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Restaurant Reviews

Places to Meet & Eat: Our Critics’ Picks
By D Magazine |


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., 214-357-7120: and other locations. Inexpensive.


Copper Tank Brewing Company. Copper Tanks micro-brewed beers might be winning all kinds of awards, but the food served here deserves some serious attention, too. These hefty portions of he-man food demonstrate that there’s someone in the kitchen who cares, from the burger’s homemade-tasting bun to the perfectly grilled chicken to the scrumptious pizza crust and sprightly marinara sauce. Don’t miss the onion rings with their zesty apple-horseradish dipping sauce, one of the best appetizers in town, and save room for a decadent bite of the homemade chocolate Grand Marnier torte. 2600 Main St., 214-744-2739. Inexpensive.

Hubcap Brewery ?Kitchen. 1701 N. Market St., 214-651-0808. Moderate.

The Rock Bottom Brewery. 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. How’s the beer? Thought you’d never ask. Six regular brews range from ultra-light (Coyote Western Ale and Palomino Pale Ale) to deep and roasty (Pelican Brown Ate and our fave, Roadrunner Stout). Falcon Red is a nice compromise. 4050 Belt Line Rd., 972-404-7456. Moderate.

Routh Street Brewery and Grill. 3011 Routh St.. 214-922 8835. Moderate.

Two Rows Restaurant & Brewery. According to the menu, the breed of barley best suited to suds is of the two rows variety. So does this brew-eatery live up to its name? Yes and no. While there are some standouts-the full flavored Slack Forest Lager and the sturdy, robust Barking Fish Porter-many taste like they were brewed in a sudsy tank of Lemon Fresh Joy. But don’t let that keep you away. Two Rows Is a crisp, cozy place with a friendly, energetic staff and a menu that is as informative (healthful items include fat-gram counts) as it is fun to read (one of its ales is dubbed Central Expressway Jack Hammer Red). The food is simple (soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, brick-oven fired pizza), fresh and cleanly presented. Look for two more Two Rows to pop up in the near future. 5500 Greenville Ave., Suite 1300, 214-696-9REW.

Yegua Creek Brewing Co. Recently snatching a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival (the second time in three years) for its Scotch Ale. Yegua Creek continues to brew stellar suds along with a few ho-hum heads. Tops on our list is O’Brien’s Texas Stout, a rich, balanced brew with carmel-coffee-chocolate undertones, and the White Rock Red, a crisp amber ale with a subtle hop-sizzle. The Tucker’s Golden Wheat (a best-seller], however, was about as exciting as weak herbal tea. The food? Admirably adventurous for a suds house, it sometimes loses its gastro-footing. The Texas-sized Tower O’Rings (onion) were hearty and sweet, but far too greasy. The Tortilla-Encrusted Catfish with Roasted Tomatillo Urns Butter almost worked except the fish had an off taste. Half-price menu Sunday evenings is a treat. 2920 N. Henderson Ave.. 214-824-BREW. Moderate.


Chip’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers. 4501 Cole Ave., 214-526-1092. Inexpensive.

Dave 4 Buster’s. The Prime Directive here has always been to serve fun, fun, fun with food on the side. Bui, 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 pollo grande-a whopping, undercooked chicken breast drenched with enchilada sauce and accc>in|i3nii!

Empire Baking Company. Try the jalapeno-cheese bread or a loaf of the olive bread. They’re both out of this world. 264 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-3223, Inexpensive.

Granada Movie Grill. 3524 Greenville Ave.. 214-823-9640. Inexpensive,

The Ozena Westex Grill and Bar. Set back amid a tangle of trees, this popular gathering spot provides a surprisingly cool, green, countrified retreat in the city. There are no real surprises, and although there are grilled optons 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, so order conservatively on your first visit. 4615 Greenville Ave.,214-265-9105. Inexpensive to moderate.

Snuffer’s. The menu’s limited, but it’s hard to go wrong with burgers, the chicken sandwich or the chicken Caesar salad Go early on weekend nights: the crowds build quickly. 3526 Greenville Ave., 214-826-6850; 14910 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-991-8811. Inexpensive.


Copeland’s of New Orleans. 5353 Belt Line Rd., 972-661-1883. Moderate.

Crescent City Cafe. 2615 Commerce St.. 214-745-1900. Inexpensive.

Lulu’s Bait Shack. Cajun cuisine with regional nuances ranging from hot to hotter. Buffalo shrimp are hotsy-totsies nicely balanced with a blue cheese dip. and jambalaya carries a major hick. 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 solid marriage of corn meal-battered oysters with tomato, lettuce and mayo. 2621 McKinney Ave., 214-9691927. Inexpensive to moderate.


Arc-En-Ciel. The menu here offers more than 300 Chinese and Vietnamese dishes, some authentic, some Americanized. Dim sum is also available. 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 last, 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 St., Garland. 972-272-2188. Inexpensive.

Cafe Panda. The personnel here make you feel at home from the get-go, and meticulous attention to detail guar-entees return visits. Start with quail curl, minced and seasoned perfectly, 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 Tao’s chicken i;- offered elsewhere but rarely done as well; spicy, ho nest-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 brought to your table. 7979 Inwood Rd.. Ste. 121. 214-902-9500. Inexpensive to moderate.

Cathy’s Pacific. At this ambitious offshoot of Piano’s Cathy’s Wok, Chinese-American dishes dominate the menu along with “light and healthy” entrées. Appetizers both hit and miss-meaty honey-garlic wings start a meal well, as do skewers of satay chicken, but pot stickers disappoint with their nondescript filling, and beef satays are tough. Seafood dishes are a good bet here, and the single best item might be the Vietnamese bouillabaisse, loaded with savory king crab, plump shrimp, miniature clams and seaworthy scallops. Cathy’s uses top ingredients, from jumbo nuts in the cashew chicken to the crisply sautéed vegetables in the spring rolls. Note: Food can be ordered moderately hot, hot. or extra hot. Go with hot. 5950-A Royal In., 214-739-3378. 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 panerai chicken featured tender chunks of meat and fiery peppers; try champagne chicken for a cooler, if somewhat bland, warm-weather treat. One gripe: Overly attentive tea and water re-fillers tend to hover like pesky mosquitoes. 4002 Belt Line Rd.. Addison, 972-991-6867. Inexpensive to moderate.

May Dragon. Moo shi rolls strike the right balance between sweet {plum sauce), crunchy (bamboo shoots and cabbage) and savory (shredded beef). Lemon chicken transcends the sticky-sweet stuff served in most places. This version’s lemony bite toned down the sugar, but the fried whit&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 entrees (you can opt for plain white or brown ricei needs some rethinking, as it’s pretty much white rice with a few peas and carrots. 4848 Belt Une R0? 972-392-9998. Moderate.

New Big Wong. If you’re up for a quick and tasty lunch, this place delivers large portions of fare in fast-food time- you’ll be astonished. If a more leisurely dinner is the object, the complex menu rewards experimentation. 2121 S. Greenville Ave,, 214-821-4198. Inexpensive.

Royal China. 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 minute:; 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 lor the delay, but the check was Johnny-on-the-spot. 201 Preston Royal Village, 214-361-1771. Inexpensive.

Szechwan Pavilion. Peking duck aficionados love the fact that this classic Chinese entrée is available at Szechwan Pavilion anytime, in half or whole portions, without Wit) customary need to call ahead and order it. Tableside, waiters brush the delicate pancakes with hoisin sauce, then layer on perfectly roasted duck, with crispy skin and wisps of scallions. and present the rolled-up treats on a platter ringed with slices of orange. 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. butter flied beauties. 8411 Preston Rd., 214-368-4303. inexpensive.

Taiwan Restaurant. This upstairs restaurant provides a comfortable and quiet setting to study the extensive menu; it can be mind-boggling but guarantees you’ll find something you crave. Lunch specials are a steal, ranging from $5.95 to $9.45 for spicy Szechuan lobster, and are served with soup, egg roll and rice. The wonton soup Is flavorful, with crisp bits of lettuce and scallion; the rice was perfectly sticky. Mongolian beef had just the right amount of spice, served with crunchy, colorful veggies. Service was a bit slow and confusing, but it was almost dosing time. 4980 Belt Line Rd.. Ste. 200, Addison. 972-387-2333. Moderate.

D REVISITS Uncle Tail Hunan Yuan. After a “arc day of shopping, it sure feels good to ptop down In a comfortable chair and nosh on the sweet, crunchy walnuts while waiting for the solicitous staff to bring you Uncle Tai’s hot and spicy cuisine. They’re very obliging about toning down the heat when you ask, without removing all the dish’s flavor. Trie food’s good enough to want to take home, but schlepping garlic-laden Chinese through the mall does tend to curtail further shopping. 13350 Dallas Pkwy. at LBJ. 972-934-9998, Moderate, (Renee Hopkins)


Java Jones. 3211 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-528-2099. Inexpensive.


Doll News. This New York-style deli is dark and uninviting with rudely inattentive service (perhaps a stab at regional authenticity?) that’s slower than a fat Slug in mid-fall. The chicken barley soup-a “specialty”-was dull, limp and gooed with overcooked bow-tie pasta. The Greek salad was fresh and crisp, If unexciting, while the BLT had little else to offer besides its thick, chewy bacon. We had our deli-hearts set on a smoked fish platter, but we placed three “sorry, we’re out” orders before a plate of flavorful, yet mushy sable arrived. Our consolation was the authentic bagels: fresh, light and thoroughly satisfying. Crescent Court, Maple at Cedar Springs, 214-922-3354. Inexpensive to moderate.

Gilbert’s. The classic deli menu doesn’t disappoint, from the finest grilled Reuben in town to overstuffed sandwiches on good rye. The club sandwich Is the classic version, with plenty of house-roasted, thinly sliced turkey, preceded by a choice of deli salads (great slaw) and a bowl of chubby pickles. You can order from an extensive breakfast menu all day long, where the plate-size pancakes and the hearty omelets make decisions difficult. Gilbert’s good corned beef stars in the hash, but the orange-y home fries need work. Chug down a Dr, Brown’s soda or a chocolate egg cream and contemplate visiting the take-out section next to get a few sandwiches for later. 11661 Preston Rd.. 214-373-3333. Inexpensive.

Street’s. 4246 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-2505. Inexpensive.

Eastern European

Athénée Cafe. Wonderful Veal Athénée features tender, fresh medallions topped with provolone in a delightful brandy mushroom sauce, with delicious spicy cabbage and flaky rice pilaf. Stuffed Mountain Cabbage is a fabulous signature dish-meatball-sized beef rolls oven-roasted in delicate cabbage leaves with a red wine sauce, just like grandma In Transylvania used to make, Other highlights include Rumanian sausage, hand-packed dally, and veal chop, finished in the pan with dill and mushrooms in white wine sauce. Forget the house salad-try the silky tomato-based spicy vegetable soup instead. Garlic bread is bland but forgivable, the wine list adequate, the service attentive and caring. 5365 Spring Valley, Ste. 150, 972-239-8060. Moderate.


