DINING OUT NEW RESTAURANT REVIEWS The Roaring Fork Shouts Success for Phil Cobb

Also: Stone Trail, LuLu’s Bait Shack, Ti Amo, and Cafe Sierra

THE ROARING FORK

THE NAME OF THE PLACE IS enough to attract attention, Never mind that there’s no particular reason to identify this American grill with the river that runs through Aspen. Or that the solid walls of forks that line the entry with silver glitter are silent. Restaurateurs Phil and Janet Cobb, savvy masters at creating first-class impact, have done it again-can’t you just see The Roaring Fork in boldface in those breathless columns that report glitterati sightings?

If you haven’t, you will. Even if the food and staff were merely adequate, the Fork would draw the Far North Dallas upscale “In” crowd. For staff, there’s suave maitre d’ Louis Bou-gazelli, formerly of the Mansion and Mediterraneo, beading a host of alert, courteous servers grat-ifyingly knowledgeable about the menu and wine list offerings. For starting regulars, there are the happy habitués for whom the darkly rich lounge bar’s transition from Atlantic Cafe to a new identity caused barely a hiccup’s interruption. After all, the decor of the restaurant isn’t all that’s changed.

Well, but then there’s the food. In collaboration with the Cobb Restaurant Group’s executive chef Mark Morrow, chef de cuisine Lance Youngs has brought Culinary Institute of America training and West Coast experience to bear in creating a bill of fare that reads as arrestingly as the restaurant’s name. And most of the dishes we tried lived up to the menu’s promise.

Fresh seafood, flown in daily, receives major emphasis here, and a raft of raw bar goodies displayed alluringly between lounge and dining areas rates its own menu-would, in fact, have heldmein all-evening thrall if review duty hadn’t dictated more diverse dining. Blue Point and Malpeque oysters were divine, their briny liquor too lovely not to drain from the shell. Alaskan crab claws prompted a companion to wonder why anyone feels compelled to cook seafood at all. A medallion of sliced lobster tail, though not raw, was pearly and toothsome. These and other delights, priced per-each, come with zesty fresh house-made cocktail sauce, pickled okra tartar, or a delicate honey, lime, and chive vinaigrette. We savored them all.

A signature appetizer called duck cigars was alone worth a visit-an inspired twist on Asian egg rolls, the long brown tapers held raised-duck leg meat spiked with jalapeno and cilantro in fried wonton wrappers; they were served standing in a stemmed glass filled with cooling jicama-melon relish. A crawfish cake was, less memorable, but fine and crisp-skinned under curls of crab meat. A pear and Maytag blue cheese salad involved big bites of the cheese tucked among leaves of a whole head of Bibb lettuce, framed in fanned pear slices.

Maytag blue cheese appeared in another signature dish, as a zippy component in the grits accompanying a half-split double pork chop complemented with apple fritters that balanced the cheese’s sharpness. Veal tenderloin, the nearest we came to outright disappointment, arrived as slightly overcooked medallions arranged on a creamy bed of barley cooked risotto-style and hotly seasoned; the ring of sweetbreads and wild mushrooms in a dark, brandied cream sauce that surrounded this innocent island quite overwhelmed the veal’s delicate flavor with richness. The combination was ill-conceived. Not so a swordfish steak crisply coated with horseradish crust, the flaky flesh succulent, the plate’s mustard cream sauce and chewy wild rice cake perfect partners.

Superb espresso made a better meal’s end than the one dessert shared-drawn by die description of decadent chocolate mousse cake on a meringue crust, we found die whole affair stiffly gummy, rather than the airy delight of our dreams, although its fling of fresh raspberries made a fine finish.

All in all, I’m happy to give the Cobbs their small conceits in witty nomenclature. What they’ve got here is, if not “the concept Dallas has been longing for,” as their pre-opening publicity claimed, something more: a civilized environment for intriguing dining experiences. With live music Tuesdays through Saturdays, moreover. -Betty Cook

The Roaring Fork. 14866 Montfort Dr., 214-387-3675. Lunch, Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner, Monday-Thursday, 5-10:30p.m., Friday &Saturday, 5-11 p.m., Sunday, 5-10 p.m. Expensive.



STONE TRAIL

Just about every facet of our first visit to Stone Trail surprised us. Their ad promised “fine dinning” (sic), but the location, buried in a seemingly deserted business area, didn’t look promising. Then, as the door was whisked open-surprise!

Richly polished wood, gleaming silver, starched white cloths, and long-stemmed yellow roses danced before us. The music soothed, the soft lighting caressed, and the service positively coddled.

We started with the extensive wine list, which could use more selections in the $20 to $30 range, and were disappointed that they were out of the first three bottles we attempted to order. We ended up being served a ’92 Trefethen instead of the ’91 listed, but our waiter was so nice we didn’t mention it. This same waiter also waited until we’d sampled our food before he offered fresh pepper-an altogether too-rare practice nowadays. The crab cake appetizer combined a wealth of lump crab meat with zestful chile, garnished with a tangle of vegetables.

The chef clearly had fun making up this appetizer list, with creative items such as grilled goat cheese wrapped in grape leaves, and catfish with green apple tartar sauce. He also surprised diners that night with a nifty complimentary tomato basil sorbet in between courses.

The rest of the menu reads like any typical steakhouse’s, with prime beef, lobster (and an astonishingly expensive $15.50 free-range chicken dish), and all the usual side choices. Beef, crusty and juicy, makes the best entrée choice, teamed with the cheese-rich potato casserole or the chile-jazzed whipped potatoes. Desserts change daily, but the best choice might be an after-dinner drink or a cappuccino in the big, beautiful knockout of a bar, where we were mesmerized by a superb jazz singer. You can dance to live music here nightly, with sax music starting at 5 p.m.; the house band takes the stage at 9 p.m. Final discovery: On a return visit, this time for lunch, I wolfed down one of the best quesadillas I’ve ever had. Packed with prime beef and grilled onions, served with a smokily intense salsa and gua-camole, I’d put this up against any version in town. As I idly eavesdropped on the table next to me, I realized owner Tony Taherzadeh (he also owns the almost-20-year-old Farfallo) was dining there. With great relish, he was enjoying his grilled ribeye. No surprise.

-Suzanne Hough

Stone Trail. 14833 Midway Rd., 214-701-9600. Hours: Lunch, Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2p.m., dinner, Monday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m., Friday & Saturday, 5 p.m.-11 p.m. (club slays open until 2 a. m.) Closed Sunday. Moderate to expensive.



LULU’S BAFT SHACK

Remember Crackers, the venerable res-taurant that was housed for years in an amiably aged ex-residence next door to the Hard Rock on McKinney? Since its owner retired, a parade of eateries has occupied the old house, each in turn spiffing it up to like-new, if with varying degrees of taste, and/or total absence thereof.

Which is what makes what’s been done to the place now a jaw-dropping transformation. Forget the artful aging of designer Paul Draper’s faux crumbling stonework in Sfuzzi et al.-LuLu’s Bait Shack has been totally distressed, inside and out, to resemble a tottering, never-painted, rural by-the-Bayou hangout.

Does it work? You bet-the Cajun-coun-try native who accompanied us on our first visit cast an expert eye on the old license plates, beer signs, and primitive artwork and pronounced the ambiance authentic. Except, she noted, that the place is too clean, and the floors don’t shake underfoot.

Never mind; New Yorkers Jeff and Todd Levine and John Lammertz, co-owners and all under 31, have clearly caught the character of the Delta region in the setting and hospitable service for this, their second LuLu’s. (The first, in Atlanta, has been going gang-busters for three-plus years.)

And the authenticity of LuLu’s food is beyond questioning-chef Richard “YaYa” Dennis, a Louisiana native, grew up with Cajun cuisine, and the dishes on his menu, even those with his own creative twist, sizzle with regional nuance.

Don’t take the word “sizzle” lightly. Buffalo shrimp from this kitchen are ruddy hotsy-totsies, their heat nicely balanced by their cooling accompaniment of homemade blue cheese dip. Jambalya carries a major kick in its seasoned rice chunked with chicken and authoritative andouille sausage. If that built-in burn’s not enough, the tray of incendiary bottled condiments brought to the table light more fire; progress from Ass in the Tub hot sauce to a Hellfire and Damnation habanero brew to Al’s Louisiana Chow-Chow, and I gar-awn-tee you’ll never feel cold again. For tamer tongues, Chicken Rockafella-a sort of Southern Chicken Kiev-stuffs a breast of chicken with oysters, cheese, and spinach mildly indeed, with homey mashed potatoes for added Southern comfort. Mardi Gras pasta is an almost nouvelle mix of many fresh vegetables (corn, red bell pepper, snow peas, and artichoke! with capers and sun-dried tomato. A less welcome avant touch on a dinner visit was the rather thin raspberry dip that accompanied Cajun popcorn, a half-and-half fry-up of crisped crawfish tails and French fries. A lunch trip s oyster po’ boy was a happy marriage of corn meal-battered oysters with tomato, lettuce, and mayo on fins French bread, the plate’s rim fetchingly sprinkled with paprika, thank God, not cayenne. Peach bread pudding was another pretty presentation, centered on a scrawl of caramel and fruity sauces.

One warning: The house drink here is a 96-ounce fishbowl containing various interesting intoxicants (grain alcohol and fruit punch; rum and lemon -lime, or vodka and lemonade with blue curacao), a nine-inch plastic alligator, and several straws, which should tell you that this is not, repeat not, a single-person beverage. Try one solo, and you’ll never know how you came to have a grinning plastic reptile among your next-morning souvenirs. If that happens, call a friend in Atlanta-the alligators are a big cake-home trophy there, I hear, and highly collectible among the dining-out cognoscenti. -B.C.

LuLu’s Bait Shack. 2621 McKinney Ave., 214-969-1927. Lunch, Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2:45 p.m.; dinner, Monday-Sunday, 5-11 p.m. (bar slays open until 2 a.m.) Inexpensive to moderate.



TI AM0

TI Amo, which quietly opened on Lovers Lane in mid-November, was drawing crowds long before it even ran its first ad. Co-owners Cathi Splawn and Vonda Roney say that word of mouth was packing the place, but here’s the real reason: the food. Sure, you can call this an Italian restaurant, but that doesn’t do it justice. Italian-born chef Enrico Trombini, who once manned Arcodoro’s kitchen, is blazing culinary trails in a way that many forward-thinking Los Angeles chefs are-begin -ning with a classic cuisine, then spinning touches of other cuisines into it to create unique offerings.

