stone on the other. Spiritually, the kinship is more striking than the differences-the waitstaff wears black, but is disarming and downhome friendly; the mood of the place is one of intimate, effortless warmth.

The food is more sophisticated, as befits its pricier station. The dinner menu, which changes weekly, offers three first courses and a half-dozen or more main courses; a printed menu of staple, lighter fare is available any time every day. The only item we sampled from it was our only major disappointment-Catalan bread, a flat pizza-esque toasted loaf laden with sliced tomato, Nicoise olives, rosemary, and too much dust-dry Parmesan, was heavy and hard, the rosemary-olive flavors unfortunately incompatible, Never mind-other openers more than made up for it. Salmon bisque was cream-smooth, thickly laced with salmon shreds; oyster veloute with green onion butter delivered, likewise, the very essence of its named main ingredient. A sun-dried tomato and Gruyere tart was rich, tender, and subtle; a field salad of lettuces, baby yellow tomatoes, nuts, and sliced apple with a goat cheese crouton sang with fresh flavor.

Entrees balanced flavors and textures with uncommon harmony: veal tenders were lovely with Asian pears, the fruit’s sweetness cleanly cut with crumbles of Roquefort cheese; magret of duck wore a tart-sweet mango chutney and carried a bold punch of aromatic pepper heat. Tournedoes of beef were peppered, too, and perfectly cooked; sadly, the confit of duck served with them verged on oversaltiness.

Desserts were fine-white chocolate cheesecake and a deep-chocolate terrine were exemplary, but the coffee was best of all, brewed and brought in individual French press-filter pots.

The only real bone I’d pick with the Elm Street Winery has to do, ironically, with its wines. The wine list, while extensive, is strangely arranged and inconsistently priced: premium labels, for instance, seemed relatively reasonable, but some of the low-end entries were brazenly marked up from retail. By-the-glass offerings were scant and unremarkable when we were there, and the total absence of Texas wines (from the list of a place whose name suggests a prodigality of choice) seems curious indeed, particularly where the food is so deserving. 2704 Elm. 748-6565. Lunch Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-11. All credit cards. Moderate to expensive.

-Betty Cook



Beijing Grill



On both my visits to Beijing, the restaurant seemed to be suffering from “Crescent Syndrome”-the place was empty, or nearly so, for no good reason. It’s an attractive place, the kitchen is headed by one of Dallas’s leading Chinese chefs, and the service was excellent. We enjoyed lovely, very quiet meals-a refreshing change from the McKinney madhouses down the street, but a little too quiet for comfort.

The decor is a legacy from Madame Chang, the location’s previous tenant: a tall space lined with mirrors and windows overlooking the garden court of the Hotel Crescent Court. But the food is strictly the creation of Steve Chiang, formerly chef at the Plum Blossom.

His menu for Beijing Grill includes traditional dishes such as mushi pork and beef with orange sauce along with a completely untraditional section of grilled items, some with Chinese touches (bean-based or ginger-flavored sauces), and some very forward Franco-American dishes, like the grilled sea bass with raspberries and tarragon sauce. Everything is extremely reasonably priced for so posh a location and stylish a room.

We started with assorted appetizers-standard eggrolls and wonderfully crisp but succulent five-spice quail. (You may want a double order of the tiny little things.) From the grill we liked the Mongolian lamb chops, grilled to medium rare and served with a spicy brown bean sauce. Dragon and Phoenix was an excellent rendition, with lots of lobster chunks; wonton stuffed with cheese and crab meat was an experiment that didn’t quite work-the cheese in the fried wonton had a cloying effect.

To finish, Chiang offers some inventive desserts: fresh fruit in a crispy dumpling with tangerine sauce (good, except for the syrupy sauce); vanilla ice cream with two-colored sauce; and a freshly fried banana with creamy coconut mousse and vanilla sauce. 2200 Cedar Springs in The Crescent, Suite 148 871-6868. Mon-Thur 11-3 and 5-10; Friday 11-11; Sat noon-11 pm; Sun 4:30-10. MC, V, AE. Moderate to expensive.

-Mary Brown Malouf



Brasserie Calluaud

After a strange divagation into Mexican cooking, Dallas’s premier French restaurateur, Guy Calluaud. is back in the kitchen in another new French place bearing his name. A brasserie, in French parlance, is less fancy than a restaurant-more of a café, a grill, even a coffee shop. The Brasserie Calluaud, though, is considerably more ambitious in both atmosphere and menu than the name promises. At lunch there are sandwiches and other less expensive items, but in the evening this is pretty much a straight-out French restaurant, about on a price level with the Calluaud’s Chez Gerard down the street, but prettier and more festive.

The menu is so long that it is hard to get a handle on what’s good and what is less so. For openers there are soups (the du jour of tomato with garden vegetables was delicious) and salads (which don’t come automatically with entées) in addition to a long list of appetizers. The appetizers are mostly on the fancy side, with a creditable, if slightly chewy, version of quenelles (fish dumplings drizzled with three sauces and topped with ovals of puff pastry), Several pates are offered, including a terrine of pheasant with gin that had a pretty, light color and a rather assertive taste.

Of the main dishes, the regional specialties sounded the most intriguing, so we sampled three of them. The bouillabaisse is an unusual version of this Mediterranean fish stew, thicker in texture and heavy with the flavor of fennel. The fish and shellfish are impeccably fresh. The rabbit Normandy-style is cooked with lots of onions and Calvados, the French apple brandy; unfortunately, the alcoholic taste was not thoroughly integrated into the sauce, and some chunks of the meat were more tender than others. The cassoulet, the French casserole of white beans and several kinds of preserved meat, was comparatively bland and dry.

From the rest of the menu, the roast chicken had a gorgeously browned skin but seemed a mite dry; the accompanying fried potatoes, however, were the definitive pommes frites. Perhaps the best dish we sampled was the salmon en croute-with perfectly fresh and perfectly cooked fish.

Desserts are tasty without being adventuresome. Besides a range of souffles, which can be ordered in combinations of flavors, there are two versions of apple tart, both a chocolate mousse and L’Indulgent au chocolat (kind of an individual chocolate mousse cake), and profiteroles (little puffs of pastry filled with ice cream and topped with thick chocolate sauce).

On the whole, the food at Brasserie] Calluaud shows the presence of the boss in the kitchen-the level of excellence certainly exceeds that of Chez Gerard in recent years. You also get a sense of occasion for your dollar. This is a fine addition to Dallas’s growing list of affordable fine restaurants. 4544 McKinney. 521-2277. Lunch Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner Mon-Sat 5:30-10:30. MC, AE. Moderate to expensive. -W.L. Taitte



iCaramba!

What delicious mischief! The name is designed to give Texas typesetters fits, with its upside-down exclamation point up front (Spanish, doncha see). The decor is designed to bring tears to the eyes of anyone who has ever tried to get rid of the cracks in old plaster, with artfully faded walls and artificial cracks trailing across the ceiling. The menu trades heavily in tapas, those indefinable little dishes Dallas diners always think of as appetizers.

The whole script would read like sheer folly if it weren’t for the man behind it-Alberto Lombardi, whose name is not normally associated with failure. It won’t be this time, either-in iCaramba! (damn that punctuation), Lombardi has translated the Old World Spanish tapas concept into playful terms New World Dallas can embrace and enjoy, with engagingly modest prices and a tongue-in-cheek focus on fun in the faux-whimsy setting.

Nothing faux about the food, though-the menu’s thirty-two little dishes (half cold, half hot, priced from $2.50 to $4.50) offer a mouth-watering variety of samplers; most of the more than a dozen we tried were marvelous. On the cold side, the cheapest was one of the best-quinoa, the cereal grain that has long been a staple of Indians in the South American Andes, becomes a trendy tabou-leh-Yike cold salad, zipped with the freshness of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, and lime juice. Lime also zings a ceviche that may be this city’s best yet, involving tender bay scallops and finely minced fresh chilies.

Warm entries were laudable, too-sautéed sweetbreads with peppercorn butter were star quality, tender-crisp; so were delicate chicken and ham croquettes. Broiled baby lamb chops and skewered venison chunks were rare and perfect; sautéed froglegs and steamed baby clams each came in irresistible bread-sopping sauces, the froglegs’ garlicky, the clams’ herb-perfumed white wine. Suckling pig slices, carved from a baby porker roasted daily and proudly paraded on a plank early every evening, were fine-textured, their paper-crisp skin a happy contrast to the meat’s extreme richness.