Bread Winners. The menu here 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 noodte&i, Main courses include a center-cut mustard-grilled pork chop that comes thick, juicy and perfectly partnered with scalloped sweet potatoes and pan gravy; and a grilled tuna steak, rosy and near-rare, that 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 cream filling; Banana Jazz features fantasy swirls of chocolate mousse and whipped cream layered with sliced bananas on a dark chocolate crust. 3301 McKinney Ave., 214-754-4940. Inexpensive to moderate.

Cafe Society. Bring a book or someone with whom you can easily slip into well-seasoned conversation and sample the coffees from a lengthy list that includes a l&ounce. layered mocha, an espresso milk shake and the Society Boat: espresso over ice cream. The food? While the dishwater-flat vegetable corn lentil soup should be skipped, the entrées croon with silky flavors. The artichoke spinach-stuffed manicotti is rich, yet texturally light and elegant. The marinated skirt steak is juicy with a clean wisp of smoke and spice, and the accompanying dollop of orange peppercorn -spiced salsa screams with disciplined zest. 4514 Travis St., 214-528-6543. Inexpensive to moderate.

Deep Ellum Cafe. 2706 Elm St.. 214-741-9012. Inexpensive to moderate.

East Side Grill. Chef Tony Knight, whose Aransas Pass restaurant formerly occupied this space, of fers 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 pat-tie of broiled sirloin with roasted poblanos and onions and jack cheese. The homemade salsa that accompanies the chicken quesadillas can make your eyes water from 4 feet away, and fried pickles were surprisingly delicious. 2916 N. Henderson Ave.. 214-828-2801. Inexpensive.

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. Stay the hell sway on Thursday nights unless you like to watch the beautiful people booze and schmooze shoulder-to-shoulder until the wee hours. In the Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St., 214-979-0880. Inexpensive to moderate.

Gershwin’s. 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, unci sandwiches, all generous, tasty and satisfying, 8442 Walnut Hill Ln. at Greenville Avenue. 214 373-7171. Moderate.

The Grape. A chilled soup subtly laced the flavors of fresh ripe tomato and roasted garlic; a high-piled toss of baby greens ringed with golden tomato wedges wore a tasty Balsamic vinaigrette. Some main courses are offered in two sizes, correspondingly priced; the smaller portion of macadamia-crusted rainbow trout was more than ample, two boneless halves in a lightly curried yellow bell-pepper sauce, with a vegetable bouquet of broccoli, snow peas, red bell pepper and Julienned squash plus golden yam and plantain chips. Braised lamb shanks, a huge serving, melted from the bone in a rich, winey jus on a bed of wilted bok choy. with horseradish-nipped whipped potatoes and the same veggie nosegay under crisp tobacco leek shreds. By-the-glass wines are generously poured and moderately priced, and service mirrors the establishment’s custom ary indulgence with small attentions. 2808 Greenville Ave., 214-828-1981. Moderate to expensive.

D REVISITS The Green Room. Without pretension or hype this ’90s bistro continues to dish out some of the most original and inventive cuisine to be found between New York and L.A. The food influences are Asian. Mediterranean and Southwestern, while the decor’s decidedly rock ’n’ roll. A perfect starter is the oyster stew with morsels of andouille sausage, crawfish and crisp diced tomatoes, all swimming in a fragrant, herbed cream broth. The seared yellowfin tuna, presented on a bed of shiitake mushrooms and corn-size couscous, is a stellar main course. Considerate waiters in constant motion offer knowledgeable advice on ordering from the menu and on pairing selections from the extensive but very reasonably priced wine list. The desserts are rich and delicious. Try the fixed-price, four-course, Teed Me” menu ($31), the best deal in town. 2715 Elm Street, 214-748-ROOM. Moderate. (Mickey Stuart)

The Joint This upscale pool hall has a global menu with an Asian influence. The menu includes a wide variety of choices from Tasmanian lobster and pan-seared range chicken with glass noddies to tuna melts and later tots. The lobster was super-tender chunks came in a large bowl with shredded scallions on top of a tasty potato/fennel hash brown. Corn-crusted chicken arrived juicy and crispy, accompanied by nicely cooked vegetables, and a special of rib-eye steak was eclipsed by blue cheese-laced seal loped potatoes. Service is great, and the place stays open until 2 a.m. for late-night dining. 2727 Cedar Springs. 214-754-0101. Inexpensive to moderate.

Margaux’s. Cafe Margaux owner Kay Agnew has reopened yet again, in a much smaller space wearing a suitably shorter name-and with an attenuated-to-match mealtime schedule that includes lunch weekdays, dinner Thursday only, with other evenings and weekends set aside for private parties, classes and special-occasion bookings. The best-loved dishes are still here-shrimp and sausage gumbo is the real thing, wafting the perfume of fife over okra-thickened shrimp, rice and onion; cornmeal-crusted oysters are crisp-skinned delights. An appetizer of baked brie with peach chutney is rather too hearty for a first course, but would be a scrumptious lunch entree paired with a vlnaigrette-spiked house salad of mixed greens. A lunch entrée of smoked trout fettucini was a magical mating of tender fish bites with toothsome pasta: a dinner special of orange roughy with roasted tomato and crawfish curls was nicely sided with fresh green beans and garlic grits. In terms of dessert, I was relieved (read; overjoyed) to find the caramel-sauced warm apple bread pudding, a perennial favorite, as orgasmically wonderful as ever. Agnew’s plans include other departures-retail wine sales of limited-quantity labels; wine- and food-related memorabilia from her own ongoing collection, for souvenirs or gifts. 2404 Cedar Springs, 214-740-1985. Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Monday-Friday: Dinner: 6-8 p.m., Thursday. Inexpensive to moderate.

Mel Hollen’s Bar and Fine Dining., Mel Hollen, who has designed and opened a number of well-loved Dallas eateries, finally has opened a place of his own, a most magnificent-if slightly eccentric-bar and restaurant. Appetizers included Baked Oysters Bingo-six tasty Blue Points on the half-shell over a bed of creamed spinach, shallots, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese-which retained their lightly salted ocean flavor in contrast to the bed of creamy greens. My companion selected the day’s seafood special, swordfish stuffed with shrimp on risotto, a beautiful Inch-thick cut of swordfish with a dozen small shrimp sandwiched inside it, all atop a mound of creamy risotto, with soft green peppercorns sprinkled over the top. Unfortunately, the fish had spent too much time under the heat lamp. The pepper steak arrived exactly as requested, medium rare. The fist-size filet, encrusted with cracked black peppercorns, was tender yet lean and chewy, full of flavor. But the accompanying cognac sauce lacked definition. For dessert, we shared angelica Frangelica. slivers of angel food cake soaked in Frangelica liquor, topped with sliced strawberries. If only the cake had spent a bit more time in the liquor, 15175 Quorum Dr., Addison, 972-233-6357. 5-10:30 p.m.. Monday-Thursday; 5-11 p.m.. Friday & Saturday. (Bar opens at 4:30 p.m.) Moderate to inexpensive.

Sipango. 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; a small-plate dish of mushroom-fortified risotto, deep-flavored and zipped with mellow Reggiano parmesan, completed a satisfying meal. On the more substantial side, an entrée 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. Richer desserts can be had. but we found the house-made sorbettos captivating–fresh watermelon 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. 4513 Travis St., 214-522-2411. Moderate.

St. Pete’s Dancing Marlln. 2730 Commerce St., 214-698-1511. Inexpensive.

The Thomas Avenue Beverage Company. Chef Mark Jensen chalks up new. inventive fare on the menu board every Thursday. Steamed mussels were sweet, delicate and smartly seasoned. Well-soaked In lime-garlic-butter-white wine sauce, grilled sea bass was fresh, succulent and bristling with crisp, tightly focused flavors. The wine list, a crinkled laser print-out with edits scribbled in blue ink (” ’cause we’re working out the kinks”) was void of those obese mark-ups that draw cold sweat from the wallets of all but the most hardened, expense-accounted diners. And this place has history: It was a liquor store/pool hall m the ’30s and Jack Ruby’s favorite spot for morning eggs in the ’50s. 2901 Thomas Ave.. 214-979-0452. Inexpensive to moderate,

Yvette. The menu here suits the regal setting-dark wood, etched glass and brass softened by red velvet curtains and hand-painted murals-with all the appetizers you’d expect: Oysters Rockefeller, escargot and carpaccio, but their average cost of more than S9 seems high. A crab cake was a golden, meal-size (and, at $12, meal priced) disc-nicely accompanied by dressed greens and a zippy rémoulade sauce. Yvette, part owned by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and coach Barry Switzer, does score some absolute touchdowns, like a perfect Caesar salad and a Dover sole so tender and nicely seasoned it’s gone before you had time to appreciate it. The wine list needs expansion, and the side dishes would benefit from a dash of creativity, but the service the entire night couldn’t have been better. End with the smooth, rich but not too sweet chocolate terrine, and you’ll emerge a winner. 14775 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-503 9777. Moderate to expensive.


Addison Gate. Here, there are contradictions-our pan-seared snapper melted like butler, 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 because service is studiously languorous, we were never quite sure who our waiter was. 5290 Belt Line Rd. at Montfort. Addison, 972-991-8824, Moderate to expensive.

Arthur’s. This restaurant’s reputation as a prime steak place is deserved but too limiting. The kitchen’s ways with seafood, veal, fowl and even pasta are winners, too. and the appetizer list includes shrimp cocktail, escargot and steak tartare, proudly prepared with old-world pomp at tableside. Fresh sea scallops sautéed and sauced with a kiss of Dijon mustard and a whisper of lemon and capers struck an exquisite balance. Rack of lamb’s rosy chops were fork-tender and appropriately sided with a tomato rose and vegetables carved in the presentation-conscious French fashion. Seduced by ceremony, we forewent dessert souffles to share bananas Foster, not on the menu, but lovingly prepared, flamed and served by our waiter as we watched. Cherries jubilee is another unlisted indulgence: we’ll save those for the restaurant’s upcoming 50th anniversary. And (or the 60th? Who knows? vive les classiques! 8350 N. Central Expwy. (In Campbell Center}. 214-361-8833. Expensive.

Chez Gerard. 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-?Ith-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 soufflés, delicate beef in a wonderful peppery sauce and the best pommes frites around. Desserts, from the cloud-filled praline souffle to the crusty crème brulée, should never be skipped. 4444 McKinney Ave., 214-522-6865. Moderate.

The French Room. Perfection is not a word to Be tossed lightly into restaurant reviews, but this Adolphus Hotel crown jewel came close on our last visit, A tower of smoked salmon, avocado, papaya and crisp potato tuiles glistened in Its basil oil-papaya vinaigrette: tender, pan-seared ahi tuna medallions lay alongside crisply ruffled pot stickers stuffed with shrimp, foie gras and crab. Tomato bisque was smoky flavored and rich with roasted pine nuts and porci-ni 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 slice;;; 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 mélange of fresh berries bedded on pastry with warm caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream; the other, a dart one-hot chocolate cake, rich and crusty around a molten center, Ice-cream topped on Amaretto crème Anglaise. An 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. In the Adolphus Hotel, 1321 Commerce St.. 214-742-8200. Expensive.

