GARLIC ALERT, GARLIC ALERT! You get a whiff of it the minute you exit your car, you’ll dip your garlicky focaccia in olive oil afloat with whole cloves of it, and you’ll spy the g-word a heady 16 times on the dinner menu alone. And, just in case you haven’t gotten the message, your waiter is apt to say, “If you like garlic, you’re going to love this place,” as mine did on my first visit. Luckily, I’m a big fan of what’s also known as the “stinky rose,” but even so, the smoked chicken Caesar sandwich almost did me in, not only because it was enormous, but because it was doused with enough garlic-haunted Caesar dressing to render me safe around vampires for a long time.
Il takes just one visit to Cappellini’s to understand the concept behind this large, comfortably decorated restaurant. Everything, from the giant salads to the mouth-watering pasta to the homemade desserts, comes on a platter and will stuff at least two people. That is, at lunch. Dinner platters com.? double the size, although half-orders of moot dishes are available then.
On subsequent visits, I wised up and brought reinforcements, including a friend who’s not a garlic -lover, but who ended up being nutty about Cappellini’s. I suspect that her Tuscan salad gets the credit for that. Three of us almost managed to polish off one helping of this clever combination of perfectly fresh greens, thinly sliced apples, Gorgonzola crumbles, toasted walnuts, and sun-dried tomatoes, all laced with a com-mendable balsamic vinaigrette. Veal scalop-pine and a rather tough chicken roulade took second place to their beds of pasta with won -derfully zesty homemade marinara sauce. The same good sauce accompanies a side dish of four generous wedges of polenta, sort of a cornbread baked with minced vegetables, herbs, and Italian bacon in the batter, An unusual version of lasagne, served in individual layers and rolled jelly-roll style, featured a tomato sauce enriched with cream, and brought mixed reactions.
No question about dessert, though. We all managed to save room for the light, delectable tiramisu and gave it three (out of three) forks up. And, another sweet ending for those taking their garlic-laden breath back to the office-the rest rooms offer water coolers filled with mouthwash, and an enormous basket of palate-cleansing candies awaits you at the door.
Cappellini’s. 3820 Belt Line Kl, Addison. 488-9494. 11 a.m.- 10 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday & Saturday; noon-10 p.m., Sunday. Moderate.
Let’s hope that owner Kenny “Lefty” Bowers will stay forever at his new Addison restaurant; otherwise, writers wouldn’t be able to resist penning headlines such as “Lefty Left Lefty’s!” Actually, Lefty did leave Daddy Jack’s on Lower Greenville after a three-year stint, and his new lobster and chowder house is very similar to the one his friend and mentor Jack Chaplin still runs, And, from the looks of it, Addison must have been craving a new seafood restaurant, because this casual, almost rustic place is jumping.
The menu is small-a dozen entrées, a handful of appetizers, and a few daily specials-but there’s everything you’d expect a good lobster house to have, including beef for those who don’t like seafood. Soups come in thick white mugs; a disk of a cracker covers the top and keeps the steam in. Choose the clam chowder, and steer far away from the metallic-tasting lobster bisque. Either the smoked salmon with bagel chips or the steamed clams appetizer would make a nice light meal. So would the crisp house salad, paired with a crab cake; although the crab cake contained more filler than I’d like, it comes with some good dilled tartar sauce,
and is a decent value for$4.75. Baked shrimp, stuffed with baby shrimp, crab, and cracker crumbs, are served perched on a wickedly good sauce, perfect for bread-dipping.
The service gets mixed marks, but I’ll give Lefty’s the benefit of the doubt due to its newness and popularity. While the waiters need a good bit of fine-tuning, the wine side of the menu looks quite promising, with some interesting choices. Co-owner and wine buyer Chris Papageorge (just ask for him) eagerly discusses what he can pour in addition to the wines listed on the menu, and willingly opens bottles for those who want just a glass. His suggestion of a Markham sauvignon blanc to complement our seafood hit the mark.
One false note: The sauce on a daily special, seafood diablo, lacked any of the promised spiciness, though the plate was generously heaped with clams, lobster, mussels, and shrimp. As at Daddy Jack’s, bargains abound on the menu, such as the one-pound lobster with baked potato and corn for $10,95. Look to Lefty’s to start opening for lunch any day-now there’s something that Daddy didn’t teach him! -S.H.
Lefty’s. 4021 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 774-9518. 5-11 p.m., Monday-Saturday;closed Sunday. Moderate.
Remember when the only direction Preston Rond led from Dallas was north? Out in Far North Dallas in the Preston Trail Plaza shopping center, it now takes us east, to Asia, and west to-well, exactly where is hard to say. The Vietnamese family that has opened this suavely decorated restaurant calls its cuisine Euro-Asian, My two visits suggest Mediter-Asian might be a closer fit, based on the styles of cookery employed in various dishes.