Frankly, none of the entées were as exciting as the sampler servings: marinated rabbit was overborne by its dark sauce of tomatoes, wine, and herbs; paella, though traditional, was insipid: the saffroned rice was nice, but the mussels were sandy and tough.

Desserts were outstanding, particularly the Spanish version of créme brulée, a silken wonder that equals any I’ve had anywhere. The wine list, which includes sherries and aperitifs as well as an extensive selection of reasonably priced wines, is laudable. So is the service, under the direction of manager Javier Gomez.

And so is the concept. You can have your single-entree dinners, thanks-I’ll take half-a-dozen tapas, with a good Spanish red, any day. And judging by the happy crowd that shared our visits, so will the rest of dine-out Dallas. I do believe tapas have found a home here at last. 3227 McKinney Ave. 720-9181. Lunch Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner Sun-Wed 5-10:30, Thur-Sat 5-11:30; tapas Sun-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat I1-1 am. All credit cards. Inexpensive to moderate. -B.C.



Mike’s Italian Restaurant



They don’t make Italian like this anymore. Seven or eight years ago, when they tore down the Wilshire Theater on Mockingbird, all that was left standing was the building that housed Mike’s Spaghetti Inn. Mike’s refused to sell out and kept serving up spaghetti and meatballs; we cheered Mike’s pluckiness and kept eating up the meatballs. Finally, they succumbed, and it wasn’t too long until goat cheese pizza and other neo-Italian delicacies hit Dallas and all but wiped out the red-checked tablecloth style of Italian food. But Mike’s is back, in a storefront location just down Mockingbird from their old place. And it seems uncannily the same. It looks the same, the menu reads the same-even the waitresses, mostly no-nonsense, motherly types, seem the same. Certainly I can detect no change in the thick, slightly spicy red sauce that covers everything. This is strictly Fifties “casserole Italian”-lots of cheese, lots of sauce-without the subtleties or the nonsense of nearly-1990-know-it-all-Italian cuisine. The lasagna, inexplicably sided by spaghetti with red sauce, is nothing more than a rich stack of pasta, cheese, sauce, and more cheese. Manicotti is filled with bland ricotta and smothered in more sauce, pizza is spread with sauce, cheese, and toppings.. .you get the picture. This is great comfort food. Mike, we’re glad you’re back. 6465 E Mockingbird Lane in Hillside Village. 821-5800. Lunch Tue-Fri 11 am-2 pm; dinner Tue-Thur 5-10, Fri & Sat 5-11, Sun 5-10. MC, V, AE. Moderate. -M.B.M.



RESTAURANTS

BARBECUE & BURGERS

The Bronx. The Bronx’s menu of lop-notch burgers and omelettes is augmented by blackboard specials. On a recent visit, we started with potato skins, gooey with melted cheese, and then attempted la finish a hunk of Mom-style meatloaf, 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.



Cardinal Puff’s. Midwinter may seem a bizarre time to visit a place that calls itself the oldest and largest garden/outdoor restaurant in the city. But tor my money, this casual establishment is at its best when chilly weather emphasizes the coziness of two fireplaces and a woodsy indoor setting. Apart from its cutesy name and such fey touches as olives in the beer and other drink whimsies. Cardinal Puffs does a creditable job with casual food-quesadillas were hot and crisp, oozing jack and cheddar, studded with black olives, diced tomatoes, onions, and bacon, and served with sour cream, mild salsa, and fine guacamole. A nicely seasoned chicken salad overflowed its avocado half, and its accompanying pasta salad was delicately dressed. But the real triumph was a hamburger that rivals any I’ve had in Dallas-a juicy half-pound of good beef, not overcooked. enthroned on a Kaiser roll with all the requisite fresh trimmings slacked in proper sequence-a touch less common than you’d think. Only a linebacker could have tackled the whole thing, but Lord knows we tried. And will again- service could not have made us feel more welcome. 4615 Greenville Ave. 369-1969, Inexpensive.



Prince of Hamburgers. Lined up in a row with our trays hooked to the window and a waitress bearing beer and burgers heading our way. we fell a bit of a flashback, sort of like Peggy Sue in the movie. But the food brought us back with a jolt: the burgers, served on a well-toasted bun in a basket with superlative fries, are lops; the chili dogs are served burger-style, and the old-fashioned milkshakes come in real glasses. Now. if only I had a convertible. . .5200 Lemmon Ave. 526-9081. Inexpensive.



D REVISITS



Spring Creak Barbecue. Good barbecue is surprisingly hard to find in Dallas, especially north of Northwest Highway. One of the better spots is this one. which has been around a good while now. The beef is lean and tasty. the spareribs especially juicy and fine. Spring Creek also sells barbecued chicken (not ail barbecue places do). and the birds arc fall-apart tender. Side dishes are only average. There’s now a special station dishing out cobbler, but the results don’t seem worth all the commotion. 270 N Central Expwy. Richardson. 669-0505. Inexpensive- N -W.L.T.

BRITISH

Jennivine. An enduringly romantic mainstay on the upscale-casual dining scene, 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-scalIion soup lasted more of flour than either named element, and the venison pate seemed a bit long in the tooth, having gone dry and almost tasteless. But a warm 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, but this one, warm and rich, struck me as superior. I could wish that space on our tiny two-top hadn’t been taken by a tempting gift basket of Jennivine’s chutneys, a new restaurant sideline, but then, the restaurant’s condiments are famous in their own right, so who am I to question initiative? 3605 McKinney. 528-6010. Moderate to expensive.



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 (he 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 butler, is outstanding here. 2114 Greenville Ave. 821-1300. Inexpensive.



Atchafalaya River Cafe. The Cajun craze may have come and gone in most of Dallas, but it is alive and kicking at Atchafalaya’s Belt Line outpost. The neon is bright, the zydeco blares, the determinedly cheerful waiters are draped with Mardi Gras beads, and the place, large as it is. is filled by 7:30 with drinkers and diners looking for a taste of New Orleans. We started with a cup of creditable gumbo-the spice was right, though the roux tasted a bit floury. Our red beans and rice were rich and smoky; crawfish étoufée had the same roux problem as the gumbo, but was full of meat and came with good dirty rice. The best entrée we sampled was chicken Tchoupitoulas. two breasts pounded thin and sautéed in butter, lemon, and Cajun spices-just the right amount. Desserts, except for beignets, were cloyingly sweet. 4440 Belt Line Rd. 960-6878. Moderate.

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 teriffic. Service was smooth, but the room is strangely soulless. 3710 Rawlins. 520-1985. 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.

Forbidden City. Forbidden City has opened in Joe Ku’s old space upstairs in Travis Walk-we always liked the room with its fine view of the western sky. and now we like the food, too. We especially enjoyed the minced chicken with pine nuts, and the beef and onion rolls, both for wrapping in crispy lettuce leaves. The starred-for-spicy dishes lacked real fire, and some of the portions were too small to provide for the usual Chinese breakfast after the night before-our only quibbles. 4514 Travis. Suite 201. 520-1888. 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.



Jasmine Uniquely Chinese. 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 macadam la 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.



D REVISITS



Taiwan Restaurant. Unlike its more elegant Far North Dallas namesake, this Greenville original in Scott Sheu’s Chinese restaurant group is wearing somewhat around the edges. Its decor is a little dated, its service a trifle less suave than I remember in visits past. The dim sum, though, is still one of the happiest weekend brunch experiences in town. Shrimp folded in rice noodle petals was the star turn here, served with a dipping sauce of heady pungency. Pork dumplings-marinated shreds of meat stuffed in paper-thin skin and steamed-were richly flavored, as was barbecued pork prepared the same way in a fat little snowy flour bun. Shrimp ball was our only ho-hum entry (the minced shrimp and vegetable mix were on the soggy side), but it’s my own fault-I meant to order fried shrimp toast instead, and got carried away. Easy to do, I submit: the dim sum menu includes eighteen different dishes, as well as complete in structions for easy assembly of this delightfully varied, leisurely time-out experience. The hot-and-sour soup, in- cidentally, rates a rave of its own. 6111 Greenville. 369-8902. Inexpensive in moderate. -B.C.



