YOU MIGHT JUST WANT TO take a little tour of this big rectangular box of a room before you sit down, otherwise you’ll be too distracted to read the menu. Round, glass fishbowls, each holding a bright orange goldfish swimming endless laps, are suspended by chains above the long, graceful bar. Potential seafood swims in tanks or is laid out in colorful splendor on crushed ice. Dozens of submarine-shaped lights float amid underwater murals. Etched glass “waves” subdivide the comfortable, spacy booths and white-clothed tables into intimate groups. Swell decor, but can the food live up toit?
It distracts me now as I remember the tiny, sweet cockle clams in their garlicky broth. Order the house-made focaccia to sop up every drop. Lombardi’s version, like a thin, bubbly pizza crust topped with Parmesan and rosemary, led us to order an appetizer of pizza on another visit. It isn’t on the menu, so be sure to check the blackboard or ask your waiter. Its light topping of basil, smoked mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes puts American pizza to shame.
The lobster bisque also scored high marks, as did the fried calamari. something I usually don’t order in restaurants because it’s so often horrible. Light, crisp, tender and delicious, it couldn’t have been better, especially with its zesty tomato-caper dipping sauce.
Panzanella, a classic Italian salad, was beautifully served and carefully prepared but contained more croutons than tomatoes, cucumber or onion (and those dense croutons resisted fork-spearing).
Of the main courses tried, only one disappointed: the bland, overcooked monk-fish. Perfectly executed was the risotto di mare, with asparagus, scallops and shrimp; the pasta with a veal ragu would soothe any winter-weary soul. The lighter crab and cheese soufflé, which arrived with unmen-tioned (but very appreciated) lobster sauce, was richly satisfying.
The dessert list is extensive. The crème br?lée is not, as promised, “the best in Dallas,” but the Tuscan bread pudding, which makes no such claim, just might be the best bread pudding in the city-light and airy, crusty and creamy, with white raisins plumped in liquor, and accompanied by some killerice cream, whose flavor we debated. Eggnog? Nutmeg? Rum? One employee told us vanilla; another said rum raisin. No matter, we loved it.
Lombardi Mare offers a feast for the taste buds as well as the eyes. Mixed reviews on the aural presentation, however-the music’s way too loud, but we loved the Italian lessons piped into the rest-rooms. -Suzanne Hough Lombardi Mare. 5100 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-503-1233. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight, Friday; 5 p.m.-midnight, Saturday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday (brunch, 11 a.m.-3:30p.m.). Moderate.
PICARDYS SHRIMP SHOP
According to co-owner ANGUS MAC-KAY, picardys is a French word describing the dancing, refracted light created when the sun strikes shrimp swimming through the sea. Definitions aside, Picardys Shrimp Shop in Snider Plaza is netting shrimp zealots with the same ferver Sundays in October draw Cowboys fans into sports bars. Hawking a menu loaded with shellfish, the Picardys crew has a worthy challenge orchestrating the dance. Does it succeed?
For the most part, yes.
The coconut tempura shrimp-Gulf crustaceans coated with spindly, reddish-brown batter that made them look like rusty sea urchins-were tender, juicy and pleasantly sweet. A side of honey-sour sauce added a potent bite. The rice pilaf, slightly undercooked and bland, was a bit of a damp blanket on the whole presentation.
Grilled shrimp nachos, with shrimp, refried black beans, white cheese and salsa, were light and chewy with wonderfully balanced flavors (unlike typical nacho fare).
Disappointing was the gumbo, a bland, viscous stew with only a hint of spiciness to solidly engage the palate. Try instead Picardys tasty crab cakes-pads of dark brown crunch on the outside, creamy textures coupled with delicate flavors on the inside. They rest on a dollop of punchy rémoulade sauce within a tangle of crunchy fried pasta threads.
Not as full-flavored and sweet as some, the peel-and-eat shrimp-with a choice of three sauces-were fresh and satisfying, although slightly mushy.
Other intriguing offerings that went untried were the shrimp and cheddar grits, fried shrimp loaf and grilled shrimp tacos.
Picardys’ wine offerings are mostly ho-hum standards save for a couple of exciting selections, i.e., a 1993 Chateau Mon-contour Vouray, a Chenin Blanc from France’s Loire Valley, that paired perfectly with our shrimp meal. The beer list was fairly unimaginative. It cries out for a smattering of craft brews-a Hefeweizen, a smooth honey-wheat, an amber ale with a slight hop bite or a rich, crisp pilsner.
For dessert, the house-made peach cobbler and scoop of Haagen-Dazs was satis-fyingly chewy, with a swift nutmeg finish.
On the outside, Picardys has that ’50s diner look with a big white clock just over the door. On the inside, it sparkles with a crisp, contemporary cafe feel: a row of booths, plenty of windows, walls of white tile and red paint, roughed-up concrete floor. However, it seemed a little dark in the evening, and the only time 1 could get a fix on the food was when the headlights from a parking car outside illuminated our table.
Picardys is great for kids, and each one gets crayons, a coloring placemat, toys and a bright tray that makes the experience almost effortless. A final note: Picardys has the cleanest restrooms seen this side of a budget dinner house. Maybe there’s an obscure French word describing the way recessed lighting dances across immaculate bathroom fixtures. -Mark Stuertz Picardys Shrimp Shop. 6800 Snider Plaza, 214-373-4099. lunch: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Monday-Sunday; dinner; 5:30-10 p.m., Monday-Friday; 5:30-10:30 p.m., Saturday & Sunday. Inexpensive to moderate.
WHENEVER I LISTEN TO LARRY NORTH ’S fitness radio program, I feel immediate guilt-I’m not working out enough, I’m eating too much of the wrong kinds of foods and, horror-of-horrors, I always skip breakfast. When I heard that he’d developed a low-fat line of ready-to-eat food for 1-Eleven and had opened a new restaurant in the Quadrangle, I couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm for either.
But then we ate at NorthSouth…
Larry’s wife, Melanie Peskett North, designed the menu and the recipes, and she’s accomplished the seemingly impossible by creating a menu that would please her husband and people like me. Here’s the concept: Most menu items come “north” (low-fat) or “south” (if you feel like splurging). “Far north” choices are good-for-you; “deep south” options combine taboo foods like steak and Lyonnaise potatoes.
We headed south with our appetizer order of ahi tuna sushi and lapped up every bit of the fish, cucumber salad and nicely spiced wasabi-sake sauce. The black bean-crayfish soup delighted my companion, while I devoted my time to the bread basket with its two cream cheese-based sauces-we favored the chipotle orange.
Heading further south, I ordered the roast chicken, and my palate still perks up recalling the chicken’s fruity Grand Marnier sauce and the scrumptious mashed potatoes I chose over the oven-roasted ones. The veal chop was smoky and tender, served with mushroom-rich risotto.
We were pretty impressed with the wine list, even the wines available by the glass.
The staff might need some experience, the restaurant might need some airing (our room reeked of mildew), but we loved it, right down to our crème brulée (way south). I plan to take my visiting mother-in-law (a dedicated north) for a repeat visit. -S.H.
NorthSouth. 2800 Routh St., 214-849-0000. Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday; dinner; 5-10:30 p.m., Sunday-Wednesday; 5 p.m.-12:30 a.m., Saturday. Moderate.