Jennivine. 3605 McKinney Ave.. 214-5286010. Moderate to expensive.

Lavendou. This new bistro offers an ethereal French onion soup with a soufflé-like crown of cheese, zesty mussels steamed to perfection in white wine, tender gravlax and house-smoked salmon. Each entree we tried was memorable, especially the filets of salmon in basil cream sauce and the swordfish with tomato confit. All of these dishes are served with classic French touches like trimmed toasts, turned lemons and peeled tomatoes. Meals are preceded by vinaigrette-dressed salads and so many vegetables that it’s sometimes necessary to have a second plate to hold them all. For dessert, the profiteroles win, A thoroughly French though unpretentious place, it lias a cozy blue, yellow and lavender decor and a softly lit patio area, and paintings by the chef’s mother hang on the walls. 19009 Preston Rd.. 972-248-1911. Moderate to expensive.

Old Warsaw. Over the decades, many special occasions have been observed and important clients wined and dined in this darkly wooded restaurant with its country club atmosphere. More often than not the classic French Continental cuisine and attentive services rises to the occasion, but with middle age has come a little inconsistency. On one visit, Brie soup was a mushroom-rich joy; lobster crepes lay plumply filled on their dark and light sauces. But the salmon tar tare, 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. 2610 Maple Ave., 214-528-0032. 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 with 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, too-duck 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 at any price than that provided by this serenely cosmopolitan restaurant. Fairmont Hotel. 1717 N. Akard St.. 214-720-5249. Expensive.

St. Martin’s. 3020 Greenville Ave.. 214-826-0940. Expensive.

Tramontane. Where to start? Try 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 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.. 214-368-4188. Inexpensive to moderate.

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.. 214-7200323. Moderate.

Gourmet to Go

City Cafe To Go. Forget the usual take-home options and get dinner here. Soup scores high marks, from the famous sprightly tomato soup to the buttery, bacony clam chowder. Sandwiches also score major points for creativity, with many inspired combinations. Two of the several salads were excellent: one with big. tender shrimp and fat asparagus spears: another with couscous and artichokes. Other dazzling salads include a Chinese version laced with sesame seeds and one with a peppery chicken in a cream sauce. Desserts are even better, from a thoroughly decadent Blum cake, with its cascades of sugary crisps to a simple dish of berries. One question: Where’s the bread? Besides bread, two visits-including one involving a hefty $125 tab-left us with no butter, utensils, napkins, plates or even a stray toothpick in our take-home pack. 5757 N. Lovers Ln., 214-351-3366. Moderate.

Eatzi’s. OK, 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 ana 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.. 214-526-1515. 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. Customers line up to buy these rustic, crusty loaves of preservative-free bread 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. 4203 Lindberg Dr., Addison, 972-934S730. Inexpensive.

Marty’s. Marty’s, long trie king of gourmet shopping in the Dallas area, has recently come under siege from trendier rivals. 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, ara matic 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. 3316 Oak Lawn Ave.. 214-526-4070. Inexpensive to moderate.


Ziziki’s. The gleaming wooden bar may be one of the places to be seen in Dallas, but it’s the food that reigns supreme. 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 (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, from all over the globe, demonstrate the owners’ never-ending quest for the best. You’ll want to visit the coffee bar/take-out shop for some of your Ziziki favorites (like their mouthwatering sauces). 4514 Travis St., Ste. 122. 214-521-2233. Moderate to expensive.

Home Cooking

Barbec’s. Folks begin lining up around 8:30 a.m. on weekends for the beer biscuits. White Rock Lake runners’ spot. 8949 Garland Rd.. 214-321-5597. Inexpensive.

D REVISITS Celebration. Leave your pretense at home, but bring your appetite to this long-time mecca for Dallas home-cooking purists. In this rambling former residence are several cozy dining areas housing a few tables each, a luxury that keeps noise to a minimum and complements a congenial, if somewhat unhurried, staff (be prepared to flag down your server on occasion). Meals begin with baskets of wonderful homemade breads and one of Dallas’ freshest salads. Entrees run the gamut from broiled fresh fish to pot roast (you’ll swear Mom made it) to fried chicken, all accompanied by an endless supply of vegetables. Don’t worry if your entrée seems small-you can reorder as often as you wish and even sample other entrées. Desserts are always worth the wait, but you’ll have to make a conscious effort save room for them. All this and reasonable prices, too-no mystery why this is a favorite locale for no-holds-barred, to-hell-with-the-diet indulgence. Parking and table space go fast during peak dinner hours. 4503 W. Lovers Ln,, 214-351-5681. Inexpensive. (Jeff Whittle)

Mecca. 10422 Harry Hines Blvd., 214-352-0051. Inexpensive


Bombay Cricket Club. Though we’re easily fooled about the nuances of cricket (the game), the food here is definitely cricket with us. especially the incendiary chicken ven-daloo. the soothing saag paneer (chunks of homemade cheese in creamed spinach) and the curry-kissed aloo ben-gan. which combines eggplant, potatoes, onions and tomatoes. Having heard raves about the leg of lamb from the tandoor, we’re saving it for the next round, or inning, or chukker, or whatever they call it. 2508 Maple Ave., 214-871-1333. Inexpensive to moderate.

India Palace. Delicate spices imbue truly fine Indian cuisine with attributes similar to a fine perfume-too much creates an assault on the senses; too fittle, and there’s I no magic. India Palace has maintained that proper balance for nearly a decade and shows no signs of slowing down. 1 Complimentary, crispy papad (lentil wafers) make a fine segue to appetizers like fried vegetable pakora or fragrant mulligatawny soup, a hearty broth of lentils, rice and chicken. Entrées include moist, flavorful and low-fat Tandoori chicken, exceptionally silky paneer masala (tofu in a creamy tomato sauce) and our perennial fave. saag paneer (spinach and tofu). Crank up the heat with vendaloo or curry, with your choice of beef, chicken or lamb. Whatever you do, don’t miss the killer breads: onion kulcha, nan or roti, served straight from the tandoor, hot as lava. 1281? Preston Rd..Ste. 105,972-392-0190. Inexpensive to moderate.


D REVISITS Alesslo’s.Thiscozystrip-centerfixture boasts a loyal following of regulars, but our last trip didn’t quite place us solidly in their camp. The original dining room is small and Intimate, but a lew more tables and a large and sometimes noisy service bar have now been added in an adjacent room. After noticing the alarmingly overpriced wine selections, we ordered the cheapest red available-an understandably popular choice. Our polite and competent waiter substituted a more expensive bottle at the lower price when our selection proved out of stock. We grazed on complimentary bruschet-ta and fresh vegetables dipped in olive oil and anchovy paste while reviewing the pricey menu and a difficult-to- read chalkboard describing the even pricier evening specials. An appetizer of mild Italian sausage, onions and peppers under a blanket of melted mozarella cheese was excellent, but the dinner salad that followed was woefully plain. Inconsistency marred the main course as well-the grilled lamb was superb, but our pasta selection got mixed reviews, and the bland vegetables failed to interest us beyond the first tasting. We left feeling slightly underwhelmed and more than slightly overcharged. 4117 Lomo Alto. 214-521-3585. Expensive. (Jeff Whittle)

Alfonso’s. 718N. Buckner Blvd.. Ste. 222. 214-327-7777. Inexpensive to moderate.

Angela’s Italian Grill. Affable service, reasonable prices {$7.95-I12.95} and generous portions mean we’ll be back. 6341 La Vista Dr., 214-823-5566. Inexpensive.

Campisi’s Egyptian. 5610 E. Mockingbird Ln.. 214-82? | 0355. Inexpensive. Moderate.

Isola Gozo. This new Nor thPark Center eatery is intended to clone the cuisine and decor of its predecessor, Piccola Cu-cina. The food and service are coming along, although the grilled portobello mushrooms seem to establish a theme of too tentative seasoning; the mushroom strips and the baby greens on winch they ncsted wen; beautiful, but the faint drizzle of vinaigrette failed to reach an underlying bed of undercooked and tasteless while beans. Similarly, orange zest that was supposed to flavor a salad’s baby beets was undetectable, although an accompanying tangle of endive and greens with crumbled goat cheese and walnuts was quite nice. The lunch menu is more varied. The panino held a lush layering of zucchini, roasted pepper, tomato and arugula with a moz-zarella melt on its perfectly grilled chicken slices. The fet-tucine was a mélange of fresh tomato and basil seasoned with olive oil, garlic and the right amount of crushed red pepper. In Barney’s New York, NorthPark Center, Northwest Highway and North Central Expressway, 214-691-0488. Moderate.

Joey’s. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave.. 214-5260074. Moderate to expensive.

Ml Piaci. During the day, sunlight drenches Mi Piaci, shadows play off the twisted columns, drawing eyes up to the skylights way above. At night, the rooms are cloaked in soft, romantic darkness. At ail times, these sparingly decorated, hipper-than-hip rooms are filled with people who look like they just stepped off the fashion pages. The menu focuses on classic Tuscan cuisine, with homemade pasta, made-to-order risotto and superb breads. But Ml Piaci also serves up massive juicy pork chops teamed with roast garlic mashed potatoes, and you’ll always see waiters expertly deboning the meltingly tender Dover sole for savvy diners. Our only complaint: The noise level can get pretty high. 14854 Montfort Dr., 972-934-8424. Moderato.

MoMo’s Italian Specialties. This eatery plays like an ltalian opera, from the soprano highs of the al dente homemade pastas to the baritone lows of its strip-mall decor. The pizzas come close to perfection, the stuffed pastas, like lasagne, rotolo verde and spinach-filled ravioli, satisfy the heartiest appetites, and a pungent parsley pesto enlivens the complimentary focaccia. Be sure to end your meal with a slice of the chocolate mousse cake. 9191 Forest Ln… 972-234-6800. Inexpensive to moderate.

Nicola’s. From its tony Tuscan al fresco decor to the woody perfume of grilled meats, Nicola’s exudes a breezy confidence beyond 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., 972-788-1177. 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 still 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 nonsmoker, 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 carpaccio with capers and lemon. Polio Pizzaiola is tender and tasty, if a mite salty; clever pasta dishes, like fet-tuccine 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 il shows. 2520 Cedar Springs Rd,. 214-871-1924. Moderate.

Ruggeri’s. Order a daily special of baked salmon filet with the superb dill sauce, and be prepared to become a regular. 5348 Belt Une Rd.. 972-726-9555. Moderate.

Terilli’s. 2815 Greenville Ave., 214-827-3993. Moderate.


Deep Sushi. Tuna and fresh salmon were kindergarten starters any sushi novice could love. Sea eel and sea urchin were sweeter and less substantial, but with textured tenderness. Surf clam was an artistic high point-the rice oblong topped with a cut of geoduck, shading from satin white to a chewy scarlet tip, belted with seaweed. The Dragon Lady Roll is a long combination of tuna, avocado and nee flashed with incendiary wasabi, red pepper sauce and Japanese yellow mustard wrapped in seaweed and sliced. One shared dessert was pleasant petals of banana, tem-pura-fried and honey-drizzled, ringing a mound of barely sweet green tea ice cream. The plum wine sorbet was outstanding, its mauve smoothness laced with tart little bits of the fruit. 2624 Elm St,, 214-651-1177. Moderate to expensive.

