DINING OUT NEW RESTAURANT REVIEWS Moon Under Water Shines in Both Its Phases

Also: Randy’s Steakhouse, Deep Citi Deli and Modo Mio

MOON UNDER WATER

Consider all of the Disparate parts that make up the whole of Moon Under Water: elegant eatery, quiet jazz lounge, crisp brew pub, spacious sports bar. gritty night club, Sunday morning brunchery garnished with gospel singers-it’s a veritable Chuck E. Cheese’s for sophisticated grown-ups. Yet each of these pieces is executed with such finesse that the seamless whole reaches beyond the sum of its parts.

What exactly is Moon Under Water? It’s two venues fused into one, a kind of gastronomic set of Siamese twins joined at the restroom. The first venue, at 2513 Main St., is a quiet, spacious dining area drenched in understated elegance and simmering in tasty live jazz. Pass through the wide link that holds the restrooms and you’ve entered the Rhythm Room, 2548 Elm St., a large nightclub that houses a brewery, a roomy rectangular bar surrounded with big screen televisions and, tucked near the back, a stage where bands like the Terrance Simien Zydeco Band and the James Cotton Blues Band knock diners and imbibers off their seats and onto the dance floor. Executive chef Seve Delgado’s menu, interwoven with Mediterranean and Southwestern influences, is available in both the fine dining area and the Rhythm Room.

We parked ourselves in the dining room on our first visit and sampled two appetizers; the grilled honey-glazed quail, a moist, dazzling bit of bird with subtle smoky flavors snoozing on a bed of greens; and the Full Moon Risotto Cakes, moist, supple cushions of Italian Arborio rice blended with grilled vegetables and dolloped with a chunky, herbed tomato sauce. Our entrees came with healthy, though overcooked. heaps of carrots, rib-sticking garlic and leek mashed potatoes. My New York strip steak done to a perfect medium-rare hue, though it was plagued with a bit of leathery toughness. My companion’s grilled double chicken breast was a little dry, although the barbed-wire tangle of spicy fried onions coiling from the meat was addictive.

The wine list-an eclectic California selection, save for a 1994 Texas Llano Estacado Chardonnay-was priced well below the all-too-common gouge level. Some examples include a 1992 Silver Oak Cabernet, $49,al994FerrariCarano Chardonnay, $36, and a 1993 Stag’s Leap Caber net, $39. The only frustra tion was that the list (an eye-stressing blur to read) was perforated with far too many outages. Moon also has a lengthy and equally eye-blurring list of single- malt scotches and anejo tequilas.

But would the menu stand up to the grittier atmosphere of the Rhythm Room? On our second visit, we investigated. Despite one menu outage (herb-crusted lamb chops). our four entrées caused a snarl of utensil traffic as we passed forkfuls back and forth. The spicy pork chop melted in the mouth; grilled double chicken breast was moist and succulent this time; fusilli norcini proved to be a zesty pasta dish with spicy Italian sausage; and fresh Gulf red snapper was moist and flaky in its lively tomato relish. The broccoli and cauliflower with this batch of entrées were fresh and crisp.

Moon Under Water is just plain fun: atmosphere candy for the eyes and a deep flavor message for the palate. And it’s done so well that you’ll never trip over its multiple concepts on the way to the restroom. -Mark Stuertz

Moon Under Water. 2548 Elm St. and 2513 Main St., 214-741-2537. 11 a.m.-midnight, Sunday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Thursday-Saturday. Moderate to expensive.

RANDY’S STEAKHOUSE

A MEAL HERE CAN MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE you’ve been invited to a close friend’s home for Sunday dinner. After all, you’ll be seated in a cozy, Victorian home-turned-restaurant, maybe even on the patio overlooking the softly lit swimming pool. Owner Randy Burks himself will probably stop by your table a couple of times to make sure you’re enjoying your meal, and his parents (who sometimes act as host and hostess) might be seated at the table next to yours, as they were on our recent visit.

Randy knows many of his customers by name, and it’s a wide mix of people, from well-dressed couples celebrating special events to tables of three-generation families to locals who just dropped in for a meal. The house is grand, with seating both upstairs and down, but the decor is homespun-vinyl tablecloths topped with glass and simple lace curtains.

But you’ve certainly never been served steaks like these at a friend’s home. Graded prime and cut by hand, these beefy beauties tasted rich and buttery, like they’re cooked in the Ruth’s Chris famed method, although Randy hails from Del Frisco’s. Filets, New York strips and rib-eyes are each offered in two sizes, but real carnivores can opt for the 26-ounce porterhouse. The marbling that characterizes prime meat makes these steaks some of the juiciest around. The 10 seafood selections offer plenty of alternate choices, and all meals come with rich, cheesy potatoes au gratin or a “chive” (scallions)-topped baked potato and fresh vegetables.

The wine list, while offering no surprises {and no vintages), has choices that can stand up to this quality of beef, although the selection of wines by the glass needs improvement.