Trombini peppers his basically Italian menu with black beans, cilantro, feta cheese, ginger, and more. One of the more unusual entrées skillfully blends slices of pork tenderloin with pears, shallots, thyme, and walnuts. Each bite is a different taste, a different texture, and a mountain of roasted potatoes and vegetables is served with it. In a more Italian vein, rigatoni teams up with a mild homemade sausage in a garlic-enhanced roasted red bell pepper sauce for an entrée that would warm any wintry soul.

The menu mixes both classic Italian options with vegetarian choices. You can order a pizza at lunch or dinner, but be forewarned that one will serve four nicely as an appetizer. The crispy-chewy crust makes any of the pies delicious, but a favorite is the “gallo,” heaped with a colorful mix of grilled chicken, basil, roasted bell peppers, and tomatoes. Equally attractive, but suffering from a bland dressing, is the capra salad crowned with goat cheese and artichoke hearts. The Caesar, too, needs a wake-up call. Garlicky bruschetta packs the proper punch, as does another appetizer, warm fonti-na oozing from its lettuce leaf wrapper onto its accompanying prosciutto and sage. Desserts tend to be of the more traditional type, and are clearly worth the calories. The tasca di mele successfully plays warm apples against cool chantilly cream against flaky pastry, and a daily special won raves-chocolate “eggshells” filled with two mousses, surrounded by fruit purees. The service, despite the fact that the restaurant is new and crowded, has been impeccable, but someone needs to re-evaluate the wine list and start lowering some out-of-line prices. Take the food and the service, toss in the relaxed, welcoming atmosphere, and Ti Amo, which is Italian for “I love you,” might just become a lovable, permanent resident of Lovers Lane. -S.H.

Ti Amo. 4301 Lovers Ln., 214-528-9437. Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2:30p.m. & 5-10p.m., Friday 11 a.m.-2:30p.m. &5 p.m.-12 a.m.; Saturday, 12 p.m.-12 a.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m.-10 p.m.; closed Monday. Inexpensive to moderate.



CAFE SIERRA

A SIERRA IS A SAW-TOOTHED RANGE OF MOUNtains, which certainly does not describe the flat stretch of Lower Greenville where this casually welcoming restaurant is situated. Housed in the space where By George ! gradually lost its exclamation-point excitement, Cafe Sierra does indeed occupy two levels, but only a step or so separates a handsome heart-of-the-place raised bar and window-side dining booths from a nicely spaced cluster of tables closer to the door.

The name, though, could be stretched to apply to the cafe’s cuisine: What on earth did restaurants do before the term Mediterranean licensed them to meld all the sunny flavors of Southern Europe into a single category? Now that it’s legal to mingle elements of Italian, Spanish, Greek, and Middle Eastern dishes on a single plate, more and more chefs are doing it-some in a display of creative muscle-flexing, others with an eye to endowing familiar foods with a fillip of freshness.

Cafe Sierra takes the latter course, and brings it closer to home by adding Southwestern accents to the blend. Smoked chicken quesadillas, for instance, held Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses with chicken and roma tomato, grilled crisp and served with fresh pico de gallo and sour cream studded with diced onions and olives.

In potato leek soup, the potatoes were new and chunky, smoothly ribboned with fresh leek, garnished with chives. A house salad introduced romaine and Boston lettuces to a delicate artichoke heart and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, then topped them all with Parmesan cheese.

Hardly foreign, you say? True-we’ve grown so accustomed to these intertwinings of sources, we’re hardly aware they’re not particularly home-grown anymore. But that’s part of the pleasure of this eatery’s unpretentious fare. About the most exotic dish on the menu is a sandwich of smoked portobello mushrooms and zucchini grilled on hearty rosemary focaccia bread, with herbed provolone spread, wild greens, and sliced tomato, a heady affair. Happy tartness comes through in prosciutto-studded linguine, sun-dried tomato, mushrooms, and goat cheese sauce, and in moist grilled swordfish spiked with hearts-of-palm vinaigrette on a bed of seasoned couscous. A trio of marinated pork chops dripping their brown-grilled juices on chewy orzo wouldbe comfort food anywhere in the world. Food for the eye, too-every plate we sampled held colorful appeal, right down to desserts: A country tart rich with red, black, and blue berries in flaky crust looked as good as it tasted, and chocolate layer cake was a beautiful wedge of dark-brown sin.

At $3 a glass, the Chilean house wines are a modest indulgence; service was gravely attentive on both our visits, the atmosphere wholly conducive to unstressed enjoyment. Our only regret: not getting to the wood-fired pizzas. Next time. – B.C.

Cafe Sierra. 2900 Greenville Ave., 214-827-1813. Open daily, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Inexpensive to moderate.

THESE RESTAURANT LISTINGS ARE REVISED and supplemented periodically, Visits by our critics are made anonymously to avoid preferential treatment.

Inclusion in this directory has nothing whatever to do with paid advertising.

KEY:

● Inexpensive: Dinner entrées under $10

● Moderate: Most entrées $10 to $25

● Expensive: Most entrées $25 or more

(Based on a typical dinner for one, no( including drinks, tax, and tip.)



Barbecue

Red, Hot & Blue. This restaurant promises Memphis blues and red-hot barbecue, and it delivers. Go for the “wet” smoked pork ribs and add die dry seasoning mat’s at every table, but beware of the blisteringly hot “hoochie-koochie” sauce on the table. The baked beans, with green pepper and onion, were tangy but the cole slaw was bland; we wondered if someone forgot the dressing. New potato salad, however, was chunky and firm with the right mix of egg and seasoning. 9810 N. Central Expy. at Walnut Hill Lane, Ste. 600. 214-368-R1BS or fax 214-373-FAXS for orders to go. Inexpensive.

Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse. Deep in the heart of Texas barbecue, Houston has Goode’s, Fort Worth has Angelo’s, and Dallas has Sonny Bryan’s. And while Sonny may be gone, his sainted name goes on in franchising; the original dump on Inwood is father to two downtown spots and a strip-mall storefront in Far North Dallas. The meat is what matters here; falling-off-the-bone ribs; tender, thick slices of smoky beef; and wonderfully greasy sausage, all kissed with spicy, thick sauce. 2202 Inwood Rd., 214-357-7120. Inexpensive.



Brewpubs

Hubcap Brewery & Kitchen. This microbrewery attracts couples with tots in tow, as well as tourists and pool-playing guys with ties at hall -mast. Try a platter of andouille sausage, red beans, and rice, and wash it down with a Vail Pale Ale. Avoid the West End Wheat, which tastes like water- The service is friendly and attentive. 1701 N. Market St., 214-651-0808. Moderate.

The Rock Bottom Brewery. The crowd is full of breathlessly hip, buffed, and gelled singles looking for Mr./Mrs. Right. While scanning the crowd, enjoy a glass of Roadrunner Stout, a spicy, almost gingery-flecked pint of power. Avoid the mutant Jazzberry. The burgers, nachos, and sandwiches have cutesy names and reasonable prices, but so-so presentations. 4050 Belt Line Rd., West Addison. 214-404-7456. Moderate.

Routh Street Brewery end Grill. For starters, try the musky, rich mushroom soup and a heaping bowl of buttery ale-steamed mussels. Fried fish and chips were hearty and crisp and the Wiener schnitzel is huge and delectable. A hickory-grilled half chicken was to swoon over, splendidly accompanied by horseradish-scented whipped potatoes and a rosy pear-and-red cabbage mélange. The beer is also noteworthy. Try the sampler of five two-ounce servings that will help you settle on one to drink with your dinner. The desserts, however, were disappointing-the spiced apple strudel’s crust has a toughness reminiscent of microwaved pastries. 3011 Routh St., 214-922-8835. Moderate.

Two Rows Restaurant & Brewery. The best beer at this SMU hangout is the Route 66 Amber Ale; the strangest is Uncle Red’s Raspberry Ale. The food is hearty and filling-anyone who can finish the humongous nachos should receive a complimentary beer and Turns. 5500 Greenville Ave., Ste. 1300,214-696-2739. Moderate.

Yegua Creek Brewing Co. You may come for die beer, but you’ll come back for the food. The pheasant quesadillas easily win Bar Food Hall of Fame status. To quench your thirst, try die Icehouse Pale Ale and the White Rock Red. But 86 that Apricot Ale. 2920 N. Henderson Ave., 214-824-BREW. Inexpensive.



Burgers/Casual

Bill Bates Cowboy Grill. On the menu here are Kick Offs (appetizers), ribs, chicken-fried steak, smoked pork chops, and burgers, along with a few token salads and Pass-tas (pastas). You’ll also find two “training came healthy” choices, a menu for kids, bottled beer, and Dom Perignon. You can admire Bill’s collection of football memorabilia. 18101 Preston Rd.,Ste. 204,214-380-4040. Inexpensive to moderate.

Chip’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers. You loved it on Central. You’ll love it on Cole. Chip’s award-winning burgers are as good as ever served at the new location in the turn-of-the-century structure that was built as a Baptist church. The classic hamburger is a messy, delicious concoction. Seasoned fries, chicken sandwiches, grilled cheese, and some salads are also on the menu, and are good, simple-if fattening-fare. 4501 Cole Ave., 214-526-1092; or its other new location, 4530 Lovers Ln., 214-691-2447. Inexpensive.

Cowboys Sports Cafe. Lots of appetizers (most fried), burgers, sandwiches, and salads are lined up on the menu at the restau rant-bar owned by Tony Dorsett, Eugene Lockhart, Everson Walls, and Alfredo Roberts. While you’re dining you may see Barry Switzer or Jerry Jones, who drop by often. Enjoy the company, because the food wins no culinary Super Bowl. 9454 N, MacArthur Blvd., Irving, 214-401-3939. Inexpensive.

Fresh ’N Lite. The name can be a tittle misleading-the menu does offer a lot of fat-free foods, but this place is out to please everyone, so die menu includes burgers, croissant-based sandwiches, and even corn dogs. Most popular are die enormous bowls of salad in 13 varieties. The Caesar features perfectly grilled chicken, olives, and onions, and makes a satisfying meal, although the accompanying pasty white rolls need improvement. Save room for a hot fruit cobbler. 6150 Frankford Rd., 214-713-8167. Inexpensive.