Hana. 14865 Inwood Rd., 972-991-8322. Moderate.

Mr. Sushi. 4860 Belt Line Rd.. 972-3850168. Moderate.

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-shell 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.. 214-871-7111. Inexpensive to moderate.


Adelmo’s. Our last dinner at Adelmo’s might have been prepared in two separate restaurants, course by course. Lobster ravioli was a lively, lovely affair, the tender pasta pillows plump with toothsome filling in a spicy, vodka-tomato sauce. But salmon tartare was a soupy mess-innocent snippets of fresh, raw pink fish lost in a near-liquid amalgam sparsely studded with onion and too many capers. The spécialité de la maison, grilled veal chop, was perfect as always, an awesome cut 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. 4537 Cole Ave., 214-5590325, Moderate to expensive.

The Bistro. No longer must one’s choice be narrowed here to a single starter, one entrée and dessert to make up a meal. That option’s still on the menu, but so is the opportunity to sample hot and cold teasers of every addictive sort, from soups to salads, from a listing of more than 30, and the 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 and cilantro; ravioli of wild mushrooms, meaty marvels bathed in herb and sherry sauce; garlic shrimp, flirty curls vivaciously seasoned with red chili pepper. Along the way, succumb to fresh foie gras sautéed with raisins and port sauce or lobster soufflé, meltingly airy and splendidly sauced. Our only disappointment of the new dishes was trie steak tartare that was so strongly endowed with horseradish and capers, trie beef flavor struggled to come through. 5-105 W. Lovers Ln., 214-352-1997. Inexpensive to moderate.

Cafe Express. This restaurant serves up quick meals that are fresh, health-conscious and budget-friendly. The wholesome emphasis can be found In the salads, sandwiches, chicken and pastas. But beware: There are a bevy of burgers-like the blue cheese and bacon burger-and a bountiful display of desserts-like chocolate pot de creme-to tempt the weak. The most delightful feature is the Oasis. a bar that is laden with goodies like olives, pickles, freshly grated cheese, mustards, oils and other condiments you’ll need to improve some of the menu’s blander offerings. Four-cheese fettuccine. for example, needed a sprinkle of that Parmesan, and the greens under a salad trio of Tuscany tuna, chicken and pasta pesto needed a sharp shot of oil and vinegar to bring them to life. 3230 McKmney Ave., 214-999-9444. Inexpensive.

Cafe Istanbul. 5450 W. Lovers Ln.. Ste. 222, 214-902-0919. Inexpensive to moderate.

PoPoLo’s. 707 Preston Royal Shopping Center, 214-692-5497. Moderate to expensive.

Sambuca. 15207 Addison Rd., Addison. 972-385-8455. Moderate.

Toscana. Although we found a few small flaws-a starter of yellow-corn polenta that should have been crispy was soggy on arrival In a basil-tomato red wine vinegar sauce- we found more to praise, from lusty sourdough bread served with pesto-herbed olive oil to a nibble of portobel-lo mushroom in orange grappa sauce on creamy polenta. And a pizza we tried played pancetta’s salty crunch and assertive gorgoivolaag.mi^ swum riobons is of caramelized onions in an arugula chiffonade. The salads delivered subtle surprises: Crisp nuggets of sweet, dried dates and pancetta added nuance to goat cheese and arugula in toma-to-onion vinaigrette. Entrées were just as outstanding, from the sautéed trout in a delicate lemon-tarragon butter to grilled quail with ii red pepper cannelloni bean tart. But the star is the risotto with chicken, porcini mushrooms, tomato and Gorgonzola cheese. The standout on the dessert menu: a tiramisu bread pudding with marcarpone cream. hazelnuts and Frangelico sauce. 4900 McKinney Ave., 214-521-2244. Moderate.


Avila’s. This is the food you’d come home to if you could and leave home for if you must, starting with the eye-watering salsa. Beef tacos are brim-full of good, greaseless ground beef, and a plump enchilada is perfectly partnered with a soft cheese taco. The retried beans are outstanding. The service is pleasant, and the restaurant is immaculate. 4714 Maple Ave., 214-520-2700. Inexpensive.

Cantina Laredo. 8121 Walnut Hill Ln., 214-987-9192, Inexpensive.

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. Fluffy 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. In the Park Forest Shopping Center. 11742 Marsh Ln., Ste. A. 214-357-0141. Inexpensive.

Casa Rosa. 165 Inwood Village. 214-350-5227.Inexpensive.

Chihuahua Charlie’s. With offerings such as cactus soup with whole pinto beans and a beef fillet simmered in chipo-tle sauce blanketed with Chihuahua cheese, you II quickly reconsider Mexican standards like enchiladas and chicken taquitos (although the chiles rellenos are agile and smooth, yet blazingly robust-like a wide receiver who’s studied ballet]. Openers are traditional: greasy chips and salsa. But you also get fresh, crisp carrots and juicy jica-ma with ranch dressing-a refreshing end-run around the appetite fatigue rendered by too many chips. And fatigue is exactly what you don’t want because entrees like the Mayan plate-cubed bits of fish, oysters, octopus and Shrimp perfectly prepared to bring out the appropriate tex-tural variances of each ft a backdrop of spicy, tomato-broccoli stock sauce. The seabass fillet, topped with pibil sauce and cooked m a leaf of com (eye-catching), was firm and flavorful. The accompanying spinach, with rich, smoky flavors, was a can’t-get-enougti-of aider. Which is OK because Chihuahua’s owner Jose Luis Gutierres, who owns six restaurants in Mexico, says you can have as much as you want of anything from the menu. While adequate, the service was annoyingly uneven. 3232 McKinney Ave., 214-969-9300-11 a.m.-10 p.m.. Sunday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday & Saturday. Moderate to expensive.

Chuy’s. 4544 McKinney Ave., 214-559-2489. Inexpensive to moderate.

Dos Charros. This is food for people who break into a sweat at the sight of a habanero chile or those who don’t automatically reach for the Tabasco when they order a Bloody Mary or guacamole. The extensive menu has plenty of seafood choices and healthful options added to the list of traditional favorites. 108 University Village Shopping Center. Belt Line and Piano roads, 972-783-7671. Inexpensive.

Escondido’s. The rickety surroundings exude genuine “dump” appeal, which simply means that the food should be as good as the place is bad. And for the most part, it is. Service, however, was lacking speed and thoughtful-ness, marring an otherwise fine fix of bette r-than-average Tex-Mex, 2210 Butler. 214-634-2056. Inexpensive. Herrera’s. From the first taste of the spicy, lumpy salsa, you know your meal will be terrific. A chalupa, spread with well-seasoned retried beans and a heap of shredded lettuce, is wonderful. The tamales are meaty, filled with lean shredded pork. Attention to detail can be tasted in the seasonings of a cheese enchilada’s toothsome meat sauce. Service lives up to the food’s quality, and the decor is eclectic and fun. 4001 Maple Ave., 214-528-9644. Inexpensive.

Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano. 4912 Cole Ave., 214-521-4211. Moderate.

La Calle Doce. Those who don’t like seafood will appreciate the more traditional Mexican offerings, such as spinach enchiladas covered with green sauce. And 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., 214-941-4304. Inexpensive to moderate.

Las Cazuelas. This tiny East Dallas jewel serves up marvelous food, starting with the killer salsa that’s made with fresh cilantro, onion and tomato essences. Try the Mexican enchilada, its tortilla dipped in a ruddy chile wash, wrapped around onion-studded meat filling and topped with grated cheese. On Mondays, the special caldo de res, chunky with beef and vegetables, is fabulous as is the knock-your-socks-off chile relleno. 4933 Columbia Ave., 214-827-1889. Inexpensive.

La Valentina. If you like authentic Mexican food, you’ll appreciate this menu, which includes recipes rooted in history as well as recipes created by some of Mexico’s most famous chefs. The polio en mole poblano tops a chicken breast with a sensuous sauce that includes 54 types of chilies, spices and a touch of chocolate, resulting in a richly layered smoky-sweet flavor. The menu. a fascinating read on its own, tells the dish’s history. Try what La Valentina calls a reverse taco-a filling of finely julienned vegetables, crisp shreds of tortillas and pomegranite seeds wrapped in a lettuce leaf and eaten taco-style. The tasty peanut cilantro dressing adds a Thai touch and great flavor. At lunch it’s only $4, and there’s plenty for two. The prices tend to be very reasonable. The tenderloin, the most expensive item on the menu, is S19.50 at dinner 1$14 at lunch) and includes a wealth of perfectly cooked vegetables and potatoes. The meals also include some absolutely dismal rolls and tasteless whipped herbed butter, and homemade blue corn tortillas with a duo of colorful sauces. But put down that fascinating menu when it’s time for dessert and ask for the flan. 14866 Montfort Dr., 972-726-0202.11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Monday-Friday; 5:30-11 p.m.. Saturday & Sunday. Moderate.

Mario’s Chiquita. This Travis Walk restaurant, while offer-ing 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 perfectly complements the meat filling. A beef enchilada wrapped in a whisper-thin corn tortilla was bathed in a ranchero sauce of unsurpass-ing 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, 214-521-0721. Inexpensive to moderate.

Martin’s Cocina, The kitchen here does magic things with seafood (shrimp especially) and offers a listing of entrées that weigh in at less than 1,000 calories each, including the fourchues 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 pice de gallo is serrano-spiked. 7726 Ferguson Rd.. 214319-8834. Inexpensive to moderate.

Mattito’s. Don”t miss the chile relleno, topped with the usual sauce, cheese and sour cream. but also with chopped pecans for crunch and raisins for sweetness. The fajitas and tacos are standard fare: save your calories for the homemade flan and sopaipillas instead. 4311 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-8181. Inexpensive.

Matt’s Rancho Martinez. 6312 La Vista Dr., 214-823-5517. Three styles of chicken-fried steak, and outstanding flautas that are grilled. not fried. 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 Enriquez satisfies their lust for her incomparable chiles rellenos. Other days, they make do with house specialities, combo plates and sides that read like standard Tex-Mex on paper, but on the palate translate Into transcendent fare. Try the bean soup-pin-tos with minced chiles, bacon, onion and cilantro accents, miles richer in flavor than prissy upscale black-bean concoctions. Fort 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-ribboned lettuce. Service is cheerful; the setting is no-frills comfortable. One note: The restaurant serves only beer and wine. 4322 Lemmon Ave., 214-526-1020. Inexpensive.

Monica’s Aca Y Alia. 2914 Main St., 214-748-7140. Moderate.

Monterrey. The setting’s gardenlike. the service is sweetly attentive and the food in this family-run Lakewood establishment is fresh, fresh, fresh. An enchilada plate holds two generous wraps of cheese or beef, richly seasoned and sauced, plus outstanding rice and retries. A tamale comes as a tender mas a pillow plumped with lean pork under a hearty chili sauce. A special treat is the house ceviche, a heady marinade of white fish In an Infusion of lemon, onions, garlic and cilantro. 1611 Greenville Ave., 214-821-2026. Inexpensive.