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 Pkwv, Suite 3370. 934-9998. Expensive.



FRENCH/CONTINENTAL

Casals Mediterranean Restaurant. For appetizers we chose Quenelles St. Tropez. a rolled seafood dumpling that was marvelous on its pink salmon side, a trifle fishy in its white half. House salads, included with entrées, were minimal lettuce and tomato, blandly dressed. Entées. though, took up the slack: a traditional Spanish paella was toothsome indeed, its saffroned rice moist and lovely, its mussels and shrimp fresh-flavored, its chicken flavorful albeit a little dry. A fresh trout, impeccably boned except for a flirting upfling of tailfin, was redeemed from being slightly overcooked by its scrumptious caper-kissed sauce. 3102 Oak Lawn as Cedar Springs, in she Centrum. 521-0229. Inexpensive to moderate.

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 crépes, though, were near-ethereal, plumped with moist, fresh crab meat and mushroom slices indelicately 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. 370I W Northwest Hwy (at Marsh Lane). 351-2248. Expensive.

Cleo by Jean-Claude. Fans of the old Jean-Claude-once perhaps Dallas’s best restaurant-will find much to evoke nostalgia here. Jean-Claude Prevot himself is again much in evidence, and the menu has some old favorites like the pristine, very French, lettuce-only salads, the duck in an Oriental-inspired ginger sauce, and the ethereal chocolate souffle’s. The price of a four-course fixed meal is just $29.50-remarkably low for what you get. The standout appetizer is the garlicky escargots in a puff-pastry shell, and the best dessert is the hazelnut soufflé. Among the entrées, both treatments of fish we sampled were superb. The Centrum. 3102 Oak Lawn, Suite HO. 520-9264. Expensive.

The French Room. Some happy mood-lightening has gone on here since my last visit to this most splendid of Dallas restaurants-the rather forbidding hauteur of the waitstaff-that-was has undergone a warming that makes the ambience more gracious, if no less grand, than before. Perhaps the staffs willing mien and prompt service are partly owed to the kitchen’s move from an exhausting two floors away to space adjoining the dining room. Certainly, the food at The French Room has improved-on a recent visit, both a la carte selections and fixed-menu offerings were superb, from a pretty complimentary hors d’oeuvre of salmon ril-lettes to dessert, fresh raspberries in puff pastry with créme fraiche on warm caramel sauce. The degustation menu (four courses, with a wine for each. $56) was in no way outclassed by more expensive menu choices: a confit of guinea fowl legs with mildly dressed winter greens and petal-smooth duck foie gras was a showy first course, as was my companion’s fresh foie gras sautéed with apples in Calvados sauce. Sautéed medallions of beef tenderloin under a crisp potato fan were the equal of chicken breast rounds alternated with alabaster lobster in truffle sauce. The meal’s sole disappointment was negligible-a cognac sorbet that tasted only of sugar and water, far too sweet for palate-refresh ing. Otherwise, though. Chef Philippe Mouton and friends seem to have found the consistency that has for so long been lacking in The French Room’s cuisine; and maitre d’ Michel Boutemy de Guislain, formerly of The Riviera, seems to have brought with him a joie d’esprit that is altogether welcome in this hallowed hall. Adolphus Hotel. 1321 Commerce. 742-8200. Expensive.



The Grape. The Grape’s trademark fresh mushroom soup was an inimitable joy, its dinner salad a perfectly dressed mix of lettuces topped with ripe baby bell tomatoes. Entrees were as winning-Norwegian salmon fillet mated succulently with grape-almond relish; a flawless chicken breast was lavished with roasted pecans in an herbed sauce of brie and white wine; tournedos of beef were fine, fork-tender and rare in deep-flavored Béarnaise sauce. Nicest surprise of all was a flexible fillip other establishments would do well to copy: a number of entrees may be ordered in full-or half-sized portions, priced accordingly. Dine before seven on weekdays, and you’ll find several offered in half-sizes with soup or salad and dessert for $9.75-a bargain if there ever was one. even with wine by the bottle or glass added to the total. 2808 Greenville. 828-1981. Moderate.



D REVISITS



Mr. Peppe. Even after the owner of many years sold out. Mr. Peppe remains much the same. The place is still a bargain if you don’t order an appetizer or a special soup, since a fine soup of the day (cream of cauliflower on our last visit) and a crisp salad are included in the cost of an entree. If you do decide to put out the money for an appetizer, try the scallops in a saffron sauce-you tan actually see a boun tiful quantity of the expensive spice in the sauce. Among the main courses, the beef dishes are among the best choices. The ribeye with a Bercy sauce was beyond cavil. Desserts include a very tasty Grand Marnier torte. 5617 W Lovers Lane. 352-5976. Moderale to expensive. -W.L.T.



D REVISITS



Old Warsaw. Rumors and announcements have created expectations of a move for [his oldest of Dallas’s super-deluxe restaurants. But as events have proved, things don’t change much at the Old Warsaw. There are still the same chandeliers and dark decor, the same conspicuous expenditures on old bottles of wine, the same entertainment by violinist and pianist (whose repertoire had on this occasion been modernized from The Merry Widow, c. 1900. to Show Boat. c. 1928). The food is still showy but not very exciting. Appetisers include garlicky escargots and bland crayfish in a winy sauce. Tender veal and crisply sautéed sweetbreads make good choices for entrées. Salads (like the signature watercress and Belgian endive) and desserts are among the best courses. 2610 Maple. 528-0032. Very expensive.

-W.L.T.



St. Martin’s. Better places than this have had to downprice to survive Lower Greenville’s downturn in traffic, but something about St. Martin’s laid-back bistro character keeps the faithful coming. Must be the combination of candlelit tables and conversation-level music, plus come-as-you-are informality. Surely it’s not the service, which, though sweetly rendered, is given to long intervals of inattention. The food, while pleasant, is not outstanding-a cup of gumbo on our visit was flavorful but loaded with more rice than fish or vegetables; a Caesar salad was properly zesty, but one of basil-dressed hearts of palm was bland and dreary; roast duck from the regular menu was admirably crisp-skinned in not-too-sweet fruit sauce, on the whole a more rewarding dish than the pricier blackboard specials we tried-a mild-fleshed cut of grouper and a rather ordinary veal chop. Crécme caramel, too, was just passable, a term that pretty well describes the whole adventure of dining here, although other patrons-couples, families with children-seemed to be having a fine time. Perhaps they’ve found something about the place that eluded me. 3020 Greenville. 826-0940. Moderate to expensive.



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 crepe 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. 9739 N Central Expwy. 369-6466. Expensive.

Hofstetter’s. Hofstetter’s half-dozen appetizers and seventeen entrees 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 Zinfandel-poached pear finishing off the plate. On the more traditional side, pork tenderloin medallions dolloped with Montrachet cheese in port sauce are partnered with delec-tably tender spaetzle and a marinated cucumber salad. Plaza at Bachman Creek, 3830 W Northwest Hwy.



Suite 390. 358-7660. Inexpensive to moderate.



Kuby’s Sausage House Inc. Stand in line here for the requisite noontime half-hour, and you can watch (he social set mingle meekly for a shot at German classics served exactly as they have been for twenty-seven years: plump knack wurst partnered with pastrami-flecked German potato salad, a brimming bowl of superior sauerkraut on the side: onion-spiked tartar steak, red as cherries, spread thick between rye bread slices; moist, fresh carrot cake framed in a full half-inch of buttercream icing, with a plastic tumbler of iced tea to wash it down. 6601 Snider Plaza. 363-2231. Inexpensive.



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.



Goldfinger Restaurant. A multitude of baby crab claws heaped on a plate overwhelms me with the amount of stale-tasting grease-or is that Greece?-each liny morsel has absorbed . But the rest of the meal is better, the soup a lemony delight in rich chicken stock, the lamb succulently broiled, the abundant feta salad fresh and crisp. The souvlaki’s creditable, and even the dolmas would have been nice if they’d been a little less salted. 2905 Webb Chapel Ext. 350-6983. Moderate to expensive.



INDIAN

Ashoka. This small Far North Dallas Indian restaurant is the only one we know of (hat offers a buffet in the evening as well as at lunchtime. When we visited, though, the dishes seemed warmed 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 lamb 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. Inexpen-sive to moderate.

