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Restaurant Reviews

Places to Meet & Eat: Our Critics’ Picks
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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 the dry seasoning that’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 Expwy, at Walnut Hill Lane, Ste. 600 368-RIBS or fax 373-FAXS for orders to go. Inexpensive.

Sonny Bryan’s. The basic barbecue sandwich plate remains as fresh and new as the day the late Sonny first lit the fire in the barbecue pit: tender, flavorful meat piled on a soft bun, accompanied by wondrously spicy sauce, smoky beans and creamy cole slaw with a hint of tartness. The onion rings are to be treasured, a crusty shell around a soft, piping hot, sweet onion. The food may be as good at the new locations, but like an old hometown, the gritty ambience of the original must be visited from time to time. 2202 Inwood Rd., 357-7120; and other locations. Inexpensive.



Brewpubs

Breckenridge Brewery. This sleek, woody establishment, much larger than the mother ship in Colorado, comes with the slightly Irritating supply-before-demand trappings of success: T-shirts and Other Breckenalia are for sale, before you even thought to ash. But the confidence may be well-founded. Besides being one of the prettiest brewpubs so far (the humongous beer-can collage is art, damn it), at least two of the five beers-India Pale Ale and Oatmeal Stout-are first-class creations. To wash down your drink, try the superb prawn appetizer, then move on to duck enchiladas, fist tacos. or the pulled pork sandwich. The brew-pub sweepstakes are getting crowded, and the winner is- well, stay tuned. 1907 McKinney Ave.. 965-0007. Inexpensive.



Copper Tank Brewery. Deep Ellum’s first brewpub, which has one door on Commerce and another on Main, boasts the longest bar in Dallas, and we don’t doubt it. Every time we asked our waitress for something-beer, water, more beer, pizza, more pizza-she seemed to vanish into another time zone before languidly returning with our request. Our beer choices proved to be a mixed lot-a flaccid ESB, a zingy raspberry, a decent brown ale-that on the whole didn’t live up to the excellent pesto-coated pizzas. Perhaps competition {at least two more brewpubs are said to be bound for Deep Ellum) will light a fire under this sleepy crew. 2600 Main St.. 744-2739. Inexpensive.



The Rock Bottom Brewery. Food at this popular Addison brewpub is much like the dark wood-and-brass place itself: upscale, tony and surprisingly good. Generous appetizers could make their own meal, especially the asiago cheese dip or signature green pork chili. Pizzas arrive lava-hot on cracker-thin crust: try the bourbon beef (with homemade steak sauce) or double-smoked bacon (with spinach, goat cheese and roasted garlic). Smoked chicken enchiladas were some of the best we’ve tried-really. Alder-smoked salmon and chips sounded good, but came out bland. How’s the beer? Thought you’d never ask. Six regular brews range from ultra-light (Coyote Western Aie and Palomino Pale Ale) to deep and roasty (Pelican Brown Ale and our fave, Roadrunner Stout], Falcon Red is a nice compromise. Families, singles and couples mesh seamlessly as waiters hustle cheerfully-but beware Thursday nights, when Polo-reeking 20-somethings prowl, 4050 Belt Line Rd., 404-7456. Moderate.



D REVISITS Yegua Creek Brewing Co. The brew ery is next to the bar behind a glass enclosure, so you can watch the polished aluminum and brass tanks make suds while you sip {tours are held Saturdays at 3 p.m.]. After our own sips on the beer sampler-four-ounce tastes of four beers and two ales-we thought the whole batch was rather flat save for the cherry wheat. The menu has some great appetizers: The Gulf Coast crawfish cakes in tomatillo chile butter burst with spice and hearty flavor, and the Texas Tower-O-Rings (onion rings) have to be seen to be believed. The entrées, however, were inconsistent. The wild game mixed grill-quail, elk. and lamb and duck sausage-was delicious save for the elk. The Texas Fresh Cut, a blackened filet, was fatty and a little tough. 2920 N. Henderson Ave.. 824-2739. Inexpensive to moderate.



Burgers/Casual

Dave & Buster’s. The Prime Directive here has always been to serve fun, fun, fun with food on the side. As for the fun. this labyrinthine pleasure barn offers pool, shuffleboard. karaoke, numerous televisions showing the game of the minute, a zillion honking, clanking video and virtual reality games, and even a three-lane bowling alley. As for the food, the friendly and competent waiters and the prettily appointed dining room deserve better support from the kitchen. A cheeseburger was grilled perfection; a Philly chicken cheesesteak decent if overpriced: and the polio grande- a whopping, undercooked chicken breast drenched with enchilada sauce and accompanied by tasteless julienne vegetables-was no fun at all. Stick with the burgers and a cold one from a great beer list, which includes the excellent Pilser Urquel. Walnut Hill at Central Expressway (in the Corner Shopping Center], 361-5553. Inexpensive.

The Ozona Westex Grill and Bar. Set back amid a tangle of trees, and flowing multi-roomed around the corner of Greenville and Yale, this popular gathering spot-with its galvanized metal tabletops and natural wood interior-provides a surprisingly cool, green, countrified retreat in the city. There are no real surprises, and although there are grilled options like salmon salad and a chicken dinner, a bit too heavy reliance on deep frying may well dismay cholesterol counters. A bottle of domestic beer starts at $2-75. there are abundant lunch specials and the portions are very generous: Order conservatively on your first visit. 4615 Greenville, 265-9105. Inexpensive to moderate.



Snuffer’s. Every so often someone publishes the number of fat grams in a serving of Snuffer’s cheese fries, and we all pretend to be shocked-shocked!-and swear never again to let those straight-from-Satan munchies pass our lips. But inevitably we give in. Snuffer’s has a limited menu, but it’s hard to go wrong with burgers, the chicken sandwich, or the chicken Caesar salad. Go early on weekend nights, as the crowds build quickly. 3526 Greenville Ave.. 826-6850: 14910 Midway Rd., Addison, 991-8811. Inexpensive.



Chinese

Cafe Panda. Start with sublime quail curl, minced and seasoned to perfection, served in fresh, cold iceburg lettuce leaves, and watch as a team of servers perform a near-ballet in bringing it to your table. Tangerine beef was exceptional; delicate beef strips cooked to a sizzle, blended in a delightful sauce with fruity, chewy tangerine shreds. General Taos chicken is offered elsewhere, but rarely done as well; spicy, honest-to-goodness chicken breast that’s hot but not hellishly so, with no nuggety, gristly pieces. Order coffee and enjoy the Jules Verne-ian brewing device they bring to your table- Too much praise? How about this- even the guy who thinks of Chinese food as a last resort sighed. “I love this place.” 7979 Inwood Rd., Ste. 121. 902-9500. Inexpensive to moderate.



Jasmine. Ersatz nightclub ambience collides with hustle bustle service, but freshly prepared cuisine fortunately transcends both. Exquisite Ming chicken, redolent with spices and served in a crispy cold iceberg lettuce shell, was almost a meal in itself. Some like it hot, opting for Hunan and Szechwan beef-tender, generous helpings and prodigious heat rewarded the palates of even the most jaded jalapeno fans. The ubiquitous general chicken featured tender chunks of meat and fiery peppers: try champagne chicken for a cooler, if somewhat bland, warm-weather treat. One tiny gripe: The overly attentive tea and water filler-uppers tend to hover like pesky mosquitoes. 4002 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 991-6867. Inexpensive to moderate.



D REVISITS May Dragon. This restaurant promis es much: Its decor far outshines its strip-mall setting, the food in the photos lining the entry hall look more like sculptures than meals, and as you’re seated, the waiter hands you an enormous menu. Happily, May Dragon lives up to the expectations it builds with a quality of food far superior to that found in most Chinese restaurants. Moo shi rolls strike the right balance between sweet (plum sauce), crunchy (bamboo shoots and cabbage) and savory (shredded beef). Lemon chicken transcends the stickily sweet stuff served in most other places. This version’s lemony bite toned down the sugar, and the fried white-meat chicken strips retained not a bit of the grease. However, a house specialty, five-flavor shrimp, has a neon red sauce sweet enough to make your teeth ache, and the fried rice served with entrées (you can opt for plain white or brown rice) needs some rethinking, as it’s pretty much white rice with a few peas and carrots. May Dragon’s beautiful bar area gives you another reason to visit. 4848 Belt Line Rd.. 392-9998. Moderate.



D REVISITS Royal China. We expected to see the Partridge family dining with the Bradys at this unintentionally retro neighborhood Chinese spot-furnishings and wall facings reflect its former incarnation a zillion years ago as a quasi-Indian place called Safari. Neighboring diners seemed happy and content, so we waited in anticipation for our general chicken and green pepper beef. And waited. And waited. And watched everybody else eat. When we asked our harried waiter to check on our order, he snapped “Coming now!” Sure enough, two minutes later, the chicken arrived. Three minutes after that, so did the beef. Verdict? Good. A bit on the bland side, with rather small portions, but on the positive side, prices were right-just not worth the wait. Maybe we caught a new waiter with bad manners? We never received an explanation for the delay, but the check was johnny-on-the-spot. 201 Preston Royal Shopping Center, 361-1771. Inexpensive.

