Restaurant Reviews

NEWCOMERS



BIZú

Can you say, “Allons en France”?

Remember ris de veau, moules frites, soupe l’oignon, quiche, paté?

You ’d better brush up on your French-it’s back. Dishes from the days when wine was burgundy, chablis, or rose instead of cabernet, chardonnay, or white zin are coming back to menus, more casually than the last French wave, but just as stylishly. There’s a pile of pasta between your palate and these rich flavors, but we advise you to get used to it. Bizú, prophetically replacing Coco Pazzo on McKinney, is the first of the Gallic flood we’ve been predicting-more and more French restaurants will be opening in the next few months as we move back along the Mediterranean in our mouth. Bizú is the chic creation of the experienced Alberto Lombardi-an Italian, yes, but a restaurateur even more, trained in Belgium and in continental restaurants.

Lombardi was having supper at the bar the first night we ate at Bizú; the hostess was slow to show, and he swooped in like a peregrine, napkin still in hand, to greet us and show us to a table, glaring at the hostess as she puffed up just too late. We were seated, incredibly, on a white leather banquette in one of the stunning, brick-walled dining rooms. Furnished with blonde hardwood floors and bistro woven cane chairs in shades of cream (the little black dress of a dining room-dressy indoors and casual outdoors), the room overlooks a patio fenced in plexiglass to keep out the street noise. The second dining room moves toward French Moroccan with white pillowed banquettes and candle-lined mirrors on the walls (tilted so if you are facing the wall, you don’t miss any of the bar action), Three softly-lit, gauze-swagged booths are also pillowed in white. Asked the big question–does he worry about red wine on all the white-Lombardi says, “We have two of everything, and all the pillows are reversible to deal with immediate spills.” (We suspect we should give him Mother’s phone number, just in case.)

It’s a bistro-you can order omelettes for lunch (we liked the tomato-basil one), steak tartare, and pommes frites (the trend is to eat them with Dijon, though Lombardi prefers homemade mayonnaise), and onion soup (unfortunately, the stock tasted weak). Bread was not as fresh as it should be-it had been warmed a little too far in advance. But the patés, a smooth-as-cream chicken liver mousse and a coarse country meat loaf, were wonderful, fragrant, and spicy, a great lunch with the Bizú salad: a toss of pear slivers, mature spinach leaves, feta, and raspberry vinaigrette.Alunch salad with salmon was one of those weedy ones with leaves too frilly and big to eat gracefully. We ’re still out on whether the quiche revival is a good thing-the pucklike quiche Florentine we were served tasted like take-out from La Madeleine, but perhaps the kitchen can make them just a little more a la minute intime.

Sangria is an odd addition to an odd list of beverages, which includes variations on the champagne cocktail.

Our evening coq au vin had me same problem as the onion soup-a pallid stock-but the meat of the demi-boned half bird was moist and showed both skin and bones, elusive components of a chicken these days. Sweetbreads were delicately breaded, sautéed, and lightly tender, and calves’ liver was dark and rich. Luxury of luxuries, we left for our Museum lecture after dinner and returned for dessert, lending a real cosmopolitan meaning to me term “arts district.” And the desserts were wonderful-a poached pear with barely bitter warm chocolate sauce, ice-cream-filled profiteroles drizzled with the same, and a homemade Napoleon, layers of butter-crisp pastry layered with cream and fresh fruit. Bienvenue, Bizú. Bizú, 2504 McKinney Ave., 214-303-1002. $$.



THAI GARDEN

For several months we’d heard rumors that Annie Wong, Dallas ’ grande dame of Thai cuisine, was opening a restaurant in North Dallas, but details were sketchy. One day, we were driving down Campbell and noticed a canvas sign with the word Thai on it being hoisted over a door. Acting as the culinary sleuths we like to believe we are, we hooked a quick u-turn and discovered Thai Garden, formerly China Garden.

The interior is nothing like Wong’s glamorous Liberty-just basic white tablecloths and plastic flower bud vases-but the menu is more casual, too. Thai Garden serves home-style Thai, and the surroundings make the food less intimidating. We learned from manager Dee that they purposefully left the space as it was to make it less intimidating to new customers. Ms. Wong and her partner Rosie Thothong were concerned about opening a Thai restaurant in the meat and potatoes country north of LBJ. They have cleverly played it safe by keeping the Chinese chef and adding a Wong-trained Thai chef. The restaurant menu is Thai, and me takeout menu is mostly Chinese. Regular customers, of course, have to be educated to Thai cuisine, so the restaurant uses guerrilla tactics, like slipping in Thai samples with Chinese takeout orders, hoping to win them over.

We were the only customers the night we visited Thai Garden, so we over-ordered, claiming we’d take the leftovers to a fictional houseful of out-of-town guests, just to give the kitchen someone to cook for. Within minutes, a beautiful plate of beef satay skewered and grilled was served with a light creamy peanut sauce-it was so good, we ordered a container to take home. There’s always less to talk about when the food is good, so we ate in rare silence. The Gaeng Daeng-red curry with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, green pepper, and sweet basil, was spiced just right so that when we closed our eyes after a bite, the taste swirled in our mouth like a fine bottle of wine as it moves over the different parts of your tongue.

Several nights later, we ordered-in Chinese, a ritual we reserve for nights when we are willing to settle for a mediocre meal. Fearing banality, we ordered some generic dishes like Hunan Chicken and Pork Lo Mein, and we got top-notch versions of both. The sliced chicken breasts were lightly coated in a hot Hunan sauce, and the broccoli was the fragile Chinese broccoli, not thick florets. Even the usually lowly Lo Mein was an elegant mixture of soft noodles, bean sprouts, cabbage, and celery in a silky broth. Thai Garden’s version of orange beef, usually translated as chicken-fried beef swimming in sweet sauce, was deliciously tender, lightly fried pieces, sautéed in a spicy sauce with orange peel.



The final treat was a bowl of rice pudding made with sweetened black rice blended with a salty sweet coconut milk, topped with fresh lotus seed and fruit. Thai Garden, 6090 Campbell Rd., Ste. 124,972-248-8861. $-$$.

JOSHELE’S

Joshele’s doesn’t look like much from the outside-there’s a green neon sign on the big boxy building, which anchors a strip mall. The interior verges on tacky: The hostess stand is surrounded by two fountains-one oriental-style with a mist machine, the other a modem glass block with a gurgling frog. All the plants are plastic, and the ceiling is lined with big can track lights that flicker with the cycle of the dishwasher. The dining room and the step-up bar are divided by a fancy, glass etched divider left over from PoPoLo’s (if you look closely at the design, you can make out the word “PoPoLo’s” in die glass). And what about the name, Joshele? It’s an anagram of the owner’s name, with a French accent. Then again, maybe it fits the concept of a fine “Texas French Supper Club.”

We settled into a booth next to the piano player, who was singing “Scotch and Soda”. Some guy, who obviously had been drinking too much scotch and not enough soda, pulled a chair up beside the piano, put 10 bucks cash in the tip glass, and mumbled, “What time do you get off?” We looked at each other, took a deep breath, and tried to remain objective.

Our waiter approached. When he didn’t know the answers to our questions, he made them up. We asked, “Where do you get your crab claws?” Without flinching, he answered, “They’re stone crab, and all stone crabs come from Maine,” as he poured our wine to the top of our glass.

We scanned me menu-Surf and Turf with French twists. Executive chef Todd Nelson designed the menu to be “comfortable to Texans” (which is really a nice way of saying that he didn’t want to rock the Dallas palate too much) by combining familiar meats with classic cooking techniques of France to make them more exciting. We ordered “the stone claws from Maine” and were shocked when we were served three large, tender claws, perfectly moist and a bargain at $ 17. (Chef Nelson later confirmed they ’re fresh from Florida. ) A lobster bisque with ginger cream sauce arrived, and despite the fact that it wasn’t hot enough (soup never is anymore), the gentle lobster flavor was lightly creamed with a slight hint of ginger.

The wine list is divided into Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, and “Others,” which mostly consists of the usual mid-priced California suspects. We did find a delightful La Vigne Blanch Bourgeois ’96, reasonably priced at $35 and a perfect pairing with our stone crabs.

The Atlantic salmon was thinly crusted with fine bread crumbs, mixed with horseradish, and served with roasted Fingerling potatoes on a bed of sautéed Swiss chard. However, not everything was more than it seemed; We were disappointed in the recommended grilled center cut of beef, which came charred on the outside and was served atop a mountain of garlic mashed potatoes and a demi-glace sauce spiced with gorgonzola. Each time we cut into the meat, the potatoes squished to the side-not a pretty sight. And the accompanying haricot verts advertised on the menu turned out to be regular Blue Lake green beans. Joshele’s, 1401 Preston Rd., 972-713-0383.$$-$$$.



BARBECUE



Baker’s Ribs. Nothing fancy about this place. Load up your tray with piles of sliced beef, pork, turkey, chicken, cayenne-seasoned St. Louis-cut ribs, and the usual side dishes: potato salad, cole slaw, and beans. We still prefer the Commerce Street location. 2724 Commerce St., 214-748-5433; multiple locations. $.



Peggy Sue Barbecue. This ’50s-style joint in Snider Plaza is serving some of the best BBQ in town. Terrific appetizers include Texas Torpedoes-cream cheese-filled fried jalapenos. Baby back ribs, chicken, Polish kiel-basa sausage, and brisket are smoked to perfection. Vegetables, usually second-class in the macho world of meat, go first-class here. 6600 Snider Plaza, 214-987-9188. $.