Randy White’s AM American Grill and Bar. Randy is usually out selling trucks, but his Restaurant Row standby offers decent quesadillas and burgers, a good beer list, and enough televisions to watch all the NFL games at once. A football shrine in die entryway houses awards and trophies from White’s career. 10821 Composite Dr., 214-351-3261. Inexpensive to moderate.

The San Francisco Rose. Good, standard fare-salads, burgers, chicken sandwiches, and a Larry North special for the health-conscious. Special kudos to the veggie qucsadillas, full of fresh vegetables and probably the best in town. 3024 Greenville Ave., 214-826-2020. Inexpensive.



Cajun/Creole

Café Margaux. Kay Agnew has a talent lor endowing whatever space her restaurant occupies with a distinctively Southern comfort. The cafe’s food is outstanding. Prime examples: A half-dozen fried oysters, their little frills crisped with corn meal, came arranged on a pale, lemony sauce laced with nuggets of cracked pepper, while die day’s special of blackened halibut, with gilding pearly leaves of moist, sweet flesh, delivered a truly subtle murmur of Creole warmth in seared surface seasonings. Crestpark Hotel, 4242 Lomo Alto Dr., 214-520-1985. Moderate to expensive.

Copeland’s of New Orleans. The menu lists lower calorie choices like steamed vegetables and grilled fish, but classic Cajun food is the real star here-po-boys and deep-fried catfish, gumbo and shrimp étouffée. Don’t skip the thick, rich homemade ice cream or the traditional bananas Foster. Do, however, ask them to rum down die music. It’s way too loud. 5353 Belt Line Rd.,214-661-1883. Moderate.

Crescent City Cafe. Don’t come for the decor, with its brick walls, wobbly tables, and neon signs; nor for the service; each member of the staff gamely attempts to handle two or three times a normal load. Come here, like the suits all around you do, to fling your tie over your shoulder and chow down. Seafood gumbo, a wealth of a meal in a bowl, is reason enough to become a regular; pair it with half of a po-boy, and you’re set for the day. (Steer clear of the po-boys featuring roast beef, though; this tough, stringy beef tastes like Mom’s overcooked pot roast). The classic New Orleans muffaletta sandwich, slathered with a tangy olive dressing that zips up the meats and cheeses, travels well-a perfect foil to airline food or something to take home for dinner. Sample those New Orleans-style doughnuts, beignets, before you leave, though-they’ re best hot. 2615 Commerce St., 214-745-1900. Inexpensive.

Pappadeaux. Pappadeaux may be a chain, but it consistently prepares lively Cajun and stately NewOrleans style food in a welcome and authentic manner. Fresh, ice-cold Gulf oysters are delec-tably topped with crab meat, spinach, and hollandaise on a bed of rock salt. We found the fried alligator to be so sweet, juicy, and lightly fried that we plan to have it again, even though it did taste like chicken. 3520 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-521-4700, Moderate.



Central American

Gloria’s. Dallas’ first El Salvadoran restaurant may have a casual, relaxed atmosphere, but die service couldn’t be better. Over 70 items crowd the order-by-number menu. We especially liked number 24, tender, nicely seasoned shrimp and onions over Spanish rice, and number 29, a seafood soup loaded with cubed fish, vegetables, and-surprise!–half an enormous crab in the shell, uncracked. and every bit worth the work of dislodging the succulent meat. 600 W. Davis St,, 214-948-3672. Inexpensive.

Chinese

May Dragon. If you want to treat yourself to Chinese banquet-style dishes any day of the week, May Dragon, which serves a blend of Mandarin, Hunan, Cantonese, and Szechwan-style offerings, may be the place. At lunch, try the unusual Ming lettuce rolls, consisting of a large iceberg lettuce bowl lapped with hoisin sauce and filled with minced chicken and vegetables. From the elaborate dinner menu, the Magic Seafood Basket of Maine lobster tail, crab meat, scallops, and shrimp in a knitted noodle basket was beautiful, the crab and lobster exquisite, though the sherry sauce was surprisingly strong. 4848 Belt Line Rd., 214-392-9998. Moderate to expensive.

New Big Wong. This Lower Greenville spot still does a good lunch and late-night business, vending reliable and tasty Chinese standards and an assortment of challenging dishes for bolder palates. Start with cold noodles drizzled with hot sesame sauce, then move on to walnut shrimp, bean curd with crab meat, or the excellent eggplant with minced pork in a feisty garlic sauce. Or, divvy up one of the large bowls of soup; we stand behind the mixed deluxe with bean curd, almost overloaded with shrimp and pork. 2121 S.Greenville Ave, 214-821-4198. Inexpensive.

Taiwan Restaurant. The menu might look like a lot of other Chinese restaurants’, but that’s where any similarity ends. First, the decor: These elegantly decorated, spacious rooms are lined with windows to take advantage of the view from Taiwan’s second-floor location. Second, dim sum is offered daily (11:30 a,m.-2:30 p.m.), and it’s authentic, complete with carts loaded with little plates of these Chinese appetizers. There’s sticky rice, egg rolls, dumplings, and much more. 4980 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 200, Addison. 214-387-2333. Moderate.

Uncle Tai’s. Uncle Tai’s earned massive acclaim when it opened more than 10 years ago, but it’s been coasting too much on its reputation lately. The “two delicacy” cold platter spunkily begins a meal, especially if it teams slivered chicken in an assertive sesame sauce with peppercorn-topped tender prawns, but meals can slide rapidly downhill to candy-sweet “hot, spicy shrimp” and over-tenderized chicken with cashews. Ten-ingredient Fried rice, recommended highly by the staff, is basically a plate of white rice dotted skimpily with seven ingredients. Spring rolls start off well, with a greaseless crisp crunch, but the filling remains a mystery. The setting, overlooking the wannabes on The Galleria’s ice skating rink, offers more enjovment than the food does. In The Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy., 214-934-9998, Moderate.



Coffeehouses

Cafe Brazil. With an international menu-muffalettas to croque madames-and 51 flavors of coffee, this is a place to linger with the eclectic crowd. 6420 N. Central Espy., 214-691-7791. Inexpensive.

Java Island. With its jungle decor, you really fed like you’ve landed on a tropical island. But there is no Gilligan-like isolation here-scan the Internet on the in-house computers while enjoying one of the menu’s Italian selections or createyour-own sandwiches, Of course, the main draw is the 40 flavors of coffee at $1.25 a cup. 3020 Legacy Dr., Ste. 270, Plano.214-491-1695. Inexpensive.

Java Jones. Offering one of the least expensive cups of coffee among Dallas’ upscale Java joints ($1.60 bottomless cup), Java Jones also has an Italian menu-panini, pasta, and gelato. The restaurant attracts the body-piercing, tattooed crowd. 3211 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-528-2099, Inexpensive.



Deli

Gilbert’s New York Delicatessen. Mile-high combination sandwiches, best on rye, include “The Brooklyn Bridge,” a triple-decker of coined beef, lean pastrami, chopped liver, and onion, and “The Queensboro Bridge,” stuffed with turkey, pastrami, Swiss cheese, cole slaw, and thousand island dressing. Be sure to sample the fabulous borscht with sour cream and the garlickly new cucumber pickles. For those who long for Eastern European dishes, specialties include stuffed cabbage, knishes, and chicken or flanken in the pot, 127 Preston Forest Village, 214-373-3333. Inexpensive.

Street’s. This is die sandwich shop that should put most others to shame. After chomping through most of Street’s menu, one of our favorites is the V.I.P.102, a turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce sandwich. Another favorite is die vegetarian number with grilled portobello mushrooms layered with onion, tomatoes, and melted cheese. Two common threads run throughout the menu: The bread is good, and the quality of the produce is high. For dessert, the buttery rum cake and carrot cake are especially satisfying. 4246 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-2505. Inexpensive.



Eastern European

Franki’s Li’l Europe. Try the reliable German combo of bratwurst, ham, sauerkraut, and baked apples; the jaeger schnitzel, served with savory spaetzle; or die awe-inspiring pork medallions in wild blackberry sauce, quickly voted Dish We Wish We’d Ordered by the nibblers at our table. The star of the show is me ebullient Franki himself, always in suspenders and ready to laugh. 362 Casa Linda Plaza, 214-320-0426. Inexpensive to moderate.



Eclectic

8.0 Restaurant and Bar. Head here on any Thursday night to mingle with the standing-room-only, coolest crowd in Dallas. Even the non-hip crowd comes for Sunday brunch, especially for a courtyard seat. Healthful cooking is stressed, but pancakes, chili cheeseburgers, and bacon appear alongside the “workout omelette. ” You’ll find large portions and low prices, but 8.0 s goal isn’t to attract epicureans. The “Lava Lamp,” an 8.0 drink involving jello shots and vodka, has a loyal following, and the blue frozen margaritas are nothing but fun in a glass. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St., 214-979-0K80. Inexpensive.

Fog City Diner. This glitzy, San Francisco-spawned transplant is to the traditional plate-lunch palace what Rockefeller Center is to the tepee. Some dishes pay lip service to the diner concept-chili dogs, burgers, and shakes are available-but you’ll know you’re riding the crest of trendmania when you see “warm chocolate chili tart with coffee ice cream ” on the dessert menu. 2401 McKinney Ave., 214-220-2401. Inexpensive.

The Grape. The interior of The Grape is painted to look mellowly aged, like a wine cellar, and it’s guaranteed to stir up romance. Chef David Burdette toils behind a glass wall, and a huge blackboard displays the day’s menu, specials, and wine by the glass. Whatever you order, start with the mushroom soup-it’s famous, and justifiably so, The menu changes every few days and includes classics like beef tournedos, osso buco, and grilled swordfish, each given a unique Burdette sauce or accompaniment. 2808 Greenville Ave.,214-828-1981. Moderate.

Joey’s. Every dish we saw or sampled at this new restaurant was beautifully composed on the plate and only three were less interesting than they looked-an avocado pancake, Joey’s Nutty salad, and capellini crusted salmon. On the plus side, Joey’s serves a delicious rotisserie-roasted duck with fresh raspberries and richly seasoned wild rice. Also good is the fazzoletto, a tissue thin pasta handkerchief folded around arugula, spinach, and ricotto cheese. The shrimp and crab cheesecake with pesto was mouthwatering. Desserts were anticlimactic after the meal, but the seven-layer cheesecake and house tiramisu are pleasant. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-0074. Moderate to expensive.