Kebab & Kurry. This North Dallas spot continues to serve some of the best Indian food in the area; lately, the service has been more personable and less inscrutable than in the past. Any of the wonderful breads or selections from the tan-door make good choices for the novice (even my kids like it), while the shahajani biryani-a complicated mix of rice, chicken, and vegetables-exhibits the balance of innumerable ingredients that makes Indian food so exciting. Chutneys and vegetable dishes are also outstanding, but 1 have to confess 1 don’t understand Indian desserts. 401 N Central Expwy. Suite 300. Richardson. 231-5556. Inexpen-sive 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 (falt bread). 2620 Walnut Hill Ln. 350-6466 Inexpensive to moderate.

Taj Mahal. We started with the appetizer assortment, sort of an Indian pu-pu tray, and ate our way through korma. vin-daliH). and biryani without a complaint, it’s all good. and. a plus for inner-city types, it’s close in-just across from NorthPark. The service was exceptionally friendly and helpful. Caruth Plaza. 9100 N Central Expwy, Suite 179. 692-0535, Inexpensive to moderate.



ITALIAN



D REVISITS

Amore. This neighborhood Italian restaurant at the north end of Snider Plaza is generally crowded: it’s unpretentious, the atmosphere is appropriately cozy, and the food is satistying if not inspired. That strange hybrid. Italian nachos. are a featured appetizer-a slice of pepperoni and some moz-xarella on a toasted triangle of flour tortilla. We preferred the bruschetta; it’s not the simple classic here, but a souped-up version involving tomato sauce, cheese, and herbs. The simpler pastas seem to be the best bet for entrées-veal car-dinale. strips of breaded veal and red peppers over fettuc-cine. was a little bland and oily, but vegetable lasagna, full of cheese and just-tender vegetables, was good. 6931 Snider Plaza, 739-0502. Inexpensive to moderate. -M.B.M.



Flip’s Wine Bar and Trattoria. The soups can be heavenly, like the delicate cream of squash: the salad is prosaic. If you have room for additional appetizers, there are some excellent ones. The gnocchi con pomodoro e rosma-rino are among the best versions in town of these tittle Italian dumplings, and the fried ravioli are excellent. The smallish pizzas (in four varieties) are also outstanding. Pasta is handled in a unique way. For one price ($9.95). you have your choice of ten different shapes of pasta, mixed and matched with eleven different sauces. We found the conchiglie and the vermicelli both cooked to order, and the pesto with cream a tasty sauce. 1520 Greenville Aw. 824-9944. Moderate.



Massimo da Milano. Most of the time you still have to jockey for position in the cafeteria line to get your food, but at least in the evening now there is table service. Whatever the logistics, we suspect that there isn’t an Italian bakery/café in the country that can compete with Massimo in turning out authentic Italian confections. The breads and cookies and seasonal sweets are absolutely authentic-so much so that for lots of American tastes they are insufficiently sweet and overpowering in the taste of hazelnuts and spices. There is also a plenitude of cold salads of pasta, chicken, and seafood, as well as pizza slices and sandwiches made from focaccia bread. Hot dishes are available only at mealtime, not all through the day. 5519 W Lovers Lane. 351-1426. Inexpensive to moderate.



MoMo’s Italian Specialties. 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 sogginess. But 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 pizzaiola bravely seasoned with anchovy and olive. 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, mealy delight. A special of the day of 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) and focaccia (disappointingly thick and doughy), and voted to move on to triple-chocolate cake (ambrosial) and fine espresso. 2104 Greenville. 826-6376. Moderate.



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 combina-tions, 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, 4002 Beit Line. Addison. 991-8181. N Inexpensive to moderate.



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 lew 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.



Ruggeri’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 sautéing 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, 871-7577. Moderate.



311 Lombardi’s. The waiters will hardly let you sit down without ordering the trademark focaccia (though a tariff of about five bucks for what is basically garlic bread-albeit very fancy garlic bread-seems a trifle outrageous). The fet-tuccine with fresh salmon is an interesting pasta choice, and the bone-in veal chop alla Milanese, crisply breaded and fried, comes garnished with arugula and tomato-anyone for salad and main course all at the same time? The intricate cakes, heavily embellished with buttercream icing and flavored with liqueurs, seem too heavy an ending for an Italian meal. 311 Market at Ross- 747-0322. Moderate to expensive.



JAPANESE/KOREAN

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 Bell Line, Addison. 3X5-0168. Moderate.



Shinano. This cheerful little restaurant features most of the standard Japanese-American menu items, with a few offbeat features like crispy fried soft-shell crab. The shrimp tempura tun be very good, and the sushi and sashimi can be most appetizing (though we thought we detected a vinegary taste to the raw tuna on one occasion-a sign that it might have been soaked to remove a tell-tale fishy taste). The gyoza (little fried dumplings) and the teriyaki salmon have been among other successful choices here. 8830 Spring Valley Rd. 644-1436 Moderate.



Sushi on McKinney. The hot foods here are purely mediocre, except for a first-class salad, but who cares? The sushi bar’s where the action is. and where the good eats are in this sociable Oak Lawn hangout. Alt the standards here are impeccable-dark tuna and yellowtail, crisp jumbo dam and chewy abalone. salmon roe squid. Sweet shrimp, highly touted by my next-stool neighbor at the bar, turned out to be whole creatures, flash-fried to crispness, eyes, antennae, and all. “It’s wonderful!”’ he said. “I believe you.” 1 said. I couldn’t hack it-I hope you’ll forgive me. 4500 McKinney. 521-0969. Moderate.



MEXICAN

D REVISITS



Baja Louie’s. Often crowded-and. when crowded, almost unbearably noisy- Baja Louie’s has a certain energy and panache. Certainly a lot of the dishes have their own style, though that style may not appeal to those weaned on conven tional Tex-Mex. The appetizer plate includes two kinds of stuffed chili peppers; the deep-fried jalapenos filled with chicken will get you one way or the other (either from the blistering temperature or the bite of the peppers). The best of the main courses we sampled is the beef chimichanga- a large flour tortilla rolled around shredded meat, deep- fried, and topped with sauce. The fajitas have a distinctive and unidentifiable flavor, but the accompanying onions have the unappetizing color of orange grease. 17390 Preston Rd. 248-9130. Moderate. N -W.LT.



Blue Mesa. Chips and dip are usually effective forecasters in Mexican restaurants: Blue Mesa serves mixed blue and yellow tostados with a smoky chipotle-black bean salsa and a cumin-flavored tomato salsa. The chile relleno with chicken, cheese, and mango salsa was beautifully presented, and the sweet-tart fruit accented the spice and cheese surprisingly. The counterpoint was repeated in the contrasting flavors of savory black beans and sweet corn pudding. Com meal pasta was cooked al dente; it was sauced with tomatoes, corn, and cumin and topped with pieces of chicken breast rubbed with red chili. Village on the Parkway, 5100 Belt Line. 934-0165. Moderate.