Sammy’s Barbecue. Barbecue for the banking crowd at bankers’ hours. Everyday at lunch, Sammy’s is full of white-collar types, lies thrown over their shoulders, chowing on great red-stripe brisket, ribs, and homemade Mom-style pie. No, really-Sammy’s is a family-run enterprise, and all the Pritchards pitch in. 2326 Leonard St., 214-880-9064. $.



D BEST Sonny Bryan’s. For 40 years.

Sonny Bryan’s meaty ribs, moist brisket, and classic barbecue sauce have been the standard by which all other Dallas barbecue is judged. For the classic barbecue experience, return to the original Inwood Road joint, sit on the hood of your car, and gnaw on tender smoked ribs, chopped beef, and giant onion rings. 2202 Inwood Rd., 214-357-7120; multiple locations. $.



BAKERY/SANDWICHESComer Bakery. Dallas has a number of excellent bakeries now, but the Corner Bakery holds its own. Country loaves are crusty, and the sweet stuff is all excellent. And the Bakery has a cafe side, serving pizza, tomato-sauced pasta, and sandwiches. 13350 N. Dallas Pkwy., Ste. 2443, 972-934-7001; multiple locations. $.



Highland Park Pharmacy. We can only describe the Pharmacy atmosphere as reassuring. Some people love the Palm Beach (pimiento cheese to you) sandwich or the tuna salad with cherry cokes. For us. the grilled cheese is the only thing-the American slices melted to glue, the bread buttery and crisp. Chips are extra; sodas and milkshakes are priceless. Lunch only. 3229 Knox St.. 214-521-2126.$.



A sandwich can be just a sandwich, but at Street’s it’s more like a meal. Fresh ingredients are key: Turkeys, roasts, and desserts are baked on the spot. As for the sides, Chinese sesame noodles, cole slaw, and potato salad are fine filler, But you might skip those and go straight from your sandwich to the rum cake. If you’re lucky it will still be warm, with the rum freshly sprinkled on top. 4246 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-2505; multiple locations. $.



BREW PUBS

The Rock Bottom Brewery. Generous appetizers could make their own meal, especially the asia-go cheese dip or signature green pork chili. Six regular brews range from ultra-light (Coyote Western Ale and Palomino Pale Ale) to deep and roasty (Pelican Brown Ale and our fave, Roadrunner Stout). 4050 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-404-7456. $$.



Routh Street Brewery. This place has thrived because the food is as good as the beer. The food, with a German-Texas accent, complements beer and wine equally well. The pork chop is big, juicy, and pink; ale-steamed mussels are plentiful and aromatic; and the vegetable Reuben (ask for it-it’s not on the menu) is a brilliant invention-carroway-scented sauerkraut with melted Swiss on dark pumpernickel. 3011 Routh St., 214-922-8835. $$.

BURGERS

Angry Dog. The menu is standard bar cuisine, including some great burgers, nachos, and sandwiches, but it extends to include some inspiring options. The Angry Dog-a grilled, all-beef hot dog split and served open-faced, covered with grilled onions, chili, and cheese-is truly fantastic and a bargain at $4.50. For serious beer drinkers, there are 120 beers to choose from. 2726 Commerce St., 214-741-4406.$.

Chip’s Old-fashioned Hamburgers. Perhaps Dallas’ best rendition of the all-American hamburger is served at Chip’s. Both locations have an atmosphere as wholesome as a Beach Boys song, and the food is fast and fresh, too. A return to a time of innocence, when a good time could be fueled by nothing more than fries and a shake. The skinny onion rings, rich pig sandwich, and hot dogs are just lagniappe. 4501 Cole Ave., 214-526-1092; 4530 Lovers Ln., 214-691-2447. $.



The Prince of Hamburgers. The crispy-edged, toasty bun, the slim but beefy-tasting, just-cooked patty, and the simple but fresh garnitures combine to make the quintessential American sandwich. Prince sticks to the classic accompaniments: thick shakes, incredibly frosty root beer, fries, and fabulous onion rings, all brought to you by a real live person. 5200 Lemmon Ave., 214-526-9081.$.



Purple Cow. This burger-and-shake diner uses Blue Bell ice cream and features 10 flavors of milkshakes, including the signature Purple Cow and the Peanut Butter and Jelly. The Blue-Cheeseburger is a great variation on standard soda-shop fare, dripping with rich, creamy blue cheese. But the reason we’ll go back is the grilled Palm Beach-a hot pimiento cheese sandwich that oozes down your arms. It’s worth the price of the dry cleaning bill. 110 Preston Royal Village, 214-373-0037 $.



Snuffer’s. The burgers and frosty brew are a ; sensory way-back machine for those who thought the university years were the prime of their life. They probably were, if you continue to eat things like Snuffer’s cheese fries (a bas-ket of deep-fried strips, covered in gloriously greasy cheese), because you can’t last long if you eat this way often. 3526 Greenville Ave., 214-826-6850; 14910 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-991-8811.$.



Stoneleigh P. Everyone smuggles in ketchup because the place proudly and oddly refuses to serve it. But even the contraband ketchup can’t help the boring, meatless garden burger, and the homemade potato chips are not as good as Zapp’s out of the bag. The best thing about the Stoneleigh’s rancho deluxe burger, served on an equally crumbly “rustica” bun, was the chipotle : mayonnaise. Maybe that explains the condiment ban. 2926 Maple Ave., 214-871-2346.$.



CAJUN/CREOLE



Crescent City Cafe. Crescent City still dishes out : solid New Orleans chow in authentic French | Quarter surroundings. Though the fried food | can be spotty, the gumbo’s rich and the po’ ; boys are consistently good. 2615 Commerce : St., 214-745-1900. $.



Margaux’s. Cafe Margaux owner Kay Agnew has reopened yet again, in a smaller space wearing a suitably shorter name and with a menu that includes lunch on weekdays and din-ner on Thursday only. Shrimp and sausage gumbo is the real thing, and cornmeal-crusted oysters are crisp-skinned delights. 2404 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-740-1985.$$.



CHINESE



Arc-En-Ciel. The kitchen employs separate cooks for the Chinese and Vietnamese fare. but everyone really goes there to eat Vietnamese. Our last meal we ordered in a leisurely way. a few dishes at a time-pristine Imperial rolls; shrimp pounded and molded on sugarcane; grilled pork to roll in i rice paper with rice noodles, cilantro, mint, lettuce, and sprouts-each dish delightful, fresh, excellent. 3555 W. Walnut St., Garland, 972-272-2188.$-$$.



Cathy’s Pacific. Chef/nutritionist Cathy Liu con-tinues to succeed in combining authentic Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese techniques with healthy twists. The best dish we’ve tried is the Szechuan Shrimp: fresh shrimp stir-fried with corn, sweet peppers, and onions lightly coated in a black bean sauce. The dishes we i ordered “extra hot” were not, so if you like your food scorching, ask the kitchen to crank it up. 5950-A Royal Lane at Preston, 214-739-3378. $-$$.

rants. Stay away from the neon sweet and sour stuff, and you’ll be happy. 4848 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-392-9998. $-$$.



New Big Wong. Large lunches are served here in fast-food time, but a leisurely dinner rewards experimentation. The menu is large, and largely authentic, serving a wide variety of wiggly sea creatures. The setting is plain and the service friendly. 2121 S. Greenville Ave., 214-821-4198.$-$$.



Taiwan. Taiwan has had the same chef, owner, and location for 18 years, so it must be doing something right. The Princess Beef-delicate strips of beef with crunchy celery cubes and peanuts in a hot, spicy brown sauce-tastes as good as it looks. And the hot and sour soup is delicious, with fresh shrimp and pork, and mercifully lacking in that disconcerting, jiggly cornstarch texture that so often makes us push our bowl away. 4980 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-387-2333.$-$$.



Uncle Tai’s Hunan Yuan. Not much has changed here over the past 15 years. Bow-tie clad waiters still formally dish out classic hot Hunan specialties tableside. Past favorites still shine, including the Crispy Beef with broccoli sizzling in spicy orange sauce and Uncle Tai’s Chicken flamed with jalapenos lightly coated with black bean sauce served on a bed of slightly wilted watercress. In the Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy. at LBJ, 972-934-9998. $$.



COFFEEHOUSES



Cafe Brazil. “Brazil” here is a coffee cue, but this cafe is not just another Java joint. The brews are varied, and die laid-back attitude of all three locations make them comfortable chat rooms, but the food is better than it has to be. Breakfasts are particularly notable. 6420 N. Central Expwy., 214-691-7791; multiple locations. $.



Cosmic Cup. The counterculture’s barely made a dent in the Dallas psyche, a fact that makes Cosmic Cup almost a tourist attraction here. In other cities, there are whole neighborhoods lined with places like this. Most of the food is India-inspired, which makes vegetarian an easy philosophy-samosas, dal, curry. Good, and good for the soul. 2912 Oak Lawn Ave.. 214-521-6157.$.



DELI



Dell News. This plainly authentic deli has continued to demonstrate that you don’t have to be from New York to know the Real Thing when you taste it. Hot cabbage borscht, potato pancakes, and rye-wrapped pastrami are all wonderful. 4805 Frankford, 972-733-3354. $-$$.



Gilbert’s. All you Yankees pining for the comforts of the Carnegie Deli, stop whining. The Gilbert family has been dishing out potato knishes, stuffed derma, and kasha varnishkas as good as any in the Big Apple for more than a decade. They also have a decent plate of spaghetti and meatballs for the shiksa in your group. 11661 Preston Rd., 214-373-3333. $.

