We thought we were going to a French restaurant, but as soon as we opened the door, we had our doubts. Inside the etched glass double doors, we were blitzed with a barrier of wine bottles with garish red, black, and yellow labels. Swirling servers crisscrossed in front of us, making it impossible to decide which way we were supposed to go to get a table. Hark! Clinking glasses and loud laughing voices to the right -surely, that must be the bar. But wait-the same decibel level was coming from the left. Ever had that feeling of confusion when you don’t know if you’re in a restaurant or a ride at Six Flags? No? Maybe it’s an impression peculiar to restaurant critics, but there is such a thing as restaurant vertigo, and We/Oui induced a case of the worst kind.
Spaced out, we focused firmly on the horizon and made our way toward a wall of pulsating lights and a stack of TV screens with jagged images shifting around like satellite transmissions. Maybe if we made it through the crowd, we’d find Troy Dungan behind the podium and could finally ask him what in the hell he means by Doppler radar.
Dallas, I think we have a problem,
Phil Romano, the man responsible for homogenizing Italian food with his chain of Macaroni Grills, has set his sights on making coq au vin as American as fried chicken with his newest venture, We/Oui. And having watched Romano for years, we bet he’ll have We/Oui successfully playing Peoria and possibly even Paris, if he sets his mind to it.
Romano is unabashedly straightforward about his intentions. On the back of the menu, he states his concept: “When you meet someone who speaks only French, you are intrigued, but soon lose interest because you don’t understand. When you meet someone who speaks English with a French accent, that’s sensual and interesting. At We/Oui, we’ll captivate you by serving American with a sexy French accent.”
On top of this insultingly provincial lowest-common-denominator philosophy, verging on Ugly Americanism, We/Oui adds insult to injury by taking the French food language in vain. Dishes are advertised in French and served in American interpretations so far from the original you wonder why they bothered. When 1 order Coquilles St. Jacques, I expect scallops in a creamy wine sauce, topped with bread crumbs and browned, not a solitary grilled scallop sitting on a shell covered in spicy tomato cream sauce. There was nothing wrong with the taste-the tiny scallop was grilled and moist. But our taste buds would have known what to expect if the kitchen had thrown some white cheese on top and billed the dish Coquilles St. Monterey Jack. You almost expect the house wine to be Dr Pepper.
The same goes for the canard a I ’orange. No delicate duckling marinated in Grand Marnier and baked until the skin slightly crisps arrived at our table. Instead, a sliced half of duck cooked on a rotisserie and basted with orange jam-according to our waiter on loan from Macaroni Grill-sat on top of a mound of steamed spinach with flecks of grated carrots. The presentation was pure Eatzi’s deli counter and the bird hadn’t been cooked long enough to reduce the heavy layer of fat beneath the skin.
A coarse paté campagne studded with peppercorns surprised us with authenticity, while the onion soup was a glob of soggy onions, croutons, and cheese, the broth completely soaked up in the prematurely placed crouton.
To complete the “Taste of Romano Empire,” our dessert was a lovely plate of petite scoops of Wild About Harry’s vanilla and peach custard tucked in a walnut tuile and surrounded by berries.
Our dining experience could have been summed up as acceptable if the kitchen hadn’t committed the ultimate sin against the only item that is as American as it is French-the French fry. The simple, wonderful fried potato invented by France, adopted by America, and loved by both has suffered understandably crude treatments- it’s been reconstituted, frozen, crinkle-cut, battered, even baked. But in a restaurant that claims to be American with a French accent, the French fry should rule- Instead, these wilted, mushy, quasi-breaded potatoes imported from Nick and Sam’s-another Romano-backed endeavor-are a global hybrid of the worst kind. 100 Crescent Court. 214-220-3990. $$-$$$.
CHOW THAI PACIFIC RIM
Restaurateur Vinnie Virasin is building a Thai food empire in the nosebleed section of North Dallas. She not only ensures an authentic Thai food experience, but she also creates exciting interiors that explode once you’ve made your way past the mundane treeless strip mall deserts north of LB J. Her first venture. Chow Thai, is a serene feng shui hideaway in Addison, while Mango is a hip sherbet-toned hangout that stands out among the chain gangs in Piano.
And now we have Chow Thai Pacific Rim, a visual and gastronomic delight. A wonderful sail-like sculpture-reminiscent of a floating market in Bangkok -softens the room with a series of billowing curves. A stainless steel counter begins at the dim sum bar and waves across the wall wrapping neatly around the cocktail bar. where a funky chandelier of “flying” light bulbs and a chain mesh curtain separates the area from the dining room.
The food is as dramatic as the décor. Waiting for a table (yes the word is out) we started at the dim sum bar and munched on fresh shrimp and mango summer rolls accented with fresh basil. For round two, we discovered a new sensation-tapioca balls stuffed with sweet radishes that we dipped into a hearty sweet-and-sour sauce. Of course, we couldn’t resist trying a Fat Tire beer on tap-a dark ale, but still light enough to satisfy the Coors crowd.
Once we were seated (sadly, at a table facing a service station instead of all the nice design work), we focused on the main offerings. Tea smoked pork chops were enough for two-a sweetish charred tomato sauce with Thai tea leaves radically cut the acrid smoky flavor of the chops and balanced the deep hearty flavor of the meat with the delicate sauce. Delightfully crisp green beans sautéed in ginger sauce were the perfect accompaniment.
A warning to Thai food rookies: Themixed greens in the Thai spicy beef salad aren’t the only raw ingredients; the thin strips of marinated beef are not cooked. But that didn’t stop us from grazing to the bottom of the plate.
Homemade ice cream is impossible to pass up on hot Dallas summer nights, so we happily added a scoop of cinnamon to an order of sugarfried banana spring rolls. 3309 Dallas [email protected] Parker Rd. 972-601883.$$.
Dallas needs another mediocre Mexican restaurant like it needs a few more years of construction on Central Expressway. Yet somehow Cristina’s original Lewisville location has managed to open a third hacienda-style branch in Addison.
We had high expectations-the menu does have some interesting features. Margaritas and sangrias are available by the pitcher, which theoretically drops the per-glass price down to $3.50. The heavy, blue-rimmed glass pitcher looked divine, with sliced fresh limes floating in a cool green liquid. But we learned that you can’t judge a margarita by its color-there was no evidence of tequila.
Except for the thick baked tortilla chips and a weak tomato sauce salsa, our meal started well. A Cristina’s Platter was a splendid array of tasty quesadillas, taquitos. greaseless empanadas, and an inventive tortilla-crusted shrimp. But the broth of the tortilla soup shimmered with fat globules and the bowl was too full of tortilla strips and avocado slices.
Our entrées ranged from good to inedible. El Patron’s Platillo was a confusing mixture of sauces and tastes-a beef enchilada came covered with a thin, uninspired ranchero sauce that ran all over the plate, eventually soaking the sour cream on top of the chicken enchilada. The only way we could tell the difference between the enchiladas was by swallowing the beef-the chicken was so dry we almost choked.