Caliente Bonier Cantina. If we still used the word yuppie, this one would be called Yup-Mex-no other term applies so well to the food and character of this young-singles-cum-family depot. You want to show off your boots and Stetson? Fine. You want to bring the toddlers along? Even better-the noise level’s high enough to drown out any uncivilized ruckus they raise. And the menu’s varied enough to please everybody. Owner Jim Baron, whose Blue Mesa Grill has found local success as a New Mexico-styled outpost . has diluted the concept here to comfortable pop-Mex levels: the Tex-Mex standards are on the menu, but so are the trendy specialties. We began dinner, for instance, with a shrimp quesadilla laden with fresh pineapple dice and cilantro pesto as well as cheese: the combination was enjoyable. Rellenado de Res. a fine cut of beef stuffed with chile relleno rather than vice versa, was rewarding, the meat rare and tender, the pepper mild. Adobe pie. masa and chicken with chipotle cream sauce, turned out to be a huge dome that in any other shape would have been called a naked tamale; never mind that with a salad it would have served four-it was delicious, with a delayed pepper kick that saved it from first-taste blandness. Our one disaster was a flan that resembled honey-drenched mashed potatoes-my companion, in response to the waiter’s friendly how-do-you-like-it query, showed undue kindness in calling it underwhelming. The waiter, to his credit, recovered enough to delete the charge from our check, thereby earning extra points for indulgence as well as prompt, friendly service. 6881 Greenville. Ave. 369-8600. Inexpensive



Gloria’s. What luck to have dropped in on this honest little Oak Cliff eatery on a night when owner Jose Fuentes was borne high on the euphoria of a) his infant daughter’s first birthday and b) the upcoming opening of a new Gloria’s in North Dallas. What luck, too. for North Dallas diners who hadn’t the wit to cross the Trinity earlier to sample the original Gloria’s Salvadoran cuisine-they don’t deserve their now-handy access to such underpriced delights as pupusas. flour tortillas Tilled with pork and cheese, and cur-lido. the oregano-spiked sour cole slaw that complements them. Best way to sample these is on the newly featured Salvadoran plate, which also includes fried plantains and sour cream, fried yucca, black beans, and rice blackened by steaming in liquor from the beans. The medley of flavors on the plate is rapturous indeed, enhanced as it is by a tamale wrapped, Salvadoran style, in banana leaf-anoint it with Gloria’s eye-watering salsa and add a Salvadoran beer, and you’ve a banquet; precede the plate with a serving of the restaurant’s catfish ceviche (one order will feed a foursome), and ordinary Tex-Mex will be an unmourned memory. True. Gloria’s offers Mexican dishes, too. and a pork steak and several soups that are first-rate. But I’d have to eat at Gloria’s almost daily to get past the Salvadoran plate; it’s that good. 600 W Davis. 948-3672. Inexpensive.



La Botica Café. Closed now for lunch except for private parties. the place has broadened its menu to include several upscale-sounding entrees-quail. Cornish game hens, and ribeye steaks, for example-as well as the familiar Tex-Mex standards. Not to worry, though-prices are still in line, and such favorites as tortilla soup, green enchiladas, and cheese-hearted quesadillas are as fine as ever. A ribeye and quail combination plate was substantial and satisfying, both beef and bird grilled to perfection and served with good beans, lively pico de gallo, fresh guacamole. and adequate Spanish rice. 1900 N Haskell. 824-2005. 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 mole and tamales 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.



D REVISITS



Mario & Alberto. Mario Lea) manages to keep the quality of both food and service high in all three of his operations, which are among the first places we take visitors when they warn to see how the real Dallas eats. We can seldom resist the filete de la casa (a wide piece of beef tenderloin with lots of pepper and garlic) or the pipas. (an appetizer of shrimp wrapped in a corn tortilla. deep fried, and served with avocado and sour cream sauces). Over the years, the Tex- Mex side of the menu has received lots of condescending comments. But on our last visit we found that Mario & Alberto’s enchiladas, fried beans, and the rest were really among the best in town, too. LBJ Frwy at Preston. Suite 425. 980-7296. Moderate. N -W.L.T.



Martinez Cats. 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), Piano. 964-7898 Inexpensive.



D REVISITS



Ricardo’s. Good food in the Metroplex doesn’t go much farther north than Ricardo’s original location-you slop making jokes about Oklahoma and wonder about the North Pole. The decor is sophisticated-though families are welcome-and the service is sharp even on the busiest of evenings. The food is reliable and often superior, with good Tex-Mex standards, smoky fajitas, and fine specialties like red snapper in a garlicky sauce and steak tampiquena. One caveat: the desserts are mostly a big disappointment. Avoid especially the flan and the so-called Key lime pie (which consisted mostly of lime sherbet). 17610 Midway at Trinity Mills. 931-5073. N 8021 Walnut Hill in the Corner Shopping Center. 691-3577. Moderate. -W.L.T.



MIDDLE EAST

Hedary’s Labanase Restaurant. The menu is identical to the original Hedary’s in Fort Worth, every dish is fresh and lovingly prepared, and if there’s belter 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 tabouleh and delicate hummus to delectably dressed minted cucumber and yogurt, garlicky lettuce, and onion-spiked tomato. Entrees lean toward beef and lamb: we particularly enjoyed kafta, sausage-like pat-ties of fine ground sirloin and savory spices, charbroiled to succulence and folded into a bread loaf. Promenade Center, 15400 Coil, Suite 2500. Richardson. 669-2112. Inexpensive to moderate.



NATURAL

Bluebonnet Cafe. You wait in line in this remodeled corner of the lower Greenville Whole Foods Market for detectable lunches. Green enchiladas come with cheese, whipped tofu. or both-with Texmati rice and black beans on the side. The salad bar is worth the stiff price because of the fresh. appetizing selection of greenery (including up to a half dozen varieties of sprouts), tabouleh and pasta salads, and some interesting homemade dressings. Desserts are so toothsome you won’t believe they could possibly be good tor you, and beverages include super smoothies like the purple colada and even coffee and wine. 2218 Greenville. 828-0052. Inexpensive.



Drum Café. I find Dream Café’s breakfast and branch 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-misosauce 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, (he 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 butler and warm syrup. 2800 Routh St. Suite 170, in the Quadrangle, 954-0486 Inexpensive.



NEW AMERICAN

Actuelle. Actuelle for dinner is predictably excellent: lunch can be an unexpected bargain. You can order soup and entée for under S20 and feel completely pampered. A hearty winter menu reflected Chef Victor Gielisse’s Dutch roots-our beef with barley soup was a sophisticated interpretation of a hearty classic; ragout of chicken came with a potato pancake. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St. 855-0440. Expensive.



Baby Routh. When a menu lists things like “pot roast” and “banana split,” 1 have certain expectations of home-style, trendless old favorites. But trendlessness is not the schtick of Baby Routh’s chef. Rex Hale. And on my last visit to this upwardly mobile temple, the food, thankfully, finally lived up to the social ambitions of the place. The pot roast with poblano gravy was good, although it cried out Tor potatoes, the seafood tamale was stunning to behold, and the smoked chicken and cacciotta empanada a success, as were all the desserts, including the above-mentioned split. 2708 Routh St. 871-2345. Moderate to expensive.

Beau Nash. With the new direction of executive chef Dan O’Leary and Russell Hodges. Beau Nash seems to have come into its own. Flavors are still California-style assertive, but not jarringly so. 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 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 Cres-cent Court. Maple at McKinney. 871-3240. Expensive.



City Cate. In a city of last 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.



Dakota’s. Dakota’s is to downtown lunch what Sam’s is to McKinney Avenue at dinner-the hot spot. Two differences-lunching takes less time than dining, so the wait at Dakota’s isn’t bad. and the women here wear suits and carry briefcases. Dakota’s is a businessman’s-person’s- favorite, but the place is good-looking enough and the food good-tasting enough to please anyone. The new fall menu features woodsy wild-mushroom-filled ravioli in rich Gorgonzola cream sauce and pecan-smoked tuna that are perfectly tuned to the season. 600 N Akard. 740-4001. Moderate to expensive.



D REVISITS



Deep Ellum Cafe. With its new next-door sibling, Elm Street Winery, claiming space in the limelight, this darling of inner-city diners needed revisiting to confirm that its homey character continues intact. It does. A daily special of red snapper sauced with thyme-scented beurre blanc under diced tomato was beautifully prepared and presented, and the hallmark chicken, a brace of peerlessly grilled boneless breast halves flanked by tender dill dumplings, proved itself yet again. Spinach and ricotta ravioli were rich and bland in too-smooth walnut sauce, but the cafe salad of fresh greens and vegetables with Parmesan in balsamic vinaigrette was freshness redefined. A scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream sauced with melted Toblerone was innocuous-the chocolate was white and bland; I daresay the ginger butter sauce op-tion, also offered, would have been livelier. Ah, well, service was sweetly attentive as always, the ambience mellow, the pace unrushed. the coffee splendid. The owners may have created their own competition in their upscaled new Elm Street Winery next door, but no place is likely to outclass this genuine article. 2704 Elm Street. 741-9012. Moderate. -B.C



Kathleen’s Cafe and Bar. We started dinner with a bowl of venison chili served with cream over one of Kathleen’s terrific herb biscuits. 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 entree 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. 4424 Lovers Lane. 691-2355. Inexpensive to moderate.