Szechwan Pavilion. Peking duck aficionados love the fact that this classic Chinese entree is available at Szechwan Pavilion anytime, in half or whole portions, without the customary need to call ahead and order it. Tableside, waiters brush the delicate pancakes with hoisin sauce, then layer on perfectly roasted duck, crispy skin and wisps of scal-lions, and present the rolled-up treats on a platter ringed with slices of orange. Between bites, you’ll notice lots of regular customers greeting each other in this tranquil, soft-pink setting punctuated with black lacquered chairs. Top-quality ingredients star here, from the fat shrimp in the vegetable-loaded sizzling rice soup to the juicy roast pork in the lo mein. Szechwan beef, marked as spicy, had just the right amount of burn. The “wonderful shrimp” would be more wonderful if they weren’t coated in a soggy batter, but they sure are big, butterflied beauties. 8411 Preston Rd., 36S4303. Inexpensive.



Eclectic

Blind Lemon. The beer’s cold, the ambience and attitude funky, so it’s a cryin’ shame that Blind Lemon falls somewhat short in the food category. No show stoppers, just no real standouts. For example, barbecue chicken pizza was laden with tender breast and gooey cheese, but the doughy crust was barely done, and served lukewarm. The ground turkey sandwich sounded like a healthful respite from burgers, but the mealy result, accompanied by oily fries, was a big disappointment. Service was well-meaning, but poorly informed about meal ingredients, and we didn’t even get around to more ambitious dishes like salmon and steak, We’ll go back for a brew or two. but until culinary aspirations match delivery, we’ll probably dine elsewhere. 14902 Preston Rd, at Belt Line, Addison, 458-0458. Inexpensive to moderate.



Bread Winners. Since expanding its menu and hours to include dinner Wednesdays through Sundays, Bread Winners has become even more addictively charming. Its brick-floored, French Quarter-esque multilevel set a magical scene for summer evenings. Its menu reflects a never-boring mélange of influences, from homey (a simple garden salad of lettuces, spinach, mushrooms, carrots and cabbage bathed in creamy fresh vinaigrette) to refined Asian (a starter of Thai shrimp scampi mounts great spicy curls of shrimp on crisp cilantro noodles). Main courses cut a similar broad swath-a center-cut mustard-grilled pork chop comes thick, juicy and perfectly partnered with sealloped sweet potatoes and pan gravy; grilled tuna steak, rosy and near-rare, wears a tropical salsa of spiced diced fruit. Try it with a side of lemon whipped potatoes, the citrus accent a delightful presence alongside the plate’s crisp tortilla salad. Desserts here are outstanding, too-key lime pie holds a paper-thin curl of lime atop its tart, dream-cream filling; a to-die-for something called Banana Jazz features fantasy swirls of chocolate mousse and whipped cream layered with sliced bananas on a dark chocolate crust. Have th3t last with a glass of house red from the restaurant’s thoughtfully priced little wine list. 3301 McKinney Ave.. 754-4940. Inexpensive to moderate.



Deep Ellum Cafe. The menu descriptions here do not do the food justice-the Dagwood sandwich conjures up images of a piled-high sub. but it arrives gooily warm, a gourmet knife-and-fork treat, with an unmentioned side salad (like perfectly ripe fruit salad topped with strawberry puree) that fights for equal attention. Desserts, also homemade, are so rich that a bite or two suffices, although the chocolate terrine positioned on a butter-rich caramel sauce can lead you. trance-like, back for a few more bites. This eclectic menu borrows from cuisines all over the globe and pays plenty of attention to vegetarians. 95001 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 392-0894. Inexpensive to moderate.



East Side Grill. Chef Tony Knight, whose Aransas Pass restaurant formerly occupied this space, offers down-home dishes endowed with kicky accents that lift them above common bar food. Notable examples: Chicken-fried steak came with terrific twice-baked mashed potatoes and a healthy stir-fry of vegetables. An Aransas burger was a patty of broiled sirloin with roasted poblanos and onions and jack cheese. The 10-ounce strip steak was gilded with onion braised in Jack Daniels sauce. The homemade salsa that accompanies the chicken quesadillas can make your eyes water from 4 feet away, and fried pickles were surprisingly delicious in nicely seasoned, greaseless crumb crust. 2916 N, Henderson Ave., 828-2801. Inexpensive.

D REVISITS 8.0 Restaurant and Bar. Get to this hip spot early or risk missing out on imaginative blue- and green-plate specials, such as black bean tamales in a tomatillo sauce or spicy pasta specialties. Not that the regular menu is a dud; burgers, grilled dishes and sandwiches are hearty, fresh and satisfying. Waitresses are uniformly young, attitude-enhanced and efficient, and usually decked out in something fashionably black. Kids love the noisy ambience; freak ’em out with a green spirulina shake. Warning! Unless you’re 20- to 30-something, stay the hell away on Thursday nights, when the vampires prowl for willing prey-unless you like to watch the beautiful people booze and schmooze should-to-shoul-der until the wee hours. In the Quadrangle. 2800 Routh St., 979-0880. Inexpensive to moderate.



Garden Court. Every dish on executive chef Randy Richins’ menu is main-course generous. Of the appetizers, go for the pepper-seared scallops against mixed greens garnished with orange and grapefruit sections and avocado in a raspberry vinaigrette. The soup of the day on our visit, gorgonzola-spinach cream, was smooth, rich-flavored and memorable. Two disappointments: The wild mushroom penne was so tasteless that our waiter, noticing our displeasure, offered to let us select something else. After we declined, he took the dish back to the kitchen and returned with a much-improved meal with a richness of seasoned flavor. Another poor selection was the mushroom sandwich, an unredeemable disaster dominated by the strong onions, which eclipsed any gentler accents. A chicken breast in honey and tangerine juice had more character. On the whole, the Court’s pleasures Far outweighed the disappointments. In the Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy., third level. 702-0055. ext. 1628. Inexpensive to moderate.



Gershwin’s. This trendy upper Greenville spot caters to the “too-old-for-Friday’s-but-too-young-for-Luby’s” crowd-you just know these people shimmied to a disco beat in their prime. The ambitious menu walks many fine lines with a presumptive air and succeeds more often than not, but don’t expect a true gourmet experience-seasonings are either too strong, as with overpowering, too-salty pasta sauces, or bland and hotel food-like, such as grilled tilapia on warm orzo salad. Best bets are the more traditional ones-steaks, pizzas, salads and sandwiches, all generous, tasty and satisfying. Atmospheric dark wood, white linens, giant ferns and live jazz piano make for fun people-watching. Waiters are generically efficient, if just a mite pompous, but the place packs em in practically every night, so why argue with success? One big gripe-pretentious valet parking for a free-standing restaurant is ludicrous. 8442 Walnut Hill Ln.. 373-7171. Moderate,



Piano Cafe. Not a good start-park in a strip mall, enter Piano Cafe’s lobby where a table offers autographed photos of celebrities, and wait to be seated until the young hostess completes her personal call. Luckily, it’s all uphill from there, starting with the tasty, house-made, lightly crusty roils and a simply prepared, flavor-packed onion soup. Choose the mixed green salad instead of the Caesar, and opt for the zingy raspberry vinaigrette. A feast of per-

fectly cooked vegetables accompanies each generous meal, and most people leave loaded with leftovers. Juicy, freshly grilled roast chicken with red pesto penne draws loyal fans, and vegetarians will find much to choose from. Two more surprises: a decent wine list and a winner of a dessert list. A warm French apple pie (homemade, like everything else here) accompanied by homemade Chambord/Frange)ico ice cream, whipped cream and berries, offers caloric heaven. 1915 N. Central Expwy.,S1e. 500, Piano. 516-0865. Moderate.

Sipango. While the bar, with its smokers’ tables, corner band riser and mini-dance area, is appropriately suave in ambience, the adjoining huge dining room most closely resembles a high-tech dining hall in some upscale institution, with diners facing each other across tables set in long, rigid rows. Nothing rigid about the food, though-Chef Matthew Antonovich’s menu sets out an array of selections various enough to allow for grazing or snacking as well as course-by-course dining. An appetizer of tuna seared rare, for example, made a perfect starter for a light supper, presented as thin, ruddy petals fanned with sassy fresh greens dressed in ginger-soy vinaigrette; a small-plate dish of mushroom-fortified risotto, deep-flavored and zipped with mellow Reggiano parmesan, completed a meal we found entirely satisfying. On the more substantial side, an entree of veal marsala covered its plate with classically sauced thin slices draped on a cushion of polenta, accented with wild mushrooms and Texas goat cheese. Too sated even to consider the richer desserts at hand, we found the house-made sorbettos altogether captivating-watermelon, fresh and luscious, won out over a more exotic red papaya sampled. Service was amiable, with some timing lapses; live music was a treat, once the too-loud cocktail pianist made way for a combo; people-watching was its own entertainment. One quibble: Isn’t it a little tacky for a spot this successful to charge for valet parking? Or is it that the Chic are too cheap to tip? 4513 Travis St.. 522-2411. Moderate.



French/Continental

D REVISITS Addison Cafe. Incongruously located in a strip-mall shopping center across from Prestonwood Mall. Addison Cafe presents some contradictions-our pan-seared snapper melted like butter, but the smoked salmon topping was somewhat dry and chewy. Sautéed sea bass arrived crispy, perfectly moist and flaky, yet bread rolls tasted store-bought. And since service is studiously languorous, we were never quite sure who our waiter was. Admittedly minor, these quibbles still bear watching. But even in its time-warp 1980s decor of black lacquer and mirrors. Addison Cafe is a casual, refreshing oasis of European style in the midst of this frenzied shopping mecca. Prestonwood Place, 5290 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 991-8824. Moderate to expensive.