However, the steak poblano and the Camarones a la Tina faired much better. The thin, 8-ounce tenderloin (which looked more like a flank steak to us) was grilled and topped with a thick poblano salsa and melted Monterey Jack cheese. A few spoonfuls of fresh pico de gallo helped kick up the flavor. Six large (we call them medium) but-terflied shrimp, also grilled, were served in a bowl of fiery chile chipotle sauce that made us yearn for tequila, so we ordered a couple of shots and poured them into our pitcher. So much for a reasonable bar tab.
The staff is charming and the former Humperdink’s interior has been toned down to a comfortable Mexican setting with a great outdoor patio. A variety of dishes flamed tableside create a festive atmosphere. And every meal ends with a lovely touch- a complementary round of warm coffee liqueur. 4021 Midway Rd. c Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-386-0082. $$.
Abacus. Kent Rathbun’s kitchen is a stage; dinner is a show. Lobster shooters are served sake-style -six cups contain a chunk of lobster tossed back with a shot of coconut milk, red curry, and sake. Entrées of pan-seared wall-eyed pike with scallion whipped potatoes and pork loin with pumpkin risotto are inspired meat and mash variations. 4511 McKinney Ave. 214-559-3111. $$$.
Citizen. Tuna tartare served on the base of an upside-down martini glass and sake served in wooden boxes may be as tricky as the décor, but somehow it all works. A stunningly simple slab of black cod is served solo on a banana leaf, a blond miso anchoring the ethereal fish. And Kobe beef, grilled and sliced, is the ultimate extravagance at around $15 an ounce. 3858 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-522-7253. $$$.
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. $$.
Highland Park Pharmacy. We can only describe the Pharmacy atmosphere as reassuring. Some people love the Palm Beach sandwich (pimento cheese to you) or the tuna salad with cherry cokes. For us, the grilled cheese is the winner-American slices melted to glue, the bread buttery and crisp. Chips are extra; sodas and milkshakes are priceless. Lunch only. 3229 Knox St. 234-521-2126.$.
Street’s Famous Sandwiches, 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. 4246 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-526-2505. Multiple locations. $.
D BEST Pof&y Sua Barbecue. Though Sonny Bryan’s still wins in the beef sandwich category-the definitive dish when you’re talking Texas barbecue-Peggy Sue’s beats Sonny’s by a rib in meats, side dishes, and sauces. And the smoked chicken quesadillas alone are worth a trip. A new favorite is brisket fajitas-soft flour tortillas filled with grilled barbecued brisket, onions, and green peppers, 6600 Snider Plaza. 214-987-9188.$.
Red Hot & Blue. RHB specializes in pulled pork and dry ribs-that is, Southern-style, as opposed to Texas-style, barbecue. It’s all good, though there are gimmicky touches like the fried onion loaf. The “blues” are on the walls, in die form of concert posters, and in your ears. Friendly waitstaff. 9810 N. Central Expwy. 214-368-7427; 5017 W. Piano Pkwy., Ste. 100, Piano. 972-248-3866. $.
Sammy’s Barbecue. Barbecue for the banking crowd at bankers’ hours. Everyday at lunch, Sammy’s is full of white-collar types, ties 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. 2126 Leonard St. 214-880-9064. $.
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. $.
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.$.
Balls Hamburgers. The burgers are big, weighing in at a half-pound, but the flavor is only average. However, the silver-dollar sized burgers with grilled onions and pickles are real crowd-pleasers. And a humble hot dog-smothered in chili, cheese, and chopped onions-saves the day. 3404 Rankin St. 214-373-1717; 4343 W. Northwest Hwy. 214-352-2525 $.
D BEST 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 me 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 pimento cheese sandwich that oozes down your arms. It’s worth the price of the dry cleaning bill. 110 Preston Royal Village. 214-373-0037; 5809 Preston Rd., Piano. 972-473-6100.$.
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.$.
Texas Hamburgers. This Texas kitsch joint is filled with stuffed armadillos, Texas flags, cowboy memorabilia, good ol’ boys, and Armani-clad Design Center sophisticates. Besides great half- and third-pound burgers accompanied by fresh fixings, this place serves some great meatloaf with a tasty tomato sauce laden with celery, onions, and peppers. 1616 Market Center Blvd. 214-747-2222. $.
Arc -En-Ciel. The kitchen employs separate cooks for the Chinese and Vietnamese fare, but everyone really goes there to eat Vietnamese. We ordered our last meal in a leisurely way. a few dishes at a time. Pristine Imperial rolls; shrimp pounded and molded on sugarcane; grilled pork to roll in rice paper with rice noodles, cilantro. mint, lettuce, and sprouts-each dish delightful, fresh, excellent. 3555 W. Walnut St., Garland. 972-272-2188.5-$$.
Cafe Panda. If you can’t find what you’re hungry for on the menu at Cafe Panda, you’ll have to go to China. Usually, you have to know 24 hours ahead that you are in the mood for this Mandarin delicacy, but at Cafe Panda, Peking duck can be an impulse buy. The downside; Fire Cracker Shrimp, billed as a hot dish- “buckle your seat belt, this shrimp will bring one bumpy night.” warns the menu -is anything but spicy. The Kung Pao Chicken could use some more fire as well. 7979 Inwood Rd. 214-902-9500.$$.
D BEST Jenny Ho’s Szechwan Pavillon. After 20 years of trying, Jenny Ho’s is serving some of the best Chinese in town. We never eat here (or takeout) without a plate of twice-cooked pork -paper thin squares of pork stir-fried in black bean sauce with thick cuts of carrots and crisp vegetables. If you are lucky enough to live nearby, they’ll deliver. 8409 Preston Rd. 214-368-4303. $-$$.
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.$-$$.
Royal China. Royal China serves the same neighborhood clientele mat has been faithfully eating here since Buck Kao and his family opened the place in 1947. Appetizers are still in peak performance, including a wonderful hot and sour soup and perfectly steamed pan-fried pork dumplings. But the General’s Chicken tends to look and taste like chicken McNuggets in a sweet orange sauce. 201 Preston Royal Center. 214-361-1771. $-$$.
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 hoi 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 Bell Line Rd., Addison. 972-387-2333.$-$$.
Uncle Tai’s. The kitchen never fusses when asked to prepare old-time favorites no longer on the menu. Seafood lovers will swoon over Sa-Chai jumbo shrimp with baby com in a spicy tea-infused sauce. And the Hunan Chicken is lightly stir-fried in the best black bean sauce in Dallas. Service can be flaky or efficient. In the Galleria. 13350 Dallas Pkwy. @ LBJ Fwy., 972-934-9998. $$$.
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. Hoi cabbage borscht. potato pancakes, and rye-wrapped pastrami are all wonderful. 4805 Frankford Rd. 972-733-3354. $-$$.
Gilbert’s. All you Yankees pining for the comforts of the Carnegie Deli, stop whining. The Gilbert family has been dishing out potato knishes, stuffed derma, and kasha varnishkas as good as any in the Big Apple for more than a decade. They also have a decent plate of spaghetti and meatballs for the shiksa in your group. 11661 Preston Rd. 214-373-3333. $.