Martini Ranch. Many of the martinis here have high prices and froufrou names-the jokingly hot “martini picante” with jalaperio stuffed olives; the sickly sweet “side car” with brandy and curacao; and the chocolate martini, Godiva liqueur in a chocolate rimmed glass (much better than it sounds, but save it for dessert). Among nibblies, try the excellent smoked trout, crab claws, and crispy calamari. The Jackie “O,” a baked potato soused with vodka and dabbed with caviar, is cooked to death and overpriced. 2816 Fairmount St., 214-220-2116. Inexpensive to moderate.

Sipango. Some may resent the compulsory $3 charge for valet parking in Sipango’s spacious, private lot, and others may wonder why some patrons are on a California kissy-kissy basis with Sipango’s powers-that-be while mere mortals receive a stony glance at best, but, aside from that, there are plenty of reasons to recommend this attractive, trendy Travis Street restaurant. Nearly all of Sipango’s California, Pacific Rim, and Italian dishes are light, like an unusual shrimp cake appetizer brightened with peppers and ginger, or a grilled vegetable entree including por-tobello mushrooms, zucchini, pimiento, tomatoes, and eggplant. Try the extraordinary three-layer chocolate mousse cake for dessert. 4513 Travis St.. 214-522-2411. Moderate.



French/Continental

Addison Cafe. The intimate setting, clusters of long-stemmed flowers, and regal service bode well for a night of amour. Hot crusty rolls and a “Salade Victor Hugo,” greens topped with juicy grilled chicken, tomatoes, and walnuts, team up fora swell lunch; and a spinach, gruyère, and sun-dried tomato salad makes a nice segue into dinner. The heaps of vegetables served with the entrées are so beautifully prepared and cooked that it’s tempting to polish them off first. However, you’ll be devoting equal time to the beef tournedos in their intoxicating bordelaise sauce if you’ve been clever enough to order that. Prestonwood Place,5290 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 214-991-8824. Moderate.

Cafluaud*s Bistro. Long one of Dallas’ most charming French eateries, Calluaud’s now concentrates on casual entrées and tapas, with an occasional “small bite” from the restaurant’s previous, skillfully executed, traditional French menu. Among the entrées, try the moist, perfectly cooked red snapper topped with tomatoes, onions, green peppercorns, rosemary, and a touch of vinegar, served with sautéed squash. And don’t be surprised if you’re seated by the owner’s wife or teenage daughter, or if the chef himself, Guy Calluaud, comes out of the kitchen to set a table or straighten the silver. 5405 W. Lovers Ln., 214-352-1997. Moderate.

Chez Gerard. Chez Gerard makes French cuisine approachable while upholding the restaurant’s reputation for exquisite food, service, and wine. Try simple, rustic country French dishes like casserole of scallops in red wine sauce, rabbit fricassee, or dishes rarely seen outside France like roasted pigeon, grilled mullet, or halibut tartare. Meals are served in the cozy, dimly lit, inside room or in the covered patio, and both locations set the stage for romance. 4444 McKinney Ave., 214-522-6865. Moderate.

The French Room. The French Room is perhaps Dallas’ pre-eminent grand-occasion restaurant. For one thing, the price is haughty, although the courtly and unassuming staff certainly is not. And the menu is charged with such romantic eloquence it might make the best-seller lists as The Dishes of Dallas County. But it’s not just hype- every dish we sampled more than lived up to its billing, from an appetizer of foie gras terrine with mesclun salad to a roasted breast of guinea hen, split and filled with sweet crabmeat. Chef Donald Guillory’s cuisine makes dining here a special occasion. In the Adolphus Hotel, 1321 Commerce St., 214-742-8200. Expensive.

The Green Room. Chef Chris Pyun’s food will stop you from wondering whether the Green Room’s decor is Victorian melodrama, French farce, or Deep Ellum send-up; die Culinary Institute of America alum cooks avant French, scaled down in price by resourceful mixing of local and seasonal ingredients with more exotic elements. An occasional snap of piquancy salutes Southwestern influences, as in the consummately delicious red bell pepper soup barely laced with lingering fire from a float of jalapeno coulis. 2715 Elm St., 214-7487666. Moderate.

La Madeleine. La Madeleine calls itself “your home away from home, ” and despite the fact that it now branches out across the country, that homey feeling persists. The original restaurant, open more than 10 years now, provides a morning home to dozens of breakfasters every day- S.M.U. students and professors mingle with business people on weekdays; families mix with solitary newspaper devourers on weekends. Likewise, the menu’s a mixed bag, with hearty croissant breakfast sandwiches sidling up to low-fat organic granola. The restaurant packs in crowds throughout the day as well; serving them bowls of excellent, thick tomato basil soup until long after the sun has set, The Caesar’s so popular that its croutons and dressing have been packaged for sale, as have the soup and coffee, and there’s always a line ordering bread to go. New items dot the menu, including nicely grilled salmon and penne with ratatouille, but don’t worry-old favorites remain, such as the classic herbed rotisserie chicken. 3072 Mockingbird Ln., 214-696-0800. Inexpensive.

Le Chardonnay. Restaurateur Michel Baudouin’s same-name Dallas spin-off of his Fort Worth establishment serves the same menu as die original. Yet the two could hardly be more different physically. The western Le Chardonnay is merry and casual, while the Dallas version strikes a serene, urbane note. At both locations, M. Baudouin’s French fare is modulated to appeal to Texas palates. Black bean soup and beef tenderloin sauced with jalapeno and cilantro are popular favorites, as is a rather sweet tart featuring apples with purple, green, and Vidalia onions on sturdy pastry. A pan-seared veal chop with port sauce was flavorful. Finish it all with a lighter-than-air serving of Floating Island. 500 Crescent Court, Ste. 165, 214-922-4555. Moderate to expensive.

Old Warsaw. Romance is on the menu at Old Warsaw, with its candlelit atmosphere, unobtrusive service, and strolling violinists. The menu is solidly Continental and features lots of tableside preparation. The lobster crêpe, packed with cubes of sweet meat, makes an excellent appetizer, as does the rich, creamy Brie soup. The entrées include braised pheasant, rack of lamb, and sweetbreads. Crab-stuffed tenderloin, a favorite choice, is meltingly tender and a visual delight. The wine list is excellent, and you’ll have plenty of time to study it if, as often happens, you’re shown to the bar for a lengthy wait until your table’s ready. 2610 Maple Ave., 214-528-0032. Expensive.

The Pyramid Room. Despite the plush atmosphere and impeccable service, you don’t have to spend big bucks to have a fine meal here. In addition to the regular menu, there’s a five-course dinner for $24 a person offered nightly, like sautéed cala-mari, chilled cucumber soup, homemade sorbet, and grilled beef tenderloin on polenta. Dessert is included, and the beautifully garnished macadamia nut tone is a favorite. The lobster bisque is a classic, smooth and rich with morsels of lobster, and the basket of breads is irresistible. The wine list, recognized by the Wine Spectator, is outstanding. Live music nightly. Fairmont Hotel, 1717 N. Akard St., 214-720-5249. Expensive.

The Riviera. We know of nowhere in Dallas where food, service, and ambience unfailingly come together in a more pleasurable whole, from seating and gift hors d’oeuvres to bitter smooth farewell chocolate truffle. Between those grace notes, every course shines with the exuberance characteristic of the restaurant’s namesake Mediterranean region. One appetizer featured rich nuggets of Maine lobster with fresh-scented celery root in sautéed cakes nestled in basil-lob-ster sauce along with infant leaves of arugula and cilantro. We also found a perfect soup: a chilled Provencal blending of fresh and sun-dried tomato afloat with ripe avocado slices around a crouton heaped with crab meat. 7709 Inwood Rd., 214-351-0094. Expensive.

Watel’s. This spirited eatery on McKinney Avenue treats guests with neighborly informality and uncommonly amiable, caring, and personal service. And the kitchen feels secure enough to vary its mostly classic country French bill of fare with not-so-Gallic dishes like pasta, vegetarian specials, and even an occasional Asian accent, But its in its house specialties that Watel’s culinary nationality is defined-in a white bean -based cassoulet bulging with lamb, duck confit, sausage, and smoked pork, and in the organ meats, prepared here with consummate skill. 1923 McKinney Ave., 214-720-0323. Moderate.



Greek

Kostas Cafe. Greek restaurants win raves for their assortments of appetizers, and Kostas offers all of the traditional favorites. A light, lemony flavor underscores the saganaki, a creamy, mild cheese that’s breaded, fried, and served in flames, and the dolmas bulge with their rice and meat filling. The ever-popular spinach and feta cheese pie called spanakopita can be ordered either as an appetizer or entree, and it packs a light, airy mouthful of flavor. Skip the dreary salads and move on to a gyro sandwich packed with lamb and beef, or kabobs starring succulent grilled pork tenderloin. Combination platters offer the best way to sample the menu, and you can also sample the wine list, with 21 wines available by the glass. The homemade rum cake may not be an authentic Greek dessert (don’t worry, there’s also baklava), but it packs a tasty punch. 4621 W. Park Blvd., Piano, 214-596-8424, Moderate.



Homecooking

Barbec’s. Traditionally, good food is served at this East Dallas casual establishment. On our last visit, however, eggs ordered over medium were runny and sausage sat too long under a heating lamp. Grits are the standout item while die well-known beer-batter biscuits are slightly sweet. On weekday mornings, the line can stretch out the door. 8949 Garland Rd., 214-321-5597. Inexpensive.