Nuevo Leon. If you start with the fajita nachos here, you won’t have room for lunch or dinner. Dig into the warm chips and warmer salsa and then get ready to gorge. Tender chicken enchiladas with verde sauce and beef enchiladas with chilorio are fresh and not at all greasy; the taco macho is 10 inches of tender flour tortilla stuffed with cheese, avocado and your choice of chicken, beef or port. 12895 Josey Lane at Valley View, 972-488-1984. Inexpensive

Rodolfo’9. 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 and half of a praline for dessert, The taco and enchilada were both silky, the beans creamy and the tamale married nongreasy meat and a just-on-the-edge-of-crumbly shell. The 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, 214-942-1211. Inexpensive.

Tupinamba. “Tupy” tacos. although deep-fried, are hard to stop eating. Two small disappointments-the sour cream enchiladas were bland and the fajita salad was topped with dry chicken and an uneventful vinaigrette dressing. Desserts are definitely worth ordering. 12270 In wood Rd., 972-991-8148. Inexpensive.

Middle Eastern

Cafe Izmir. A unique dining experience: Diners choose a vegetarian or a meat-based meal rather than ordering from a menu. And then a parade of delightful food appears. The lemon-zested tabbouleh is terrific: the hummus silken. The Mediterranean cole slaw and a Russian chicken salad, however, were bland. But with these came excellent pita quar-ters for dipping or stuffing with grilled kabob tubes of ground beef and marinated chicken. Lamb wore its own wrap of a tortilla-like crepe, with piquant minced green peppers. Cubed cucumber and tomato in lemon-olive oil dressing was a cooling touch; battered saffron rice was fine; and an enormous platter of grilled eggplant, squash and ripe tomato slices brought a bright counterpoint of flavors to the table. A scarce Greek red wine called Boutari Maossa is a happy find here, and the sweet Turkish coffee in fragile cups was as irresistible as the desserts. 37H Greenville Ave,, 214-826-7788. Moderate.


Dream Cafe. This Quadrangle eatery’s pastoral-in-city 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-cala-mata olive relish-salads and sandwiches. You can’t go wrong ordering corn cakes, with a hot, peanut dipping sauce and grilled shrimp, or trie 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 gra-nola for those who want to start the day on a more spiritual, healthful note. The Quadrangle. 2800 Routh St.. 214-954-0485. Inexpensive.

Eureka! 4011 Villanova Dr., 214-369-7767. Inexpensive.

Natura Cafe. A new chef has breathed new life Into this colorful cafe, once appreciated more for its delightfully huge vegetable sculptures than for its natural, healthful foods. The purest of souls will appreciate the nutritional analysis of the menu, the purified water, the filtered air and the amount of flavor packed into the good-for-you food. But the menu also includes choices like burgers for the “nutritionally ambivalent. “2909 McKinney Ave., 214-855-5483. Inexpensive to moderate.

NorthSouth. Dallas fitness guru Larry North’s wife. Melanie Peskett North, has accomplished the seemingly impossible by creating a menu that would please her husband and people like us. Most menu items come “north” (low-fat) or “south’ (if you feel like dietary 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. Heading further south, the roast chicken with a fruity Grand Marnier sauce, was ordered, along with scrumptious mashed potatoes. The veal chop was smoky and tender, served with mushroom-rich risotto. The wine list was pretty impressive, even those available by the glass. 2800 Routh St.. 214-849-0000. Moderate.

New American

Americana. Chef Russell Hodges still rules the roost, turning out top-notch regional American food, but the place has been spiffed up and the atmosphere cozied. Black lacquer chairs, white tablecloths and soothing art now complement the distinctive cuisine, which includes a great variety of potatoes: balsamic, garlic mashed or garlic fried, truffled, waf-fie cut and more. Hodges clearly likes assertive flavors- his salmon carpaccio features fish that overwhelms the palate, but the accompan>mg 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 apple-wood-smoked bacon soup remains one of Dallas’ best creations. You can’t go wrong ending with the properly crusty crème brulée, presented on a lattice of raspberry and apricot sauces, 3005 Routh St., 214-871-2004. Moderate.

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. 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 roasted shallot vinaigrette, 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 blander than expected (a seasonal thing, perhaps?). Desserts were one up-a tongue-tingling Key lime pie, really terrific-and one down-warm peach-walnut cobbler, made with canned peaches, for 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? Reunion Tower. 300 Reunion Blvd.. 214-651-1234. Expensive.

Amu. The uncluttered feng shui decor induces relaxed pleasure, from granite-hued tabletops and intimate booth enclosures to the witty flock of bright-colored origami birds that flutter from the ceiling. Service supports the mood. too. with knowledgeable dish descriptions and friendly attention to small needs. Each dish on the menu is a compelling example of East meets-West culinary compatibility. One entree, mustard-crusted rack of lamb-five baby ribiets- on white beans with tomato and garlic, partnered with rosemary scented potatoes, was classically American; another, sake-marinated biack cod broiled to succulence and served on infant greens with grapefruit sections and Chinese black 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. 4620 McKinney Ave., 214-526-7398. Moderate.

Beau Nash. We’ve taken a sarcastic swipe or two at over-effusive menu descriptions. But now we’re moved to apologize after vainly seeking gustatory vibes in a bill of fare so tersely written we had to look to the food’s execution for enough excitement to Justify some of the loftier prices. We found it in a portobello tart, delectably grilled with crunchy fennel cubes and rich, musky juices in a buttery crust: and in the crisp-edged perfection of moist-hearted Atlantic salmon laid aslant atop mashed potatoes subtly spiked with horseradish on caper-strewn beurre blanc. We found it lacking in a carefully composed salad of virginal Belgian endive and not-so-virginal mache leaves-several of the latter had gone unforgivably dry and yellow with age alongside a gratuitous (and unadvertised) fan of avocado slices that seemed unsuited to the bitter greens. What we did appreciate was our waiter’s deleting charges for an entrée of angel hair pasta with garlic that didn’t quite mask the dismayingly aggressive [well, fishy, actually] flavor of flaked crabmeat that overshadowed the pasta’s mild basil pesto sauce. Service throughout, in fact, was immaculate, correct and uncommonly thoughtful enough to erase any negative food memories; let us dwell, Instead, on the marvelous bread, sweet butter, crisp linens and small attentions that gave us hope that we had just happened by on a below-par food evening. Hotel Crescent Court. 2215 Cedar Springs. 214-871-3240. Moderate to expensive.

City Cafe. 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 esco-lar or a seared-salmon salad. City Cafe also renders the classics well, like an hero-sprinkled omelet or a club sandwich packed with turkey, tomatoes and bacon. The menu changes every two weeks, but a few customer favorites, like the succulent tomato soup, appear regularly. Save room for homemade dessert. Also check out the award-winning wine list and the nice choice of after-dinner drinks. 5757 W. Lovers Ln.. 214-351-2233. Moderate. Dakota’s. Start with an appetizer sampler or warm home made 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 moz-zarella 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 quesadil-las followed by roasted salmon and chocolate pecan pie. 600 N. Akard St.. 214-740-4001. Moderate.

Huntington’s. This is one of the best 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 entree), and end your meal with a knockout of a crusty crème brulée. Watch out for the tame salad dressings, though. Westin Galleria, 13440 Dallas Pkwy,, 972-851-2882, Moderate to expensive.

Landmark Restaurant. A days-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 grilled Shiitake mushroom between Roma tomato halves, crumb-coated and fried, on baby greens dressed with basil-balsamic vinaigrette. Both were excellent, as was a smoky tomato soup dolloped with pale green basil cream-a 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 nicoise was studded with pressed kalamata olives that provided spirited accent to the gentle smoothness of the dressing, a vintage balsamic vinegar and saffron aioli. 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-521-5151. Moderate to expensive.

Laurels. As good as the food is, as sweeping the view, as welcoming the decor, what we’re still talking about is the faultless service. 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 lamb are regally presented, each with inventive sidekicks (dive into those mashed potatoes jazzed up with creamed roasted com). Souffles head the dessert list but offer more fluff than taste. NOTE: Get there quick as you can. Laurels Is scheduled to be closed June through September for renovation. Sheraton Park Central. 12720 Merit Dr., 972-385-3000. Expensive.

The Mansion on Turtle Creek. Chef Dean Fearing’s cuisine has been polished over the years so that the early brash-ness has evolved into a sophistication and balance that justify his international recognition. 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 roasted 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 hasll-creamed noodles; a curl of warm lobster and shrimp fritters with celery root in a salad dressed with truffle-tomato vinaigrette; pan-fried golden trout so succulent its 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. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd., 214-559-2100. Expensive.

Maple Avenue Cale. Pood here is regionally keyed to home cooking, stylishly updated but basically familiar: Shrimp cocktail is on the menu alongside ceviche. Good crusty rolls accompany Hie soup of Usa day, a deep-flavored cream of mushroom on our visit. Oven-roasted natural chicken, Madeira-sauced, comes with garlic mashed potatoes; sauteed sea bass, petal-tender and moist, is served on ribbons of lemon-buttered fettucine. A peanut butter tart carries a rich chocolate surprise; almond cheesecake is densely textured and satisfying. The house by-the-glass Mondavi wines-Cabernet, Chardonnay and Zinfandel- are surprisingly modest in price as. indeed, Is the food: Entrées start under $10. and the most expensive (two pounds of steamed lobster) is less than $20. 2616 Maple Ave., 214-871-1181. Moderate.

Nana Grill. In the Wyndham Anatole Hotel tower, 2201 Stemmons Fwy.. 214-761-7479. Expensive.

Natchez. 2810 N. Henderson Ave.. 214-821-4552. Inexpensive to moderate.

The Riviera. As always, owner-host Franco Bertolasi’s greeting is warmly effusive, the seating conferred as deferentially as if you were being knighted. As for food and service on our last visit, we knew the moment an airy avocado cream hors d’ouevre passed our lips that we were doomed, once again, to a near-flawless (and therefore difficult to describe without sounding, well, gushy) dining experience. Each dish seemed to outdo another-a starter of seared foie gras in Madeira wine sauce on leek risotto: chilled shrimp bisque was even better, its scented depths punctuated with avocado dice, its accompanying sunflower crackers crisp little rounds of nutty crunch. Yellow-fin tuna, marinated and grilled with apple-smoked bacon, hardly needed its accompaniment of lobster-caviar rémoulade; a pan-seared cut of salmon on fennel-seasoned white beans was crowned with a waffle of crisp phyllo layers-an Inspired touch of wit. We did find one fault here: The beans, al dente a la the current mode, were rather more so than we’d have preferred and-therefore, perhaps-had absorbed enough of the plate’s underlying horseradish putter sauce to obscure their own flavor. Food credits here mostly belong to Chef de Cuisine Michael Weinstein, one assumes, with Input from David Holben, now executive chef at sibling restaurants Méditerranée and Toscana as well as the Riviera. 7709 Inwood Rd., 214-351-0094. Expensive.