Athénée. Dallas’ only Rumanian restaurant -art you surprised? Stuffed mountain cabbage is a fabulous signature dish-meatball-sized beef rolls oven-roasted in delicate cabbage leaves with a red wine sauce, just like Grandma in Transylvania used to make. Other highlights: Rumanian sausage and veal chop. The wine list is adequate. 5365 Spring Valley Rd., Ste. 150. 972-239-8060.$$.
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. 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. Beware of spotty service. 6815 Snider Plaza. 214-373-9911.5$-$$$.
Bread Winners. Three different menus a day are all imaginative. But the buttermilk pan-fried chicken breast with mashed potatoes and cream gravy is the real winner-lightly battered and fried fork-tender chicken over leek mashed potatoes and cream gravy so good it makes the bland bread better. 3301 McKinney Ave. 214-754-4940.$-$$.
Cork. The list of wines by the glass, ports, sherries, and champagnes is staggering considering the small space. The food is simple but perfectly matched to the concept. Pick your wines, then customize a cheese plate to match. Lovely patés and olive mixes also make more substantial meals, and you can linger long, foregoing dinner. 2709 McKinney Ave, 214-303-0302.$.
Dream Cafe. One of Dallas’ original organically oriented menus, old favorites like the California Dreaming (mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil on grilled sourdough bread) and the basic Global Dinner (a simple bowl of brown rice and beans covered with melted jack cheese) are as good as ever. The One for John-a grilled marinated tempeh burger-is the best hamburger substitute in town. The Quadrangle. 2800 Routh St. 214-954-0486.$-$$.
Firehouse. We’ve had no problems with new chef Bill Lewis’ version of “International Hot and Spicy Cuisine.” Trendy tamarind-soy marinated pork chops are served with a tongue-soothing mango salsa. Surprisingly, our favorite dish isn’t spicy at all -the warm chocolate devil’s food cake surrounded by Milwaukee Joe’s vanilla ice cream comes garnished with a chunk of homemade pistachio brittle. 1928 Greenville Ave. 214-826-2468.$$.
Genghis Grill. 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 bow] to the grill-master, 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. $-$$.
D BEST The Green Room. Undoubtedly the grooviest chef and dining room in town. Marc Cassel’s “Collision Cuisine” menu includes a knockout prime strip steak served with lemon-horseradish potatoes and a delicate coconut-steamed rainbow trout. Don’t be tooled by the young staff; they know the menu and wine list and service is hip and polished. 2715 Elm St. 214-748-7666. $$-$$$.
Piano Cafe. A feast of vegetables accompanies each meal at this suburban bistro, and most people leave with leftovers. Freshly grilled roast chicken with red pesto penne draws loyal fans. There’s a decent wine list and a winner of a dessert list. 1915 N. Central Expwy., Ste. 500, Piano. 972-516-0865.$$.
St. Pete’s Dancing Martin. The martin 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 CommerceSt.214-698-1511.$-$$.
Soho. The imaginative one-world-on-a-plate concept isn’t as complicated as it sounds. The mahi-mahi with a light ginger and lemongrass crust, grilled to tender, bedded on nutty red wehani rice, and encircled with a soy-lemon sauce is the dish that would lure us back to pseudo-Soho. An armagnac poached pear with toasted walnut and rice mascarpone cheese is simple elegance done well. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-490-8686. $$.
Chez Gerard. Which is more to be celebrated, French thrift or French style? Skin-thin petals of veal liver, sautéed with onions and grapes in port wine sauce, become the gourmand’s liver and onions -or is it the peasant’s foie gras? Whatever. 4444 McKinney Ave. 214-522-6865.$$-$$$.
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.$$$.
Jennivine. The charming old house is as popular a pop-the-question romantic spot as ever. Wood floors, quaint bar candles, flowers, and fine food are the setting for a nice selection of wines by the glass. The tilapia is a perfectly tender filet on a layer of lemony orzo with red cabbage and a tablespoon of sweet potatoes. And the chocolate mousse here is classic-bittersweet, firm, and topped with fresh whipped cream. 3605 McKinney Ave. 214-528-6010.$$.
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 best, yes, French fries in town. 4514 Travis St. 214-528-1081.$$-$$$.
La Mirabelle. Thoroughly retro not only in its ambience, which stresses traditional comfort, and in its food, which is precisely and personally prepared French, but also in its service, which actually claims to coddle the customer. Enjoy reading the menu, but don’t order a thing until you hear the specials of the day. That’s where the treasures are. 17610 Midway Rd. 972-733-0202. $$-$$$.
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 specialities come garnished à la Francaise within an inch of their life: For instance, a tender tilapia came tucked in a tutu-like frill of purple kale, decorated with two swishes and a curl of orange red pepper sauce. 19009 Preston Rd. 972-248-1911.5$-$$$.
Old Warsaw. Hanging on to a reputation as one of Dallas’ oldest elite restaurants is tough, but La Vielle Varsovie is valiant. It takes effort to find much fault with the food-from appetizers to dessert, me meal is an anachronistic treat. Servers, however, are only acceptably pleasant. 2610 Maple Ave. 214-528-0092.$$$.
Paris Bistrot. Paris Bistrot spills out onto McKinney like a sidewalk cafe in Paris. We’re infatuated with the classic duck confit, coarse paté campagne, delicately julienned and turned vegetables, and lamb shank with rich creamy risotto. Chocolate mousse is the real thing. 2533 McKinney Ave. 214-720-0225.$$.
D BEST The Riviera, Chef Tom Fleming’s roasted rack of lamb swaddled in cracked black pepper and sautéed maple leaf duck breast served with a sour cherry baked apple compote are just two reasons The Riviera is at the top of every five-star dining list. Any night is reason enough to celebrate with a warm apple streusel and a scoop of Calvados ice cream paired with a glass of Moet & Chandon brut Rose. 7709 Inwood Rd. 214-351-0094.$$$.
St. Martin’s. Rich paneling, soft-lit paintings, and touches of muted gold update the famous romantic setting; live music shapes the proper evening mood; and the food delivers sophisticated fulfillment. The by-the-glass wine selection is broad, and service strikes the correct balance between attention and discretion. 3020 Greenville Ave. 214-826-0940. $$-$$$.
Voltaire. All the elements of fine dining have been taken to surreal extremes. The wine list is 15.000 strong. A small menu offers sophisticated seafood, poultry, and meat selections, including a lovely lobster harissa with garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and a warm Thai-scented sauce. 5150 Keller Springs Rd. @ Dallas North Tollway. 972-239-8988. $$$.
Watel’s. French food may be the latest trend on McKinney, but Watel’s has been the top French bistro on the block for 11 years. And the new. sleeker digs haven’t had any effect on the quality of the food. The menu, which has always contained unusual organ offerings like calf brains, veal kidneys, and sweetbreads, has weathered the wars of nouvelle cuisine. A splendid classic duck leg confit appropriately slips off the bone with each bite, and the accompanying risotto is just rich enough. 2719 McKinney Ave. 214-720-0323.$$.