Actually, the West’s influence might come from even closer to home-the owners came here from San Francisco, and may be unaware that Dallas palates are as tuned to Asian piquancy as West Coasters’, if not more so. Accordingly, the most Asian dishes we sampled were lightly seasoned to the point of near-blantlness. Ground shrimp, wrapped around sugar-cane sticks and grilled, held just a hint of the cane’s sweetness and were served without any kind of sauce, perhaps by an oversight. Green pepper soup was more flavorful, its creamy chicken-based broth afloat with sliced pepper, ginger, mushrooms, and carrot cubes; even so, a little snap would have been welcome. Broiled snapper delivered none of the menu-promised curry nuance; the garlicspiked noodles that sided the fish were the entrée’s star component, chewy and pungent and fine.
Saigon spring rolls and a green papaya salad were rescued from timid seasoning only by their sauces, although the former’s peanut sauce was a milder-than-usual version. The salad, a tangle of super-fresh, shredded, unripe papaya mixed with chicken shreds instead of the usual pork crisps along with its shrimp, came with a dangerous-looking, dark-red sauce that packed surprisingly little heat but added great interest.
Contrariwise, the more Western-styled entrées we tried were dramatically garlicky. A Dungeness crab, roasted whole, wore a crusty herbal coating on its shell; a pork chop, split and charcoal-grilled, had a limy garlic presence.
The one complete disappointment of both visits was a hybrid dish of minced beef rolled and grilled in (supposedly) aromatic leaves from Hawaii. Asian in concept, perhaps, the too-firm little cylinders looked like dolmas; we found them dry and tasteless. We also found ourselves wishing tor vegetables, which Vietnamese cooks prepare with such fresh finesse; none are offered here.
What is offered, though, is an uncommonly lovely setting in shades of plum, purple, and white, setting off pretty china and stemware; and service with intensely caring warmth and willingness. One can hope when the family gets to know us better, they’ll indulge our Texas preference for a little more fire in our food. -Betty Cook
Saigon Savour. 17390 Preston Rd., Ste. 490, 380-2766. Lunch, Ua.m,2:30p.m., Monday-Friday; noon-2:30p.m., Saturday; dinner. 6-11 p.m.. Monday-Thursday; 6 p.m.-midnight, Friday & Saturday. Moderate.
EAST SIDE GRILL
ANY RESTAURATEUR WILL TELL YOU THAT IT is a goofy business. Ergo, so is restaurant reviewing. I’d have sworn any eaten’ opened by a make-’em-thirsty, longnecks-and-loud-music emporium would be aimed at providing junk food to a mob of revelers.
Wrong, wrong. For one thing, the Barley House, which owns the next-door East Side Grill, boasts a world-gathered selection of beers as cosmopolitan as the young professionals and boomers who groove to its alternative country style of music, recorded and live. And for another, the Grill’s menu, though brief, is engaging; developed by Chef Tony Knight, whose Aransas Pass restaurant formerly occupied the same space, it offers down-home dishes endowed with kicky accents that lift them above common bar food. Notable examples: Chicken-fried steak, hand-cut and crisp-coated, came with terrific twice-baked mashed potatoes and a healthy stir-fry of fresh vegetables. An Aransas burger piled a half-pound patty of broiled sirloin with roasted poblanos and onions, plus a melt of jack cheese. A 10-ounce strip steak (the menu’s most expensive item at $11.95) was gilded with onion braised in Jack Daniels sauce.
Granted, the appetizer list offers mostly pub food standards, but even these carried extra zip. The chicken quesadillas’ homemade salsa verde dip made my eyes water from four feet away. Spicy Barley wings touched the tongue first with flavor, then with mounting fire. Fried pickles, the cliché of all clichés, cut in spears rather than circles, were surprisingly delicious in their nicely seasoned, greaseless crumb crust.
The kitchen here is not without its glitches; there has been some staff turnover and some evenings when popular favorites weren’t available-a chile-stuffed pork chop, Greek salad, and the black bean chile relleno fondly remembered from Aransas Pass experiences were all missing on our visit?. But the Grill is being polished, Knight rides to the rescue in times of distress, and the Park Cities and North Dallas parties who filled the place when we were there seemed perfectly happy with what was on hand-maybe bi^cause they planned to come back again. Service, by the way, was sweely accommodating; the dark wood setting is neat but not g&udy, and the curtained side patio is still one of the most inviting in town. -B.C.
East Side Grill. 2916 N. Henderson Ave., 828-2801. 5:30 p.m.-2 a.m., Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Friday-Sunday, Inexpensive.