EASTERN EUROPEAN

Athénée Cafe. Dallas’ only Rumanian restaurant-are you surprised? Stuffed mountain cabbage is a fabulous signature dish-meatball-size beef rolls oven-roasted in delicate cabbage leaves with a red wine sauce, just like Grandma in Transylvania used to make. Other highlights: Rumanian sausage and veal chop. The wine list is adequate. 5365 Spring Valley Rd.,Ste. 150,972-239-8060.$$.



ECLECTIC

D BEST Bistro A. Peripatetic chef Avner Samuel’s latest venture is his best yet, and better yet. Bistro A looks like it’s going to be around awhile. It’s made sleepy Snider Plaza a destination, drawing well-heeled diners in for stylish fare that’s beautifully presented. Dishes with Middle Eastern influences are especially good, but the chef does equally well with simple steak fries, and casserole-roasted chicken could be the best bird in town. 6815 Snider Plaza, 214-373-9911. $$-$$$.



Bread Winners. Three different menus a day are all imaginative. But the buttermilk pan-fried chicken breast with mashed potatoes and cream gravy is die real winner-lightly battered and fried fork-tender chicken over leek mashed potatoes and cream gravy so good it makes the bland bread better. 3301 McKinney Ave., 214-754-4940.$-$$.



Cafe Express. The food here is dependably good. Penne pasta salad is served with loads of torn spinach leaves and julienned crisp vegetables, all topped with black olives and red peppers. It’s a feast for the eyes, and we dare you to finish it. Cavatelli with broccoli, mushrooms, and goat cheese is steaming hot. The only glitch to this fast food improvement is that sometimes it’s so hard to find a table, you have to take the food and eat it in die car. 5600 W. Lovers Ln., 214-352-2211; multiple locations. $.



D REVISITSDream Cafe. On a recent weekend afternoon wecouldn’t find a space among all the SUV’s in the parking lot, and we stumbled over strollers on our way to a table on the patio. Our entertainment was watching the kids playing on the lawn and flinging Pepperidge Farm Goldfish at each other while their parents sat on the patio munching on omelettes, sipping smoothies and endless cups of coffee. Dream Cafe is the best kept daycare secret in Dallas. One of Dallas’ original organically oriented menus, old favorites like die California Dreaming (mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil on grilled sourdough bread) and the basic Global Dinner (a simple bowl of brown rice and beans covered with melted jack cheese) are as good as ever. The One for John-a grilled marinated tempeh burger-is the best hamburger substitute in town. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St., 214-954-0486. $-$$.



8.0 Restaurant and Bar. This hip joint is still hopping with pretty people sipping blue mar-garitas and noshing upscale bar food like thick, 8-ounce burgers and chicken nachos. Lines are out the door at lunch and cocktail hour in the summer, and the patio is swarming with guys and girls cruising for girls and guys. Blaring music makes table conversation nearly impossible, but mural-covered walls painted by local artists make it a funky place to sit back and watch the show. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St., 214-979-0880. $-$$.



D BEST The Grape. The secret is that Dallas’ oldest and best wine bar is really one of its oldest and best restaurants-dim and atmospheric, with a blackboard menu that remains interesting and enticing (no matter how often the chef changes) and the tiniest, most romantic bar in town, 2808 Greenville Ave., 214-828-1981.$$.



D BEST The Green Room, This ’90s bistro continues to dish out some of the most inventive cuisine to be found between New York and L.A. The menu is eclectically uptown, and the decor is strictly downtown rock V roll. The contrast between diem is cool. At $36, the fixed-price, four-course, “Feed Me” menu is the best deal in town. 2715 Elm St., 214-748-7666. $$-$$$.



Piano Cafe. A feast of vegetables accompanies each meal at this suburban bistro, and most people leave with leftovers. Freshly grilled roast chicken with red pesto penne draws loyal fans. There’s a decent wine list and a winner of a dessert list. 1915 N. Central Expwy., Ste. 500, Piano, 972-516-0865.$$.



St. Pete’s Dancing Martin. The marlin doesn’t mean seafood; it’s just a clue that the owner likes to fish. The only seafood here is the dancing tuna sandwich; mostly, the food is simply designed to go with your beer. Beware the Diablo Tempestuous, pasta doused in fiery jalapeno-tomato sauce. It’s so hot it comes with a chaser of chocolate milk. 2730 Commerce St., 214-698-1511.$-$$.



Sipango. The Cal-Ital menu offers selections various enough to allow for grazing as well as course-by-course dining at this currently cool cafe-cum-nightspot. Service is overly amiable, with some timing lapses. Once the too-loud cocktail pianist makes way for a combo, onversation is possible, and people-watching is its own entertainment. 4513 Travis St., 214-522-2411.$$.

Soho. An entrée of hibachi filet mignon size-tuna is a beautiful thick steak served on a bed of stir-fried vegetables in ponzu sauce and two towers of rice paper-wrapped wasabi mashed potatoes. The Mahi Mahi is the dish that would lure us back to pseudo-Soho: its light ginger and lemongrass crust, grilled to tender, bedded on nutty red wehani rice and encircled with a soy-lemon sauce. An armagnac poached pear with toasted walnut and rice mascarpone cheese is simple elegance done well. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-490-8686.$$.

D BEST Tarantino’s. The overall ambience-a dark, New York cafe-shaped space dominated by a long bar-is best at night, when the slight scruffiness is hidden by dim light and the place looks avant instead of under-financed, The food goes back to the basics of Italian and Spanish cuisine, served tapas-style. The take on traditional osso buco, based on a rich, gamy lamb shank instead of veal, is food you lust after. 3611 Parry Ave., 214-821-2224. Dinner only. $$.



Tin Star. The small, thin-crusted pizza is topped ! with a smoky-sweet barbecue sauce and dotted with chunks of grilled chicken and onions, then covered in jack cheese. Soft tacos filled with tempura shrimp, fruit pico de gallo, bacon, and cilantro are interesting, and the Thai taco stuffed with chicken, black beans, and julienne vegetables is good, too. But the restaurant may lose you with the cheeseburger taco-a big cheese-topped patty wrapped in a flour tortilla. We’re Texans; we agree that that almost everything tastes better wrapped in a tortilla. Almost. 2626 Howell St. (across from the Quadrangle), 214-999-0059. $.



FRENCH/CONTINENTAL



D BEST Barclays. Don’t come to Barclays expecting to find a pint of bitters and bangers and mash. This is upper-crust English fare with a European twist. Potato ravioli stuffed with Stilton cheese and wild mushrooms is of regal status. And if you’re looking for that perfect place to “pop” the question or celebrate something special, look no further-this place is a gem. 2917 Fairmount St., 214-855-0700. $$-$$$.

The Bistro. The list of small plates at this tapas bistro has been pared down to 14 from 30 selections, but they’re all exciting, and the wine list is one of the most extensive and inexpensive in town. That means the Bistro caters to you-you can drop in for a few small plates and a bottle of wine or settle in for a full-course meal at a reasonable price. 5405 W. Lovers Ln. at Inwood Rd., 214-352-1997. $-$$.



French Room. This is the prettiest dining room in Dallas. The rococo-style, cherub-flown ceiling. Versailles-length drapes, and candlelight make it the kind of place that doesn’t mesh with the modern world. It’s only natural to expect perfect food that matches the fairy-tale room. Sweetbread schnitzel is perfect, placed on a bed of asparagus ragout. Lamb ribeye is precisely matched with rosemary goat cheese polenta and tomato confit with basil, combining every Mediterranean high note in a single dish. Hotel Adolphus, 1321 Commerce St., 214-742-8200.$$$.



Jennivine. Jennivine’s slightly anachronistic atmosphere, a quaint old house stranded in the massive new Uptown apartments, still delivers one of Dallas’ most unexpected dining experiences: fine food in fine surroundings at a fair price. Appetizers and entrées alike are first-rate. If you’re not up for one of the excellent meals, enjoy a glass of wine and a sampling of cheese or one of their many patés^3605 McKinney Ave.. 214-528-6010, $$.

D BEST L’Ancestral. Let L’ Ancestral remind you of traditional delights: The civilized dining room is softly lit, tables are draped in starchy white, and the menu is stubbornly, traditionally French. Begin your meal with a bowl of onion soup, about as recherché as you can get, but some ideas need no improvement. The onion tart is just as subtly good. Lamb is cooked perfectly medium rare, and steak au poivre comes with the the best, yes, French fries in town. 4514 Travis St., 214-528-1081.$$-$$$.



Lavendou. Despite the fact that our waiter didn’t know the difference between smooth and coarse paté, someone in the kitchen cooks with a French accent. Delicious French specialties come garnished a la Francaise within an inch of their life: For instance, a tender tilapia came tucked into a tutu-like frill of purple kale, decorated with two swishes and a swirl of orange red-pepper sauce. 19009 Preston Rd., 972-248-1911.$$-$$$.



Watel’s. Sure, you’ll find weird organ meats like calves’ brains doctored with capers and veal kidneys touched with mushrooms to satisfy the strand of old-world gastronomic eso-terica that quivers in your palate. But you’ll also find exquisite contrasts like delicate rare tuna coated with crunchy peppercorns and tightly structured grilled shrimp with red pepper coulis-all served in a crisp, clean space. 2719 McKinney Ave., 214-720-0323. $$. 7



GOURMET TO GO

City Cafe To Go. According to the servers at City Cafe To Go, most people don’t even know how to use an oven to reheat the precooked food. But for those of you who can handle it, most of the dishes (for instance, a thickly sliced rare leg of lamb with charred, sun-dried tomatoes) are tasty and reheat beautifully. We love the apple pizza: a thick slice of thinly sliced apples layered with sugar and cinnamon, covered with two inches of nut-laden crumble lopping. 5757 Lovers Ln., 214-351-3366. $-$$.