GOURMET TO GO
City Harvest We can always count on the infamous King Ranch Casserole -a comforting blend of chicken, cheese and chilies -to take the edge off of a hard day at the office. You can dine in or take out from a list of other old favorites including Frito pie and Mom’s rneat-loaf. 939 N. Edgefield Ave. 214-943-2650. $.
Izmir Deli. Dallas’ new fascination with Middle Eastern food means there have been long lines at Cafe Izmir since it opened. You can avoid those crowds by ordering in from the Izmir Deli, just down Greenville from the original cafe. Gyros, tenderloin, mozzarella, grilled vegetables, and chicken sandwiches, pita, hummus, couscous, and eggplant dip are all available for pick-up or phone-in orders. And this is the place to go if you need rosewater at 9 p.m. 3607 Greenville Ave. 214-824-8484. $-$$.
Marty’s Cafe TuGogh. Marty’s latest version of its wine bar has changed everything but the name. And the food -there was never a problem with that. At night, when the blond, light-filled Cafe TuGogh features full table service, it’s on its way to becoming one of the best little bistros in town. 3316 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-526-4070.$-$$.
Sigel’s Fresh Market. Besides the stellar cheese counter, dozens of kinds of imported pasta, great selection of olive oils, and other gourmet comestibles, the little deli adjoining Sigel’s liquor store sells perhaps the best roast chicken to go in Dallas. And it’s a deal, too. 15003 Inwood Rd. 972-387-9804. $.
Kostas Cafe. If you can’t get to Greece anytime soon, sample the saganaki at Kostas. The fried kasseri cheese soaked in brandy comes to the table flaming and is ceremoniously doused with fresh lemon juice and a loud “Opa!” All the classics-spanakopita, moussaka, and sou-vlaki -are authentically prepared, and the family atmosphere makes eating off your neighbor’s plate seem like a warm gesture. 4914 Greenville Ave. 214-987-3225.$$.
Z Cafe. Pizza topped with gyro meat, feta, tomatoes, and olives and the potato balls are a legacy of the former Little Gus. Breakfast omelettes take on the flavor of the neighborhood when they’re filled with chorizo, chili, and cheddar. The quintessential greasy spoon burger is a masterpiece topped with feta, grilled onions, and jalapenos. Breakfast and lunch only. 1924 Henderson Ave. 214-821-0991.$.
D BEST Ziziki’s. You can hardly get a prime-time table at this contemporary Greek cafe, and they don’t take reservations, except for large parties. But the herbed lamb souvlaki, folded in (hick warm pita and sauced with tart yogurt, is worth a wait. Ziziki’s menu has featured the same idiosyncratic version of Mediterranean food since it opened-it’s a good thing some things don’t change. 4514 Travis St., Ste. 122. 214-521-2233j_ 15707 Coit Rd., Ste. A. 972-991 -4433 $$.
Celebration. Bring your appetite to this longtime mecca for Dallas home-cooking purists. Entrées run the gamut from broiled fresh fish to pot roast 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. 4503 W. Lovers Ln. 214-351-5681.$-$$.
Mama’s Daughters Diner. Mama’s Daughters Diner has ’em lined up out the door for the Deep South, deep fat cuisine that’s euphemistically called home cooking: fried chicken, with bones, green beans cooked beyond tenderness with combread and mashed potatoes. The prize is the chocolate pie-tall, dark, and topped with clouds of meringue. 2014 Irving Blvd. 214-742-8646. Multiple locations. $.
Natalie’s. It’s the ultimate neighborhood spot: The portions are large; the prices are small. The meatloaf is a popular choice: For $7.95 you get an 8-by-3-inch slab of finely ground meat with a light tomato sauce on top, mixed crisp steamed vegetables, and a hunk of mashed potatoes. But the secret to Natalie’s success is the cinnamon rolls. We always order extra to take home for the next morning. 5944 Royal Ln. 214-739-0362.$.
India Palace. India Palace has long been considered one the best Indian restaurants in town, Once it merged with Bombay Cricket Club, we found the luster lacking. Service was unhelpful, so it was fortunate we knew what we wanted and it was easy – biryani, fragrant and studded with fruits, nuts, and lamb-and delicious. The Vegetable Bhojan was an institutional presentation but tasted good. 12817 Preston Rd. 972-392-0190. $$.
Madras Pavilion. The unforgettable aromas of jasmine, coriander, and turmeric greet you at the door. Lunch is an Indian food orgy buffet that includes unusual (for Dallas) Northern Indian specialties -a bargain at $6.99. In the evening, you can choose from an extensive menu that includes a large list of dosai (thin rice crêpes with vegetarian fillings) and vadas (crunchy lentil cakes). Cold raita. fresh coriander leaves, salads of chopped carrots, cucumber, and onions, are just a few of the refreshing condiments supplied to ease the heat. 101 S. Coit @ Belt Line Rd., Dal Rich Shopping Center. 972-671-3672. $-$$.
Alfonso’s. If you don’t live in East Dallas, it’s time to load the kids in the car and lake a round trip for dinner. Basic Italian favorites are cooked the old-fashioned way -heavy on the garlic and butter. Chicken Francese and the hot homemade garlic (and we mean garlic) rolls are alone worth the trip. Lake Highland Village, 718 N. Buckner Blvd. @ Northcliff Dr. 214-327-7777. $.
Avanti. Avanti has maintained the feel of a small, intimate neighborhood cafe in spite of every obstacle. The fried calamari with tomato and basil sauce is greaseless, and the crunchy batter is light and tasty. We’re .slightly disappointed with the grilled veal medallions, but the Italian sausage seasoned with lots of fennel and sautéed with onions and bell peppers on top of angel hair pasta covered in a light marinara is gutsier. 2720 McKinney Ave. 214-871-4955. $$.
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.$$.
Cafe Expresse Owner Dieter Paul offers an uncomplicated list of Italian specialties. Pastas and sauces are mix and match. and the same goes for the thin crusty individual pizzas. The kitchen also knocks out above average veal scaloppini with lemon butter and capers and the nightly specials (maybe a pecan-crusted flounder) never disappoint. 6135 Luther Ln. 214-361-6984. $$.
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. $$.
D BEST Mi Piaci. Housemade is a term Mi Piaci doesn’t take lightly -the kitchen makes its own pastas and cures its own meats. Every other ingredient is either imported or hand-picked. A bowl of the Tuscan classic ribollita could be enough for a meal. But don’t neglect the spicy penne arrabbiata. the three thin scallops of veal perched on a pile of portobello mushrooms, or the asparagus and cheese tortelli-ni with a fragile Marsala sauce. 14854 Montfort Dr. 972-934-8424. $$-$$$.
D BEST Modo Mio. Chef owner Rino Brigliadori’s small traditional rustic Italian menu is consistently dependable, starting with the asparagus, eggplant, and goat cheese antipasto and finishing with the softly sweetened sorbets. In between we have always been happy ordering gnocchi Modo Mio, but special sea bass in tomato broth is an offering we will never refuse. 18352 Dallas Pkwy. 972-671-6636.$$.