Natchez. Southern hospitality is warmly dispensed here, in surroundings that suggest a large home’s dining room, with a mere nine nicely spaced tables, a handsome sideboard on one wall, gentle lighting, and music taped from the owners’ personal collection of eclectic popular tunes and artists (we heard Chuck Berry, Aaron Neville, et al.) thoughtfully played at a sound level that provides privacy without inhibiting conversation. The food’s markedly Southern, too-even tortilla soup, that Southwestern cliché, was gumbo-thick, dusky, and decidedly piquant. The small menu’s potato cakes, delicately crisp-skinned, were lapped in a sweet honey-mustard sauce; the king cake, a tender patty of chopped scallops, crawfish, shrimp, and salmon, came on a tangy tartar sauce, garnished with cilantro-kissed chopped tomato. Stuffed chicken breast was two half-breasts filled with crawfish and white cheese, bound together for cooking, then bedded on subtle cilantro pesto cream. Corn-crusted catfish, a huge filet, emitted a to-die-for fragrance and tasted as good with its unexpected beurre blac sauce. The medley of crisp-steamed vegetables that sided entrées could not have been fresher. But the big surprise of our visit was a crème brulée that may be the most outstanding I’ve tasted lately, its sugar-shell top still warm and crackling beneath the spoon to cool, suavely rich creme depths below. It blew us away, 2810 N, Henderson Ave., 214-821-4552. Inexpensive to moderate.

Norma’s. This southern diner with its Gump-esque quirky quality serves man-sized portions of standard breakfast fare. Everything from cereal and pancakes to bacon and eggs can be combined into a meal for $3 to $5. The coffee is good and kept hot by the friendly, pampering waitresses. 3330 Belt Line Rd., 214-243-8646. Inexpensive.

Poor Richard’s Café. Located in a strip shopping center in East Piano, this country cafe has been serving families and working folks for more than 20 years. The menu has a range of stout breakfast and lunch offerings. In the morning, the signature BBQ Omelet is a western-style delight and the pancakes are light and fluffy. The waitresses and plentiful, courteous, and efficient. 2442 Avenue K at Park Boulevard, 214-423-1524. Inexpensive.

Vincent’s Home Cooking. Mediterranean specialties such as dolmades, hummus, and baba ghanoush share equal space on die buffet table with salads and a variety of meats. Plus, don’t forget a slice of the homemade bread. The feast, which includes a selection of desserts such as chocolate cream pie. costs as low as $5.95. What a bargain! 2574 Walnut Hill Ln., 214-351-1860, Moderate.



Indian

India Palace. With gracefully figured arcades, a glass window overlooking the deep clay tandoor ovens, and a bountiful buffet, India Palace can appear quite splendid. Try the mulligatawny soup-tomato with an undercurrent of coconut-and pureed lentil punctuated with a host of distinct herbs. Curried chicken is creamy, tender, and moist, while the bright-red marinated tandoori chicken and grilled flat bread or naan, both seared by the intense dry heat of the tandoor oven, are without parallel. End it all with a luscious mango custard or creamy rice pudding with almonds, pistachios, and a hint of rosewa-ter. 12817 Preston Rd.,214-392-0190. Moderate.



Italian

Alessio’s. Among the frequently superb offerings, we especially recommend the light-as-air gnocchi with gorgonzola, the grilled double veal chops steeped in five herbs, and the creamy, tomato-scented pasta fra diavolo. As an appetizer, escargot, tough and chewy, were disenchanting, all the more so when we discovered that our waiter had failed to reel off the day’s inventive list of savory appetizers. To compensate, we were treated to a heavenly dessert of homemade vanilla ice cream with blanched almonds, ripe strawberries, and chocolate sauce. Service, including frequent visits from the owner, was personable and caring. 4117 Lomo Alto Dr.,214-521-3585. Moderate.

Angelo’s Spaghetti House. The ticket here is what might be called Italian comfort food, from perfect fettuccini alfredo and mama-mia spaghetti dishes to any entree involving the succulent Italian sausage. The fare leans more to retro than nouveau, as witness the generous bowls of the house red sauce, a zesty concoction that accompanies baskets of delicious warm bread-dipping encouraged. The staff is friendly and competent, and diners here get good weight for the dollar. 6341 La Vista Dr., 214-823-5566. Inexpensive.

Campisi’s Egyptian. You can forget Egyptian. The name remains as a shadowy memory of a previous restaurant that occupied this strip-mall site. Think Italian, think authentic Little Italy in San Francisco or New Haven, and you’ll be able to conjure up a picture of this restaurant that’s been a Dallas institution for more than 40 years. Shove open the padded red vinyl door to Campisi’s, stumble to a leatherette booth in this darkened room, and plunk a quarter in your mini jukebox to have the Chairman of the Board or Dean Martin croon a tune for you as you sip Chianti and read the menu. People swear by Campisi’s rectangular pizzas, with their ultra-thin crusts, but they use scallions instead of onions, and what appear to be canned mushrooms instead of fresh, so we prefer the heaps of red-sauced pastas, espedaily the cheesy lasagna. Herbs lace the giant meatballs, the scampi is a garlicky delight, and the light-tasting cheesecake (made by a local German baker) is an absolute must. 55610 E. Mockingbird Ln., 214-827-0355. Inexpensive.

Ciao Bella. Chef Tomazo, a farm-reared native of Italy, honors the sunny simplicity of his region’s dishes with finesse. A first course of roasted sweet peppers, tender mozzarella, and ripe tomato sparkled in a lacing of virgin olive oil. A pasta plate’s tangle of al dente spaghetti wore exactly the right amount of lively tomato sauce scented with basil snips. Every dish we tried demonstrated how total dedication to freshness can turn the plainest fare into poetry. 3232 McKinney Ave., 214-871-2074. Inexpensive to moderate.

Mi Piaci. The name means “you are pleasing to me.” You’ll see why when you check out this Addison restaurant, with its team of workers making fresh pasta, an 80-pound wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano on display, and columns twisting from wood floor to high, sponged ceiling. The pasta is outstanding, especially the fusil-li loaded with earthy wild mushrooms, and the risotto ranks among the best in town. Delicious homemade bread and a largely Italian (and largely superb) wine list will make for a dining experience very pleasing to you. 14854 Montfort Dr., Addison., 214-934-8424. Moderate.

Nicola’s. It took four visits to this smoothly polished Italian gem before we could bear to order anything other than their killer quatro stagioni pizza (divided into four sections of artichokes, mushrooms, prosciutto, and tomato/basil). The pizza dough, like the homemade breads, gets its distinctive crunch from a high-heat stint in the wood-burning oven in this smartly designed restaurant’sexhibition kitchen. Homemademoz-zarella graces the pizza, as well as several of the pasta dishes, like the lush lasagne special layered with chicken and spinach. Minestrone starts the meal in a hearty fashion; it’s a better choice than the lackluster salads. A bottle of Antinori Chianti complements Nicola’s food perfectly, and dinners end best with a dish of homemade gelato (rich icecream). Be careful, however, if you order the focaccia Nicola appetizer. You’ll never stop with just one order. The Galleria, 3rd floor, 13350 Dallas Pkwy., 214-788-1177. Inexpensive to moderate.

Pomodoros. Pomodoro’s offers up fresh, delectable Italian pasta, frittatas, veal, and fish in a Napa Valley-esque setting just north of downtown. Go light (and cheap) with minestrone, complimentary fresh bread with sautéed tomatoes, and a Chianti Classico, or belly up to spicy Penne Arrabiata or Linguine Verde con Popla di Granchio (spinach linguine with crabmeat). Appetizers shine, especially the silky Carpaccio Pomodoro and bountiful Calamaretti. Service is spunkily efficient. 2520 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-871-1924. Moderate.

Ruggeri’s Ristorante. How does Ruggeri’s please Dallas? Diners have been counting the ways for years-this congenial Italian restaurant has a following of prosperous regulars that swear by the dependable excellence of its cuisine, from crab claws Lamonte sautéed in lemon butter, garlic, and crunchy minced shallots to creamy zabaglione afloat with fresh raspberries and strawberries. The strawberries were winter-firm for our visit and should have been omitted, but everything else we sampled demonstrated Ruggeri’s exacting standards. Cappeline al Salmone was, as usual, a transcendent composition of angel hair pasta punctuated with smoked salmon curls and caviar in vodka sauce. Scalloppine alle Carciofo presented veal scallops sautéed with artichoke hearts and mushrooms in a lively lemon butter sauce. Service was not quite up to its usual cosseting quality-perhaps because owner Tom Ruggeri was absent on the early weeknight, but more likely because actress Brenda Vaccaro’s large, happy party had everyone in the place voyeuristically pixilated. We throbbed with the rest of the wistful herd. 2911 Routh St., 214-871-7377. Moderate.



Japanese

Hana. Hana scores high marks for authenticity, from the sushi bar to the tatami room to the stacks of Japanese newspapers and magazines available for their customers’ perusal. The serene atmosphere quickly makes you forget you’re in strip-mall territory, sandwiched between liquor stores and bars. The Sashimi’s predictably good, especially the flavor-packed salmon, although the sushi list should explain just what things like “Texas roll* consist of for those of us who don’t know. Both the lunch and dinner menus offer bento boxes, Japan’s version of a combination platter, and these taste impeccably fresh. The crisp tempura shrimp and vegetables have only recently emerged from their hot oil bath; the chicken or beef in teriyaki sauce are minutes off the grill. Extra care has even been given to the salads, with slices of real Japanese cucumbers and flecks of grated ginger in the dressing. 14865 Inwood Rd., 214-991 -8322. Moderate.

Mr. Sushi. The menu’s enormous, complete with chicken teriyaki, shrimp tempura, and sukiyaki, but the action is at the huge, U-shaped sushi bar. A 16-ounce Ichiban beer provides the perfect accompaniment for the best of the sushi: tender halibut, smoothly rich salmon, and a lightly spicy tuna roll. 4860 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 214-385-0168. Expensive.

Nakamoto. The lunch menu looks familiar-complete meals featuring teriyaki. tempura. tonkat-su, and other favorites of Americans. But the dinner menu offers these and much more. Every night, the finest seasonal foods fill the multiple-layered little drawers in a bento box, a multi-course feast- for-one. You can choose traditional tea ceremony cooking, “boat dinners” (combination platters perfect for sharing), or meals like shabu-shabu cooked at your table. And whether at lunch or dinner, don’t miss ordering from the sushi bar, which lists about four dozen of the freshest sushi and sashimi in town. Ruisseau Village, 3309 N. Central Expy., 214-881-0328. Moderate.

Sumo Sushi. Regally hooded rattan chairs enthrone diners in the lower lounge, striking an exotic note of Eastern mystery, but abundant servings and well-prepared food are the true hallmarks of this newcomer. Get your fill of cool cuts of raw sea creatures-one handroll stuffed with rice and seafood could serve as an appetizer on its own. Or feast on the Grand Champion (boxed) Lunch, which includes battered shrimp, vegetable slices, a pair of gyoza dumplings, avocado-centered California rolls, salad, chicken drumettes, soup, rice, and a dessert orange wedge. 7402 Greenville Ave., 214-987-2333. Moderate.