Bonjour. For starters, feast on the wealth of appetizers, such as the lightly sweet and peppery pheasant pate and the garlicky sausage. Or try a French classic like escargots, foie gras pate, frog legs or the a?oli with plump shrimp. We enjoyed the a?oli so much, we tried all the sauces: gorgonzola, marinara, peppercorn and shallot, each available with the day’s choices of fish, meat and poultry. Entrées come with nicely seasoned, well-prepared vegetables: The potato gratin m a garlicky cream sauce tasted great. Other excellent choices include made-to-order omelets and the individual-size quiche Lorraines. Skip the sandwiches for now-they need some work and should be made on something other than the lackluster baguettes. You can also call for delivery of one of Bonjour’s appetizer trays-great for those Monday night football parties. 3850 W. Northwest Hwy.. Ste. 510, 350-3467. Moderate.

Chez Gerald. This quintessential little French restaurant with its flowery wallpaper, lace curtains and cozy feel brings to mind your grandmother’s dining room. However, Grandma never cooked like this, and she sure didn’t offer wines like these. The classic French onion soup, crowned with toasted bread and melted cheese, makes a nicely sized, thoroughly satisfactory appetizer, as does a zesty dish of mixed seafood with avocado and lime. The heady-with-mustard dressing coating the tender greens and wisps of mushroom make the house salad a winner and perk up the palate for what follows. The menu is resolutely French, with intensely flavored crawfish souffles, delicate beef in a wonderful peppery sauce and the best pommes frites around. Desserts, from the cloud-filled praline soufflé to the crusty crème br?lée, should never be skipped. 4444 McKinney Ave., 522-6865. Moderate.

DREVISITS The French Room. Perfection is not a word to be tossed lightly into restaurant reviews, but this Adolphus Hotel crown jewel came as close as humankind can to deserving it on our last visit. A tower of smoked salmon, avocado, papaya and crisp potato tuiles glistened in its basil oil-papaya vinaigrette: pan-seared Ahi tuna medallions were meltingly tender alongside crisply ruffled pot stickers stuffed with shrimp, foie gras and crab. Tomato bisque was smoky flavored and rich with roasted pine nuts and porcini ravioli, and a warm salad of Belgian endive and fresh spinach played candied walnut crunch against rosemary-walnut vinaigrette under fresh pear julienne. One entrée plate presented rounds of roasted duck breast on half moons of lemon thyme polenta in ruby port wine sauce, sided with a nosegay portion of baby haricots verts, asparagus, carrot and cucumber slices; the other held succulent roasted veal tenderloin with Brie cheese and pear gratin on truffled opal basil risotto and a haunting rosemary thyme sauce. One dessert was a light sin-a melange of fresh berries bedded on pastry with warm caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream; the other, a dark one-hot chocolate cake, rich and crusty around a molten center, ice-cream topped on Amaretto creme Anglaise. One interesting side note: One of us had the prix fixe chef’s menu, $56 sans wine; the other’s a la carte selection, expected to be more expensive, actually totaled a dollar less. And we’d challenge anyone to tell which was which. Oh, and the French Room’s by-the-glass wine selection offers a nicer variety than we’ve seen elsewhere; red-carpet valet parking costs diners nothing but a tip to the attendant to whom you hand your validated ticket. In the Adolphus Hotel. 1321 Commerce St.. 742-8200. Expensive.



La Petite Maison. The young and enthusiastic Robert Barone, the chef-owner of this new restaurant, has made a good start with this daring venture. From our first thrilling spoonful of soup to the last plate-scraping nibble of chocolate creme, Barone’s fare was beautifully prepared, presented and served. Take the lobster bisque, for example. Its deep auburn color hinted at its lush, splendid flavor. Also good was the seafood starter of smoked salmon, scallops and shrimp flung with capers and green onion. The ’Grand Mere” oven-roasted chicken, sprinkled lavishly with hearty smoked bacon squares, was served with carved potatoes and tiny onions. The pork medallions zinged with Dijon mustard and a side of garlic whipped potatoes and baby carrots, while roasted rack of lamb featured three rib chops on a Bed of toothsome couscous spiced with subtle curry. The dessert we tried-silken chocolate creme under a tepee of fragile pastry triangles rooted in whipped cream and a layer of raspberries-was a dramatic creation. 2917 Fairmount St., 855-0700. Moderate.

D REVISITS Old Warsaw. Recipe for a ruined evening: Take three unsuspecting diners. Batter heavily with bullying service, sneering occasionally. Let steep in rising resentment until sullen (about two hours); then, working quickly, apply gratuitous overcharge to bring to boiling point. Drain and discard. And so it went on our last visit. Most of the food was as fine as we’ve always found it-Brie soup was a mushroom-rich joy; lobster crepes lay plumply filled on their dark and light sauces. Duckling roasted with fresh pears and black currant sauce was a succulent triumph, and a mighty veal chop crowned with lump crab meat was positively regal, augmented by a side of fresh fettuccine with earthy wild mushrooms and truffle butter. Au contraire. Grand Marnier souffle, promised as a grand double-sized-for-two version, came from the kitchen as two ordinary single portions, undistinguished in taste or texture. Worse, a menu-described “puff pastry with fresh tropical fruit” was partially Inedible, the pastry burned black and too tough to cut. the fruit merely local, although fresh. Worst of all were a starter of salmon tartare and an “Old Warsaw Special Salad,” ordered as a light entrée. The tartare, rather than prepared at the table as billed, was brought as a soggy scoop, the delicate fish eclipsed by strong-tasting components, mustard most apparent. The salad, involving a scant bed of Boston lettuce leaves strewn with hearts of palm, ordinary pickled mushrooms and two carefully placed winter-pale tomato eighths, besides being dismally unappetizing was doubled in price on the check. Without going into detail on the long, long wait for partial correction on top of high-pressure tactics endured throughout the meal, the moral to be drawn here is that in establishments of stellar reputation, an occasional lapse in food execution can be excused: rude, bullying service cannot-a message our minimal 10 percent tip was meant to convey. 2610 Maple Ave., 52&O032. Expensive.



The Pyramid Room. That vastly overused word, opulence, has to be hauled out yet again here-the Fairmont Hotel’s flagship restaurant demands it; here is service and ambience that beggar less extravagant description. The food, too, on our visit, deserved superlatives, albeit not quite as glowing ones for the prix-fixe menu (four courses. $29 sans wine) as for pricier a la carte selections. Grilled quail halves were pretty little things on Marsala-glazed arugula leaves; cream of turnip soup with toasted pumpkin seeds was too subtle (read: bland) to stir excitement, but grilled snapper with shiitake mushrooms in lobster butter sauce was satisfying. Macadamia nut torte was a dense disappointment, particularly compared to a companion’s a la carte dessert indulgence-a gooey dome of warm chocolate polenta filled with caramel, on bourbon-laced sauce with vanilla ice cream. The courses preceding that sin were stellar, tooduck confit was tenderness itself in a wine-poached pear; lobster bisque was satin-rich and cognac-kissed; herb-crusted rack of lamb, four rosy baby chops, came with chèvre-sharpened mashed potato and jewel-pretty vegetable pearls on rosemary mint sauce. The companion’s tab passed the $50 mark, but you could hardly ask for more cosseting or more comfort at any price than that provided by this serenely cosmopolitan restaurant. Great wines, too, and live music. Fairmont Hotel. 1717 N. Akard St.. 720-5249. Expensive.



Watel’s. This homey little restaurant, half of it an art-filled cozy interior and half an enclosed patio, might have been lifted, menu intact, right off a Paris or Brussels side street. The menu features brains, rabbit and sweetbreads for sophisticated customers, but also plenty of pasta, grilled fish and vegetarian dishes for the less brave. And a filling appetizer of toast rounds served with a zesty eggplant relish and an intense tapenade is a steal at $3.50. As enticing as these regular favorites are. don’t miss the daily specials, like heaps of incredibly tiny mussels in a cream-enhanced garlicky broth. Another nice touch: a cheese plate for dessert, with a half-dozen types of perfectly ripe cheeses, carefully trimmed fruit slices and a freshly heated basket of bread. On lazy Sunday afternoons, customers can order from Watel’s regular lunch menu or opt for one of the brunch specials. 1923 McKinney Ave., 720-0323. Moderate.



Gourmet to Go

Betty’s Brisket and Gourmet Foods. Former attorney and self-taught cook Monte Bond named Betty’s Brisket after his mom; his tiny, spanking-clean take-out shop specializes in her recipe for brisket and turns out some seriously good food at easily affordable prices. Choices abound–you can order brisket or turkey (both are lean and tender] as a meal complete with mashed potatoes, a vegetable and bread; as sandwiches on wonderfully homey, soft potato rolls; as complete dinners for four or by the pound; or pick the weekly special or one of the many salads. But. as good as the meals are, be prepared for killer desserts and appetizers, including an excellent lemon tartlet. Both the tapenade and goat cheese spreads delight, as does the chile-chicken egg rolls and the mushroom and leek crescents. 17390 Preston Rd., 931-9094. Inexpensive.