Nero’s. Chef Luigi Lama has been serving pink garlic bread and Caesar salad for 15 years, but we prefer his Linguinie Fra Diavlo-a steaming plate of sea scallops, gulf shrimp, and mushrooms in a spicy marinara sauce. Of course, the regular pasta dishes are above average, and his homemade white chocolate ice cream has customers driving long distances just for dessert. 2104 Greenville Ave. 214-826-6376.$$.
Nicola’s. Nicola’s makes ils own cheeses and frozen desserts. The deliciously light and creamy Mozzarella délia Casa includes handmade cheese layered with grilled eggplant and oven-roasted peppers, finished with basil-infused oil and balsamic vinegar. Farfalle con Salsiccia, pasta butterflies with dainty slices of sausage and a light bath of rich tomato cream sauce, is a little too light-handed. But you’ll be sold on the chocolate hazelnut gelato cone. In the Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy. @ LBJ Fwy. 972-788-1177. $$.
Patrizio. 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) and the baked ziti (we had leftovers for breakfast). The prices aren’t what you’d expect with Escada and Calvin Klein just a kiss away. Highland Park Village. Mockingbird Ln, @ Preston Rd. 214-522-7878; 1900 Preston Rd., Ste. 343, Piano. 972-964-2200. $$.
Pavarotti’s. Pavarotti’s is one of the few places in North Dallas where parents can escape for a quick, semi-romantic meal. The baked lasagna is a delightful casserole layered with noodles, meat, and cheese that somehow remains light. The linguine Pavarotti loaded with shrimp and chicken sautéed in a garlic white wine sauce is all the reason we need to return. 6757 Arapaho Rd., 972-991-2828.$$.
Rodolpho’s. American 1950s-style Italian food is the order of the day-hefty lasagna and only average chicken parmigiana. We’ve never had the nerve to try anything from the “pasta with berries” section of the menu; we just stick to the angel hair pasta with spinach balls. The dumplings of ricotta and spinach scented with nutmeg make a wonderful light meal. 5956 Royal Ln. @ Preston Rd. 214-368-5039.$$.
D BEST Salve! Like sister restaurant Mi Piaci, home style Tuscan is the backbone of Salve. Casual all-day dining in the bar features pizza, calzones, and panini. In the evenings, the extensive menu in the elegant dining room is the perfect opportunity for a sophisticated Italian feast. Brodetta Adriatica, a pile of clams, mussels. shrimp, and lobster is as fresh as a Mediterranean breeze perfumed with saffron. 2120 McKinney Ave. 214-220-0070. $$-$$$,
Terilli’s. A Lower Greenville fixture. Terilli’s packs in a semi-sophisticated crowd for such-as-it-is jazz and an eclectic menu featuring the signature item with the silly name: “Italcho’s” (crisp chips of pizza dough topped with mozzarella and a choice of toppings). Food ranges from pretty good to so-so. but devotees find that Terilli’s is more than the sum of its parts. 2815 Greenville Ave. 214-827-3993.$$. T
D REVISITS The Blue Fish. En retaliation for the glut of steakhouse openings, Dallas has become flush with sushi houses of all types-hole-in-the-wall funky, rock and roily, and elegant. Leading the “techno” spectrum is The Blue Fish located smack dab in the middle of action on Greenville Avenue.
Recently, we were greeted by a hostess who actually appeared to be happy with her job. Of course, we couldn’t hear her over the music that bounced off the high-tech metal surroundings and the crowd of dedicated sushi lovers noisily flicking chopsticks across the table.
But the sushi does all the talking you need to hear. While the list is not overly adventurous, what Blue Fish does offer excels with freshness. We sampled the ultimate test -mackerel. a robust oily fish usually reserved for those who have acquired a taste; it came to us pristine, plump with moisture, and impeccably fresh. Live scallops and yellowtail cheek were also available, but that’s as daring as it got. Everything we sampled was prepared with great care, exquisitely garnished, and afterward, we were treated to a whimsical menagerie of fresh oranges cut into animal shapes.
Our only disappointment came from the separate Yakitori kitchen, which prepared the Japanese dishes. The uninspired sampler plate was full of chicken, beef, and shrimp, all swimming in the same bland sauce. Play it safe: Stick with some of the best sushi in town. 3519 Greenville Ave. 214-824-3474. $$.
Chaya Sushi. The tuna roll is lean, deep red, and fresh. From the robata bar, try the chargrilled sirloin-thinly sliced, bite-sized morsels of rare tenderloin dipped in ponzu sauce. Gulf shrimp, sautéed in a light ginger sauce, is fragrant and firm. And our all-time favorite dish -simple to make, but hard to make well -is the miso soup. We believe this hot, nourishing version has healing properties. 101 Preston Royal Shopping Center. 214-361-0220. $$.
Fishbowl. The small but ambitious menu reflects the 1960s Pan-Asian concept: Trader Vic’s-style cocktails, sushi, sake, and noodles, all served tapas-style one small plate at a time, A meal is a series and may include a best seller like peanut chicken satay as well as Stephan Pyles’ innovative version of mu shu pork tacos served with thai basil slaw. Dinner only. 3214 Knox St. 214-521-2695.
Royal Tokyo, It’s a hibachi steak room, it’s a sushi bar (Dallas’ first), and it’s a show palace. You can leave your shoes at the door and eat in one of their Tamati Rooms or sit around grill tables where Japanese chefs perform slice and dice like Samurai warriors. It’s a great way to get kids to eat their vegetables. 7525 Greenville Ave. 214-368-3304. $$.
Tel Tel. We still haven’t tasted the kobe beef (which comes from cattle fed with beer and massaged with sake), but Tei Tei is a destination restaurant anyway. The “kinki fish” is a whole fish (snapper) slashed to the bone, so the flesh lifts out easily with chopsticks. To eat the soft-shell crab, abandon the Eastern eating utensils and resort to the God-given: fingers. 2906 N. Henderson Ave. 214-828-2400. $$-$$$.
Yamaguchi. Far from being wrapped up in the traditional trappings of sushi showmanship. Yamaguchi focuses on flavor and takes it seriously. Service is precise and caring, and entrées reflect a balance of tortuously fine flavor, fresh ingredients, and design on the plate. 7713 Inwood Rd. @ Lovers Ln., 214-350-8660. $$$.
Fogo de Chao. This is not a place for the faint of heart. Or the not-very-hungry. Once you’ve signaled “go” by turning your ordering chip from red to green, you are immediately bar-raged by gaucho-clad waiters waving huge skewers of assorted meats. The Lombo -pork loin crusted with parmesan-can be dry, but the Frallinha (bottom sirloin) is tender, and the Picanha (rump steak with lots of garlic) will make you send the other waiters away. The centerpiece of the restaurant is the beautiful salad bar. 4300 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-503-7300. $$.
Samba Room. lt”s impossible not to feel transported to an exotic Havana night -huge palm trees; windows covered by wooden-slat shutters; warm browns, ochre, and cobalt blue set the mellow, sexy tone for the whole room. Arepas-beef marinated in sherry, cooked with onion and peppers, then shredded into a mound and surrounded by triangles of griddled sweet corn cakes topped with a slight drizzle of sour cream-are superb. A silver martini shaker filled with long, thin strips of Yuca Frita-fried yuca seasoned with lime and garlic-makes French fries obsolete. 4514 Travis St. 214-522-4137.$$.