Gity Harvest. This neighborhood favorite is open every day and serves real morning food. Downtowners take note: Oak Cliff is easy for lunch (buy a bag of Zapp’s chips and a triple chocolate chunk cookie to go with the pesto chicken salad deluxe sandwich), and you can pick up dinner to go while you eat. 939 N. Edgefield Ave., 214-943-2650. $-$$.



Eatzl’s. Eatzi’s definitely lives up to its circus hype. Hear the strains of opera and waltz through the crowds collecting the already cooked makings of a gourmet dinner-down to the imported beer, fresh bread, and flowers. Or choose salads or sandwiches made to order, Checkout lines are infamously long. 3403 Oak LawnAve.,2l4-526-1515.$.



GREEK

Kostas Cafe. The food is simply Greek and simply good. Appetizer do’s: saganaki and dolmas (musts, really). Entree don’t: souvlaki (tough and chewy). 4914 Greenville Ave., 214-987-3225. $$.

D BEST Ziziki’s, You can hardly get a prime-time table at this contemporary Greek cafe, and they don’t take reservations, except for large parties. But the herbed lamb souvlaki. folded in thick warm pita and sauced with tan yogurt, is worth a wail. Ziziki’s menu has featured the same idiosyncratic version of Mediterranean food since it opened-it’s a good thing when some things don’t change. 4514 Travis St., Ste. 122, 214-521-2233.$$.



HOME COOKING

DC’s Cafe. You’ve been in powder rooms bigger than this super-clean little place, but you’ve had home cooking this fine only in your dreams of classic soul-food plate lunches at penny-ante prices. Pork chops, meatloaf, catfish et al. come with three sides; business is about half-and-half eat-in and takeout, and we’ve never seen the room empty of patrons. 8224 Park Ln., 214-363-4348. $.



Mama’s Daughters Diner. Mama’s Daughters Diner has ’em lined up out the door for the Deep South, deep fat cuisine that’s euphemistically called home cooking: fried chicken, with bones, green beans cooked beyond tenderness with a little pot likker, combread, and mashed potatoes. The prize is the chocolate pie-tall, dark, and topped with clouds of meringue. 2014 Irving Blvd., 214-742-8646. $.



INDIAN

D BEST Bombay Cricket Club. Lunch buffets are an Indian restaurant tradition, and Bombay Cricket Club’s lineup is excellent. A pretty setting, unfailingly polite service, and excellent food make this one of the top Indian restaurants in town. The quality is steady at lunch, which for some restaurants seems to be a time not to try very hard. 2508 Maple Ave., 214-871-1333.$$.



India Palace. Delicate spices imbue truly fine Indian cuisine. And, similar to a fine perfume, too much is an assault on the senses, too little and there’s no magic. India Palace has kept the proper balance for nearly a decade and shows no signs of slowing down. 12817 Preston Rd., Ste. 105,972-392-0190.$-$$.



ITALIAN

Alfonso’s. The menu touches on all the basics, and the house marinara and buttery rolls have held a rapt following for years. An appetizer of artichoke hearts gently warmed in lemon-butter is simply transporting. Lake Highland Village, 718 N. Buckner Blvd. at Northcliff Drive, 214-327-7777.$.



Antonio Ristorante. This new restaurant is a funky-free, spic-and-span version of the Lombardi’s on Hall: red brick walls, green-and-white checked tablecloths. The servers are friendly but inexperienced, more what you would expect at Snuffer’s than at a “ristorante” with $20 entrées. Focaccia tends to be gooey in the center and burned on the edges; minestrone soup is indistinguishable from Campbell’s Chunky Vegetable. One of the only tasty things is a mess of housemade sausage and peppers. 4985 Addison Circle, 972-458-1010. $$.



Cafe Cipriani. This is one of the best Italian restaurants in town. Owner Salvino Zannetti doesn’t compromise on his ingredients; he orders his cheese from a deli in New York-as close to Italy as you can get in Dallas. And the lasagna is the real standout-layers of homemade noodles, with just enough ground veal to give the dish substance without making it too heavy. 220 Las Colinas Blvd., Irving. 972-869-0713.$$.



lano’s. The menu is priced per portion and per “la familia.” And it’s thoroughly Italian in that a “la familia” platter is plenty for a family, including parents, several children, and grandparents. Vitello Pugliese, for example, is thickly breaded slices of veal, smothered in tomato sauce allegedly enriched with goat cheese and loaded with purple kalamata olives. 250 Spanish Village, 972-866-0888. $$.



La Dolce Vita. Lakewood’s favorite wood-burning oven is as comfortable a place for pizza and wine as it is for pastry and coffee.

The high-ceilinged room with tall windows is a good place to linger if the crowds don’1 push you out. Service is unpretentious and friendly; pizzas and pastas are good but not weird. 1924 Abrams Pkwy., 214-821-2608. $-$$.



Maggiano’s Little Italy. Chicken Giardina is four huge half-breasts, fried and smothered to death with sautéed vegetables. The calamari is only inoffensive. But the lamb chops with rosemary garlic are excellent-rosy, juicy, and fragrant- and the fettuccine alfredo is cooked correctly, sauced in a coat-the-spoon cream. To bring it back to basics, and to the dish that sums up the Maggiano’s experience, don’t miss the spaghetti and meatballs. 205 NorthPark Center, 214-360-0707. $$-$$$.



Mi Piaci. Housemade is a term Mi Piaci doesn’t take lightly-the kitchen makes its own pastas and cures its own meats. Every other ingredient is either imported or hand-picked. A bowl of the Tuscan classic ribollita could be enough for a meal. But don’t neglect the spicy penne all’ arrabbiata. the three thin scallops of veal perched on a pile of portobello mushrooms, or the asparagus and cheese tortellini with a fragile Marsala sauce. 14854 Montfort, 972-943-8424. $$-$$$.



D BEST Modo Mio. Here is a “labor of love” restaurant that has overcome the obstacle of doing business in an ugly strip mall by serving some of the best Italian food in town. Chef/owner Rino Brigliadori turns out deliciously plump gnocchi lightly coated in tomato sauce, and his simple seafood specials are always perfectly prepared. 18352 Dallas Pkwy., Ste. 112,972-671-MODO. $$.



Patrizio’s. Move over, Campisi’s. Patrizio’s signature crab claws just took first place in the crab claws competition. Soft and delicate, they slip off the exoskeleton and melt in your mouth like, well, butter. Oh, yes-you should eat dinner, too: there’s the chicken and mushroom lasagna (good, but rich), the baked ziti (we had leftovers for breakfast), and the open-faced ravioli (sounds like a bad idea but is surprisingly light and tasty). The prices aren’t what you’d expect with Escada and Calvin Klein just a kiss away; they’re dictated by food costs, sometimes rather oddly-Linguine Primavera costs $8.01. When you see the bottom line on the bill, you realize this is not a gimmick. Highland Park Village, Mockingbird at Preston, 214-522-7878. $$.



Ruggeri’s. It could be that success at its newer Addison spinoff has cost the Uptown original its reputation for dependably fine Italian dining. The formerly flawless food has been less consistent lately: The veal chop is huge and tender, but zabaglione is not too much more than froth. The crowd is festive as always, 2911 Routh St., 214-871-7377; 5348 Belt Line Rd., 972-726-9555. $$.



Toscans. You’ll gladly pay top dollar for Executive Chef David Holben’s fancy versions of Tuscan-based dishes. Appetizers alone are worth the visit: Pan-seared, lemon-thyme calamari is light and delicious, and lightly creamed grilled corn soup with toasted pine nuts is reminiscent of the hearty Tuscan soups of Florence. Indulge in tiramisu bread pudding with a Frangelico anglaise sauce. 4900 McKinney Ave., 214-521-2244. $$.



JAPANESE

Deep Sushi. Remember that American sushi is as much style as substance, and you’ll be happy here. There’s a lot of style, and even some good sushi, if you fish carefully. Watch out for the dragon lady roll, a combination of tuna. avocado, and rice flashed with incendiary wasabi, red pepper sauce, and Japanese yellow mustard wrapped in seaweed and sliced. 2624 Elm St., 214-651-1177. $$-$$$.



D BEST Nakamoto. Service tends to range from sublime to abrupt at this stylish, roomy Piano institution, but cuisine (tempura, sushi, and sashimi) remains uniformly excellent. 3309 N. Central Expwy. at Parker Rd., Plano, 972-881-0328.$$.

D REVISITS Sushi at the Stoneleigh. It’s an odd trio of restaurants housed in the old Stoneleigh Hotel-the venerable Lions Den, filled with venerable regulars; the pretty but faded Ewald’s; and the strangely placed, high-chic Sushi at the Stoneleigh. The Stoneleigh remains a slightly fuddy-duddy-though thoroughly charming- building in die middle of heated-up Uptown; sushi strikes the correct note in the neighborhood but seems a little fast-forward for the old hotel. Still, the cleanly tiled space and high ceilings turn out to be a charming backdrop for the small sushi bar, and Sushi at the Stoneleigh is less of a production than many sushi bars, making it as much a bar as a sushi bar. That is, it’s very comfortable to drop in for a beer, some edamame, and a couple of excellent salmon skin rolls. Sushi, from traditional yellowtail to the chef’s concoctions (generally, themes on hot peppers, like the jalapeno roll and the 9-1-1 roll), is good, and the kitchen pretty much limits itself to sushi, which is wise. 2917 Maple Ave., 214-871-7111.$$-$$$.