Eatzi’s. Okay, it’s not a restaurant, but the prepared foods and breads you can buy at this unique market make it worth frequent trips to turn a meal in your own dining room into a special occasion. Make your way to the bread shelves, where you’ll find 14 varieties and enough spreads and fillings to make you dizzy. At the salad counter, just describe the salad of your dreams and they’ll toss it together. For an effortless meal, try one of the chickens from the wood-burning oven. a steak from the butcher’s counter, or one of the dozens of prepared foods. The quality of the deli meats is unsurpassed. 3403 Oak Lawn Ave., 526-1515. Inexpensive to moderate.



La Spiga. You may have to track down La Spiga, tucked away in a warehouse area, but it’s well worth the effort. The owners trekked all through Europe on a search for the best breads and returned home to open this quaint bakery/cafe that specializes in preservative-free bread. Customers line up to buy these rustic, crusty loaves, and the bread is being served at many of the finest restaurants in town. But there’s plenty more being dished up here, including tureens of homemade soup (excellent cream of mushroom) and sandwiches on big, soft pillows of panini rolls. Mini-quiches and fruit plates fill the bill for anytime snacks, focaccia comes pizza-style, and Caesar salads are a garlicky hit. And the service? When a baby-carrying customer requested a highchair, one of the co-owners quickly dispatched an employee to the furniture store across the street. The baby was happily drooling on it minutes later. 4203 Lindberg Dr.. Addison, 934-8730. Inexpensive.



Marty’s. Marty’s, long the king of gourmet shopping in the Dallas area, has recently come under siege from trendier rivals, but this venerable Oak Lawn institution remains a solid, reassuring respite from the competition’s haughty glitz. Call us quaint, but we much prefer Marty’s friendly, non-snob ambience to the “do-us-a-favor” din of frantic newcomers. Sample new Italian cheese, low-fat Vietnamese chicken salad, or “Ann’s Marinated Shrimp” in Marty’s relaxed cozy aisles. Browse the tapenades. flavored olive and grapeseed oils, vinegars and vinaigrettes, marinades, aromatic coffees and teas, sumptuous, girth-enhancing chocolate truffles and delicate sorbets. Marty’s hallmark, though, is service; their wine experts, for example, field questions from beginners and savants with equal aplomb and courtesy. Just one thing…make the new dining area look a little more like you mean it? Please? 3316 Oak Lawn Ave., 526-4070. Inexpensive to moderate.

Greek

Kostas Cafe. 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 entrée, 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 be sure to peruse 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, 596-8424. Moderate.



Ziziki’s The gleaming wooden bar might be one of the places to be seen in Dallas, but it’s the food that reigns supreme here. An order or two of Ziziki bread (homemade pita bread broiled with two cheeses and herbs) teams well with any of the carefully crafted salads. Lamb and shrimp star here (the lamb souvlaki, skewered lamb ready to be popped into homemade pita bread, makes a can’t-be-beat sandwich), and the homemade Italian cream cake ends meals on a sweet note. The wines, chosen from all over the globe, demonstrate the owners’ never-ending quest for the best, you’ll want to visit the new coffee bar/take-out shop for some of your Ziziki favorites (like their mouthwatering sauces). 4514 Travis St., Ste. 122. 521-2233. Moderate to expensive.



Italian

The Adriatic. The Italian food here is complemented by the high caliber of the service and the tranquillity of the setting, which includes live (and blissfully quiet) piano music. Start a meal with the excellent steamed clams in garlic broth or the Caesar salad-fresh, but needed more of the excellent croutons and shredded cheese. The rack of lamb, perfectly cooked, was a treat with heaping sides of zucchini and carrots and the garlic-laden scalloped potatoes. The pepper steak special is a tender, tasty meat-feast sided by a nicely braised cabbage dish that’s not often served today. Expect generous portions here and peruse the wine list, which impresses with its variety and reasonable prices. Bargains abound on the lunch menu, which features everything from a fruit and cheese platter to crab and cannelloni. The restaurant also has a regal, yet welcoming bar. This may just be the neighborhood spot we all seek for a romantic dinner or to unwind from the workday. 19009 Preston Rd-, 248-2500. Moderate.

Cappellini’s. Garlic alert! Be warned that this restaurant specializes in the use of garlic-the chicken Caesar salad’s garlic-haunted dressing will keep you safe from vampires for a longtime. Another Cappellini’s trademark is the large portions: everything from the giant salads to the mouthwatering pasta to the homemade desserts will satisfy at least two people. The Tuscan salad is big enough for three and is a clever combination of fresh greens, thinly sliced apples, Gorgonzola, toasted walnuts and sun-dried tomatoes, all laced with a commendable balsamic vinaigrette. The lasagne is unique-served in rolled single layers with a tomato sauce enriched with cream. Before you leave, stop in the restroom, where you’ll find water coolers filled with much-needed mouthwash. 3820 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 488-9494. Moderate.



Covino’s. Buried deep inside a series of strip malls, Covino’s Pasta and Pizza draws raves from customers for its New York-style pizza-a thin, crisp dough lightly topped with whole (not skim) mozzarella and just a whisper of tomato sauce. That same dough makes the richly stuffed cal-zones especially good, and stars again in an appetizer stuffed with meat, cheese and spinach. Pastas, especially the hearty lasagne and tortellini with pesto, earn high marks due to their sprightly sauces. Meatball subs can’t be beat, but, like ail sandwiches here, require a hearty appetite. Owner Joe Covino (a transplanted New Yorker) is usually on hand greeting the regulars in this tiny, unpretentious trattoria, while his wife Michèle is at home making her scrumptious cheesecakes for the restaurant. Bring the kids, bring the baseball team, bring a bottle of Chianti, but the prices are so low you won’t need to bring much money. 3265 Independence Pkwy., Piano, 519-0345. Inexpensive.



D REVISITS Flip’s Wine Bar And Trattoria. Artist J.J Sanfilippo’s lower Greenville eatery features a rotating selection of works from Dallas artists as well as live jazz and blues on Fridays and Saturdays, The decor is post-industrial IHOP: exposed ductwork and rafters, truck-stop seating around Plexiglas-topped box tables displaying commissioned art, and battered booth benches. The sparse wine list doesn’t uphold the “wine bar” designation, but there’s a fun selection of beers. The food, however, is in need of culinary motivation: The bruschetta was heavy and zestless. the vegetable rice soup was packed with overcooked veggies, and the frutti di mare-with leathery shrimp on a bed of pasta-struggled in a deep puddle of white wine-lemon-garlic juice. The Platto di Carne Affumicato appetizer, a selection of smoked meats, had flavors that ranged from robust (the chicken and beef) to bland (the trout and pork tenderloin). Don’t get us wrong. This place is a must-see labor of love with service that pockets four stars. But while the atmosphere is campy tour-de-force, the food needs some forceful tuning. 1520 Greenville Ave.. 824-9944. Moderate.



On our latest foray to this still-red hot venue, avocado pancakes, a stack of blini-sized green discs layered with lump crab meat on herbed tomato salsa, has metamorphosed from mushy dullness to a well-integrated melding of textures and flavors, but Bosc pear salad tossed with arugula, radicchio and Belgian endive was unredeemed by a scattering of port-soaked Gorgonzola cheese crumbs in roasted pear vinaigrette. A thin-crusted Peking duck pizza would have been fine if its r?tisserie duck shreds and shiitake mushrooms hadn’t been over-doused, not with the musky ponzu sauce that would have made it a neat take on the classic dish, but with a far too sweet plum sauce that could have passed for preserves. On the bright side, pansotti-half-moon pasta stuffed with lobster-was a delectable choice indeed, the pasta shells delicate, the lobster chunks kissed by fresh tomato sauce. Chocolate can-noli made for fine dessert sharing. a pair of dark, tender cylinders filled with subtly sweet ricotta, beautifully presented. And as always, the witty decor and lighthearted ambience of the place sent us on our way charged with cosmopolitan good will. What is it about Joey’s that has that effect on people? 4217 Oak Lawn Ave., 526-0074. Moderate to expensive.



Ml Piaci. The artful, minimalist decor, complete with soaring, twisted columns, makes for an upscale setting, but Mi Piaci’s food would taste great anywhere. You have to like a restaurant that bakes its own breads (including killer breadsticks), cures its own olives and grows its own herbs. Pasta, which you can watch Mi Piaci’s chefs roll, shape and cook, never fails to please, especially the earthy fusilli with wild mushrooms. The menu always offers at least four types of made-to-order risotto, a classic Italian, labor-intensive, meltingly tender rice dish; along with Italian standards such as osso buco and veal scaloppine. For a knockout alternative, sample the mammoth, juicy, grilled pork chop, served with velvety sage-laced mashed potatoes, pungent oven-dried tomatoes and sweet roasted onions. Hefty portions of garlicky bruschetta start a meal in style, and the lemon tart in a pistachio crust ends it on a light note. 14854 Montfort Dr., Addison. 934-8424. Moderate.



D REVISITS Nicola’s. From its tony Tuscan a! fres-co decor to the woody perfume of , grilled meats, Nicola’s exudes a breezy confidence beyond i typical mall restaurants. But the more ambitious menu selections fall short of their lofty aspirations. On one visit, crackling-hot, delicious pizzas, generous salads and service were all exemplary. On another, our pasta carbonara looked rewarmed, the chicken focaccia sandwich oozed a gooey, plastery cheese, and service was perfunctory. So, roll the dice. For a light meal, glass of wine and view of Dallas shoppers at their trendy best, the place is hard to beat-just don’t set your culinary expectations too high. The Galleria, third floor, 13350 Dallas Pkwy., 788-1177. Inexpensive to moderate.