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 items besides salad, including tabbouleh and marinated mushrooms, and the required feijoa-da (the national dish of Brazil). 15101 Addison Rd. 972-385-1000; 2727 Cedar Springs Rd. 214-720-1414.$$$.
Avanti Euro Bistro. The menu at this sexy spot circles the Mediterranean Sea, featuring French, Moroccan, and Middle Eastern delights. We marveled at a truly traditional veal Francaise delicately swirled with a cognac demi-glace and a Chicken Marrakesh bursting with a saffron lime flavor. Skip the crème brulée and go straight for the fresh pear poached in vintage port stuffed with a dollop of buttery mascarpone. 5001 Addison Circle, Addison, 972-386-7800.$$.
H Sole. Chef Tim Penn focuses on Mediterranean food, sometimes to brilliant effect. Long fingers of tender pan-fried cala-mari dip easily into a spicy red chile sauce. Wonderful warm putanesca pasta crowded with kalamata olives, capers, tomatoes, and garlic pops with flavor. Nice by-the-glass wine selection. 4515 Travis St. 214-559-3888.$$-$$$.
Popolos. Popolos has reopened and most of the original staff and popular menu items are back. One visit we sat at the bar and nibbled thin-crusted pizza layered with tomato, kalamata olives, capers, and garlic. Another night we feasted on the always dependable (and enough for two) chicken piccata. For those without elastic-waist pants, the fat-free angel food cake bruschetta is a guilt-free ending. 707 Preston Royal Shopping Center. 214-692-5497.$$.
D BEST Suaze. The attitude is casual, sophisticated, and neighborhood friendly. The food is a funky blend of Mediterranean fare that rotates continually and includes Prince Edward Island mussels steamed in coconut milk, cilantro, and chipotle broth that should not be missed. Former Toscana wiz Gilbert Garza has proved he is a chef to be reckoned with-his double cut pork chops rubbed with red curry and topped with dried cherry sauce is a gastronomic work of art. 4345 W. Northwest Hwy. @ Midway Rd. 214-350-6135.$$.
Anamia’s. The basics-cheese enchiladas, cheese tacos, guacamole, and beef tacos-are all above average, the surprise being the usually boring beef taco full of chili powder-spiced beef. Shrimp comes wafting the scent of lime, covered with nuggets of sautéed garlic, on a bed of sautéed celery, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and jalapenos. For two bucks, you can get an order of sopaipillas -a platter of three gold puffs sent from heaven with a little honey, 106 Denton Tap Rd., Ste. 240, Coppell. 972-304-0321.$. Margaritas.
D BEST Avila’s. At Avila’s you can find all the flavors of Mexican food without the lard. Chili relleno isn’t battered and deep-fried; it’s gently roasted and stuffed with cheese or meat and covered in a light ranchera sauce. Enchiladas can be customized from a mix-and-match ingredients menu and is a must for vegetarians looking for a Tex-Mex fix. 4714 Maple Ave. 214-520-2700. $.
D BEST Ciudad. Monica Greene, the genius behind Monica’s Aca y Alla, tips her own ante by delivering dishes based on true Mexico City-style cuisine. Tender barbecued pork wrapped in fresh corn tortillas mix easily with a tropical fruit salsa, and an 8-ounce beef tenderloin topped with melted asadero cheese is surrounded with a spicy red tomato sauce with a side of epazote-scented black beans. Por favor, save room for elegant desserts. 3888 Oak Lawn Ave., Ste. 135.214-219-3141.$$-$$$.
Cuquita’s. You won’t find a list of Tex-Mex combination plates or even a margarita here, but you will find authentic specialties like beef tongue simmering in a pepper-studded tomato sauce and tender fillets of pork sautéed with onions and spices. Everything goes down easy with a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade or a Bohemia. 2326 N. Henderson Ave. 214-823-1859.$. Beer only.
Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano. 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 look 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. $$.
Luna De Noche. The secret is out in Garland. Luna Noche is playing in the Mexican food big leagues with stellar versions of cheese enchiladas, guacamole, and nachos. Thankfully the margaritas are more sour than sweet, and the Polio Pepian is a juicy chicken breast simmering in delicious chicken broth, ancho chile, and pecan sauce. The fruit flautas are the best dessert find around. 7602 Jupiter Rd. @ Lookout Dr., Garland. 972-414-3616. $-$$. Margaritas.
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.$-$$.
D BEST Matt’s Rancho Martinez. The place is filled with the faithful at every meal because the flautas are the best in Dallas, the chile relleno is food for the gods, and even a combination plate satisfies, if you don’t mind processed cheese. 6332 La Vista Dr. 214-823-5517. $-$$.
D BEST Monica’s Aca y Alla. Monica Greene continues to serve the best food bargains in town. Most lunches are less than $5, and the choices are not your normal Tex-Mex combinations. We’ve gorged on green enchiladas, mushroom quesadillas. and spinach-jalapeno fettuccine with chicken, roasted com. cilantro, and black beans in a cream shallot béchamel sauce. Tuesday food is half-price and Wednesday’s freshly squeezed lime margaritas are only 50 cents. 2914 Main St. 214-748-7140.$-$$.
Omega’s, It’s easy to imagine ending evenings at Omega’s. But fortunately. Omega’s is also a great place to lunch, and it’s even a comfortable place to eat alone. This friendly little cafe on a Deep Ellum side street serves a complimentary cup of chile con queso with the warmed salsa and tostados. There’s nothing particularly original about the menu, but the basic cheese-oozing enchilada plate is pure comfort food. 212 N. Crowdus St. 214-744-6842.$.
Pepe & Mito’s. The vivid walls and bright lights mean this cafe looks noisy even though it’s not usually crowded. It should be-chips worth mentioning (thick, warm, slightly overcooked), cilantro-laced salsa, and standards like nachos and enchiladas are excellent. Tamales are utterly remarkable, and chicken and beef taquitos are still some of the best in town. 2935 Elm St. 214-741-1901. $. Margaritas.
Rafa’s. We love the seasoned red snapper topped with crabmeat, wrapped in foil, and cooked in its natural juices. The full-on Tex-Mex regulars of hefty beef enchiladas and sour cream chicken enchiladas never fail. And we never leave without sinfully submerging a sopaipilla dusted with powdered sugar into a warm ramekin of honey. 5917 Lovers Ln. 214-357-2080.$-$$.
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 com 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 ail complemented by the fragrant masa tortillas. Service is hit-or-miss. 4011 Villanova Dr. 214-696-944. $. Margaritas.
Al-Amir. The Mediterranean meets the rising sun at Al Amir, which took the place of a Japanese restaurant. The result is an odd, melting-pot ambience. Concentrate on the plate -Middle Eastern expectations are well-met with good renditions of hummus, baba ghanoush, and lamb. But there are also some less well-known dishes to try. 7402 Greenville Ave. 214-739-2647. $$.