Laurels. The menu dégustation, with a fixed price of $38.50. changes daily and is a good bet. A la carte choices are expensive, but choices like Maine lobster, wild mushrooms, and basil with fettuccine and roasted pheasant with green apple pasta and blue cheese sauce are well worth the tariff. Desserts are killers here, especially the soufflé of the day {apricot with raspberry sauce on my visit). Sheraton Park Central, 12720 Merit Dr. 851-2021. Expensive.



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 (he 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.

Nana Grill. The glittertng view of downtown, the strolling violinists, and the deep decor make this restaurant on the Anatole’s twenty-seventh floor feel luxurious. Unfortunately, the food and service on our visit were less than luxe-an appetizer of oysters with cilantro pesto was excellent, as were the grilled entrees (veal and lamb), while side dishes ranged from pretty good (Tried onion rings) to poor (an uncooked lump of potatoes au gratin). Loews Anatole Hotel, 2201 Stemmons Frwy. 748-1200. Expensive.



Parigi. On my last visit, a sage pesto pizza was the prize ap-petizer, followed by a terrific Caesar salad, lightened up with lemon juice and zest-the balance of rich and tan 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 tan 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 cilantro may be the best New Wave pizza in Dallas. Southwestern-style soups, especially the yellow-tomato gazpacho, are also outstanding. The pork loin scaloppini with a sauce of capers, tomato, smoked bacon, and parsley is yet another winner. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 559-2100. Moderate to expensive.



Raffles. It’s hard to buy a nice lunch for less than $10 these days; most of Raffles’ offerings came in at $7 or less. Grilled chicken rosmarino was a small double breast, nicely marked and juicy, with a rosemary-infused butter sauce. The pizza margherita was a thin crust, spread with sweet tomato sauce, and overloaded with mozzarella. Dinner was a confused collection of pluses and minuses-the dressing on the Caesar salad was good, but had evidently been poured over, not tossed with the greens. My salmon steak was perfectly grilled; it came with the same vegetables as my lunchtime chicken and a rather stark baked potato. But my companion’s penne vodka came drowned in a sauce that looked and tasted a lot like cheese and Rotel dip. Desserts were better; the tiramisu, a concoction of espresso-soaked lady fingers and sweetened ricotta, was delicious. 2200 Cedar Springs in The Crescent. 855-8889. Inexpensive to expensive.



Routh Street Cafe. A recent visit proved that the reputation Routh Street has built in the last five years is deserved. This is not so much a see-and-be-seen spot as many Dallas dining rooms-the focus here is really on dining. A minor facelift last August restored luster to the classic modern interior and added necessary space; our service was perfect, and, with minor exceptions (a too-oily salad dressing and an overpowering sorbet), so was the food: rabbit with red chili pasta and smoked com; chili stuffed with almonds, apricots, and goal cheese; lamb loin with mast garlic sauce sided with serranos and papaya quesadillas; and all the desserts. 3005 Routh St. 871-7161. Very expensive.



Sam’s cafe. After a period of hits and misses under former chefs. Sam’s kitchen is on a winning streak, thanks to the direction of the current chef. David Feder. Lobster pizza was outstanding, as was a special pasta paired with chunks of tenderloin and homemade “vulgar chocolate” ice cream that may be the most intense ever. 100 Crescent Court. Suite 140. 855-2233. Moderate to expensive.



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 crepe in a classic French sauce americaine (and the crab seemed limp, with an unacceptable number of shell bits). Fish is the strong suit 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. 871-7373. Expensive.



Spatz. [ had heard that Spatz is a great little neighborhood bistro, and it is actually in my neighborhood. Still, Spacz is worth stopping at even if it’s not in your 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. Ail the marble and brass make for a hard-edged elegance, and the food is almost always superior. The menu has been narrowed down to include only the best dishes-like pasta with smoked salmon and seafood and a salad of tomato, avocado, and fresh mozzarella drizzled with pes-(o. Daily specials include elaborate treatments of exotic fish, both broiled and sautéed. Be advised that the dessert the waiters call a custard is really the most wonderful version of crème brulée in town, with a rich bottom and a crackling Sugar crust. 4546 McKinney at Knox. 559-4441. Expensive.



Aw Shucks. The best fried things in life are fat-free, virtually, if they’re cooked right. And as far as I’m concerned, the catfish, oysters, and shrimp served here qualify on both counts. I’ve never had a better whole farm-raised (as opposed to river-caught) catfish than the commeal-crusted golden beauties that are any day’s catch at Aw Shucks’s order counter, and the fillets, giant butterflied shrimp, and oysters of our latest visit were almost as succulent. If you’re crazy about crabcakes, you’ll find them here heavier on crab meat than most. 3601 Greenville. 821-9449. Inexpensive.



Cafe 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 cilantrocon-fetti, but its lime marinade struck me as a trifle sharp. And an entree 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.



Fishmonger’s Seafood Market and Café. Simple dishes like the boudin sausage appetizer and fried catfish or shrimp come off as well as expected (though the boiled peel-and-eat shrimp proved unappetizingly mealy in texture). The surprise is the excellence of the more elaborate dishes like the redfish Pontchartrain (grilled and lopped with shrimp, crab, and mushrooms) and the scallops baked in lemon but-ter and topped with cheese. 1915 N Central at Chisholm, Suite 600, Piano. 423-3699. Moderate.



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 blanc sauce with baby shrimp, but the tortellini marinara had been .sitting loo 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 Shall Cafe. 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 com didn’t add much to the meal. 6403 Greenville Ave. 987-3477. Moderate.



D REVISITS



Scott’s. This family-run seafood house replaced a series of good ideas gone bad in this quiet, end-of-McKinney location. Scon’s really is a good idea, and we hope it lasts longer than its predecessors. It’s set back slightly from the street. and the bushes and small trees on the front patio further screen out any traffic; inside, the seashell pink color and a wall of French windows make a graceful space out of a rectangle. Our service was rather perfunctory, but a waiter at the next table was much more informative, so we shamelessly eavesdropped. It seems there’s a new menu daily, according to what’s fresh, as everything we tasted certainly was. Raw oysters were plump and briny; crabcakes consisted of little more than sweet crab meat in a light breading. Both the sautéed fillet of sole and the grilled whole baby snapper were perfectly cooked and perfectly fresh. 4620 McKinney. 528-7777. Moderate. -M.B.M.



Theodore’s. Advertised as a seafood restaurant. Theodore’s offers as well a full complement of Greek dishes from taramousalata (a pink fish-roe dip) to moussaka (the divine Greek casserole of lamb and eggplant, topped with a creamy custard and delicately tinct with cinnamon). But the creatures of the briny deep occupy the bulk of the menu, and Theodore’s does a good job with most of them-though be forewarned that a simply, delectably broiled whole flounder will be adorned with an herbal oregano accent that you may not have bargained for! The humbler dishes like the fried fish and shrimp sandwiches can be disappointing, but the Greek -style shrimp scampi (with tomato and feta cheese) is extraordinary. The Corner, Walnut Hill at N Central Expwy 361-1922. Moderate to expensive.



SOUTHERN

The Blue Onion Restaurant. The food here is all honest and well prepared, even if it seldom excites. Probably the best is the pot roast, so tender it has fallen apart before it reaches the plate and rich with the sweet laste of carrots and slow-cooked beef. The fried shrimp are much better than average, and the chicken pot pie tastes homemade, though the biscuits on top are a flimsy substitute for a crust. Desserts are supersweet and a bit bland-just like Momma used to make? 221 W Parker Rd at Central Expressway. Piano. 424-2114. Inexpensive.



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 Aw. 824-2996. Inexpensive.



Bubba’s. This may be country cookin’, but this is the Park Cities-Paul Simon alternates with Dolly Parton in the background, and the denizens look to be young lawyers on the prowl, SMU sorority sisters, and grandes-dames doing their best to go slumming. The food includes crisp fried chicken and yeasty rolls and an ever-changing choice of vegetables. The lima beans and cabbage have been slow-cooked with bacon long enough that it’s hard to tell they were ever part of the vegetable kingdom-but then that’s the Southern style of days gone by. Neither the chicken-fried steak nor the cherry cobbler can vie with what Momma used to make. 6617 Hillcrest. 373-6527. Inexpensive.