Pomodoro. Cedar Springs Boulevard is a far cry from the rolling Tuscan hillside evoked by Pomodoro’s alfresco seating, but even after a decade, the place stilt exudes its own trendy, noisy charm. Besides, where else could you toast the downtown YMCA joggers tromping past during lunch? Plenty of indoor seating in the tiled dining room, too. but if you’re a non-smoker, ask to sit far, far away from the smoking section. Gently melted buffalo mozzarella wrapped in grilled rugola makes for a nice start; so does the carpac-cio with capers and lemon. Polio Pizzaiola is tender and tasty, if a mite salty; clever pasta dishes like fettuccine with lobster or pappardelle with sausage are fun and feisty, but could be more substantial for the price. Speaking of which, is it just us, or do the specials seem high? Service is uniformly excellent-Pomodoro still bends over backwards to please, and it shows. 2520 Cedar Springs Rd., 871-1924. Moderate.



Tramontane. Marvelous starters include the marinated goat cheese, peppered and nestled on top of herbed greens. Those same greens shone in a mesclun salad strewn with chunks of walnuts and tart goat cheese. We also savored the soups-deep-flavored French onion was topped with fine Gruyère cheese and the haricots vert have a strong, fresh presence in the creamed green bean potage. Entrées exceeded our expectations. Pan-seared salmon was transcendent, bathed in a tart caper sauce and served with grilled polenta and steamed spinach. Other winning entrées were the ravioli stuffed with spinach and mushrooms and the super-plump filet mignon sauced with Cabernet, served with a side of crunchy green beans and rosemary potatoes. The desserts are made In-house, but the bread is from Massimo’s. Preston Center’s got itself a winner. 8220B Westchester Dr.. 368-4188. Inexpensive to moderate.

Japanese

Sushi at the Stoneleigh. Every bite we sampled was delectable, from the basic raw tuna, yellowtail and salmon cuts to a more exotic spider roll of crunchy-cooked. soft-shed crab wrapped in seaweed and rice. Chefs-special baked mussels were divine, warmly blanketed in the half-shell by a lush blend of mayonnaise and golden smelt eggs. The salmon roe on seaweed-wrapped rice burst voluptuously on the tongue. Don’t forget appetizers: The miso soup, with hidden cubes of silken tofu and gently pickled emerald seaweed, was delightful. 2927 Maple Ave.. 871-7111. Inexpensive to moderate.



Kosher

Deco’s By Arthur. Don’t be put off by the nondescript strip mall location; Deco’s by Arthur, in the northwest quadrant of Preston and Forest, is an absolute treasure. Enjoy complimentary garlic-laden pizza crusts while browsing the eclectic menu, ranging from falafel to jambalaya to grilled salmon-reflective of Deco’s origins as a successful cater ing business. Try a daily special-baked corvina on curry rice with roasted-pepper sauce was as good a dish as you’d find at any expense-account. palace, and half the price. La Jolla salad sprinkles fresh greens with sun-dried apricots, cranberries, almonds and diced apples in an oil-free raspberry vinaigrette. “Signature’ pizzas, named after movie stars, feature thick, toastsy crusts, fresh, fresh, fresh ingredients like caramelized onions, roasted, smoked peppers, portobello mushrooms, spinach…aah! Friendly, last service, too. Two caveats-Deco’s is vegetarian (except for fish), so don’t expect burgers or chicken, and second, the staff keeps a spotless kosher kitchen (cool) and hours (closed on Friday night and all day Saturday!. 1418 Preston Forest Square, 788 2808. Inexpensive.



Mediterranean

Adelmo’s. Our last dinner at Adelmo’s might have been prepared in two separate restaurants, course by course. A starter of lobster ravioli was a lively, lovely affair, the tender pasta pillows plump with toothsome filling in a spicy vodka tomato sauce. Salmon tartare was a soupy mess- innocent snippets of fresh, raw pink lost in a near-liquid amalgam sparsely studded with onion and toe many capers. The spécialité de la maison grilled veal chop was perfect as always, an awesome mil splendidly browned outside, juicy and luscious inside, large enough for two. A day’s special grilled trout was innocence betrayed again, by an unnecessary assault of strong accent elements-dried cherry tomatoes, capers, pickled artichoke hearts and mushrooms, all laid on in a florid over-treatment that overwhelmed the delicate, sweet trout meat’s flavor. 1537 Cole Ave.. 559-0325. Moderate to expensive.

Calluaud’s The Bistro. This restaurant’s scope has been expanded to ply us well with delicacies from further south-Morocco, northern Italy and particularly Spain, from which the lapas concept was borrowed. Al the same time, Calluaud’s is broadening its definition to include small-plate versions of some of the restaurant’s most memorable dishes-hot and cold teasers of every addictive sort, from soups to salads, from a listing of more than 30, plus daily specials. Start, say, with gazpacho-a thick, smooth, piquant version-or a small Caesar salad traditionally dressed and tossed with croutons and parmesan. Proceed to cigars of fried goat cheese spiked with garlic, paprika ana cilantro; ravioli of wild mushrooms, meaty marvels bathed in herb and sherry sauce: garlic shrimp, flirty curls vivaciously seasoned with red chili pepper. Our only dis-appolntmenl of the new dishes was the steak tartare that was so strongly endowed with horseradish and capers, the beef flavor struggled to come through. Never mind-a cassis sorbet, tart-sweet globes of claret-clear color in a stemmed glass, would bring any meal to a happy close. Calluaud’s new bistro format is different from the pricey Calluaud’s of the past, but you know what (he French say to that, don’t you? Vive la différence! 5405 W. Lovers Lane. 352 1997. Inexpensive to moderate.

D REVISITS Mediterraneo. How do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Please. Roasted tomato soup with shredded smoked chicken, bruschetta with goat cheese, roasted garlic and red bell peppers-and that’s just for starters. Specials on our visit included an imaginative and wonderfully delicious fusilli pasta with beef barbecue and vegetables in a blue cheese sauce, and tender, crispy trout filets with sun-dried tomatoes. And the lemon tart for dessert is the best we’re ever had period. Chef David Holben’s exquisite culinary artistry, a casually elegant decor and efficient, non-stuffy service combine to create a sublimely magical bistro in Far North Dallas. Still not convinced? Mediterraneo’s $9.95 luncheon menu Includes appetizer and entree. If that doesn’t hook you. have someone check you for a pulse. 18111 Preston Rd. at Frankford. Ste. 120. 447-0066. Moderate to expensive.

Mexican

Casa Navarro. This wonderful descendant of downtown’s late, lamented El Taxco offers classic Tex-Mex in true hole-in-the-wall style. Complimentary borracho bean soup, fresh chips, kicky salsa and easy, relaxed service-it’s all setup for huge, steaming portions that’ll ruin tomorrow’s cholesterol test, but what a way to go. Hot, buttery enchiladas, down-home tamales and frijoles all have that ineffable tang only homemade can deliver. Huffy rice and perfect tacos- all at luncheon-special prices-make this place a godsend for North Dallas types hankering for a Mex-fix. Can’t wait? They serve breakfast, too. 11742 Marsh Ln.. in the Park Forest Shopping Center. 357-0141. Inexpensive.



Escondido’s. This place has been serving up reliable, hearty grub to Dallasites for years-and the parking-lot mix of BMWs, pickups and rusty heaps attests to its wide appeal. Escondido’s rickety surroundings exude genuine “dump” appeal, which simply means that the food should be as good as the place is bbite of the lime. Speaking of bum. La Calle Doce’s long-celebrated hot sauce remains a winner, with an almost stop-action sequence of flavors coming to life in your mouth ending with the heat that melds them all together. 415 W. 12th St.. 941-4304. Inexpand thoughtfulness. marring an otherwise fine fix of better-than-average Tex-Mex. 2210 Butler. 634-2056. Inexpensive.



D REVISITS La Calle Doce, If you’ve somehow missed this Oak Cliff gem, please don’t delay trying it out. The charming renovated house that’s home to Oscar ana Laura Sanchez’ Mexican seafood restaurant is an oasis of calm and family togetherness, with its old Sanchez family photos, pretty wallpaper in each room and a patio thai looked inviting even on a 100-plus-degree day. Chile relleno de mariscos was wisely baked rather then fried, so as not to obscure the more delicate Are flavoring the shrimp, scallop and octopus that filled the poblano. The sea of warm, smooth queso sauce surrounding the poblano also added its flavor to the side of freshly cooked rice, with pieces of peas and carrots and a plump, ripe slice of avocado on top. Those who don’t like seafood will appreciate the more traditional Mexican offerings, such as spinach enchiladas carefully covered with green sauce. The spinach inside the tortillas could have used more seasoning, but perhaps that was to compensate for the burn of the green sauce and the bite of the lime. Speaking of burn, La Calle Doce’s long-celebrated hot sauce remains a winner, with an almost stop-action sequence of flavors coming to life in your mouth ending with the heat that melds them all together. 415 W. 12th St., 941-4304. Inexpensive to moderate.