Ignore the thoroughly tasteless Caesar (not a single note of anchovy, garlic or lemon comes through) and the supormar-ket-style bread. Start your meal instead with a good tossed salad (try the chunky blue-cheese dressing) or an appotizer-sized order of crab cakes. They’re pure comfort food, with plenty of filler and shreds of maybe-it’s-real, maybe-it’s-not crab, but we ate every bite, wiping our rémoulade sauce bowl clean.

We also had no trouble decimating our dessert, bread pudding with Jack Daniels sauce, mainly because of the lush cinnamon ice cream that topped it. It’s homemade by Henry’s and can rival Haagen-Dazs for richness.

The word “homemade” pops up on Randy’s menu a lot-from the sauces and dressings to the batter on the onion rings and the stuffing in the jalapehos to the peach cobbler. We could almost picture granny cooking away in the kitchen-that is, until the chef came out one night and joined people at a nearby table. With his booming voice and hearty laugh, here’s a chef equal to the task of handling those steaks.

-Suzanne Hough

Randy’s Steakhouse. 7026 Main St., Frisco, 972-335-3066. 11 a.m.- 10 p.m., Monday-Friday; 4-10p.m., Saturday. Moderate to expensive.



DEEP CITI DELI

NO WAY, WE THOUGHT AS WE ENTERED DEEP Citi Deli, were we going to be hip enough to enjoy this Deep Ellum spot. Without a single tattoo, with nary a nose ring, baby boomers cast adrift in a sea of Generation X? Not a chance.

We caught the attention of a spacey hostess/cashier and she handed us menus, told us to sit anywhere and, when ready, to place our order at the large, square-shaped bar/counter. Shortly afterwards a waitress bounced over to take our order, setting the precedent for what would be a meal of mixed signals. Maybe you serve yourself coffee (good brews from Cafe Society) at the coffee bar and pour yourself water from the beverage bar; maybe she’d do it for you. Maybe she’ll bring the check to you at the end of the meal; maybe you’ll go up to the counter for it.

Maybe your meal will be fabulous, like the Citi Special of ethereal pancakes filling one plate, carefully prepared scrambled eggs and bacon with excellent sautéed potatoes nicely presented on another. Or maybe it will be so-so, like the Citi Burger, a good herbed focaccia roll with avocado, lettuce, tomatoes and Swiss, ruined by the presence of two fast food-type patties.

Citi offers more than deli food, a juice bar and a coffee bar. Its large, inventively designed space (three rooms) is loaded with take-home prepared food, groceries, flowers, magazines and newspapers. There’s even a case filled with wine and beer, and, though the selection is small, it’s well-chosen and reasonably priced.

We’ll return to Deep Citi Deli having proved one thing-you don’t have to be hip to enjoy it. -S.H.

Deep Citi Deli. 2934 Main St., 214-747-DELI. 7a.rn.-9p.rn., Tuesday-Thursday; 7a.rn.-11 p.m., Friday; 10a.rn.-H p.m., Saturday; 10a.in.-5 p.m.. Sunday. Inexpensive.



MODO MIO

The restaurant’s name translates to “my way,” and the owners, one French and one Italian, both here by way of California, have gutted the Italian restaurant that used to occupy this Frankford Road/Dallas North Tollway site. They are creating their new Italian restaurant their way. It’s subtly lit with walls painted in soothing shades, a floor tiled in terracotta and tables and chairs made in a rustic style. We hope that future plans include blocking the stark, parking-lot view from the plate-glass storefront windows and adding some soft background music.

The appotizers and entrées score high marks and showcase two recurring themes: excellent seafood, both in terms of quantity and quality, and sauces that need more seasoning. We enjoyed the tame but well-prepared Caesar, and the clam chowder held a wealth of tender clams, but one needed to be punched up with garlic and anchovies and the other with Tabasco sauce and pepper. A calamari appetizer dazzled us with the stellar quality of this often-overcooked squid, which appeared again in the seafood stew called cioppino. A shrimp entrée featured crustaceans that were far better than their bland tomato sauce; a smoked salmon appetizer’s fish deserved better than its accompaniments. The careful attention that’s being given to the seafood needs to be shown to the rest of the dishes. Fortunately that careful attention surfaces again in the restaurant’s signature desserts, hollowed-out fruit halves (baby pineapples, coconuts, etc.) filled with creamy sorbets, big enough to easily satisfy two or three people.

One sore point about Modo Mio-as much as we liked it, you can rack up quite a bill pretty quickly. Cheese ravioli costs $11.50 at dinner, spaghetti with tomato sauce is $8; and neither one comes with salad (S4.50-S7.50 additional) or meat. Prices need to drop before it will become the neighborhood hang-out with reliably good food that we all crave. -S.H.

Modo Mio. 18352 Dallas Pkwy., Ste. 112, 972-67 I-MODO. Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday-Friday; dinner: 5:30 p.m.-whenever the crowd dwindles, Monday-Saturday. Moderate.

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