D REVISITS



Celebration. This is food the way you wish your mother had fixed it-homemade biscuits, blueberry muffins, yeast rolls, tender baked chicken and pot roast, mashed potatoes with the skins. It’s not purely Southern-style; vegetables, served family-style, do retain their original color and flavor. The rambling interior looks nostalgically early Seventies- wood walls, copper-topped tables, very homey. 4503 W Lovers Lane. 351-5681. Moderate. -M.B.M.



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, corn. 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 com on the cob was gloriously not overcooked. 3531 Oak Lawn, 522-3287. 6950 Greenville- 691-3287. 702 Ross. 744-3287. Inexpensive.



Highland Park Cafeteria. As cafeterias go. the original HPC is the momma 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. 46I1 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.



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. On our last visit the crust was soggy-that was our only disappointment. 14902 Preston Rd, #512, in Pepper Square. 490-6301. Inexpensive.

The Mecca. Inside the Mecca, it’s always 1957. This is one old favorite that repays revisiting, whether for breakfast, which features immense omelettes, real-thing hash browns, and swell biscuits, or for lunch, when chicken-fried steak is in order. 10422 Harry Mines. 352-0051. Inexpensive.



Rosemarie’s. Rosemarie Hudson never forgets a customer, and her warmth accounts in part for the fanatical loyalty this little cafeteria-style operation inspires; the terrific chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, yeast rolls, and peanut butter pie also might have something to do with it. 1411 N Zang. 946-4142- Inexpensive.



Theo’s Diner. Don’t fret because this landmark has changed hands and undergone a minor face-lifting. The little diner that could still does, making from-scratch burgers and garlic-breathed grilled cheese sandwiches as homey as any around, as well as the undisputed best skins-on fries that have ever passed my lips. A new special added to the daily lunch menu. Greek spinach-and-feta pie. must be good too; on our visit, it was all gone before we could try it. 111 S Hall at Commerce. 747-6936 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 Dei 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. The Crescent, 2200 Cedar Springs. 526-2101. Expensive.



Lawry’s The Prime Rib. Everything you eat at Lawry’s is accompanied by elaborate ritual, beginning with the semi-bizarre spinning salad, in which a plastic bowl of greens is set whirling in a bowl of cracked ice as it is anointed from on high by Lawry’s dressing. When the beef arrives, you expect trumpets to herald the beef cart, which looks somewhat like the QE2 as it lumbers down the aisle. The cart is laden with six roasts in varying degrees of doneness, available in different size cuts; once the beef is on your plate, accompanied by unexceptional buttered peas and mashed potatoes, you understand what the hoopla is all about. No one bothers to cook prime rib like this anymore. The lender, marbled slice was raspberry-red, rimmed with fat, and flavorful to the last bite. 3008 Maple Ave. 521-7777. 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 soufflé for two a fine end to a meal. For those who don’t warn 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

Bagelstein’s. This is more than Dallas’s best bagel emporium . Past the bakery, there is a deli. Past the deli, there is a restaurant with several levels of seating. Here you can order superior breakfast specials, complete with fresh hash browns and toasted bagels. Or you can order elaborate sandwiches made from pastrami or smoked tongue, and other deli fare like chopped liver, lox. or knackwurst. Or you can order complete dinners, including surprisingly tasty broiled fish accompanied by pilaf and fresh broccoli. Northwood Hills Shopping Center. 8104 Spring Valley. 234-3787. inexpensive to moderate.



Crescent Gourmet. In addition to the daily menu of sandwiches and salads. Crescent serves hot and cold daily specials, a soup du jour, assorted cookies, cobblers, and sweets, and even offers a wine list. But while the ingredients are of high quality, most of the dishes we tried lacked seasoning: chicken and tuna salads were meaty but bland, shrimp bisque tasted only faintly of shrimp, and the brownies were more sweet than chocolate. On the upside, the focaccia bread on the tasty bacon-avocado sandwich gels our vote for best sandwich bread in town, the cinnamon-spiked three-berry cobbler was summer incarnate, and the white and dark chocolate chip cookies were killers. 400 Crescent Court. 871-3223. Inexpensive to moderate.



D REVISITS



Dell-News Restaurant & Bakery. Old World at mosphere is in short supply in Far North Dallas, but- although this storefront operation isn’t much to look at-the Russian emigré proprietor and his help contribute lots of col or and charm here. The delicatessen foods are top-notch. We found particular delight in three kinds of beef: meticulous ly rare roast beef, lean brisket, and richly flavored corned beef. The baked goods vary in quality, but the unusual onion rolls and [he even more unusual poppy-seed roll (something like strudel) are worth investigating. 15775 Hillcrest Rd, Suite 502. 392-3354. Inexpensive. N -W.LT.



Everyday Gourmet. Recent highlights include fried cat-fish with smoked red pepper butter, you’ll-never-miss-the-meat meatless lasagna, rich seafood enchiladas, beef, shrimp, and vegetable skewers, rice with apples and basil, and fried corn. 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 lite. Owner-chef Christine Carbone’s creative touch with light New American and Italian tare 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.



Pacific Express. The smoked chicken salad with walnuts and the beef tenderloin and Jartsberg cheese sandwich with jalapeno chutney were fine, but the tuna salad on our last visit was overwhelmed by blue cheese, and the tortellini in the pasta-vegetable salad were scarce and overcooked to the point of disintegration. Tropical fruits cake was dry: peach cobbler was mushy. Perhaps the kitchen was having a bad day; I hope so. 1910 Pacific Ave at Elm, Suite 103. 969-7447. Inexpensive.



Pasta Plus. One of Dallas’s first fresh pasta shops is still one of the best, for pasta anyway. Prepared items-meat lasagna, baked ziti with three cheeses, and chicken cannelloni were our choices-were presented in Mom-style Pyrex casseroles and looked delicious, but suffered in taste and texture when reheated. Salads (green, marinated vegetable, and pasta) were good, but the pasta outshines the pluses-rotelle, meat-stuffed tortellini and marinara. and piselli (cream with mushrooms and peas) sauces were wonderful in any combination. Be forewarned-Pasta Plus doesn’t take credit cards, which seems odd: takeout implies convenience, and for me, convenience means plastic. 225 Preston Royal East. 373-3999. Inexpensive.



Pat’s Park Cities. Dispossessed by the ostensible smartening-up of Highland Park Village, owner Robert Patrick has taken his homey sandwich shop to Snider Plaza-along, apparently, with a ten-year accumulation of loyal patrons. While the food’s not so much the point here as the proprietor-clientele camaraderie, Pat’s place offers an agreeable respite from shopping or working stress. Besides a same-priced menu of standard deli sandwiches and submarines, daily specials are offered: on the day of our visit, hot Vienna corned beef was on the board; the beef, thin-sliced, was also thin-piled, only two layers deep, with a skinny slice of white cheese, filled out with much chopped lettuce on a hearty bun. Potato salad and cole slaw, though, were both superior, full of crunch and fresh flavor. Garden tomato soup turned out to be a thin beef-tomato broth sparsely punctuated with chopped vegetables. Dessert emphasis is on nonfat frozen yogurt served every way yet devised. Stop in for lunch, and you’ll have trouble getting served in the clubby hubbub, but non-rush-hour trade gets table side service from (he owner himself; it’s that kind of place. 6617 Snider Plaza. 363-7797, Inexpensive.



Petaluma. This terrific takeout shop is pretty enough to eat in and the food’s good enough to take home to guests-nut unexpectedly, since Petaluma shares a kitchen with San Simeon. Like so many spots with go-or-stay options, Petaluma suffers from confusing service procedures. It turns out that you place your order at the counter, but a waitress brings it to you if you take a table. Soups, salads, sandwiches, and desserts were uniformly excellent on my last visit, standouts being Oriental chicken salad, pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, potato salad with fresh dill dressing, and white chocolate “blondies.” 2515 McKinney. 871-2253.



Polio Bueno. This may well be the fast food of the gods. PB’s hickory-roasted chicken is remarkably succulent. With it you can get very good cole slaw and rice, pretty good com-bread. and pretty odd beans. You can eat inside the clean, spiffy-looking premises or take your treasure home. 3438 Samuell Blvd. 828-0645. Inexpensive.