Kosher

Deco’s By Arthur. With textured aluminum overhangs, a black and purple theme, and a round neon clock, this strictly kosher restaurant is an attractive contemporary diner. You’ll find vast quantities of pizzas, pasta, and baked artichoke bottoms, and a $6.95, heart-healthy, all-you-can-eat buffet of salads, vegetables, and pasta. Among the many dishes, the mushroom soup and smoked salmon pasta are delightful. Several nights a week, jazz and jam sessions entertain the diners. (The restaurant closes for the Sabbath at 2:30 p.m. Friday and reopens at 10:30 a.m. Sunday for brunch.) 1418 Preston ForestSquare, 214-788-2808. Inexpensive.



Mediterranean

Adelmo’s. At Adelmo’s, owner Adelmo Banchetti is always on hand to see that the customer is properly looked after. While you are perusing the menu, you might be treated to a planer of pickled cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, and olives with rolls and butter. Try the grilled veal chop, easily a meal for two, marinated in olive oil and herbs, seared on the grill, and served with the bone still in; or the rack of lamb, gently scented with rosemary; or the exquisitely grilled, soft-shell crabs. 4537 Cole Ave., 214559-0325. Moderate to expensive.

Cafe Highland Park. Mix them together–a French bistro, an Italian trattoria, and a Mediterranean sidewalk cafe-and it spells Cafe Highland Park (formerly Highland Park Cafe). Loaded with artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, and Kalamata olives, and garnished with a cheese-topped baguette slice, the Mediterranean salad awakens the taste buds. Grilled salmon with its pungent roasted garlic sauce is a winner, as is the sautéed veal with rich, meaty strips of mushrooms. Flavorful angel hair pasta and flawlessly cooked vegetables accompany both. 69 Highland Park Village, 214-521-7300. Moderate.

Cafe Istanbul. With its brick and whitewashed walls and heavy wooden tables, this tiny, comfortable cafe conjures up a Turkish seaside taverna, albeit in Inwood Village. The mood is set for a Middle Eastern meal that starts with meze, a platter of assorted cold appetizers accompanied by Raki, an anise-flavored liqueur, or beer. Follow with the Bolu Tavuk, a chicken breast sautéed with unusual herbs in olive oil or die tender and sumptuous marinated swordfish with vegetables. The perfect way to end the meal is with the sweet sekerpare cookies and a cup of thick Turkish coffee. 5450 W Lovers Ln., Ste. 222,214-902-0919. Inexpensive to moderate.

Mediterraneo. This might just be the most inspired, creative menu in town, and the daily specials soar way beyond special (pray that lobster with Roquefort-whipped potatoes is on the list ). The crab-filled corn pancake appetizer, with its mushrooms and sun-dried tomato/lobster butter sauce, demonstrates how skillfully execucive chef David Holben combines flavors and textures. 18111 Preston Rd.,Ste. 120,214447-0066. Moderate.

Sambuca. At the gorgeous new Addison location, deep, inviting booths with animal prints, a high-tech bar area, and a forest scene mural all create a wild atmosphere that is good for people-watching and enjoying live jazz. Compared to this noise and color, Sambuca’s menu seems almost restrained. To start off a meal, the spinach salad with a sun-dried cherry vinaigrette and the appetizer pizzas get high marks. For the main course, the specials seem more assertively flavored than the regular menu items. For dessert, dive into the rich Romana Sambuca cake, which is drenched with anise-flavored liqueur. 15207 Addison Rd., Addison, 214-385-8455. Moderate.



Mexican

Cantina Laredo. Skip the wimpish, disappointing guacamole salad, and save your appetite for the Guadalajara plate, loaded with cheese enchiladas, a chunky tamale, tacos a! carbon, pico de gallo, and a decent dollop of guac. Speaking of green, the spinach enchiladas here are for die real spinach lover; the leaves retain some of their crunchy integrity, spared the thermonuclear zapping the dish receives at most places. Add good chips, sauce that belongs in the Tex-Mex Hall of Fame, friendly service, strolling mariachis, mar-garitas with a pleasant sting, and you have just had a good time. 8121 Walnut Hill Ln., 214-987-9192. Inexpensive.

Casa Rosa. Part of the menu offers traditional Mexican dishes, but another portion of it puts a California-type spin on classic Mexican, by adding things like goat cheese, wild mushrooms, and mesquite-grilled red snapper. The interior appeals-giant murals, spotlighted plants, and a muted, comforting decor. The peppery salsa and thin, crisp tortilla chips awaken appetites, and flawless service moves meals along smoothly. Nicely grilled meat stars in the tacos al carbon, and chicken enchiladas come packed with shredded meat and topped with a subtly smoky red sauce. Good, creamy flan stars for dessert, although “topped with fresh fruit ” is a stretch for the lone, fanned strawberry. 165 Inwood Village, 214-350-5227. Inexpensive.

Chuy’s. Separate yourself from the roar of the crowd, and pay attention to die food and intelligent service-this is Tex-Mex with a healthy attitude. Charros, lightly spiced beans sans fat, offer a happy alternative to the refried standard here– and even that’s thoughtfully cooked with canola oil instead of lard. Fine, thin tostadas are grease-less; salsas carry fresh, addictive bite. House-special enchiladas feature blue com tortillas stacked with big bites of smoky grilled chicken in a tart green tomatillo sauce; grilled chicken and cheese take on spirited tang with a more delicate tomatillo sauce made with herbs, sour cream, and spices. And a prime starter before all this is rajas con queso-chiles and onions bathed in a nippy white cream cheese sauce, thin but hauntingly rich in flavor. 4544 McKinney Ave., 214-559-2489. Inexpensive to moderate.

Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano. Start by dipping chips into the warm, piquant green salsa, wash it down with handmade margaritas, then opt for tart, fresh ceviche while you ponder: Barra de Navidad, enormous fresh shrimp sautéed in dia-blo sauce (coffee, orange juice, tomato), or delicate Snapper Mojo de Ajo in garlic and lime, or mouthwatering Filete con Champinones (steak with mushrooms and brandy)? Decisions, decisions. 4912 Cole Ave., 214-521-4211. Moderate.

La Calle Doce. Take a charming old Oak Cliff house, add a dash of restoration, stir in a smattering of family photos, cover with family staff and management, and you’ve got La Calle Doce, known for its outstanding ceviche; good, stout margaritas; and some of the best seafood around. The herb-marinated grilled catfish, served whole on abed of Spanish-style rice with plenty of vegetables, can convert the most strident “catfish-is-so-ugly” snob. Owners Oscar and Laura Sanchez, along with Laura’s sister Alma, are ready to answer all questions and make informed recommendations. 415 W. 12th St., 214-941-4304. Inexpensive.

Malt’s Rancho Martinez. A recent visit to this crowded, clattering East Dallas spot went like a baseball game: hit, miss, hit, miss, etc. The chips and zesty queso made sterling starters, though we struck out with bland, chicken-choked tortilla soup and gummy, forgettable nachos. We rallied with grilled chicken flautas that deserve Hall of Fame status, but the score remained tied in the ninth. Then Matt’s famous chile rellenos swaggered to the plate-hefty peppers stuffed with beef, filled with oozing jack cheese and festooned with raisins and pecans. Wham ! Home run ! 6312 La Vista Dr., 214-823-5517. Inexpensive.

Monica’s Aca Y Ada. Monica’s ads say she’s not beautiful, but she sure knows how to cook. She does, she does-and never a dull cliché on the plate. Her tortilla soup’s a miracle of textures and flavors that shames tonier places with its crisp tortilla ribbons and rainbow-pretty passel of vegetables. The salad that comes with it at lunch is all perky mixed greens, brightened with lime-dill vinaigrette. Pan-fried catfish is soulfully tender (if regrettably cursed with thread-thin bones) in garlic butter lime sauce. And the brown rice risotto in mild chipotle sauce strikes a neat chord in harmony with sautéed shrimp. The key lime cheesecake is a favorite, the house flan is a lively gingered chocolate; Don’t look for the mundane here-this is one of Deep Ellum’s prime health-conscious, people-watching spots, even at noon on weekdays. Live music, dance rhythms as spicy as the food, is featured on Sunday nights. 2914 Main St., 214-748-7140. Moderate.

Piano Tortilla Factory & Cafe. Not exactly around the corner, not much atmosphere, and no alcohol served, but this little authentic Mexican joint will have you eating to the belt-loosening stage. Your best game plan: arrive after 11 a.m., when your meal (dine-in only) will start with free, fresh corn-tasting chips, spicy salsa, guacamole, and pico de gallo. Buttery tasting chicken quesadil-las, stewed pork-filled taquitos, and a split corn tortilla stuffed with inch-thick cubes of tender chicken team up nicely for a generous à la carte meal that would satisfy any linebacker, and would still leave enough from a ten-spot to pay for dessert and a drink. Combination plates, complete with rice and beans, average about $5. Stop by the bakery case on the way out, but skip the so-so empanadas in favor of a bag of aromatic cinnamon cookies. Make sure to take home a copy of the menu-this place does big take-out business. 1009 E. 18th St., Plano,214-423-6980. Inexpensive.



Middle Eastern

Ali Baba. Bring your family here for exceedingly low prices, abundant portions, and authentic Middle Eastern cuisine. Stan off with the maza plate, a traditional sampler of hummus, baba ghanoush, grilled eggplant, and tabouleh, a parsley, lemon juice, tomato, and wheat salad. Then try the falafels, deep-fried chick peas and sesame seeds in a yogurt sauce; kibi, deep-fried cracked wheat and beef; or grilled shish Tawook, spicy chicken cubes with smoky rice and vermicelli. 1905 Greenville Ave., 214-823-8235. Inexpensive.



Natural/Health

Dream Cafe. Dallas’ most accessible organic breakfast spot, Dream Cafe unapologetically offers ultra-hip ’90s-style breakfasts, complete with superb joe, warming the hearts of artsy advertising types and button-down bankers alike. Black bean and rice luncheons and alfresco din-ner-fests (Monday night specials include kid entertainment) should delight fastidious health-conscious types. The ambitious menu occasionally lives up to glorious nouvelle descriptions (“Mystic Pasta, grilled chicken Brie, caramelized onions” and so forth); try daily specials for best bets. 2800 Routh St., 214-954-0486. Moderate.