Rooster. David Burdette-former chef at The Grape-has drawn inspiration for Rooster from vittles from the old South, Burdette dubs this action “new American Southern cuisine.” which is actually a disciplined orchestration of traditional influences and imaginative diversions coupled with a deftly assembled wine list. The menu moves from fried green tomatoes (listless and bland) with Dallas mozzarelia, to Coca Cola-marinated venison loin (the Coke extracts gami-ness while it adds richness) to roasted double breast of chicken with Pontchartrain crab-meat stuffing. Rooster will continually emphasize seasonal game on its menu, so we sampled the braised wild pheasant, which-settled m a bowl of dark, rich hunters sauce with Southern Comfort-glazed baby onions, cracklings (pork fat) and shitake mushrooms-was moist, sweet, chewy and very hearty. Its molasses pecan-encrusted catfish is delicate, flavorful and void of any hint of the fish’s past. While the service was adequate, it lacked the pleasant, suffusively sincere atten-tiveness this Southern selling demands. Plus, our servers’ knowledge of the menu was jittery at best. Oak Grove and Lemmon avenues, 214-521-1234. Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday; dinner: 5:30-10 p.m., Sunday-Thursday. 5:30-11 p.m.. Friday & Saturday: brunch: 11 a.m. to 2;30 p.m., Sunday. Moderate to Expensive.

Seventeen Seventeen. At the Dallas Museum of Art’s new restaurant, the decor and food are both simply lovely. On a brunch visit, the tomato-Pernod broth was a muted masterpiece. A small comino-rubbed, baby lamb T-bone on musky black-chile mole sauce was splendid, and a com pudding tamale, creamy in its little shuck canoe, was ehanced by 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 a caramelized, oat meal-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 tri-1 angles, although a trifle tough, were nicely stuffed with com I 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-white layered mousse cake heaped with fresh raspberries and a trio of house brulées-mango-lime, raspberry-chocolate, orange with vanilla cream. 1717 N. Harwood St.. 214-922-1260. Moderate to expensive.

D REVISITS Yellow. Chef Avner Samuel has now returned to his roost at this seafood restaurant and. as usual, he’s naming his signature dishes. His crispy salmon ravioli tastes like salmon won ton and comes with a perky Ponzu dipping sauce. His lobster bisque, too, can’t be beat. The restaurant’s name is simple and to the point, and so is the chef. The menu includes tasty options like black onion seed-crusted lamb steak for those who don’t like seafood, but If you don’t like seafood you’ll miss out the tuna sashimi salad with caviar and pickled ginger. 2719 McKinney Ave.. 214-871-1772. Moderate. (Suzanne Hough)


Cale Pacific. 24 Highland Park Village, Preston Road and Mockingbird Lane, 214-526-1170. Moderate to expensive.

Daddy Jack’s. 1916 Greenville Ave., 214-826-4910. Mo-derate.

Daddy Jack’s Wood Grill. This Jack Chaplin restaurant I offers lively service and food that manage to combine homey familiarity with twists of near-elegance. For exam-| pie, a grilled red snapper topped with shrimp and lobster brandy could grace a tonier table, but here it’s served with ’ an ear of com. Ditto on the beef filet grilled with apple bacon and crowned with Roquefort butter and roasted walnuts. The Lobster Fra Diavolo is a heaping challenge of lobster, mussels, clams and shrimp. For lunch, try the memorable tomato and cran gazpacho or the tuna anointed with fresh mango and avocado. The one true disappointment was the chocolate mousse that was grainy, rock-hard and almost inedible on two separate visits. However, the smooth Key lime pie was refreshing. 2723 Elm St., 214-653-3949. Moderate.

Elghteen-0-One. 1801 N. Griffin St.. 214-720-2224. Inexpensive.

Rett. Back in midwinter, when my fax rolled out a menu for a new downtown Dallas restaurant daring to style itself “an upscale seafood restaurant,” I’d have bet against its survival. I’d have lost the bet. The food is as compelling as followers of chef Chris Svalesen’s career [from Scott’s Seafood to Ristorante Savino) would have laid odds it would be. On our visits, appetizers were poetry on the plate- house-smoked salmon, trout, oysters and shrimp a mini-banquet with red onion confit; a pan-fried Dungeness crab cake fall-apart tender and fresh-flavored; swordfish escabeche. toothsome bites of Arm flesh in a red-wine marinade spiked with cilantro, chilies and citrus tartness. Pepper-crusted yellow-fin tuna came as three noisettes, barely crisped outside rosy-roasted corn crust alongside crawfish tails in lusty Cajun beurre blanc. A delectable warm apple tart stands out in memory as the most repeatable dessert. The memory of Fish’s service lingers likewise as correct and warmly friendly.302 S. Houston St., 214-747-FISH. Lunch: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday-Friday; dinner: 5:30-10 p.m., Monday-Thursday: 5:30-11 p.m., Friday & Saturday; 5:30-10 p.m.. Sunday; brunch: 10:30a.m.-2:30 p.m., Sunday. Late menu, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. nightly. Moderate to expensive.

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 theappetizers. 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 dilled tartar sauce. Baked shrimp, stuffed with baby shrimp, crab and cracker crumbs, are served perched in ii wickedly good sauce, The service gets mined 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 1-pound lobster with baked potato and corn for $10.95. 4021 Belt Line Rd.. Addison, 972-774-9518. Moderate.

Lombard! Mara. You might just want to take a tour of this big, rectangular box of a room before you sit down; otherwise, you’ll be too distracted by the marine decor to eat. The restaurant’s version of focaccia-a thin, bubbly pizza crust topped with Parmesan and rosemary-led us to order an appetizer of pizza on another visit. 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. Light, crisp, tender and delicious, it couldn’t have been better, especially with its zesty tomato-caper dipping sauce. Of the main courses tried, only one disappointed: the bland, overcooked monkfish. Perfectly executed was the risotto di mare, with asparagus, scallops and shrimp: the pasta with a veal ragu would soothe any soul. The lighter crab and cheese soufflé, which arrived with unmentioned (but very appreciated) lobster sauce, was richly satisfying. The dessert list is extensive. The crème brulée is not, as promised, “the best m Dallas.” but the Tuscan bread pudding, which makes no such claim, just might be the best bread pudding in the city. 5100 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-503-1233, Moderate.

Mainstream Fish House. Mainstream will reel you in. just like it has such notables as Ross Perot and Roger Stau-bach-from the properly seasoned chowder studded with Juicy clams to the mouth-puckering Key lime tart sweetened by a dab of whipped cream and a mound of berries. Your best choice in between those two winners? The daily specials. This restaurant, a hands-on operation of owner Kelly Hagen and family (his dad owns the very popular fish market a few doors away), knows its fish, as does every employee, so take their recommendations and you can’t go wrong with specials. Tuesday night is lobster night, and a 1-pound beauty, accompanied by roasted potatoes and corn, is $14.95. Watch for the lobster lunch specials afterward, like lobster Louie salad or lobster enchiladas. Mainstream pays attention to every detail–it serves Empire Bakery’s incomparable bread and killer potato cakes, sautêed to a crisp on the outside, tender within and dotted with corn and bell peppers. Only the wimpy crème brulée disappoints. Excellent food, low prices and a thoroughly casual atmosphere (with decent choices of wine and beer) keep this homey little place to be packed for both lunch and dinner. Preston forest Shopping Center, 11661 Preston Rd.. Ste. 153, 214-739-3474. Moderate.

Newport’s. (New evening hours.) 703 McKinney Ave.. 214-954-0220. Moderate.

Picardys Shrimp Shop. Coconut tempure shrimp 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, black beans, white cheese and salsa, were light and chewy with wonderfully balanced flavors. Other Intriguing offerings that went untried were the shrimp and Cheddar grits, fried shrimp loaf and grilled shrimp tacos. Picardys’ wine offerings are mostly bo-hum standards save for a couple of exciting selections, but the beer list was fairly unimaginative, For dessert, the house-made peach cobbler and scoop of Haagen-Dazs was satisfyingly chewy, with a swift nutmeg finish. Picardys’ kid-friendly atmosphere is a plus; crayons, a coloring placemat. toys and a bright tray make the experience almost effortless, 6800 Snider Plaza, 214-373-4099. Inexpensive to moderate,

S&D Oyster Company. Serving fresh food for years, S&D has become a mainstay of Quality. The simple atmosphere complements the simple fare: oysters, shrimp, gumbo and fish. Oysters, its speciality, should definitely be sampled. Make your own tartar sauce or let your experienced waiter mix together the perfect blend of Ingredients right at your table. For lunch, try an oyster or shrimp loaf sandwich. For heartier meals, partake of broiled fish: fed snapper, trout or flounder, depending on what is available fresh. 2701 McKinney Ave., 214-880-0111. Moderate.


Plying Burro. Bringing his own style of New Mex^co-Mex to Dallas, owner Scott Cain has a neat sense of the cuisine’s essential basics. To Texas tongues, the most 3lien dish on the menu will probably be Winnie’s Killer Queso, a dark, spicy, burn-the-baby mélange of peppers. The fried jalapenos-uncommonly crisp and pickled, are filled with vinegary chicken and cheese, all hot as hell. The Burro’s sauces, In red or green, are gentler on me longue and add the right since to the chicken ami New Mexican enchiladas. Be wary, however, of the posole, which had been overcooked and oversalted when we visited. The pounded chicken breast also had been baked too long. 2831 Greenville Ave.. 214-827-2112. Inexpensive.

Sam’s Cafe. Pols of soft, poppyseed-studded breadsticks 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, wtile the dressing remains perkily authentic. The King Ranch Casserole, a palate-pleasing mixture of chicken, coin tortillas, roasted peppers, cheeses arid onions, makes an excellent takeout 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 thai the poblano 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. In the Preston Center Shopping Center. 8411 Preston Rd.. Ste. 112. 214-739-2288. Moderate.

Star Canyon. Superchef Stephen Pyles has a gift for slipping happy little surprises into even the most mundane-sounding dishes. 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 ils legendary imputation, grilled rare and sliced into rosy petals complemented by whipped yam and an assertive dried fruit empanada. Even as simple a dessert as bread pudding departs from the commonplace here. Service was friendly and fast, as always. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., 214520-7827. Moderate to expensive.

Y.O. Ranch. This food 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 Mex Platter. On the side, we found fresh grilled spinach extraordinarily fine and beautifully seasoned. 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 Man’s famed chile relleno. Desserts run the gamut from a wonderful pecan pie to a wretched, dense-as-lead lemon cake. 702 Ross Ave.. 214-744-3287. inexpensive to moderate,


Cafe Madrid. Apart from the house bread, which is totally undistinguished, every bite we sampled here was delightful. Besides the two dozen or so tapas always available, a daily changing blackboard lists as many more, including everything from potato omelet to crisp-fried baby smelt from wine-poached rabbit to blood sausage-and that last is a near-religious experience, the dark, crisp-skinned sausage stuffed with rice and onion, tilled with rich, meaty flavor, presented in double-bite-size morsels on herb-oiled cushions of bread. Try it with authentic Spanish manchego cheese, thin-sliced in crumbly mellow triangles, and stalks of white iiH|JE.iraj!.us dressed with tomato, onion- and green pepper-studded vinaigrette. If it’s a more conventional meal you’re after, a three-course dinner is offered nightly-cream of leek soup, veal stew and a cream-filled liqueur cake on our visit, paella on Friday and Saturday evenings. 4501 Travis St.. 214-528-1731. Moderate.