D REVISITS

Tommaso’s. One of the great innovations in American life over the last decade or so is the sprouting up of places like this that make an appetizing Italian meal at home a cinch. Uncooked fresh pasta and cold pasta salads are available by the pound, and you can choose your own sauce (our favorites arc the creamy walnut sauce and the flavorful, tomatoey put- tanesca spiked with black olives). Individual portions of lasagna and rotolo (pasta rolled jelly-roll style around a spinach, cheese, and ham Tilling) can be zipped into a microwave. A few extras like crisp loaves of bread and fruity olive oil are also available. 5365 Spring Valley at Montfort. 991-4040. Inexpensive to moderate. N – W.L.T.



THAI

New Siam. This western outpost also lists Thai and Chinese special ties-an increasingly common combination. Our advice is stick to the Thai side and you’ll be happy. Volcano chicken was beautiful and delicious; gang ped (red curry with chicken, coconut milk, and mint leaves) was not as hot as we can stand, but the cashew chicken with fried red pepper and green onion compensated. 2415 W Northwest Hwy. (at Harry Hints). 358-5679. Inexpensive so moderate.



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 styrofoam. Entrées 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 searingIy hot sauce, was exactly the kind of flavor blend that makes Thai food so addictive-near-pain fully hot, but wonderful. 4503 Greenville Ave at Yale. 696-3210. Inexpensive to moderate.



That Lanna. Thai Lanna docs 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, too, 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. This has quickly become one of the most popular Thai restaurants in Dallas, and it’s easy to see why-the tiny jade green room with its Indonesian print cloths has a funky coziness that is most appealing, and the mostly vegetarian menu is appealing, too. Don’t miss the corncakes (called corn panics); soups and curries are also outstanding. 2018 Greenville. 821-7666. Inexpensive.



VIETNAMESE

Arc-en-Ciel. 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 mélange of chicken, mushrooms, stallions, 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 distinctly utilitarian. 4812 Bryan, Suite 100 (at Fitzhugb). 826-9887. Inexpensive.



Mekong. Mekong’s menu gives Vietnamese and Chinese fare equal time. On the Vietnamese side, appetizers of shredded shrimp and pork rolled with lettuce in tender rice paper caught fire and flavor from the pepper-spiked carrot sauce that came with them. The hot pot soup was a stellar array of chicken and seafoods cooked barely tender with still-crisp celery, pepper, and onion strips in an ambrosia) broth. I’d have bet nothing from the Chinese listings could possibly equal that soup. I’d have been wrong. An entrée of roast duck almost outshone it-roasted whole in a hot stone over camphor wood chips, the golden-skinned bird was delicately scented-served with a saucer of salted lemon juice heavily laden with fresh-ground black pepper, it was superb. 4301 Bryan Street, Suite 101. 824-6200. Inexpensive.



Saigon. First time I dined here. I ordered the shrimp wrapped around sugar cane simply to see what it was. Since, I’ve ordered it every visit because the dish is so transcendent-ly marvelous-the shrimp purged and molded around slim sticks of sweet cane, then grilled and served with lettuce and cilantro leaves, cucumbers and carrot slices, all to be wrapped in rice paper and dipped in hoisin sauce for savoring. Savory it is. and addictive, too-but we did save room last trip to find several other dishes equally stellar. Among them: chicken simmered with beer in a deep, rich tomato sauce with bread for dipping (we fought over it); a special-of-the-day fried catfish, succulent to the bone, in whisper-delicate batter: chicken done yet another way. in hot chili and lemon grass-celestially incendiary, if that’s not an oxymo-ronic appraisal. 1731 Greenville. 828-9795. 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 tor dinner. The fere-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. (8I7) 640 9981. Moderate.



Moretti’s. Somebody wised us upon this link 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 tortellini 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 sauté -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.



Tandoor. Tandoor offers a superior assortment of appetizers: minced lamb patties, vegetables fried in chickpea barter, potato/chili patties, turnovers with potatoes and peas, and cheese fritters stuffed with mint chutney. A tomato and coconut milk soup provided a pleasurable interlude before our main dishes, which were a relative letdown: tough curried lamb, slightly overcooked tandoori chicken, and dull cheese and vegetable dumplings. 532 Fielder North Plaza, south of I-30, Arlington. (817) 261-6604. Moderate.



Via Real. 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 gallo) and rellenos de pescado (cylinders of fish mousse studded with salmon and surrounded by a rich sauce). Main courses at Via Real 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. No! Tex-Mex. real Mex. The menu features such uncommon appetizers as sopes. son of a super-thick soft corn tortilla filled with beans, cheese, and green sauce, and chilis en rajas, strips of poblano peppers in cream. Entrees 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 molé, red and green, are offered as well as a selection of guisadas. The standards arc 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 fare 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: tabouleh (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 fevorably with my mother-in-law’s. 3308 Fairfieid at Camp Bowie. (817) 731-6961. Moderate.



La Maree. Intended to be nothing more than a takeout offshoot of its parent restaurant, St. Emilion, this kicky little place has developed a joyous persona all its own, A deli by day. thronged for its creative lunchtime sandwiches, salads, and desserts, La Maree turns bistro on Fridays and Saturdays, when it serves dinner from a New American menu as sophisticated as any in the Metroplex. Particularly seductive the night we were there were a crabcake appetizer that transcended the textureless regional cliche with a lively spiced lime remoulade: a house salad that mated mixed greens with grapes and chopped black olives and sesame seeds in avocado-lime dressing: and an entree of pork in three guises-smoked loin, homemade sausage, and ham-zinged with ancho-pepper sauce. Breast of duck in plum wine sauce was admirable, tarted with cranberries beside a cinnamon baked apple-another departure from the too-sweei duck-and-fruit norm. Only a rather dry fried ravioli was less than we’d hoped, and desserts-notably a delectable moist orange pound cake-were pure delight. Wine choosing is easy here-one chooses from bottles displayed in racks, or orders agreeable house offerings by the glass or carafe. Prices are modest enough to more than make up for the drive from Dallas, and the cheerful unpretentiousness of the place and its personnel is worth the trip. 3416 W Seventh. (817) 877-0838. Moderate.



Le Chardonnay. Former Cerct 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, arc a standout. 2443 forest Park Blvd. (817) 926-5622. Moderate.



Michael’s Oyster Bar and Seafood. For starters, the shrimp gumbo is good, if rather far from what a native Loui-sianian would recognize. The New England clam chowder is so thick and glutinous that a spoon will stand up in it. Plain boiled shrimp and the beer-battered onion rings are better choices. The standbys here seem to be the fried seafood-catfish fillets, oysters, shrimp, and the rest. The most innovative things on the menu are the blackened red snapper and a garlicky version of shrimp scampi. 5805 Camp Bowie. (817) 377-8021. 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 tan 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 Worthing/on Hotel. 200 Main. (817) 870-1000. Expensive.



St. Emilion. Considering the four-course fixed price of S20 per person, it’s surprising that more Dallasites don’t make the trek to St. Emilion. The last time I did. the results were impressive. A thoughtfully put together salad (leaf let-tuce, radicchio. watercress, walnuts, and bits of bacon dressed with walnut oil), textbook lobster bisque, rich spinach cannelloni, and creditable snails in garlic butter made for a great start. Juicy sword fish Provencal and nicely roasted duck with cherry sauce were all one could ask for. 3617 W Seventh. (817) 737-2781. Moderate.



Tejano Mexican Cuisine. Fort Worth Tex-Mex lovers wait in line to sample this West Side establishment’s not-your-normal-enchilada fare. 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 cabriio (baby goat), roasted to a tender turn and lavished on a standard platter, 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. Beware the salsa- it doesn’t sizzle, but you will. 5716 Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 737-7201. Inexpensive to moderate.



Tuscany. Both the look of this place and the style of the cooking arc meant to be reassuring-not stodgily old-fashioned but not so experimental that anyone is going to be alarmed. The food is not without some original touches: the appetizer of eggplant fried and stuffed with ricotta and spinach is hardly old hat, and the fettuccine Carbonara is spiked with chopped scallions. The veal Livornese comes with very fresh-tasting shrimp, mussels, and clams still in their shells-and so much garlic butter that some might be put off. One dessert stands out-the puff pastry filled with berries and a pastry cream. 4255 Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 737-2971. Moderate to expensive.



Tutti Paul. 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 brio 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.