Tei Tei. We still haven’t tasted the kobe beef (which comes from cattle fed with beer and massaged with sake), but Tei Tei is a destination restaurant anyway. The “kinki fish” is a whole fish (snapper), slashed to the bone so the flesh lifts out easily with chopsticks. To eat the soft-shell crab, abandon the Eastern eating utensils and resort to the god-given: fingers. 2906 N. Henderson Ave., 214-828-2400. $$-$$$. 9



D BEST Teppo. Our only yakitori bar is also one of the city’s most exciting sushi bars and a favorite weekend date destination. High-energy atmosphere, highly chic modern decor, and high-quality food make this one of Dallas’ best Japanese restaurants, even though the menu is mostly skewers and sushi. Be sure to try the specials. 2014 Greenville Ave., 214-826 8989. $$-$$$.

LATIN AMERICAN



Caribbean Grill. Jumbo shrimp marinated in coconut milk, lightly fried and rolled in coconut shreds, is one of the best appetizers we’ve had all year. Jerk chicken is moist inside, with a thin crusty coating of spices, and the dipping sauce is a killer honey-mustard concoction spiced with hot relish (chow) from Trinidad. Stay busy with their large selection of bottled hot sauces, and soothe your burning tongues with homemade key lime pie. 3068 Forest Ln., 972-241-9113. $-$$.



Fogo de Chao. A churrascaria in Addison with branches in Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo, Fogo de Chao serves traditional cookery from south-em Brazil, starting with the caipirinha (a little like a sweet margarita, with cachaca, a sugarcane liquor). Overwhelming abundance is the theme: A neverending parade of meat on long skewers is delivered by gaucho guys in amazing trousers and belts. Very exotic. 4300 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-503-7300. $$.



Samba Room. It’s impossible not to feel transported to an exotic Havana night-huge palm trees, windows covered by wooden-slat shutters, warm browns, ochre, and cobalt blue set the mellow, sexy tone for the whole room. Arepas-beef marinated in sherry, cooked with onion and peppers, then shredded into a mound and surrounded by triangles of griddled sweet corn cakes topped with a slight drizzle of sour cream-are superb. A silver martini shaker filled with long, thin strips of Yuca Frita-fried yuca seasoned with lime and garlic-makes french fries obsolete. 4514Travis Street, 214-522-137,$$.



Texas de Brazil. No need for menus here-it’s one price fits all. Skewer-swagging waiters slice varied cuts of slow-roasted (and extremely flavorful) filet, picanha, rack of lamb, top sirloin, and pork loin from their swords right onto your plate. The salad bar features 30 hefty hems besides salad, including tabbouleh and marinated mushrooms, and the required feijoa-da (the national dish of Brazil). 15101 Addison Rd., 972-385-1000. $$$.



MEDITERRANEAN



Adelmo’s. Some go for the food, some go for the intimacy, but almost everybody finds a reason to go back to this well-hidden gem. Service is unhurried and patient, and the wine list is varied and reasonable. Entrees and appetizers alike feature creatively bold sauces that will hold your attention long after the main ingredients of the dishes have been devoured. 4537 Cole Ave., 214-559-0325. $$.



Mediterraneo. The Quadrangle location will probably be the prototype for future Mediterraneos. It’s a pretty restaurant, stylishly minimalist but surprisingly warm and welcoming, and the food-a balance of old and new ideas-is hard to find fault with. Crusts are all the rage; Halibut is mysteriously crab-crusted, salmon has a polenta crust, and lamb is crusted with goat cheese. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St., 214-979-0002; 18111 Preston Rd. at Frankford Road, Ste. 120, 972-447-0066. $$-$$$.



D BEST The Riviera. We knew the moment an airy avocado; cream hors d’oeuvre passed our lips that we were doomed, once again, to a near-flawless dining experience. Each dish seems to outdo another. Food credits here mostly belong to Chef de Cuisine Frank Harris, one assumes, with input from David Holben, now execu-tive chef at sibling restaurants Mediterraneo and Toscana. 7709 Inwood Rd., 214-351-0094. $$$.



Sambuca. Both locations are vibrant restaurants featuring innovative Mediterranean cuisine for those who enjoy their meals with jazz. Each presents well-known groups nightly, but the decibel level prohibits any casual dinner conversation during performances. 15207 Addison Rd., Addison, 972-385-8455; 2618 Elm St., 214-744-0820. $$.



MEXICAN

Avila’s. The create-your-own enchiladas are always a good idea, and the chili relleno reminds us why we like this family-owned place. Stuffed with cheese and topped with a delicious ranchera sauce, the peppers are left unbreaded so that the pungent flavor of the pepper is what you notice, not fried batter. 47!4MapleAve.,214-520-2700.$. 9



Cantina Laredo. The rule is, stick to Mex-Mex food at Cantina, and you’ll probably be happy. Chicken tacos cascabel enfold hot peppered, orange-scented, stewed chicken in a soft, fresh tortilla. Pork carnitas feature pork slow-cooked to shreds and wrapped in a tortilla with fresh grilled vegetables and spicy rice. But the dop-pelganger Tex-Mex side of the menu is not so good. Undercooked, stuffed jalapenos are so tough you can’t bite through them. 250 Preston Royal Center, 214-265-1610; multiple locations. $$.

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. This is a great family spot with a reasonable, all-you-can-eat special. 2205 W. Parker Rd., Piano, 972-596-6783. $. Margaritas.

Javier’s Gourmet Mexicain. Javier’s hook is Mexico City Mexican food, and the atmosphere isn’t Tex-Mex kitschy but sophisticated. Salsa is nicely warmed, and margaritas are the real thing. Filete Cantinflas may took like a fried puck, but inside the stiff crust is a cheese-stuffed filet mignon with a brick-colored chile sauce-it’s too rich to eat and too good not to try. 4912 Cole Ave, 214-521-4211.$$.

La Galle Doce. Far from slicker Belt Line and Greenville Avenue eateries, this old house is home to some seriously good Mexican-style seafood. Sit on the porch and dine on a spicy gazpacho-like octopus cocktail served in huge goblets or shrimp, stuffed with crabmeat, covered with chili con queso and tasting much better than it sounds. 415 W. 12th St., 214-941-4304. $-$$.



La Valentina. A taste of big city Mexico in suburbia. The beautiful menu makes fascinating reading that doesn’t always translate to the plate. The polio en mole poblano tops chicken with a sensuous sauce that includes 54 types of chilies, spices, and a touch of chocolate, resulting in a richly layered smoky-sweet flavor. Forget that fascinating menu when it’s time for dessert and ask for the flan. 14866 Montfort Dr., Addison, 972-726-0202. $$-$$$.



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 four chiles rellenos. But only skimp if you want to-the most basic combination plate starts with a lettuce-topped chalupa, its toasty tortilla thickly spread with guacamole. 7726 Ferguson Rd., 214-319-8834.$-$$.



D BEST Mart’s Rancho Martinez The place is rilled with the faithful at every meal because the flautas are the best in Dallas, the chile relleno is food for the gods, and even a combination plate satisfies, if you don’t mind processed cheese. 6332 La Vista Dr., 214-823-5517.$-$$.



D BEST Monica Aca Y Alla. This cool

place has been around long enough to be a tradition in these days of restaurants that open and close-especially in Deep Ellum. The ambitious menu offers intriguing Southwestern-inspired options as well as more standard Tex-Mex, in a hip and hopping ambience. Best lunch deals in town. 2914 Main St., 214-748-7140.$-$$.



Mia’s. For 14 years, this venerable institution has dished up définitive Tex-Mex food to addicts who stand in line on Tuesdays, when owner Ana Enrique?, satisfies their lust for her incomparable chiles rellenos. Other days, they make do with house specialties. Service is cheerful: the setling is no-frills comfortable. The bad news: beer and wine only. 4322 Lemmon Ave., 214-526-1020. $.



D REVISITS Nuevo Leon. The chameleon Mexican is a whole new category for Mexican food. Nuevo Leon has the uncanny knack of blending perfectly with a neighborhood while serving the same menu al every location. Somehow, the carnitas al pastor are hearty, country fare in Farmers Branch (the original location), fiesta party fare on Greenville Avenue, and mod-Mex in the latest location on Oak Lawn. The place looks chic, too, with odd, modem metal screens and arty lighting. Service was slick, and the food was excellent-fat enchiladas, avocado like cold cream, thick tortillas. Yes, it was more than we wanted for lunch, but it tasted so good we gave in. So far, this is a winning formula. How will it translate to Garland or Piano? Very well, we predict. 3211 Oak Lawn, 214-522-3331; multiple locations. $-$$.

Omega’s. It’s easy to imagine ending evenings at Omega’s. But fortunately Omega’s is also a great place to lunch, and it’s even a comfortable place to eat alone. This friendly little cafe on a Deep Ellum side street serves a complimentary cup of chile con queso with the warmed salsa and tostados. There’s nothing particularly original about the menu, but the basic cheese-oozing enchilada plate is pure comfort food. 212 N. Crowdus St., 214-744-6842.$.



Piano Tortilla Factory. If you live in Piano, then this little place should be at the top of your list for a quick bite, takeout, or delivery. Piano Tortilla Factory’s appeal doesn’t end with the food-the friendly owner is quick to strike up a conversation and make you feel welcome. Low prices are a bonus, too. 1009 E. 18th St., Piano, 972-423-6980. $.