Bob’s Steak & Chop House. In addition to a lusty carnivorous appetite, be sure to bring your night-vision goggles to this chop house to keep from bruising your nose on the dark wood paneling or from slipping on the green carpeting. At least we think it’s green; it’s hard to tell because Bob’s decor reflects a vampirish fear of illumination. Still, this place dazzles with juicy, tasty cuts of meat-coupled with veggie and potato-and pleasant, attentive service. while its pricey wine list invokes ghoutish terror. Our filet, ordered medium, was many shades redder than our New York strip, ordered medium rare, Maybe they need to punch up the lumens In the kitchen, too. 4300 Lemmon Ave., 214-528-9446. Moderate to expensive.

D REVISITS Chamberlain’s Steak and Chop House. Some steakhouses are clubby. Some are suave. This one is-oh, put it this way; The first person we saw here, tablehopping with the party next to us. was Chuck Norris, a.k.a. Walker, Texas Ranger. Bemused as we were with such muscled eminence, our judgment of the place and the food may have been influenced, but the word that comes to mind for both is, well, virile, A for-two combo appetizer’s shared crabcake and brace of crunch-battered shrimp were definitive enough, but the housemade Worcestershire sauce thai spiked Portobello mushrooms redefined that condiment with stellar authority. Prime rib and a trimmed-to-lean ribeye were robustly rare and confidently complemented with the horseradish cream that partnered the former and garlic mashed potatoes that accompanied both. Sides of com kernels hand-cut off the cob and early-season asparagus delivered fresh texture and flavor: warm bread pudding cupped a spill of caramel that was just assertive enough to give the near-cliche dessert special character. Figure in service that was, if not clairvoyant, almost uncannily empathetic, and you’ll have some grasp of the comfortable ambience inert keeps chef/proprietor Richard Chamberlain’s cigar-friendly Addison outpost filled even on weekday evenings. 5330 Belt Line Rd.. Addison. 972-934-2467, Moderate. (Berty Cook)

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House. 5251 Spring Valley Rd., 972-490-9000. Expensive.

Kirby’s Steakhouse. 3525 Greenville Ave.. 214-821-2122. I Moderate to expensive.

Morton’s of Chicago. Understatement reigns here, from dark wood to etched glass, starched white linens and muted Sinatra, and there are more than 30 martini varieties. And, of course, there are steaks-big, beautiful Steaks. 501 Elm St,, 214-741-2277. Expensive,

The Palm. Monster steaks and lobsters are the main draw here. Prime rib on a recent visit was an overwhelming pi alter ful: 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: Out instead of the usual quarter-head chunk of lettuce, the plate held a mere slice this trip-an odd place to cut corners. A side of green beans was fresh and crunchy; chocolate layer cake was fine. 701 Ross Ave.. 214-6980470. Expensive.

Paul’? Porterhouse. 10960 Composite Dr., 214-357-0279. Expensive.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The sleeks, served on a platter sizzling with butter, come as either a filet [which we found a little too tender), a rib-eye. a New York strip, a porterhouse or a 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 Id order side dishes a la carte-Including eight types of potatoes-most of the side dishes will serve two. 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 a wine room for tastings. 17840 Dallas Pkwy., 972-250-2244. Expensive.

Stone Trail. The cre3trve appetizer list includes a crab cake combining a wealth of lump crab meat with zestful chile, served with 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 entrée with cheese-rich potato casserole or chile-jazzed whipped potatoes on the side. At lunch, Stone Trail serves a wonder lui quesadilla. 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.. 972-701-9600. Moderate to expensive.

Texas Land & Cattle Company. Night or day, this place jumps. and It has carved out its own Dallas niche with popular entrées like smoked sirloin, mesquite grilled trout and fried pickles. 3130 Lemmon Ave.. 214-526-4664. Moderate.


Chow Thai. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 144. Addison, 972-960-2999. Moderate.

Royal Thai. Accented with small lamps casting delicate pools of light, this is the prettiest of Dallas’ Thai restaurants. That old standby, lemon grass chicken, is skillfully executed, but try less familiar Hems. too. On a recent visit, one entree of crab, scallops, fish. shrimp, squid and peppers on curried rice was delightful. If there’s a drawback, it’s in the size of the portions, which are not large: consider appetizers if you’re really hungry. In Old Town, 5500 Greenville Ave., 214-691-3555. Inexpensive to moderate.

Thai-Thai. A near-full house on our last visit made noon service near-brusque and near-instant, but the fare suffered not at all-steamed Thai dumplings were frilled purses plumped with shrimp, pork and vegetables, served with a zesty dipping sauce. Tom Kha Gai (chicken coconut soup] was a miracle of subtle flavor interlacings. smooth coconut milk cushioning pepper heat and filled with white chicken strips, baby com, lemon grass, lime, citantro leaves and dark-capped little mushrooms. Pad Woon Sen heaped an entrée plate with stir fried glass noodles, chicken and every vegetable known to the Pacific Rim, plus rice and a crisp-skinned spring roll, alt for less than $5. 1731 Greenville Ave. at Ross, 214-828-9795. Inexpensive to moderate.

Toy’s Cafe. 4422-8 Lemmon Ave.. 214-528-7233. inexpensive.

Collin County

Betty’s Brisket and Gourmet Foods. At this lake-out shop, I order brisket or turkey as a meal complete with mashed ; potatoes, vegetables and bread: or order meat by the pound. Also: killer desserts, appetizers. 17390 Preston Rd., 972-931-9094. Inexpensive.

Covino’s. Buried deep inside a series of strip malls, Covino’s Pasta and Pizza draws raves 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 calzones especially good and stars again in an appetizer stuffed with meat, cheese and spinach. Past3s, especially the hearty lasagne and tortellini with pesto, earn high marks due to their sprightly sauces. Meatball subs can’t be beat but. like all sandwiches here, require a hearty appetite. Owner Joe Co-vino (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, 972-519-0345. Inexpensive.

El Norte. The decor varies from the authentic look of specials painted directly on the walls to cheesy plastic flamingos in the flower boxes, but some solidly good food comes out of the kitchen. Great starters include the white queso sauce and chips or the jalapeno poppers, The restaurant serves terrific roasted chicken thai can be ordered as a dinner or in Mexican specialties like enchiladas. This is a great family spot with a reasonable all-you-can-eat special. 2205 W. Parker Rd-, Piano, 972-596-6783. Inexpensive.

Fresh ’N Lite, Healthful menu thai includes more than a dozen salads, but also burgers and corn dogs. 6150 Frankford Rd.. 972-713-8167. Inexpensive.

Kostas Cafe. Greek cuisine. 4621 W. Park Blvd.. Piano. 972-596-8424. Moderate.

Mac’s Bar & Grill. Burgers, steaks, excellent, moist fried Chicken. 2301 N. Central Expwy., Piano, 972-881-2804. Inexpensive to moderate.

Mediterraneo. Chef David Holben’s exquisite culinary artistry, a casualty elegant decor and efficient, non-stuffy service combine to create a sublimely magical Medierranean bistro that’s a cousin to the very successful Riviera. Of particular interest: Mediterraneo’s $9.95 luncheon menu includes appetizer and entree. 18111 Preston Rd. at Frank-, ford. Ste. 120. 972-447-0066. Moderate to expensive.

Modo Mio. The appetizers and entrees score high marks and showcase two recurring themes: excellent seafood and sauces that need more seasoning. We enjoyed the tame but well-prepared Caesar, and the clam chowder held a wealth of tender clams, but one needed to be punched up with garlic and anchovies and the other with Tabasco sauce and pep per, A calamari appetizer dazzled us with the stellar quality of this often-overcooked squid. A shrimp entrée featured crustaceans that were far better than their bland tomato sauce; a smoked salmon appetizer’s fish deserved better than ils accompaniments. The careful attention that’s being given to the seafood needs to be shown to the rest of the dishes. Fortunately that careful attention surfaces again in the signature desserts, hollowed-out fruit halves filled with creamy sorbets. One sore point about Modo Mio-as much as we liked it, you can rack up quite a bill pretty quickly. Prices need to drop before il will become the neighborhood hang-out with reliably good food that we all crave. 18352 Dallas Pkwy., Ste. 112, 972-671-M0D0. Moderate.

Nakamoto. Service tends to range from the sublime to the abrupt at this stylish, roomy North Piano institution, but cuisine remains uniformly excellent. Japanese food neophytes can be comfortable with traditional, lightly fried ternpura offerings or “bento” box lunches-samplings of tender beef or chicken teriyaki. sautéed salmon batayaki or kara age (delicate fried chicken) and California rolls. More adventuresome diners will be rewarde by appetizers of karariage (flounder wrapped in seaweed then lightly fried) or succulent, salty soft-shell crab. Sushi and sashimi are all perfectly sliced and presented with proper panache: Experiment with dragon rolls, unagi (eel) hand rolls, or ask the sushi master to fix something fun. 3309 N. Central Eupwy. at Parker Road, Piano. 972-881-0323. Moderate.

Piano Café. Choose the mixed green salad instead of the Caesar and opt for the zingy raspberry vinaigrette. A feast of vegetables accompanies each generous meal, and most people leave loaded with leftovers. Juicy, freshly grilled roast chicken with ted 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, including a warm French apple pie (homemade, like everything else here] accompanied by Chambord/Frangelico ice cream, whipped cream and berries. 1915 N. Central Expwy.. Ste. 500, Piano, 972-516-0865, Moderate.

Piano Tortilla Factory & Cafe. No alcohol here, but savor the starters, then quesadillas, taquitos. combination plates. Take-out, too. 1009 E. 18th St.. Piano. 972-423-6980. Inexpensive.

Poor Richard’s Cafe. Home-cooked food, featuring a huge breakfast spread. 2442 Ave. K at Park Boulevard, Piano, 972-423-1524. Inexpensive.

Randy’s Steakhoute. A meal in this cozy, Victorian home-tumed-restaurant can make you feel like you’re having dinner at a friend’s home. But your friends have never served steaks like these. Graded prime and cut by hand, these beauties tasted rich and buttery. Filets. New York strips and rib-eyes are each offered in two sizes, or opt for the 26-ounce corterhouse. The marbling that characterizes prime meat makes these steaks some of the juiciest around, The 10 seafood selections offer plenty of alternate choices, and all meals come with rich, cheesy potatoes au gratin or a baked potato and fresh vegetables. Ignore the thoroughly tasteless Caesar and the supermarket-style bread. Start your meal instead with a good tossed salad (try the chunky blue-cheese dressing) or an appetizer-size order of crab cakes-pure comfort food. The bread pudding with Jack Daniels sauce is heavenly mainly because of the lush cinnamon ice cream that topped it. The word “homemade” pops up on Randy’s menu a lot-from the sauces and dressings to the batter on the onion rings and the stuffing in the jalapenos to the peach cobbler. 7026 Main St., Frisco, 972-335-3066.Moderate to expensive.