New American

Anzu. This is the kind of place where no one will share appetizers-they’re too good. But Anzu’s entrées are as delightful as its starters; every bite brings a heady thrill of pleasure to the tongue. Teriyaki grilled portobello mushroom was a huge, marinated single cap, meaty as steak, sliced for chopstick convenience, and strewn with slivers of vinaigrette-zipped tomato and leek. Asian influences abound in Anzu’s self-styled “New American” menu and decor, from the origami birds fluttering from the ceiling to the sake warmed to just the right temperature. 4620 Mc-Kinney Ave., 214-526-7398. Moderate.

Beau Nash. The restaurant’s trademark grilled corn and smoked chicken soup turned out to be merely another take on the ubiquitous tortilla cliche, albeit a virtuously fat-free version. Pumpkin-brandy cheesecake was a radier too-solid ball thickly encrusted with shaved almonds-for the sake of a novel appearance, we suppose, at the delicate texture’s expense. Other presentations, though, were pretty without being contrived-grilled asparagus fanned beautifully under shiitake mushroom slices with peppered goat cheese; anger hair pasta lay heaped with lump crab meat and diced tomato on a wash of basil coulis. Creative pizzas (try steak), sandwiches (try lobster), and entrées all speak with the lively Asian accents we’re currently calling fusion. The Hotel Crescent Court setting is splendidly casual; the service manages to charm without being chatty. 400 Crescent Ct., 214-871-3240. Moderate.

City Cafe. Complimentary marinated vegetables and olives at each table, excellent service, white tablecloths-and an exhibition kitchen featuring chef Katie Schma’s innovative dishes, like esco-lar-similar to halibut but juicier and tastier- served vertically with cumin-crusted stacked filets sitting on Spanish-style rice flecked with tomatoes and onions, topped with fried onion shreds, and surrounded by drizzled sauces of smoked plum and cilantro-spiked mango. And brother Doug Schma makes chocolate Kahlua cake: layers of meringue and butter-cream… mmm. 5757 W. Lovers Ln., 214-351-2233. Moderate.

Dakota’s. Dakota’s outdoor patio, with its five-tiered waterfall and hundreds of tiny white bulbs, is one of the most romantic spots in town. Sample appetizers like smoky grilled portobello mushrooms, tiny, delicate crab cakes, and smoked chicken quesadillas; revel in soups like smoked chicken chowder; and try not to become addicted to the lamb chops, served with pots of mint jelly, feta cheese vinaigrette, and angel-hair pasta. But, whatever you do, save room for the homemade desserts-cheesecake, “ooey-gooey” brownies, and the divine, sweet-tart Key lime pie. 600 N. Akard St., 214-740-4001. Moderate.

Landmark Restaurant. Ensconced in the mellow confines of the grand Melrose Hotel is a piquant treat: the “New World” cuisine of Landmark Restaurant chef Kent Rathbun. His experience of the Far East is evident in such creations as “pressed sushi” with daikon and beet confetti salad. It’s lovely, with rounds of firm fish sided with crisp, white radish and scarlet beet, but be warned-the dish is incendiary, even die rice. The spicy presence, though assertive, is just right in masterpieces like the grilled rack of lamb. In the Melrose Hotel, 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-521-5151. Moderate to expensive.

Laurels. Everything about this lofty restaurant- atop a North Dallas hotel-does more than just look good. The space is lavish, the view is spectacular, and the New American cuisine is dazzling. A recently introduced prix fixe menu melds North and South American foods in a selection of health-aware appetizers, entrées, and desserts labeled with their calorie and fat contents for $49.50, including wine, beer, or soft drinks, and coffee. Or try entrées like the mixed grill-antelope, lamb, and quail, all splendidly set out on a sun-dried cherry sauce and gilded with pear-jalapeno chutney. In the Sheraton Park Central, 12720 Merit Dr., 214-385-3000. Expensive.

The Mansion on Turtle Creek. Dean Fearing, along with Stephan Pyles and several others, perfected die New Southwest cuisine by introducing surprising ingredients and novel interpretations into such simple dishes as salsas, enchiladas, and marinades. Tortilla soup-chicken broth, a touch of tomatoes and onions, topped with toasted shredded tortillas and cheddar cheese-is justifiably famous. Or try the lobster taco, a soft flour taco filled with luscious lobster meat and runny white cheese, a subtle and delicious treat. And, of course, you’ll enjoy the superlative service-captains and sommeliers materialize from the mar-blework, and flutes of premium champagne wash away your cares. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd., 214-559-2100. Expensive.

Nana Grill. The name may have changed, but people-watching in the Wyndham Anatole lobby won’t-sheiks and secretaries, politicians and potentates, conventioneers and corporate power brokers. But sit in die 27th-floor Nana Grill and you’ll feel you could buy and sell them all-partly because of die altitude, the plush decor, and the staffs polished competence, of course, but also because of chef Scott Blackerby’s cosmopolitan fare-like the ambrosial baked oysters with cilantro pesto, a trademark house favorite. In the Wyndham Anatole Hotel tower, 2201 Stemmons Fwy., 214-761-7479. Expensive.

Yellow. Bright yellow awnings shade the windows, yellow accents the interior, and each dish displays a touch of-you guessed it-yellow! Samplesuch delights as a sesame-crusted seared ahi appetizer, served with a tangle of mixed greens, or honey-spiced duck with a tamarind plum sauce. But seafood reigns here, and the best entree might be the corn-crusted halibut with a delicate lemon-grass butter sauce. 2719 McKinney Ave., 214-871-1772. Expensive.



Seafood

Cafe Pacific. One of the most telling tricks a critic can employ in reviewing a popular restaurant is to walk in alone during a peak- rush lunch hour without a reservation. Frosty receptions, long waits, and/or terrible tables are the punishment for such gaffes at many upscale eateries-but not at Cafe Pacific, where our anonymous gaffette received cherished-guest treatment and wonderfully caring service. Magical food, too-a starter of lime-seasoned ceviche was as tony as the clientele, an extravagance of lobster and shrimp chunks with bay scallops, all bedded on jicama matchsticks and deep-green ribbons of spinach. A day’s special entrée starring Gulf red snapper was even prettier, the fish delicately moist inside a crisp corn-tortilla crust atop a fine, crunchy salsa balancing tan tomatillo and sweet diced pineapple. The too-sweet nubbly crust on a warm apple crisp dessert overwhelmed its firm, fresh fruit filling, but the vanilla bean ice cream that crowned the whole affair helped cut the sweetness, as did bracing espresso. 24 Highland Park Village, Preston Road and Mockingbird Lane, 214-526-1170. Moderate to expensive.

Daddy Jack’s. Try steamed Manila clams, plump fresh things, their sturdy feet clinging stubbornly to shells, freckled with minced garlic crunch in dippin’-good broth. Savor an entrée-sized appetizer of fresh mixed salad greens bedding meaty portobello mushrooms overlapped with ripe peeled tomato slices drizzled with Balsamic vinaigrette. Share a snapper and lobster tail special, sauced with spicy beurre blanc that nips you with warm afterburn-but only with someone you love enough to let him or her nibble at your big baked potato and sweet, barely steamed corn on the cob. One safe bet: Nobody goes home from here hungry. Or feeling neglected, either. 1916 Greenville Ave., 214-826-4910. Moderate.

Joe’s Crab Shack. This kitsch-filled restaurant, complete with a whale swimming overhead, wants its customers to feel like they’ve paused, mid-scuba dive, for a meal. And it is a bubbly place, with some of the perkiest servers around. Whack die blue crabs with a wooden mallet, dunk the sweet mear in the melted butter, toss the shells in the recessed bucket in the table, and repeat, pausing only for slugs of beer. The crab bisque adds just the right spicy note, and, if your cholesterol level allows it, the crab fingers and fried shrimp can’t be beat. 3855 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 214-247-1010. Inexpensive to moderate.

Mainstream Fish House. Owned by Kelly Haden, who also owns the fish market T.J.’s a few doors down from Mainstream, and by the powers behind Mi Cocina, Mainstream’s name is deceiving: These people know food. Bread pot shrimp-a hollowed out loaf of sourdough filled with the sautéed sea creatures-and creamy crab cakes are not to be missed. Go for the daily specials-a good Canadian salmon for $12.95 or chargrilled tuna at $11.95 with two side orders. Key lime pie provides the perfect ending to a pleasant meal. Preston Forest Shopping Center, 11661 Preston Rd., Ste. 153, 214-739-3474. Moderate.

Newport’s. Entering Newport’s in the West End’s historic brewery building, with its tables set on semicircular rings leading toward a seemingly bottomless pit, seems at first like descending into Dante’s Inferno. But the food is heavenly. New England clam chowder was rich, creamy, and delicious. Mesquite grilled Maine lobster was so meaty, moist, succulent, and filled with coral or roe that we ate almost everything but the gills. For dessert try the Kahlua Nest. 703 McKinney Ave., 214-954-0220. Moderate.

Remington’s Seafood Grill. Remington’s, currently in its teens, is considered an old-timer on the Belt Line “restaurant row.” Reasonable prices, simply prepared food, and reliable service are some of the reasons why. But while the wood-brass-glass interior of the restaurant is much easier on the eyes than its drab exterior would lead you to expect, it’s time for a few renovations, like new carpeting and a ceiling facelift. Likewise, the menu has its highs and lows. Crab cakes are nicely meaty, teamed well with fresh chopped slaw and skin-on fries. However, scoops of margarine, not butter, accompany the baskets of good bread, and the baked potatoes, which are further insulted by being served with scallions instead of the promised chives. Skip the clam chowder in favor of the sprightly Caesar, and be sure to order the tiniest, tastiest dessert around, the $1.39 sundae-a mini-scoop of vanilla ice cream awash in caramel and fudge sauces, topped with chopped Hershey’s kisses. 4580 Belt Line Rd., 214-386-0122. Moderate.

S&D Oyster Company. The interior is cool pale yellow and white though the food, mostly fried, is not as light as the atmosphere. We suggest you skip the shrimp dip and go straight for die fresh oysters on the half shell. The menu does offer a few selections of broiled fish, but we recommend the fried oysters with French fries and hush-puppies for a rare treat in these low-fat times. Finally, cleanse your palate with a refreshing piece of lemon pie. 2701 McKinney Ave., 214-880-0111. Moderate.