Primo’s. On the “Mex” side of the Tex-Mex fare, enchiladas come with cheddar cheese gurgling in thick chili con carne and topped with more cheese. The cheese-fest continues with a ’Tex” version of a chili relleno: a cheese-stuffed poblano pepper, dipped in a queso and egg batter, then deep-fried. The amount of money the kitchen spends on cheese could probably put a man on the moon-there is even grated cheese on the side salads. We ate it all. 14905 Midway, Addison, 972-661-2287; 3309 McKinney, 214-220-0510. $.

Taco Diner. The name sounds slightly retro. But the tacos at the Diner are real Mexican soft tacos, not drive-through, crunchy, greasy Tex-Mex mutations. The corn tortillas are the star here; no matter what you wrap them around, the result is good-chicken with cojita cheese, grilled pork, and meaty mushrooms are all complemented by the fragrant masa tortillas. 4011 Villanova, 214- 696-4944. $. Margaritas.



MIDDLE EASTERN

All Baba. Order hummus and you get a bowl swirled with the garlicky purée, pooled with yellow olive oil, dusted with parsley and adorned with slick olives. That and a stack of hot pita could do you, but the grilled chicken is irresistible, and the tabbouleh. mostly chopped parsley with bits of bulghur and tomato, is a perfect counterpoint to the unctuous chickpea mash. 1905 Greenville Ave., 214-823-8235. $-$$.



Ararat This is Middle Eastern ambience all the way, but we love Ararat because the food is some of the most exotic in town. Main courses are complicated, generous plates, filled with big chunks of lamb in a fiery dark tomato sauce with orange-red bulghur pilaf and a Persian rice pilaf threaded with vermicelli. Skewered shrimp is served on a bed of a complex pomegranate sauce deepened with dates and quartered figs. Simple tastes can settle for roast lamb in a rosemary sauce. 2934 Main St., 214-744-1555. $$.



Cafe Istanbul. The tiny kitchen overachieves on most of its Turkish dishes, especially if you like it spicy. The dining room gets cozy at night, but those who tolerate early evening daylight are rewarded with a happy hour. Solid service tops off a superb all-around experience. 5450 W. Lovers Ln., Ste. 222, 214-902-0919. $-$$.



D BEST Cafe Izmir. This remains one of the best little restaurants in

Dallas. The space is small, the service is friendly, and the choices are simple-all you have to say is “meat” or “veg,” and the food starts coming. The mezes platter-hummus, baba ghanoush. and Russian chicken salad, all designed to spread on warm pita bread-is a regular. Wash it down with a bottle of the Boutari and you’ll be happy. 3711 Greenville Ave., 214-826-7788.$$.

Genghis Gril. You get a stainless steel bowl from the stack and choose your ingredients from a cafeteria line on ice: bins of meat and vegetables, along with your choice of oils and seasonings. Then you give your bowl to the grillmaster, who tosses it on a giant round griddle, cooks it quick, then serves it back to you in the bowl. And Genghis Grill provides basic recipes for people who don’t know the difference between tamarind and teriyaki. 1915 Greenville Ave., 214-841-9990. $-$$.

MOROCCAN



D BEST Marrakesh. Just what is Moroccan cuisine, and what is it doing in Dallas? It is lamb and couscous and fresh vegetables spiced with mysterious combinations of nutmeg, paprika, and cumin-wonderful. The Moroccan Feast-a sample of almost everything on the menu-is a bargain at $26.95 per person. Vibrant Middle-Eastern music accompanies a veiled belly dancer in a purple bra who gyrates and finger-cymbales her way around the room. 5207 W. Lovers Ln., 214-357-4104.$$.



NEW AMERICAN



Beau Hash. The beautiful dining room is aging gracefully, and the light-sparkled, romantic Conservatory at night remains one of the delights of Dallas dining. The Cobb salad and smoked chicken corn chowder still win Best of Kind, and desserts are a dream-try the rich pillow of mocha mousse sandwiched between two dark chocolate cake slices. Hotel Crescent Court, 2215 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-871-3240. $$-$$$.



Chaparral Club. The ancho-rubbed chicken (with bones!) can be a little salty, but the creamy goat-cheese stuffing guarantees moist meat. The bone-in filet, along with truffled mashed potatoes and cubed root vegetables sautéed together, make a plate that satisfies all senses. Don’t miss The Perfect Dessert: a satiny sphere of white chocolate split and filled with fresh blueberries and raspberries sliding around in a pool of crème Anglaise. Sink into the leather seats in the bar and listen to David Williams playing a jazzy version of “Cheek to Cheek”- some pleasures never age. Adam’s Mark Hotel, 400 N. Olive St., 214-922-8000. $$-$$$.



City Cafe. This California-inspired, mostly family-run cafe opened over a dozen years ago but remains in the top tier of Dallas restaurants. The charming but dim dining room is furnished with cottage antiques, and the food is classic, with a wake-up flash of invention. Fresh tomato basil soup is famous. The service is confident and careful, and the American wine list is one of the best in town. 5757 W. Lovers Ln., 214-351-2233. $$.



Gershwin’s. Pretty people, pretty food, pretty prices set the scene for power lunching in this California-influenced Upper Greenville emporium, where on-track careerists linger over creative fare noontimes and gather after work to share single malts, tall foods, and to people-watch. An outstanding wine list, too. 8442 Walnut Hill Ln., 214-373-7171. $$-$$$.



Landmark Restaurant Landmark’s menu may make you wish for an atlas and a the saurus to find your way around, but if you’ll close your eyes, forget about the origin of your vegetables, and eat them, you’ll have a great trip. The New American food here, under the direction of Jim Anile, is ultra-imaginative, if highly complicated. And the gently refurbished room remains one of the most gracious in town. In the Melrose, 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-521-5151.

$$-$$$.



D BEST Laureis. Rising star executive chef and general manager Danielle Custer brings her cutting-edge cuisine to Sheraton Park Central’s 20th floor. Incomprehensible dishes like pear soup with plum wine crème fra?che don’t make sense until you put them in your mouth. You have to trust Custer: She thinks with her palate, and the results are brilliant. Sheraton Park Central, 12720 Merit Dr., 972-385-3000. $$-$$$.



The Mansion on Turtle Creek. This isn’t dinner, it’s a dining experience. A dramatic, country club-like, members-only dining experience. The Grande Dame of Dallas dining continues to live up to its legend-the atmosphere is inimitably posh, and the food is predictably innovative. The price? If you have to ask. you can’t afford it. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd., 214-526-2121.$$$.



The Mercury. Though we still think the place is too chic for a neighborhood restaurant, the food has improved since the opening months. The swordfish, perfectly marked from the grill, is balanced by a warm artichoke salad and a corn relish. The grilled shrimp with avocado and a “gazpacho” sauce is equally lovely to look at, though you won’t look at it for long. 1418 Preston Forest Sq., 972-960-7774. $$.



Rooster. The room is as easily gracious as a family dining room. And the staff offers naturally Southern-style hospitality. The traditional Senate bean soup is authentic-substantial and scented with smoky ham-and the breadbasket is filled with corn muffins and bacon biscuits. The catfish, thick and white as cake, is crusted with molasses and pecans, then sauced with brown butter. 3521 Oak Grove Ave., 214-521-1234. $$.



Sevy’s. The thoroughly American Prairie-style interior perfectly complements chef-owner Jim Severson’s hearty American cuisine. The plates here present classic ideas with imaginative updates. The menu is varied, but beef is a reliable choice-the tenderloin is slightly hickory smoked. The marinated mushroom appetizer is the best portobello in town. 8201 Preston Rd., 214-265-7389.$$.



SEAFOOD

D BEST AquaKnox. Stephan Pyles’ swanky seafood spot has commanded national attention, and the swell decor and meticulous food mostly merit it. Luscious red snapper in red curry masa is an example of the global approach to seafood. The rich and the wannabes are eating from a simpler menu that includes platters of fresh shrimp, oysters, clams, and small-plate versions of the dinner entrees, an excellent option for those who want a taste of the high life without the high tab. 3214 Knox St., 214-219-2782. $$-$$$.



Cafe Pacific. Cafe Pacific continues to delight as one of Dallas” most reliable luncheon and dinner restaurants, as well as the place to witness the social structure of Dallas’ power people in action. Menu favorites like calamari, clam chowder, Caesar salad, salmon, and red snapper are superbly prepared and presented by an experienced staff. 24 Highland Park Village, 214-526-1170.$$-$$$.



Daddy Jack’s. With pricey lobsters the rage all over town. Jack Chaplin brings the delicacy back to realistic prices. Mark your calendars: Weekdays, a one-pounder is only $10.95; weekends, they’re still a bargain (they come with baked potato and com). Sunday and Mondays it’s all you can eat for $34.95. 5940 Royal Ln., 214-378-6767. $$.



Daddy Jack’s Wood Grill. This Chaplin restaurant offers lively service and food that manage to combine homey familiarity with twists of near-elegance. For example, 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. 2723 Elm St., 214-653-3949. $$.



Lombard! Mare. The stylishly

polished interior is a real mind-blower, and so is the food. Feast on five types of farm-fresh oysters, steamed mussels, and lobster. A polenta-crusted salmon served with red cabbage was a perfect meal. If we had to choose one place to entertain an out-of-towner. Lombardi Mare would be our choice. 5100 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-503-1233. $$.



Newport’s. Enjoy an imaginative seafood menu that we classify loosely as New England seafood with Asian and Cajun influences. Grilled tilapia is imaginatively served with a side of sautéed apples, cilantro, and toasted pecans. And the tuna is a three-inch pan-seared hunk served in a bowl of rice and covered with sautéed portobellos and roasted peppers- almost wonderful, except for the lake of teriyaki sauce drowning the rice. 703 McKinney Ave., 214-954-0220.$$-$$$.