Red, Hot & Blue. 5017 W. Piano Pkwy., Ste. 100, Piano. 972-248-3866. Barbecue: inexpensive.

Saigon Savour. The cuisine here combines Mediterranean and Asian influences, but the San Francisco owners need to realize that Dallas palates are used to piquancy. We also found ourselves wishing tor vegetables, which the Vietnamese cooks usually prepare with finesse. 17370 Preston Rd., Ste. 490, 972-380-2766. Moderate.

Sea Grill. Asian accents are subtly woven Into this seafoodintense menu, where every bite surprises-a touch of

I 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 dairy specials: just order it quickly before they run out. Hunks of sweet lobster meat 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 the good house salad. The setting may be strip mall-pedestrian, but the food, tight 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 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. 972-509-5542. Moderate.

Spiro’s New York Cafe. Everything at this dell is the real thing, like the homemade bagels, the cheddar (not processed), the butter (not margarine) and the homemade hot dog buns. That hamburger is even served on a hefty Kaiser roll, none of that white fluff that can fall apart. But stay away from the sautêed potatoes and the egg, breakfasts that we found woefully undercooked. Try instead the crusty potato pancakes or a cheese blintz with the huge cup of coffee you’re served here. But it’s the sandwiches and salads that are the stars, and Spiro’s offers full dinners such as veal parmigiana. beef goulash and stuffed cabbage. 700 E. 15th St., Piano. 972-881-2959. Inexpensive.

TuppeeTong. Thai cuisine. The Village at Collin Creek, 621 W. Piano Pkwy.. Ste. 247. Piano, 972-509-7979. InexpensiveUncle Chow. The menu might be small at this takeout place, but the flavor’s all there, especially if you start with the pan-fried chicken dumplings, jam-packed with tender white meat. Both the won ton soup and the fried rice score high culinary marks. Moo shu is packed the sensible way- the pancake wrappers separate from the sauce, separate from fillers-allowing customers to serve themselves non-soggy food. Fried rice features chunks of shrimp; spring rolls offer plenty of both chicken and shrimp; and the appetizers can substitute as full meals. 19021 Midway Rd., 972-306-CHOW. Inexpensive.

Tarrant County

Angelo’s Barbecue. 2533 White Settlement Rd., Fort Worth, 817-332-0357. Inexpensive.

Benito’s. Like a familiar old friend, Benito’s appearance may be spruced up from time to time, but the food does not change. The queso flameado. with or without chorizo. is flamed tableside and served with fresh pico de gallo and hot flour or corn tortillas. Order it first and then spend some time with the menu-everything on it is worth trying. The enchiladas can be ordered with mole rojo or mole verde. The chiles rellenos, stuffed with white cheese or beef, are a delight. The fajitas are well marinated and never so overcooked that the subtle marinade flavor is lost. The tacos are big, fresh and tilling. 1450 W. Magnolia, Fort Worth, 817-332-8633. Moderate.

Bistro Louise. We’ve rarely found food wonderful enough to warrant a 40-mile return trip, but here the tea-smoked duck-moist and fat-free, its satin skin smoked black and its luscious meat’s near-sweetness offset by a tart cranberry-port salsa-is such a dish. But almost everything we tried here was just as stellar. Other standouts range from Louise’s signature salad to a vegetable tower of peas, diced pepper and smoked corn kernels to a Mediterranean seafood paella. Only one starter fell short; Lettuce timbales weren’t zipped enough with their minted tomato vinaigrette to be interesting. Desserts, lemon coconut cake and a reverse chocolate cake, were humdingers. 2900 S. Hulen (south from 1-30}. Fort Worth, 817-922-9244. Moderate to expensive.

Cacharel. Country French as to decor, city haughty as to service, this fixed-price ($34.50| refuge easily tops Arlington’s dining scene with its ninth-floor business building location as well as its New French cuisine. Our last visit, however, found the usually striking view blocked by closed blinds and the fare less arresting than we’ve had here before. As too often happens, our meal peaked with first-course selections-sautêed sea scallops were butter-tender and beautifully sparked with goat cheese and tomato ravioli on a creamy cilantro sauce; the soup du jour’s red bell pepper pure was cream-free, its deep, roasted flavor intense. Roast duck breast slices lay rare as jewels on a Grand Marnier sauce-but oui other entrée, sautêed mahi mahi on lobster cream delivered only blandness. Ditto desserts, a mango Bavarian mousse cake and a vanilla bean tart, both undistinguished. This year’s self-financed Zagat surveyors were right to rank this popular place Arlington’s best, but to put its food second only to The Riviera’s in both Dallas and Fort Worth? Oh, please, 2221 E. Lamar, Ste. 910. (Metro) 817-640-9981. Expensive.

Casa Jose. The best Tex-Mex cafe in Arlington offers all the regular Tex-Mex dishes but specializes in soft flour tortilla tacos. Their thick, slightly chewy, warm, handmade flour tortillas offer a tasty base from which to build a taco. Casa Jose isn’t good enough to merit a drive from Dallas or Fort Worth (you’d pass as good or better Tex-Mex on the way), but if you’re in the area, try it. 2030 S. Cooper, Arlington, (metro) 817-265-5423, Inexpensive.

City Park Cafe. 2418 Forest Park Blvd.. 817-921-4567. Moderate.

Daddi’s Downtown Nearly Jazz Cafe. Like the music its name celebrates, this cafe provides a constantly evolving riff on the theme of service-sometimes it’s (aster than other times. But the Greek salad is the best in town, and the rest of the menu gives a unique Texas tone to classic Greek specialties. Breakfast and lunch only, except on Friday and Saturday, when you can listen to great music at night while enjoying your dinner. 715 W. Magnolia, 817-926 7000. Inexpensive.

8.0 Restaurant & Bar. This Sundance Square sibling to the Dallas location has a Southwestern/New American menu, a busy bar and decor that features wall murals by Fort Worth artists. Ill E. 3rd St., 817-336-0880. Inexpensive.

Gaylen’s. Meat is king at Gaylen’s; a complete range of barbecue possibilities is offered-beef, sausage, ham. pork loin, chicken, salami and bologna. Side dishes are undistinguished, but dessert cobblers are worth saving room for. 826 N. Collins. Arlington, 817 277-1945. Inexpensive.

Joe T. Garcia’s Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery. Not as fancy as its more famous cousin around the corner on North Commerce, the chefs do an excellent job preparing all the old favorites from burritos to tamales. Don’t overlook the soups here: The caldo de res, a homestyle soup with carrots, potatoes and squash, is delicious and filling. The frijoles a la char-ra are also above average-they are made with flair and spici-ness. Breakfast is a work of art here. Chorizo con huevo {Mexican sausage and eggs| can be ordered with potatoes, ham, bacon or pork skin. And on your way out. the bakery, in an alcove off the dining room, sells traditional Mexican breads, rolls and sweet rolls. 2122 N. Main, Fort Worth. 817-625-5770, Moderate.

Joe T. Gardas Mexican Dishes. Probably the Fort Worth restaurant best known to Dallasites. Joe Ts is a place Fort Worthers take their out-of-town guests if they insist, but there is much better Mexican food to be had in Fort Worth. However, if it’s atmosphere you want for a big party, Joe Tvs does an excellent job of feeding large groups decent food in record time. Mariachi players stroll among the diners and will take requests. On a nice night, Joe T’s patio can’t be beat-it’s one of Fort Worth’s best outside dining experiences. Food is served family style and it rarely varies. Solid and dependable. Cash and local checks only. 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817-6264356. Moderate.

Kowloon Seafood Restaurant. 100 W. Pioneer Pkwy., Arlington. (metro) 817-261-6699. Moderate.

Le Char donna y. Entrées are to swoon over, like Les Patés aux Fruits de Mer “Primavera”-fish, shrimp and scallops sautéed in an olive oil vinaigrette with vegetables, served over fettuccine. and the grilled fresh tuna from the daily specials menu-the generous portion came with a dill-white wine sauce that caused tiny explosions of flavor with each bite. Desserts should not be missed-especially a concoction called “The African Queen” that looked somewhat like a banana burrito, consisting of a banana rolled up in pastry, covered with a caramel sauce. 2443 Forest Park Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-926-5622, Moderate,

Lucile’s-A Stateside Bistro. 4700 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth. 817-738-4761. Moderate.

Michael’s. 3413 W. 7th St., Fort Worth. 817-877-3413. Expensive.

Reata. Dripping in western paraphernalia, like rusty ranch gear, ropes, saddles, hats and cowhide-covered chairs, this restaurant on the 35th floor of the Bank One Tower has a wonderful view of Sundance Square and the Trinity River. But neither the food nor the service live up to the expectations evoked by the decor or by the rave reviews it’s received. We were disappointed with appetizers: The horseradish with cornmeal-crusted oysters and the three onion marmalade with bacon-wrapped shrimp were too bland. On two visits, the Texas T-bone and the Mesquite grilled ribeye we ordered were undercooked, while the pan-seared salmon was overdone. Desserts almost redeemed the day. Chocolate torte with blackberry sauce, apple crisp with caramel sauce and bunuelos with raspberry Cointreau, all served with vanilla ice cream, were scrumptious. If ambience matters more than food and service, give Reata a try. 500 Throckmorton, Fort Worth, 817-336-1009. Moderate to expensive.

Rickshaw Chinese Restaurant. 1229 Wood Haven Blvd.. Fort Worth. 817-496-6767. Inexpensive to moderate.

Star of Texas Grill. In the Worthington Hotel. 200 Main St., Fort Worth, 817-882-1719. Moderate.

Sundance Dell & Market. There is no better spot in Sundance Square for a casual, imaginative brunch, lunch or dinner, Basic offerings include sandwiches, salads, breakfast, gourmet coffees and homemade desserts. In addition to the regular menu with its rotating salad offerings, dinner specials are available on Friday and Saturday nights; the menu of specials for the month is posted on the outside window. On a recent visit, we sampled salads including a zesty roasted potato salad in a homemade vinaigrette, a lemon pepper chicken and spaghetti salad, and an outstanding jicama and mango slaw. Tasty tortilla soup came with shredded Cheddar covering the cup and a generous amount of tortilla chips nestled in the cheddar on one side. This is the rare restaurant that’s quick enough for just a bite, but whose smartly minimalist decor, great coffee and excellent food make it perfect for lingering. 353 Throckmorton, Fort Worth, 817-335-3354. Inexpensive.

Uncle Julio’s. Portions are generous as well as delicious. For an appetizer, the queso flameado can be had with chorizo, with peppers, mushrooms and onions, or with mesquite grilled chicken or beef. There are lots of combination plates to choose from, but you can be confident that whatever mix you pick, the enchiladas, tacos, tamales and flautas will be wonderfully spicy. Customers can watch tortillas being made at the front of the restaurant and then enjoy eating them. 5301 Camp Bowie Blvd. at West Freeway. Fort Worth. 817-377-2777. Inexpensive.

Waiter Street Seafood Company. Near the TCU campus. 1540 S. University Dr.. Ste. 120. Fort Worth, 817-877 3474. Moderate to expensive.

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