All Baba. Order hummus and you get a bowl swirled with the garlicky puree, pooled with yellow olive oil, dusted with parsley, and adorned with slick olives. That and a stack of hot pita could do you, but the grilled chicken is irresistible, and the tabbouleh, mostly chopped parsley with bits of bulghur and tomato, is a perfect counterpoint to the unctuous chickpea mash. 1905 Greenville Ave. 214-823-8235. $-$$.
Basha. Basha was one of the first in the wave of Middle Eastern restaurants that have opened in Dallas in the last few years. And it remains one of the best of a good lot. The menu is less predictable than many of Dallas’ Lebanese restaurants, offering dishes outside the usual selection of hummus, baba ghanoush, rice, and grilled everything. Breast of chicken breaded in crushed pistachios is an excellent idea-so is fragrant lamb shank, cooked till it is stew on the bone. Okay, hummus is good, too. 2217 Greenville Ave. 214-824-7794.$$.
D BEST Café Izmir. This remains one of the best little restaurants in Dallas. The space is small, the service is friendly, and the choices are simple-all you have to say is “meat” or “veg” and the food starts coming. The mezes platter-hummus, baba ghanoush, and Russian chicken salad, all designed to spread on warm pita bread-is a regular. Wash i( down with a bottle of the Boutari, and you’ll be happy. 3711 Greenville Ave. 214-826-7788.$$.
Hedary’s. The original Hedary’s was a destination restaurant in Fort Worth long before hummus became hip. Maybe it’s just the Dallas location that’s stopped trying. More garlic in the baba ghanoush, please. Less leathery lahvosh. You have to watch that kibbe; it tends to get dry if it’s cooked too long. Where’s that nice Greek red we like with our lamb? We know better now, 7915 Belt Line Rd. 972-233-1080. $$.
D BEST Marrakesh. Just what is Moroccan cuisine, and what is it doing in Dallas? It is lamb and couscous and fresh vegetables spiced with mysterious combinations of nutmeg, paprika, and cumin-wonderful. The Moroccan Feast-a sample of almost everything on the menu -is a bargain at $26.95 per person. Vibrant Middle-Eastern music accompanies a veiled belly dancer in a purple bra who gyrates and finger-cymbals her way around the room. 5207 W. Lovers Ln. 214-357-4104.$$.
Antares. The Hyatt Regency’s sky-high, revolving restaurant appears to be finding its wings at last. Huge sea scallops were sparked with chile-peanut dressing; grilled beefsteak tomatoes and shiitake mushroom caps wore dollops of melted queso fresco in a roasted shallot vinaigrette. Reunion Tower. 300 Reunion Blvd. 214-651-1234.$$-$$$.
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”! 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. Adam’s Mark Hotel. 400 N.Olive St. 214-922-8000. $$-$$$.
Guthrie’s. Luckily Guthrie’s sits next to our parking lot downtown. That makes it easy to dash over for a quick luncheon comfort-food fix of roasted chicken and mashed potatoes. Chef William Guthrie gets creative at night and turns out brilliant versions of pork schnitzel with sautéed mushroom and a killer version of fish and chips. 400 S. Ervay St. 214-760-7900.$-$$.
D BEST Laurels. Rising star executive chef and general manager Danielle Custer brings her cutting-edge cuisine to Westin Park Central’s 20th floor. Incomprehensible dishes like pear soup with plum wine crème fraiche don’t make sense until you put them in your mouth. You have to trust Custer: She thinks with her palate, and the results are brilliant. Westin Park Central. 12720 Merit Dr. 972-385-3000. $$-$$$.
The Mansion on Turtle Creek. This isn’t dinner; it’s a dining experience. A dramatic, country club-like, members-only dining experience. The Grande Dame of Dallas dining continues to live up to its legend -the atmosphere is inimitably posh, and the food is predictably innovative. The price? If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 214-526-2121.$$$.
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.$$.
Tillman’s Corner. The signature New American dishes of late owner and chef Ricky Tillman still take top honors. Pork medallions with roasted chile sauce are tender and come nestled against light whipped potatoes scented with horseradish, and die salmon roasted on cedar planks is scented with a mild burgundy sauce. A slice of warm apple caramel pie is enough for two. and the Tillman’s special coffee-spiked with three liquors-is reason enough to sit back and relax in this home away from home. 324 W. 7th St. R Bishop PI. 214-942-0988. $-$$.
Tramontana. Chef James Keel has successfully stretched his culinary skills. He and his wife, Lisa, have created a delightful New American menu with Italian and French accents. Osso buco fans, bring your own marrow forks- after devouring the veal braised in red wine. we brazenly blew the marrow out of the bones ourselves. A Key lime trifle was so tart it puckered our mouth, but the silky bananas foster cream pie soothed our souls. S220-B Westchester Dr., Preston Center, 214-368-4188.$$.
AquaKnox. Since the lounge was turned into Fishbowl, the sexy blue chenille dining room of AquaKnox feels like half a restaurant. The décor isn’t the only boat that’s been rocked here. We’ve had a good meal-brilliantly seared beef tenderloin with chipotle mashed potatoes-and we’ve had a bad meal-salty red snapper with gooey com pudding. But overall Stephan Pyles seems to have steadied the course with the addition of new executive chef Ethan Powell. 3214 Knox St. 214-219-2782.$$$.
Cafe Pacific. Cafe Pacific continues to delight as one of Dallas’ most reliable luncheon and dinner restaurants, as well as die 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.$$-$$$.
Fish. After a long float in troubled waters, Fish has plugged up the holes in the sinking standard of their food. The laurel-scented Chilean sea bass with roasted sweet peppers and leeks has been tweaked and now includes jumbo shrimp and ginger rice. Delicious grilled, pepper-crusted sea scallops served on hot creamy risotto-flavored with lemon, red peppers, and sweet basil is a comfort and a delight, 302 S. Houston St. 214-747-3474. $$$.
Lefty’s. The menu is small, but Lefty’s features everything you’d expect a good lobster house to have, including beef for those who don’t like seafood. One bargain: the one-pound lobster with baked potato and corn for $10.95.4021 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-774-9518. $$.
D BEST Lombardi Mare. Few seafood kitchens m town offer as many varieties of fresh oysters. Recently we were served a disappointing plate of polenta-crusted salmon, but the pasta covered with lobster, shrimp, scallops, crabmeat, and asparagus restored our faith in Alberto Lombardi’s touch. Perfect setting and food to impress out-of-towners. Village on the Parkway, Montfort Dr. @ Belt Line Rd. 972-503-1233. $$$.
Mainstream. While the other locations have drifted downstream, the Preston Forest neighborhood still lines up for casual seafood at reasonable prices. We can’t bring ourselves to eat seafood stew out of a bread bowl, and the jumbo fried shrimp dinner is no better than average. 11661 Preston Rd. @ Forest Ln. 214-739-3474. $-$$. Margaritas.
Newport’s. Enjoy an imaginative seafood menu that we classify loosely as New England seafood with Asian and Cajun influences. Grilled tilapia is 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 portobel-los and roasted peppers-almost wonderful, except for the lake of teriyaki sauce drowning the rice. 703 McKinney Ave. 214-954-0220. $$-$$$.