Mario’s Chiquita. This Travis Walk restaurant, while offering some more upscale Mexico-City-style fare, also has some of the best basic combination Tex-Mex dinners in town. Satisfy your common-man yearnings with one of the plates named for women like Patricia, Lupita and Virginia. All the dishes are opulently generous and graced with little extra touches. The slivered salad atop a puffy taco.for example, comes dashed with a sparkle of mild vinaigrette that per-fectly complements the meat filling. A beef enchilada wrapped m a whisper-thin corn tortilla was bathed in a ranchero sauce of unsurpassing smoothness. And the chicken enchilada, a wealth of white meat, is hidden under the best sour cream sauce that will ever cross your lips. Even the rice is nicer than most, broth-scented and flavorful. 4514 Travis, Ste. 105, 521-0721. Inexpensive to moderate.

Martin’s Cocina. If the Ferguson Road end of town is not on your automatic-pilot map, this place ought to put it there. The kitchen does magic things with seafood (shrimp especially) and offers a listing of entrees that weigh in at less than 1,000 calories, including the four chiles rellenos. But there’s no skimping here-the most basic combination plate starts with a lettuce-topped chalupa. Its toasty tortilla thickly spread with guacamole. The platter that follows holds a massive enchilada, a queso-bathed cheese taco and an overstuffed meat taco as greaseless as that crunchy marvel gets. Equally wonderful rice and beans can be ordered as side dishes. The dynamite pico de gallois serrano spiked. 7726 Ferguson Rd-, 319-8834. Inexpensive to moderate.



Matt’s Rancho Martinez. We’ve hopscotched across Matt’s menu for years, trying the seafood platter (shrimp, frog legs, catfish), the veggie fajitas |a nice culinary oxymoron), the ’old-fashioned” chalupas and more, but we’re always drawn back to the trademark chile rellenos. Get them topped with ranchero or green sauce; either marries nicely with Monterey jack cheese, sour cream, raisins and pecans. The only down notes: The tortilla soup is curiously zingless. and the “Cowboy drunk” beans that accompany many dishes are. while fat free, almost taste-free as wen. 6312 La Vista Dr., 823-5517. Inexpensive,



Mia’s. For 14 years, this venerable institution has dished up definitive Tex-Mex food to addicts who stand In line on Tuesdays, when owner Ana Enrique* satisfies their lust for her incomparable chiles rellenos. Other days, they make do with a menu of house specialities, combo plates and sides that read like standard Ten-Men on paper, but on the palate translate into transcendent fare. Try the bean soup, a truly noble amalgam of pintos with minced chiles, bacon. onion and cilantro accents, miles richer in flavor than prissy upscale black-bean concoctions. Fork into a cheese enchilada crowned with honest beefy chill, or a soft cheese taco’s tenderly molten heart. Ladle the bracing house salsa onto a bean-spread chalupa or a beef-filled taco. and savor the texture contrasts of greaseless tortilla shells and fine-nbboned lettuce. Service is cheerful, the setting is no-frills comfortable, and long loyal Habitués will tell you: You might pay more other places, but you won’t get better food. One note: The restaurant serves only beer and wine. 4322 Lemmon Ave.. 526-1020. Inexpensive.



Piano Tortilla Factory & Cafe. 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 meat will start with free, fresh corn-tasting chips, spicy salsa, guacamole, and pico de gallo. Buttery tasting chicken quesadillas. Stewed pork-filled taquitos, and a split corn tor til a stuffed with inch-thick cubes of tender chicken team up nicely lor a generous à la carte meal that would satisfy any linebacker, and would still leave enough from a 10-spot to pay for dessert and a drink. Combination plates, complete with rice and beans, average about $5. Make sure to take home a copy of the menu-this place does big take-out business. 1009 E. 18th St., Plano, 423-6980. Inexpensive.

Rodolfo’s. Rodolfo’s menu offers 18 different combination plates, plus 18 other specialties and six breakfast options for a total that exceeds the number of chairs at this serf-proclaimed “hole in the wad” in Oak Cliff. Start with the home-fried chips, huge half tortilla rounds served with a full-bodied salsa. Then try the; Big Tex Mex dinner or the Number 0 (yes. they start numbering at zero]. The Big Tex Mex offers a cheese enchilada, a tamale with chili sauce, a meat taco. a soft cheese taco. rice, beans ar>d half of a praline for dessert. The taco and enchilada were both silky, the beans creamy and the tamale was a perfect marriage of nongreasy meat and a just-on-the-edge-of-crumbly shell. Trie star on the Number 0 plate is the Idaho enchiladas made of. yes. mashed potatoes, pleasantly spiced and available with a choice of seven different sauces. 2002 S. Edgefield, 942-1211. Inexpensive.



Natural/Health

Dream Cafe. This pastoral setting seems particularly appropriate for the Dream Cafe’s menu of nightly pasta and chicken specials-on our visit, one with the tongue-twisting name of chicken with feta-calamata olive relish-salads and sandwiches. You can’t go wrong ordering corn cakes, with a hot peanut dipping sauce and grilled shrimp. or the vegetable enchiladas of spinach and wild mushrooms with ancho sauce and melted Jack cheese. However, a grilled chicken breast sandwich came on a regrettably dry sourdough bun. The Dream Cafe’s famed breakfast menu remains an intriguing cross–solid egg dishes to entice the power-breakfast crowd, and granola for those who want to start the day on a more spiritual, healthful note. The Quadrangle. 2800 Routh St., 954-0486, Inexpensive,

Eureka! Most places that serve only nonfat and low-fat foods bore us because in removing the fat. the flavor is lost. But not here. If you try the lighter-than-air cheesecake or the garlicky mashed potatoes, you d never guess neither has a gram of fat. Eureka’s menu provides fat gram counts for those who keep track of such, although some of the menu items, such as veggie burgers, fat-free frozen yogurt and unfried home fries, don’t hide their healthful orientation. Others, such as the chipotle-lime chicken sandwich on red Chile bread camouflage that message-only the “good” part comes through, The restaurants signature “wrappers,” rolled-up sandwiches, like the peppered turkey and herbed cheese with ginger pear chutney, pack potent flavors. The regular sandwiches also score high marks with unique combinations. The Vietnamese salad earns a big “ho-hum.” but the pizzas, especially the one with wild mushroom and roasted garlic, can’t be beat, 2401 Preston Rd., Piano, 758-0906. Inexpensive.



Fresh ’N Lite, The name can be a little misleading-the menu does offer a lot of fat-free foods, but this place is out to please everyone, so the menu includes burgers. croissant-based sandwiches and even corn dogs, Most popular are the 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 rails need improvement. Don’t forget to save room for a hot fruit cobbler. 6150 Frankford Rd.. 713-8167. Inexpensive.



New American

D REVISITS Americana. Good news-Americana has gotten even better! Chef Russell Hodges still rules the roost, turning out his top-notch regional American food, but they’ve spiffed up the place and cozied the atmosphere while adding more elegant notes. Black lacquer chairs, white tablecloths and soothing art now complement the distinctive cuisine, which includes a dazzling range of potatoes: balsamic, garlic mashed or garlic fried, truffled, waffle cut and more. Hodges clearly tikes assertive flavors-his salmon carpaccio features fish that overwhelms the patate, Dut the accompanying curried deviled eggs strike the right note. The grilled chicken Caesar sandwich, a two-hand, two-napkin deal, takes the ubiquitous chicken Caesar salad to new highs, and the corn, shrimp and applewood-smoked bacon soup remains one of Dallas’ best creations. You can’t go wrong ending with the properly crusty crème br?lée, beautifully presented on a plate painted with a lattice of raspberry and apricot sauces. 3005 Routh St., 871-2004. Moderat



Antares. The Hyatt Regency’s sky-flung revolving restaurant, long marked by mediocre food that failed to live up to its soaring view, appears to be finding Its wings at last-chef Jeff Dover’s menu almost consistently delivered delights on our recent visit. Starters were particularly outstanding-huge, meaty, seared sea scallops, pearly-white within, were sparked with chile-peanut dressing; grilled beefsteak tomatoes and earthy shiitake mushroom caps wore dollops of melted queso fresco in a to-die-for roasted shallot vinaigrette. An entrée of grilled tiger shrimp mounted toothsome guard on a peppery bed of lemon-spiked fettuccine in garlic butter. Sautéed salmon was less memorable only because its seasoning was too timid- the filet was fresh and perfectly cooked, but held little excitement on its bed of totally unseasoned rice; what flavor the plate afforded came from the grilled Granny Smith apple slices and applejack sauce that were both Wander than expected (a seasonal thing, perhaps?). Desserts were one up-a tongue-tinging Key lime pie, really terrific-and one down-warm peach-walnut cobbler, made with canned peaches, tor God’s sake, sans walnuts as far as we could tell, and far too sweet. And the view? How blase do we have to be before seeing the city do a slow 360-degree pirouette below us fails to be enchanting? Valet parking, by the way, is complimentary via the ma?tre d’s Stamp, Reunion Tower, 300 Reunion Blvd.. 651-1234. Expensive.

D REVISITS Anzu. The smoothly uncluttered decor is itself an inducement to relaxed pleasure, from granite-hued tabletops and intimate booth enclosures to the witty flock of bright-colored origami birds that duller from the ceiling Service supports the mood, too. with knowledgeable dish descriptions and friendly attention to small needs-although one of the nicest touches, the warm cloths formerly brought at the meal’s beginning, was regrettably omitted on our last visit. The food, though, was as transcendent as ever, each dish a compelling example of East-meets-West culinary compatibility. A beef sashimi starter fanned rosy rounds of raw tenderloin on Asian greens dressed with ginger citrus: another bathed tempura-crisped soft-shelled crabs, a succulent pair, with spicy tomato-cilantro salsa. One entree, mustard-crusted rack of lamb-live baby riblets-on white beans with tomato and garlic, partnered with rosemary-scented potatoes, was classically American: another, sake-marinated black cod broiled to succulence and served on infant greens with grapefruit sections and Chinese alack vinegar alongside ginger-snapped pickled beets, was as eloquently Asian, And a dessert of coconut sorbet with ripe, fresh berries, pineapple and kiwi on raspberry and mango sauces brought both worlds together in the nicest kind of light, bright harmony. 4620 McKinney Ave., 526-7398. Moderate.