SAO Oyster Company. S & D can do anything with shrimp, and they have been doing it for longer than we care to remember (or admit we do). The fried shrimp is so delicately breaded you can still see the pink-skinned flesh through the crust. Then it’s butterflied. lightly fried, and served with a dollop of tartar sauce-heavy on the pickle. And no meal here would be complete without a slice of the famous key lime pie. 2701 McKinney Ave.. 214-880-0111.$$.



Sea Grill. Mall sprawl makes this Piano oasis hard to find, which would make its unflagging popularity hard to explain if Chef Andy Tun’s highly creative takes on seafood were not so arresting. Dip a half-dozen raw oysters in Tun’s tangy grapefruit-horseradish sauce, and you’ll wonder why you ever overwhelmed such delicacy with ketchup. And your fork’s own weight slides through the barely seared jumbo sea scallop or a moist-hearted cut of grilled tuna. 2205 N. Central Expwy., Ste.180, Plano. 972-509-5542. $$.

Truluck’s Steak & Stone Crab. Stone crabs are a new delicacy in Dallas, and they’re sweet and rich. They’re also easy to eat; the kitchen cracks them for you so all you have to do is break in and fish for the meat. You can eat other stuff with your crab (mediocre salad, onion rings, cole slaw, creamed spinach) but all you’ll remember is the claws and cake-four layers of dark chocolate cake covered with a whipped milk-chocolate icing. 5001 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-503-3079; 2401 McKinney Ave., 214-220-2401. $$-$$$.



SOUTHWESTERN



Flying Burro, The Burro’s brand of Mexican food isn’t purely New Mexican-there’s more meat and cheese richness on this menu than most New Mexicans (except those from California) can afford to relish. Enchiladas are stacked and come topped with an egg. 2831 Greenville Ave.. 214-827-2112. $.



No Place. Tender elk sirloin and boneless rabbit are sided with sautéed portobello mushrooms and onions. Better-than-beef chicken-fried venison comes with Mart’s famous smoked mashed potatoes. The food is why Matt Martinez Jr, is a legend-in his own neighborhood, anyway. 6325 La Vista Dr., 214-328-9078. $$-$$$.



D BEST Star Canyon. Chef-owner Stephan Pyles has created a Dallas destination with his innovative New Texas Cuisine. An appetizer of fried green tomatoes stacked high with layers of Dallas-made mozzarella is a rare case of tall food tasting as good as it looks. And the bone-in cowboy ribeye on a bed of pinto beans, covered with a mound of shoestring onion rings dusted with red chile, should be listed in Fodor’s under Dallas’top attractions. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave.. 214-520-7827. $$-$$$.



Y.O. Ranch. Though this is frontier fare, the kitchen can have a light touch. Delicately grilled, semi-boneless quail is delicious, and the special two-inch. 12-ounce pork chop is as moist and tender as a filet mignon. However, the buck stops short with an undercooked top sirloin. And the bar scene rocks with Jerry Jeff Walker tunes and cigar-smoking buckaroos-the perfect place to take your Yankee guests. 702 Ross Ave.. 214-744-3287. $-$$.



SPANISH



Cafe Madrid. Dallas” first tapas bar remains its best, and everybody knows it. Even midweek, this little two-room restaurant has customers waiting at the bar for one of the mismatched tables in the storefront space. For those who insist, there is a prix-fixe. three-course dinner menu, but Cafe Madrid is a great place to linger over a succession of small dishes-an assortment of olives, oxtail stew, the potato omelette called a tortilla, braised lamb slices. 4501 Travis St., 214-528-1731. $$.



STEAKHOUSES

Arthur’s. Having marked its half-century mile-post, this continental steakhouse still deserves its reputation for dependably upscale dining. It’s clubby and suave in a retro kind of way. A fist-sized tenderloin filet is wonderful, and the martinis are ample. 8350 N. Central Expwy. (in Campbell Center), 214-361-8833. $$-$$$.



Biernat’s. The dinner menu’s specialty section features prime rib, rack of lamb, and jumbo lobsters. The entrées reveal the imagination of a chef who has more on his mind than meat. The sea bass is moist, but the two mainstays-steak and lobster- are a problem. As for the lunch menu, the steak sandwich comes off well, and so do the slices of grilled and balsamic-dressed portobello mushroom and tomato fanned around a hummock of baked goat cheese. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-219-2201. $$-$$$.



Capital Grille. The menu has a funny, East Coast fuddy-duddiness: It features a “wedge” salad, a quarter head of iceberg with blue cheese and bacon. Perfectly cooked lamb chops come with mint jelly. And there’s a Delmonico steak on the menu-a porterhouse-style cut you don’t often see labeled that way anymore. It’s a perfectly marbled piece of beefcake, rich and buttery. Sides-from asparagus at $6.75 to the affordable $4 potato-are extra, of course, and have plenty to share. 500 Crescent Court, Ste. 135,214-303-0500.$$-$$$.



D BEST Chamberlain’s Prime Chop House.

Prime rib and a trimmed-to-lean ribeye are robustly rare and complemented with garlic mashed potatoes. Figure in service that is, if not clairvoyant, almost uncannily empathetic, and you’ll have some grasp of the comfortable ambience that keeps this cigar-friendly outpost filled even on weekday evenings. 5330 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-934-2467. $$-$$$.

Kirby’s Steakhouse. One recent dinner had six happy Yankee carnivores whistling Dixie, but more recently we were served a puck-like filet sitting alone on a parsley-less plate. And we didn’t understand what made the mashed potatoes “famous”-we tasted nothing more than potatoes whipped with lots of pepper. On the other hand, service was attentive, the prime rib was pure retro-quality, and the onion rings might be the best in Dallas. 3525 Greenville Ave., 214-821-2122; 3408 Preston Rd., Plano, 972-867-2122.$$.

The Palm. The four-pound lobster (at $20 a pound!) is sweet and tender, but the 24-ounce New York strip tends to be overcooked. The Palm staffers are all veterans, and so are most of the customers, but don’t be intimidated by the chummy atmosphere. This is a club anyone with $80 to spare for a lobster can join. 701 Ross Ave., 214-698-0470. $$-$$$.

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. This is the best beef we’ve eaten in Dallas lately. The porterhouse, regally alone and ungarnished, arrives at the perfect degree of doneness and is still actually hot. Mushrooms-crimini and shiitake, in a port reduction-and onion rings, thick-cut and thinly breaded, are both preferable to another potato. And we appreciate the diminutive (just three-and-a-half pounds!) Maine lobster, perfectly steamed and cracked, and only $64. Even dessert, which frequently seems like an insult in a steakhouse, is spectacular. 10477 Lombardy Ln., 214-366-2000. $$-$$$.



Sullivan’s Steakhouse. The knockout punch is a 24-ounce, bone-in ribeye coated with lots of fresh ground pepper, perfectly cooked to medium rare. Smoked pork chops are grilled and served with a side of sweet, smoked apples. The side dishes are only average; the horseradish mashed potatoes could have used a little more horseradish, and the doughnut-sized onion rings are heavily beer-breaded and greasy. 17795 Dallas Pkwy., 972-267-9398, $$$.



THAI



Chow Thai. A strip shopping center doesn’t seem a likely spot for a Thai food epiphany, but you’ll have one here. Excellent Thai classics like vegetables in a fiery green curry and pad Thai taste clean and light. A dessert of fresh mango atop sticky rice is a spectacular ending. 5290 Belt Line Rd. at Montfort Drive, Addison, 972-960-2999. $$.



D BEST Liberty. Annie Wong, the mother of Thai food in Dallas, still owns three all-Thai restaurants, but Liberty is where her imagination is freed. Romantically and softly lit, with beaded candleshades on each table and bamboo birdcages animated with twinkling Christmas lights, the brightly lit kitchen makes Liberty into real dinner theater, and Wong is the star. What makes her food different is what makes any chef’s food special: imagination. 5631 Alta Ave., 214-887-8795. $$.



Royal Thai. Furnished with ornate Thai antiques and traditional arts, Royal Thai is a pleasantly upscale change from the starkly serviceable interiors of so many Thai restaurants. Chicken packets are wrapped in tenderizing banana leaves. Curries are fragrant and benefit from their presentation under a little domed top. In Old Town, 5500 Greenville Ave., 214-691-3555.$-$$.



VIETNAMESE



Mai’s. Mai’s is one of those places that has lots of loyal customers. The menu is stocked with authentic Vietnamese specialties, including lots of noodle and rice entrées and the classic hot pots: exotic meats, vegetables, and spices cooked and served in clay pots. Be sure and try the legendary Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk. 4812 Bryan St., 214-826-9887. $.

Mai’s Oriental Cuisine. The Vietnamese menu is the one to go for. Proprietor Mai Pham opened the first Vietnamese restaurant in Dallas, and her food is still terrific at her little restaurant in Snider Plaza. The hot pots are especially good–“hot chic” is the regulars’ favorite. 6912 Snider Plaza, 214-361-8220. $-$$.

VietNam. A little bit of Southeast Asia transplanted to East Dallas, VietNam has very little Western influence to make the cultural transition easier. This is Vietnamese food designed for the Vietnamese community. But some things are universal-the appeal of hot soup, for instance. And VietNam’s hot pot, a comforting, steaming caldron of soup, noodles, and vegetables, is enough to share. 4302 Bryan St., 214-821-4542.$-$$.