Sea Grill. Chef Andy Tun’s Thai roots put an Asian-American spin on classic seafood dishes like mussels in lemongrass broth, and smoked salmon appetizer with capers, caviar, dill, horseradish, and toasted pumpernickel, At night, with soft lighting, Harry Cornnick Jr. in the background, and a bottle from the nicely priced wine list, you might even forget you’re next door to a Fuddrucker’s and a Ming Garden. 2205 N. Central Expy., Ste. 180, Piano, 214-509-5542. Moderate.



Southwestern

Blue Mesa Grill. This popular restaurant marries the flavors of Mexico and New Mexico, and does both well. The understated decor, with white stucco walls simply accented with brick, wood, and colorful primitive art, matches the pared-down, understated menu dial delivers even more than it promises. The many sampler platters, whether of appetizers, dessens, or entrées, showcase the kitchen’s range, which even offers food for dieters. Guacamole, made tableside, can’t be beaten, and anything smoked or grilled is outstanding. Skip dessert in favor of an icy blue mar-garita. Village on the Parkway,5100 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 214-934-0165. Moderate.

Lavaca Cantina. The Cantina sits with three other restaurants in the entertainment-restaurant-bar complex known as Pepper Square. The menu offers cowboy chow-grilled I nod. Mexican specialties, and lots of stuff for snacking. The best thing we tried was the jerk chicken and Key lime mustard slaw sandwich. The Cantina steals the show at happy hour, when 26 types of tequila draw some serious attention and the appetizer list gets a workout. If you’re going just for the food, lunch is a better deal. 14902 Preston Rd., Ste. 700 in Pepper Square, 214-458-0458. Moderate.

Lorna Luna Cafe. Muted, soft earth tones, subtle lighting, and good art provide a tranquil setting for meals that start with hot chips and two assertively spicy salsas. The “botanas platter,” a generous assortment of appetizers, also zings the taste buds. Entrees, though, can be curiously bland, as though made by a different chef altogether. Silky flan and honey-drizzled Navajo fry bread ends the meal on a sweet note. Brunch, offered on both Saturdays and Sundays, is a S10.95 bargain, and offers a welcome change of pace-eggs scrambled with smoked mushrooms, onions, and poblano peppers. Most entrées come with home fries and beans, and you’ll also be served blue corn muffins, a fruit cup, a bottomless glass of champagne, and coffee. 8201 Preston Rd., Ste. 100, 214-691-1552. Inexpensive.

Star Canyon. Chef Stephan Pyles, one of the founders of Southwestern cuisine, is now in his “new Texas” phase: Santiago Pena door handles, rawhide banquettes, hook ’em horns sconces, chuck wagon murals-and dish after dish combining native Texas fare with intricate, unexpected, and exotic flavors: Tarnale tart, much like a quiche, mildly seasoned with garlic and lump crabmeat; lean, cilantro-cured venison sliced thin, arranged in a fan; and the ever-popular Cowboy rib-eye steak, bone-in Angus beef delectably singed over hickory flames. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-520-7827. Moderate to expensive.



Spanish

Macho’s Chimney Cafe And Bar. Owners Nestor and Chris Macho are trying to make their restaurant all things to all people-at lunch, pasta, salads, and soups attract the ladies; at dinner, the Cuban and Spanish dishes interest younger diners; and at Sunday brunch, the disparate assortment of Cuban, American, Italian, and Spanish fare draws the after-church crowd. Our response was accordingly mixed. Of the Cuban and Spanish offerings, we recommend the empa-nadas, pockets of dough filled with beef, olives, and raisins served with cranberry and jalapeno dipping sauces; the sweet and flavorsome plantains sautéed in butter; and the shrimp sautéed in a coconut batter and bathed in coconut milk. On a lunch visit, an artichoke unpleasantly doused in bread crumbs was sent back. The $8.95 brunch was also disappointing. The dishes suffered from sitting out on warming trays for too long, and the selections seem incongruous. 9739 N. Central Expy., 214-369-6466. Inexpensive to moderate.



Steakhouses

Chamberlain’s Prime Chop House. You need to pace your appetite in this comfortable neighborhood steakhouse, where chef-owner Richard Chamberlain often pops out of the kitchen to greet his customers. The perky garlicky aioli, spread on airy, lightly crispy rolls, can cause you to empty the breadbasket, but save room for the black bean soup, an intense, smoky bowl of pureed magic. The crisp deviled crab cakes, in their subtle mustard sauce, can also start a meal in fine style. As tender and juicy as the Iamb chops are, beef is the reason to visit Chamberlain’s, and prime rib heads the roster of favorites. Horseradish-whipped mashed potatoes star on the list of side dishes, although the fresh, bacon-laced corn casserole finishes a close second. Desserts, while respectable, don’t reach the same heights as the food that precedes them. 5330 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 214-934-2467. Moderate.

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House. This is a “he-man” of a restaurant, complete with a bustling bar of regulars slapping each other on the back. The wine list is huge, filled mainly with lots of expense account bottles, but bargains can be found among them. (The wines available by the glass seem to be a pitiful afterthought.) The menu is just what you’d expect, with lots of meat and side dishes, lobster, and a token fish of the day. The two prime cuts, a ribeye and a strip, are the best steaks on the menu, and they’re rich in flavor and perfectly cooked. Service is fast-paced unless you request otherwise. 5251 Spring Valley Rd.,214-490-9000. Expensive.

Kirby’s Steakhouse. The return of the old Greenville favorite is apparently pleasing a wide range of diners: clientele include dating teenagers, families with kids, and nostalgic past patrons. While the born-again Kirby’s is under new ownership, the clubby, comfortable restaurant relies heavily on recipes from the past: Steaks are cooked to perfection and have a hint of the forbidden flavor of fat. The new menu reflects ’90s notions with pasta, chicken, and seafood. The fried okra appetizer just may be the best in town. 3525 Greenville Ave., 214-821-2122. Moderate to expensive.

Morton’s of Chicago. It you’re an unrepentant carnivore who just doesn’t care that huge slabs of juicy red ribeye steak and chops of”veal aren’t chic any more, Morton s is for you-and your more nutritionally correct family and friends can enjoy lobster, shrimp, or chicken as well as simply prepared fresh fish. Understatement reigns here, from dark wood to etched glass, starched white linens, and muted Sinatra, and there are more than 30 martini varieties. 501 Elm St., 214-741-2277. Expensive.

The Palm. The Palm came here during Dallas’ roaring ’80s and handily held its own during lean times as well. The insouciant service and lack of cushiony frills bespeak a brawling, brassy, particularly Texan attitude, and the food, from lamb to linguine, veal to seafood, vegetable sides to salads-and unforgettable steaks and lobster-is superb. This New York import flatters its clientele-political figures, business executives, and VIPs-by splashing their colorful caricatures all over its walls. 701 Ross Ave.. 214-698-0470. Expensive.

Paul’s Porterhouse. Expect the unexpected at Paul’s. Outside, you’d peg it for a $7.99 all-you-can-eat beef joint. Inside, you’ll see otherwise, as you check out the Remington sculptures, lofty menu prices, and a knock-out of a wine list ( Wine Spectator just gave it one of the six “Awards of Excellence” in Dallas). Other surprises quickly follow, like grand wheels of mild cheddar at each table, and maybe a complimentary bowl of quail soup or dessert (if Paul’s around and in a good mood). Prime beef (including a28-oun ce porterhouse) shares the menu with plenty of seafood as well as deer, elk, ostrich, pheasant, and rabbit. 10960 Composite Dr., 214-357-0279. Expensive.

Texas Land & Cattle Company. Night or day, this place jumps, and it has carved out its own Dallas niche with popular entrées liked smoked sirloin, mesquite grilled trout, and fried pickles. Meals begin with loaves of sourdough bread and a bucket of shell-on peanuts-plain or roof-of-your-mouth-burning spicy. The shrimp cocktail, Caesar, and house salads are good starts. Then dive into the star attraction-meat. These thick slices of tender beef pair nicely with the heavenly skin-on homemade mashed potatoes, rich with garlic and pepper. But there are plenty of other choices from mesquite grilled shrimp to camp-fire chili. Don’t hesitate to fill upon the steak and potatoes, because none of the desserts are worth the calories, so far. 3130 Lemmon Ave., 214-526-4664. Moderate.



Thai

Chow Thai. This striking new restaurant-with an eclectic atmosphere that includes lozenge-shaped lighting and light wooden chairs- amazes both the eyes and the mouth. The restaurant’s cooks and owner, who are from Bangkok, offer their customers authentic Thai fare with some exciting original dishes such as the Chow Thai duck, deliciously marinated in an exotic honey sauce, and yum pla muk. calamari served in a bed of fresh vegetables. If you choose items from the hotter side of the menu, cool off with Thai tea, a special blend with soy milk that is extremely soothing. The young waiters are courteous, but don’t let them steer you away from the more exotic dishes. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 144, 214-960-2999. Moderate.

Toy’s Cafe. Previously known as Thai Toy, this place specializes in vegetarian and seafood dishes, and is a good spot for informal, wholesome, and inexpensive eating. Don’t miss Toy’s mee grob, pinkish rice noodles studded with scallions and cilantro, deep-fried in a non-cloying sweet-and-sour sauce; or the deep-fried marinated shrimp fingers wrapped in rice paper. Soups, which feed two to four, are among Toy’s strongest suits. Scrumptious main courses begin with broad, soft, fresh rice noodles stir-fried with tofu, shrimp, or crab. Cash only. 4422 B Lemmon Ave., 214-528-7233. Inexpensive.

Tuppee Tong. Although you can order the food with the heat toned down, don’t. You’ll miss the punch of a peanut sauce that comes with the satays (appetizers of skewered chicken, meat, or shrimp) and the kick of a red curry chicken (made daily from home-grown spices). Balance the heat with a Thai salad of carrot, cucumber, and radish slivers in sweetened vinegar, and try one of the eight or so soups offered here in three sizes. Tuppee Tong translates as “big golden spoon,” so keep in mind that portions are large. And, even better, prices are low. The Village at Collin Creek, 621 W. Piano Pkwy., Ste. 247, Piano, 214-509-7979, Inexpensive.

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