D REVISITS City Cafe. The creativity of this urbane little gem impresses guests, from chef Katie Schma’s hand-painted menus to the wire animal baskets that hold the excellent breads to the menu’s versatility. Basic California-style food comes graced with a Cajun touch here, a hint of the Southwest there. Seafood dishes make the best choices, whether a juicy grilled escolar or a scrumptious seared salmon salad. City Cafe also renders :he classes well, like an herbed-sprinkled omlet or a club sandwich packed with turkey, tomatoes and bacon fighting for attention. The menu changes every two weeks to take advantage of the best that local markets offer, but a few customer favorites, like the succulent tomato soup, appear regularly. Save room for dessert, homemade by the restaurant pastry chef- Schma’s brother Doug. Also make sure to check out the award-winning wine list and the nice choice of after-dinner drinks. 5757 W. Lovers Ln., 351-2233. Moderate.



Dakota’s. Start with an appetizer sampler or warm homemade breads and the addictive, fried, cayenne-spiked onion shreds as you peruse the menu, which includes plenty of items marked as “lighter fare.” Choices from the wood-burning grill never disappoint, but a recent daily special was especially intriguing-colorfully striped, smoked mozzarella ravioli showered with sweet crab and sautéed bell peppers with a light garlicky sauce to tie all the elements together. Bargain-seekers will love the $15.95, three-course “twilight menu’ offered daily, with choices that might include a first course of venison sausage que-sadillas followed by roasted salmon and chocolate pecan pie. 600 N. Akard St., 740-4001. Moderate.

Huntington’s, You’ll forget that you’re In a hotel-the comfortable wing chairs, the s imple-but-elegant centerpiece of a single Gerbera daisy floating in a water-filled bowl, and the oh-so-discreet service will remind you more of family get-togethers at your wealthy Aunt Edna’s. Good news, though-this is one of the test places in Dallas for a reasonably priced, reliably good meal. Lobster bisque smoothly and richly delivers the very essence of lobster, best enjoyed as you wolf down the lightly crusty rolls slathered with garlic-studded whipped butter. Don’t miss the meaty crab cakes (offered as an appetizer or entrée), and end your meal with a knockout of a crusty crème br?lée. Watch out for the tame salad dressings, though. Even Aunt Edna would demand something perkier than these. Westin Galleria, 13440 Dallas Pkwy.. 851-2882. Moderate to expensive.



Landmark Restaurant, A day’s-special starter, on our visit, topped a crisp-edged potato pancake with a single huge seared sea scallop and zipped the pairing with caviar-caper rémoulade. Another special sandwiched a succulent grilled shiitake mushroom between Roma tomato halves, crumb-coated and fried, on baby greens dressed with basil-balsamic vinaigrette. Both were luscious, as was a hauntingly smoky tomato soup dolloped with pale green basil cream- a made-in-heaven marriage of flavors and hues adorned by a flash-fried basil leaf. An entree of charred rare ahi tuna was stellar stuff indeed, the thick, meaty cut crisp-seared on the outside, its heart rosy-dark and tender; its accompanying warm salad Ni?oise was studded with pressed kalamata olives that provided spirited accent to the gentle smoothness of the dressing, a vintage balsamic vinegar and saffron a?oli. 3015 Oak Lawn Ave.. 521-5151. Moderate to expensive.



D REVISITS Laurels. What a staff! As good as food is, as sweeping the view, as welcoming the decor, what we’re still talking about is the faultless service at Laurels. Live piano music, good bread and nice wines by the glass start meals off well. It’s impossible to resist ordering Laurels’ renowned appetizer, an enchilada packed with lobster and shrimp. The dish’s chile-lime cream melds with the tomatillo sauce for an unbeatable combination. The serrano chile pepper sauce on another appetizer, a health-conscious grilled scallop, also made us reach for the bread to sop up every drop. Filet mignon and rack of lab are regally presented, each with inventive sidekicks (dive into those mashed potatoes jazzed up with creamed roasted corn]. Soufflés head the dessert list, but offer more fluff than taste. Sheraton Park Central, 12720 Merit Dr., 385-3000. Expensive.

The Mansion on Turtle Creek. The near-brashness that has at times marked chef Dean Fearing’s cuisine as more showy than souI-satisfying has been polished into a sophistication and balance that justify the international recognition he has received. Take two starters: A mammoth orange-caramelized sea scallop partnered divine flash-seared foie gras on a duck confit crêpe with blackened turnip slices and gingered currant sauce; and risotto perfumed with Oregon truffles offered gentle counterpoint to pesto-glazed shrimp with tomato essence and grilled zucchini salad. A request to split an entree was honored without a murmur of condescension, and the ranch-reared antelope proved adequate for two, a substantial cut. rare and honey-glazed on a hearty posole stew gilded with roast yellow tomato, punctuated with barbecued venison fajitas. A less costly tasting menu ($65 complete) was as outstanding-bay scallops on deep-flavored fennel puree with basil-creamed noodles; a curt of warm lobster and shrimp fritters with celer y root in a salad dressed with truffle-tomato vinaigrette: pan-fried golden trout so succulent ils layers slipped apart like satin, with parsley potatoes, black trumpet mushrooms, a crunchy bouquet of minced parsnips, young asparagus and green beans completing the plate. Hang the cost. Go there. Do that. And don’t be dismayed if you mention wine by the glass and the som-melierdrops you like a stone-it’s just his way. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd.. 559-2100. Expensive.



Seventeen Seventeen. The decor is simply lovely, but even more breathtaking is the food. On a brunch visit, the toma-to-Pernod broth was a muted masterpiece. A small comi-nc-rubbed, baby lamb T-bone on musky black-chile mole sauce was splendid and a corn pudding tamale. creamy in its little shuck canoe, was glorified with shredded red and blue tortillas, purple and white cabbage and bell peppers of every hue. On the breakfast side, a honey-granola waffle wore a toss of pecans beside caramelized oatmeal-crusted fried banana on vanilla bean syrup, and smoky-flavored wild boar sausage partnered an omelet stuffed with charred bell pepper confetti and white Cheddar cheese. For lunch, the toasted ravioli triangles, although a trifle tough, were nicely stuffed with corn and goat cheese and served with golden coins of candied kumquat under white chayote squash. The blue crab cakes were partnered with a crunchy salad of field-fresh greens and papery rice noodles. The most memorable desserts were a pink-and-whlte layered mousse cake heaped with fresh raspberries and a trio of house brulées-mango-lime, raspberry-chocolate, orange with vanilla cream. Open for brunch and lunch only until September. 1717 N. Harwood St., 922-1260. Moderate to expensive.



Seafood

Cafe Pacific. Magical food; 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 ciblions of Spinach. A day’s special entrée starling Gulf red snapper was even prettier, the fish delicately moist inside a crisp corn-tortilla crust atop a fine, crunchy salsa balancing tart 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, 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 entree-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. Of feeling neglected, either. 1916 Greenville Ave., 826-4910. Moderate.



Elgbteen-O-One. Owned by well-known caterer Daryl Richardson, this West End eatery in the Dallas World Aquarium features a superb, aquatically inspired menu reflecting the four regions from which the aquarium’s fish hail. Star i with the warm bread ara) a cup of Daryl’s famous corn chowder, a spicy blend of fresh corn, peppers and chunks of potatoes In a creamy base. Some of the international delicacies include coconut shrimp, quesadilla del Dia. saté of the day and an Australian grilled sandwich. Or try one of the house specialties such as the grilled Caesar salad or crab cakes. Top it all off with ice cream and a homemade brownie. You’ll have 1o pay the admission fee for the aquarium in order to get to the restaurant, so plan some extra time to tour the exhibits. 1801 N. Griffin St.. 720-2224. Inexpensive

Lefty’s. Although the menu is small, Lefty’s features 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 to keep the steam in. Choose the clam chowder and steer away from the metallic tasting lobster Bisque. Of the appetizers, the smoked salmon with bagel chips or the steamed clams would make a nice meal. So would the crisp house salad, paired with a crab cake and its good dined tartar sauce. Baked shrimp, stuffed with baby shrimp, crab and cracker crumbs, are served perched in a wickedly good sauce. The service gels mixed marks, but the wine list is promising. One false note: The sauce on a daily special of seafood diablo lacked spiciness, though the plate was heaped with clams, lobster, mussels and shrimp. One big bargain-the one-pound lobster with baked potato and corn for $10.95. 4021 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 7749518. Moderate.



LuLu’s Bait S hack. Cajun cuisine with regional nuances ranging from hot to hotter. Buffalo shrimp are hotsy-tot-sies nicely balanced in a blue cheese dip, and jambalaya cames a major kick. For tamer tongues, try the Chicken Rockafella with oysters, cheese and spinach. Homey mashed Mardi Gras pasta is a mixture of fresh vegetables with capers and sun-dried tomatoes, while a lunch trip’s oyster po-boy proved a happy marriage of corn meal-battered oysters with tomato, lettuce and mayo, the plate fetchingly sprinkled with paprika. One warning: The house drink Is a 96-ounce fishbowl containing various types of alcohol, served with a plastic alligator and several straws. Share with friends, or the bon temps may roulez all over your head. 2621 McKinney Ave.. 969-1927. Inexpensive to moderate.