TARRANT COUNTY

Angelo’s. The big, wood-paneled dance hall of a room is lined with a self-service buffet line, cold-drink coolers, and chip racks on a linoleum floor. You grab a round tray and a frosted stein of Bud and eat from styrofoam plates under antler heads mounted on the walls. The chicken, served “while it lasts,” goes fast-it’s juicy and smoked off the bone. All the usual sides-beans, cole slaw-stand up to the ribs, but we wish they’d put more punch in their thin, vinegar-based sauce. 2533 White Settlement Rd., Fort Worth, 817-332-0357. $.



Angeluna. The patio swarms with an artsy Chanel-and-Chardonnay crowd before and after events at the Bass Performance Hall across die street. The “one-world-on-a-plate” menu features designer pizzas, pastas, and spinach and mushroom salads corralled by delicate potato rings. Who cares if it’s more about style than substance? After all, the parent company is in Aspen. 215 E. 4th St., Fort Worth, 817-334-0080.$$.



Benito’s. Like an old familiar friend, Benito’s appearance may be spruced up from time to time, but some things never change-like the food. The queso flameado, with or without chorizo, is flamed tableside and served with fresh pico de gallo and hot flour or com tortillas. Order it first, and then spend some time with the menu-everything on it is worth trying. 1450 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-332-8633. $$.



Bistro Louise. This gem of a bistro offers takeout now, but the staff seems curiously challenged by the idea. The famed smoked duck and stuffed lamb loin travel well, but even delicate reheating of an appetizer of Brie roasted in pastry petals fails to restore it. Savored in the sunny bistro, trie cuisine works Mediterranean magic. Enjoy it there as often as possible. 2900 S. Hulen St., Fort Worth, 817-922-9244. $$.



This easily tops Arlington’s dining scene, such as it is, with its French country decor and New French cuisine. The fixed-price menu ($34.50) is a great deal. A la carte menu also available. 2221 E. Lamar Blvd., Ste. 910, Arlington, metro 817-640-9981. $$$.



Cattlemen’s Steak House. Fort Worth ate cattle before cattle was cool, and Cattlemen’s is still the quintessential stockyard steakhouse. There’s not much but beef accompanied by rolls, potatoes, and iceberg lettuce salad, but the atmosphere is genuine cowboy. 2458 N. Main St., Fort Worth, 817-624-3945. $$-$$$.



8.0. See listing in Dallas Eclectic. HIE. 3rd, Fori Worth, 817-336-0880. $-$$.



D BEST Grape Escape. The gimmick here is education-Grape Escape is trying to do the same thing for wine that brew pubs did for beer. So you order “flights” of the grape of your choice, and the waiter brings a four-glass tasting of say, chardonnay, from Sonoma, Napa, Australia, and New Zealand. Compare and contrast. The food is designed around the wine, so you can change direction mid-meal-start with white wine and suggested matches, finish with red wine and cheese. The selection of small plates-merguez sausages, paté, salads, stuffed potatoes, pizzettes–adds up to a full meal that’s lots of fun. 500 Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817-336-9463. $$.



Joe T. Garcia’s Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery.

Although not as fancy as its cousin around the corner, the chefs do an excellent job preparing all the old favorites from burritos to tamales. Breakfast is a work of art here. 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 St.. Fort Worth, 817-626-5770.$$.

D BEST Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Dishes. The quintessential Fort Worth restaurant. Its location near the Stockyards is a rambling plantation that can handle the crowds for whom the restaurant’s status hovers somewhere between “institution” and “nirvana.” Wait for a spot outside by the pool. and order the enchiladas. Joe doesn’t do credit cards or reservations, either. 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817-626-4356. $$.



D REVISITS Kincaid’s Where Friends Meet to Eat” is an understatement. Our last visit found us standing at the crowded counter caught between groups calling across the room to each other–“Hey, did you close that deal?” or “Save me a place.” Guys with their ties flipped over their shoulders holding the thick burgers with both hands were standing at the wooden market shelves with grocery items like five-gallon tubs of pickles and canned vegetables-just to remind you that Kincaid’s was once a grocery store. Then there were the shouts from the grill: “Bob to go”. “Sally, pick up.” It’s organized chaos at lunch, but there isn’t a frown in the lime-green room. The burgers are worth the drive from Dallas. and so are the sides: fried okra, deviled eggs. and pimiento cheese-stuffed jalapenos. If you can manage, have homemade banana pudding for dessert. We found the french fries the least interesting side, and the grilled chicken sandwich is just a token. It’s been a while since we left a restaurant mis satisfied for only $5. 4901 Camp Bowie, Fort Worth. 817-732-2881. $.

Piccolo Mondo. This neighborhood Italian restaurant is a suburban strip-mall surprise. It features an elegant, parquet-floored piano bar, a white tablecloth dining room, and service to match the basic Italian fare-heavy pastas, variations of veal scaloppine. If you want imagination, look to the specials. 829 E. Lamar Blvd., Arlington, 817-265-9174. $-$$.



Randall’s Gourmet Cheesecake Company. It’s a wonderfully romantic, candle-lit French cafe serving delightful classic specialties and more than 20 wines by the glass. Beef tenderloin medallions served with rosemary-roasted shallots come with crunchy haricots verts and garlic mashed potatoes. But the pièce de resistance is a savory cheesecake, made of parmesan and feta cheese baked with basil pesto, asparagus, mushrooms, and Kalamata olives. 907 Houston St., Fort Worth, 817-336-2253. $$.



Reflections. Maybe you don’t expect high romance in Fort Worth, but maybe you should. Reflections is surely among the most gracefully romantic dining settings in the Dallas-Font Worth area, Worthington Hotel’s flagship restaurant in downtown Fort Worth offers a refined escape from high-decibel stress. Intuitive service and avant bill of fare live up to the ambience. Delicate pan-seared foie gras with sautéed apples and grilled, whiskey-sauced ostrich medallions with red lentil risotto are representative of the kitchen’s inventions. 200 Main St., Fort^Worth, 817-882-1660 or 800-433-5677. $$$.



Saint Emilion. Some are surprised to see this Fort Worth restaurant on the list of top 10 restaurants in the area. But the brick-walled, country French atmosphere is charming, and the food is mostly terrific. The wine list features many vintages from the Saint Emilion region, as you might expect. 3617 W. 7th St., Fort Worth, 817-727-2781. $$$.



D REVISITS Sundance Market and Deli. Every neighborhood could use a Sundance Market and Deli. It’s a

market, it’s a deli, it’s a cafeteria. It’s whatever you need it to be. We popped in for a quick lunch and ended up with a Blue Plate Special of down-home meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, and combread. As we ate, we watched urbanités stop in for a few staples-there’s a refrigerated case with prepared meals, chilled beer and wine, fresh produce, and even a large variety of funky gifts. The fax machine was ringing with orders to be picked up, and a cafeteria line offered specialty soups, salads, and spuds. Our favorite was the pastrami, bacon, Swiss, and tomato with spicy mustard grilled on fresh pumpernickel, 353 Throckmorton, 817-335-3354, $,



Water Street Seafood Company. Although Fort Worth is landlocked, there’s still serviceable seafood to be had. The dining room could use more walls and fewer tables, but plenty of daily specials supplement a range of regular entrées that would make a coastal restaurant proud. 1540 S. University Dr., Ste. 120, Fort Worth, 817-877-3474.$$.

Cafe Panda

If you cant find what you’re hungry for on the menu at Cafe Panda, you’ll have to go to China. There are twenty un-numbered pages of Chinese delicacies, which made it difficult for our large and indecisive group to coordinate our choices. But our waiter made a few suggestions, and then we noticed that Peking Duck was a regular on the menu. Usually, you have to know 24 hours ahead that you are in the mood for this Mandarin delicacy, giving the kitchen time to go through the intricate and involved process of basting and drying the bird. At Cafe Panda, Peking duck can be an impulse buy. Our waiter performed the precise ritual of presenting the whole duck to the table, then disappeared to the kitchen to carve it, returning with a small troop of servers who helped him roll the meat with fresh spring onions in thin pancakes. The meat was tender, and our plates were empty within minutes. The downside: Fire Cracker Shrimp, billed as a hot dish-“buckle your seat belt, this shrimp will bring one bumpy night,” warned the menu-was anything but spicy. The Kung Pao Chicken could have used some more fire as well. 7979 Inwood Rd, 214-902-9500. $$.

These restaurants represent the best in Dallas-Fort Worth area dining. It is implicit, then, that we recommend them highly. Visits by our critics are made anonymously to avoid preferential treatment. Listings are updated periodically.



Restaurant listings are subject to change from month to month according to space availability.



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



KEY:

$: Dinner entrees under $10

$$: Most entrées 110 to $25

$$$: Most entrées $25 or more

Full Bar

Beer/Wine

(Based on a typical dinner for one, not including drinks, tax, and tip,)

Great Wine Cheap



A bout the only way to improve the already extensive and moderately priced wine list at The Bistro would be to give it away. Voila! It may not be free, but on Monday nights it’s close- every bottle in the cellar goes for half-price. If you don’t finish it, they’ll recork it, and you can take it home. Bring your own brown bag.

The Bistro, 5405 W. Lover’s In.,

214-352-1997.



SIDEDISH



Big Buns



This three-tiered patisserie tucked behind Rodoifo’s in Preston Royal may be tiny, but their sticky buns are huge caramel and nut-coated pastries. The upstairs dining room Is a perfect place to lounge with coffee far from the madding crowd of Starbuck’s.

Patisserie Royal,

5954-B Royal Ln.,

214-361-8381

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