Sea Grill, Asian accents are subtly woven into this seafood’ Intense menu, where every bite surprises-a touch of lemon grass In the iced tea. a splash of sake enlivening a black bean sauce. Don’t even bother with the menu if a lobster sandwich is one of the daily specials: just order it quickly before they run out. Hunks of sweet lobster meal tossed with a lemon/Dijon mayo make this open-faced sandwich a winner, and it’s served not only with fries, caraway seed-flecked slaw and slices of mango, but also with trie good house salad. The setting maybe strip mall-pedestrian, but the food, right down to the homemade desserts, transcends it. The orange cheesecake, as delicate as a mousse, ends a meal on a light, but flavor-intense note. Sea Grill even offers a wine list that does justice to its food (although the by-the-glass prices are steep). 2205 N. Central Expwy,. Ste. 180, Piano. 509-5542. Moderate.



Southwestern

Sam’s Cale. Southwestern to the max, this Tex/Men blend aims to please. Pots of soft, poppyseed-studded bread-sticks stand ready to dip into their accompanying cream cheese/salsa mixture. Caesars take a Southwestern spin with spicy fried strips of tortillas replacing the croutons, while the dressing remains perkily authentic. The “King Ranch Casserole.” a palate-pleasing mixture of chicken, corn tortillas, roasted peppers, cheeses and onions, makes an excellent take-out dish for a dinner the whole family will love. Quesadillas, all five varieties, score high marks, although the ingredients need to be spread out more evenly. Regulars like the eight inventive pastas, and they also know that the pobiano chicken chowder, with its sneaky little burn, is a must-order. Sam’s offers a good-sized bar, with a house specialty called the ’Grand Canyon”-a 32-ounce margarita. 8411 Preston Rd., Ste. 112. 739-2288. Moderate.

Star Canyon. Superchef Stephan Pyles has a gift tor slipping happy little surprises into even the most mundane-sounding dishes. Garlic potato soup, for instance, hid crunchy niblets of mild garlic in its creamy depths, as well as golden cubes of baked sweet potato. A grilled quail was not only halved but boned on a first-course plate mounded with arugula that coyly concealed poached pear slices and zip-spiked Cajun pecans. Coriander-cured venison lived up to its legendary reputation, grilled rare and sliced into rosy petals complemented by whipped yam and an assertive dried fruit empanada; and pan-seared salmon staked its own claim to stellar status sided with a musky black bean-roast banana mash tired with coconut-serrano broth. Even as simple a dessert as bread pudding departs from the commonplace here-the bread’s brioche, dark chocolate enriched; the sauce is sambuca-scented in gentle milk chocolate; the combination of subtle flavors and smooth texture is transcendent. Service was friendly and fast, as always, and we salute a wine list that covers a comfortable price range, as well as overall menu prices lower than many restaurants of lesser rank charge. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave.. 520-7827, Moderate to expensive.

Y.O. Ranch. The food here may be dubbed “early Texas cooking,” but we doubt many Old West ranch cooks whipped up this sophisticated a menu, starting with the seafood com cake, a vast flapjack concealing nuggets of crab, shrimp, oysters and corn kernels. Other appetizers are as wonderful; the frog legs were grilled to flawless succulence on wild rice with vegetable ribbons and the wild boar sausage was served on a sea of molten cheese. Entrées range from basic steaks (we enjoyed a huge perfect rib-eye) to turkey, catfish, shrimp and the Muy Grande Tex Max Platter. The New Zealand venison, a thin, lean cut. was rolled around portobello mushroom strips. On the side, we found fresh grilled spinach extraordinarily fine and beautifully seasoned. The Oklahoma-smoked potatoes are a favorite of Matt Martinez’ aficionados, but we found the flavor too heavy and overly pungent. At lunch, when everything on the menu but the fajitas are a reasonable $5.50, enjoy a country-fried steak that can be prepared in four different styles or one of the Tex-Mex specialties, like Mart’s famed chile relleno. Desserts run the gamut from a wonderful pecan pie to a wretched, dense-as-lead lemon cake. 702 Ross Ave.. 744-3287. Inexpensive to moderate.



Steakhouses

Bob’s Steak A Chop House. Bob’s packs a crowd, belying the notion that people aren’t eating much beef anymore. Sure, the menu offers plenty of fish and seafood, as well as enough appetizers, salads, and vegetables to satisfy any vegetarian’s hunger; but beef rules in these richly appointed dining rooms. Options abound-three sizes each of filets and strip steaks, a 16-ounce prime T-bone and a dazzling 28-ounce prime porterhouse are just a few of the choices. The rib-eye, cooked to a crust outside and tender inside, couldn’t be better; although the Juicy rack of lamb offers heads-on competition. Unlike most steakhouses, Bob’s offers accompaniments-a choice of potatoes (pick the garlicky “smashed” potatoes) and a sweet, whole steamed carrot, free with each meal. Equal attention has been given to the massive salads here, from a classic rendition of a Caesar to a meal-in-itself spinach bacon salad. 4300 Lemmon Ave.. 528-9446. Moderate to expensive.

Morton’s of Chicago. If you’re an unrepentant carnivore who just doesn’t care that huge slabs of juicy red rib-eye 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., 741-2277. Expensive.

The Palm. Monster steaks and lobsters large enough to dance with (as waiters have demonstrated on past visits! are the main draw here, but veal, seafood and poultry are featured, too. Prime rib on a recent visit was an overwhelming platterful, vast and lusciously rare in a crusty coating of seasonings: the veal chop sampled was less delectable, moist but decidedly chewy. These followed a warm appetizer of clams casino-on the half-shell, beneath a chop of celery, carrot and garlic, topped with a crisp curl of bacon-and a cold one involving roasted pimiento blanketing iceberg lettuce under anchovy filets and many capers. Dressed with light vinaigrette, the latter is always fantastic: alas, though, instead of the usual quarter-head chunk of lettuce, the plate held a mere slice this trip-an odd place to cut corners, we thought. A side of green beans was fresh and crunchy; chocolate layer cake was fine. The most recognizable color caricatures of celebs, local and other, that cover the walls were fascinating as usual-although this was the first time we’d realized they were glued, rather than painted directly on the plaster. Tcch! 701 Ross Ave.. 698-0470. Expensive.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Ignore the menu’s chicken and seafood-you’re at a steak house where beef is taken very seriously. Ruth’s Chris buys only top-grade, which is hand-cut daily into mammoth portions. So. worry about your cholesterol tomorrow. The steaks, served on a platter sizzling with butter, come in six cuts-filet (which we found a little too tender), rib-eye. New York strip, porterhouse and T-bone. The rich marbling of the corn-fed Midwestern beef displays the promise of juiciness to follow. The meaty lamb chops, however, can give the beef a run for the money. Although you have to order side dishes a la carte, most will serve two. The menu offers eight types of potatoes. The cream spinach also complements the beef well. For an appetizer, try the cheesy, crab-stuffed mushroom caps: among salads, go for the Caesar instead of the unexciting Italian version. There is a huge wine list, and for serious grape lovers, the restaurant has awine room for tastings. 17840 Dallas Pkwy., 250-2244. Expensive.

Stone Trail. The creative appetizer list includes a crab cake combining a wealth of Jump crab meat with zestful chile, served with a tangle of vegetables; catfish with green apple tartar sauce: and grilled goat cheese in grape leaves. The rest of the menu bears more typical steakhouse fare, including lobster and an astonishingly pricey free-range chicken. Beef, crusty and juicy, makes the best entree with cheese-rich potato casserole or chile-jazzed whipped potatoes on the side. At lunch, Stone Trail serves a wonderful quesadilla that we’ll put up against any in town. Desserts change daily, but your best choice after dinner may be a drink or cappuccino in the beautiful knockout of a bar, where a jazz singer will entertain you. 14833 Midway Rd., 701-9600. Moderate to expensive.



Texas Land & Cattle Company. Night or day. this place jumps, and it has carved out its own Dallas niche with popular entrees 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 campfire chili. Don’t hesitate to fill up on the steak and potatoes, because none of the desserts are worth the calories, so far. 3130 Lemmon Ave., 526-4664. Moderate.



Vietnamese

Arc-En-Ciel. Unless you know exactly what you want to eat. allow plenty of time to study the menu here, which contains more than 300 choices, not including additional dishes on the dim sum carts. Arc-En-Ciel, French for “rainbow,” serves Chinese and Vietnamese dishes, some authentic, some Americanized, such as the 16 lunch specials that include an egg roll, fried rice and soup with each entrée, all for $3.50 to $3.95. Classic Vietnamese spring rolls, with their transparent wrappers displaying their well-packed interiors of shrimp, vermicelli, mint, pork and garlic chives, taste every bit as good as they look, especially when dipped in the sneakily hot peanut sauce. Tender little shark’s fin dumplings, charcoal-broiled pork over vermicelli and crispy duck disappear fast, but the fresh crab dishes require too much work (and create too much of a mess) to get the meat out of the shell. 3555 W. Walnut Rd., Garland, 272-2188. Inexpensive.

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