Rockfish. Rockfish is cozy and uncontrived; even the cute stuff and the out-of-place ambience feels comfortable. You can get an oversized platter filled with more than a pound of fresh crab, about 30 medium boiled shrimp, two ears of com, several new potatoes, and a foot of sausage for S22.99. Our main problem with Rockfish is that it’s a neighborhood restaurant, but it’s not in our neighborhood. 7639 Campbell Rd. @ Coit 972-267-8979. Multiple locations. $-$$.
D BEST S&D Oyster Company. S&D can do anything with shrimp, and they have been doing it for longer than we care to remember (or admit we do). The fried shrimp is so delicately breaded you can still see the pink-skinned flesh through the crust. Then it’s butter-flied, lightly fried, and served with a dollop of tartar sauce-heavy on the pickle. And no meal here would be complete without a slice of the famous Key lime pie. 2701 McKinney Ave. 214-880-0111.$$.
Vincents. This place hasn’t conformed to any current low-fat or global-spice trends: the signature Red Snapper a la Vincent’s is still a deli-ciously rich filet, lightly breaded, sautéed in loads of lemon butter, and topped with a huge clump of fresh crab. There is lighter side: A lovely broiled halibut is sauced with about half the snapper’s butter. The whole experience is completely unhip and, therefore, completely comforting. 2432 Preston Rd. @ Park Blvd.. Piano. 972-612-6208. $$-$$$.
Blue Mesa. Blue Mesa has wisely stuck with its original concept of Southwestern fare: The table-side guacamole is truly a marvel, with avocados as smooth as congealed cream. Adobe pie. the signature dish, is as good as ever, as is the warm salsa and yam and tortilla chips. 7700 W. Northwest Hwy. 214-378-8686; 5100 Belt Line Rd. 972-934-0165. $$.
No Place. Tender elk sirloin and boneless rabbit are sided with sautéed portobello mushrooms and onions. Better-than-beef chicken-fried venison comes with Matt’s famous smoked mashed potatoes. The food is why Matt Martinez Jr. is a legend -in his own neighborhood, anyway. 6325 La Vista Dr. 214-328-9078.S$-$$$.
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. $$-$$$.
V.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. 702RossAve.214-744-3287. $-$$. 702RossAve.214-744-3287.$-$$
Barcelona. Tapas in Spain, of course, are Spanish food. Greenville Avenue is global. So Barcelona serves snack food from all over the world, such as chicken satay, mezes, and tab-bouleh, as well as tortilla, the stacked potato omelet that is the quintessential Spanish tapa. and the buffalo burger-juicy and lean -on a toasted roll. 2100 Greenville Ave. 214-826-8600.$.
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, and braised lamb slices. 4501 Travis St. 214-528-173 J. $$.
Seville at the Stoneleigh. The menu is more than tapas at this upscale Spanish dining room that resembles chichi spots in Spain. Five varieties of paella headline the show and a tenderly braised rabbit comes served hunter-style in rich brown gravy that accents the mild-flavored meat. An extensive list of tapas makes it easy to make a meal with a combination of small plates. 2927 Maple Ave. 214-871-7111. $$$.
Al Biernat’s. The dinner menu’s specialty section features prime rib, rack of lamb, and jumbo lobsters. The entrees 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. $$-$$$.
Bob’s Steak and Chop House. We usually forego filets, preferring a more flavorful cut, but the three-inch nine-ounce is beautifully marbled and cooked perfectly pink and tender. It’s impossible not to love the “smashed” potatoes-they’re wickedly mashed with about a stick of butter in each serving. And the slight sweet glaze on Bob’s signature whole carrots side dish is a nice contrast to the beef. The atmosphere here is as comfortable as your grandmother’s dining room, but the restaurant is crowded with the Ross Perot and Jerry Jones set. 4300 Lemmon Ave. 214-528-9446.
Capital Grille. Normally we wouldn’t touch a high-dollar surf-and-turf chain restaurant with a 10-foot expense account, but here we make an exception. An 18-ounce Delmonico strip almost two inches thick was served hot on the outside with a cool pink center. But the surf stole our hearts-lobster filled with lightly-breaded chunks of lobster, rock crab, and shrimp was a tasty bargain at $65. 500 Crescent Ct. 214-303-0500. $$$.
D BEST Chamberlain’s. Richard Chamberlain makes fine dining simple and elegant. You won’t find any singing cowboys or 20-page wine lists. Prime rib, a beautiful hand-cut aged beef, is perfectly seasoned with coarse salt and chunks of fresh cracked black pepper. We could pass on the meat here and still be happy with bowls of green beans and mushrooms sauteed in garlic and buttered corn freshly shucked from the cob. 5330 Belt_Line Rd., Addison. 972-934-2467, $$-$$$.
Nick & Sam’s, Nick & Sam’s is a steakhouse first, but it’s trying -and succeeding -to be more. For instance, there’s a raw bar at the far end of the building, and the lobby bar area is a wine cellar with more than 300 wines. We ate the traditional steakhouse meal-a wedge salad with creamy lumps of Maytag blue cheese. surf-and-turf (snowy sweet lobster tail and soft filet), and a prime aged “cowboy steak” with sides. The most successful twist on the traditional steakhouse is the setting itself. This is not a faux men’s club-no brass, etched glass, or hunting paintings. 3008 Maple Ave. 214-871-7663. $$-$$$.
D BEST The Palm. Our started off with all the style and grace you would expect from a restaurant famous for charging prices that jeopardize children’s college funds. Yet, The Palm is consistently full of big parties chow-ing down on $100 lobsters and $30 steaks. And usually you get something close to your money’s worth.
As our menus were passed around, our waiter was cheery, attentive, and helpful with suggestions. Our water glasses were filled, the wine was ordered, and the appetizers arrived. Huge fresh jumbo shrimp curled around a silver dish of ketchup and the makings for cocktail sauce -great for those of us who constantly ask for extra horseradish.
Suddenly the vibe shifted. Our once ubiquitous waiter went MIA. Our huge mound of (average) onion rings, which we normally would have only half eaten, disappeared entirely because we were out of wine and water and had to do something with our hands.
Finally, some other guy showed up with our steaks -and disappointment set in. The steak à la stone (sliced filet on a bed of sautéed onions and green peppers) was stone cold, and the prime aged ribeye ordered medium was still breathing. But it would have been easier to flag a cab in a New York downpour than get the attention of our waiter. We sent the steak back to the kitchen with somebody in a white shirt, and when we tackled our waiter, he joked, “Oh my, I just spaced right out, didn’t I?”
Yeah. By the time the S27 slab was returned, the rest of us were choosing dessert. We decided to go for the jugular and ordered the ugliest specimen on the tray -a weird-looking square of white icing with squiggles of brown sauce they claimed to be tiramisu. To our surprise, it was the best part of our meal. 701 Ross Ave., 214-698-0470. $$-$$$.
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. This is the best beef we’ve eaten in Dallas lately. The porterhouse, regally alone and ungamished. arrives at the perfect degree of doneness and is still actually hot. Mushrooms -crimini and shiitake, in a port reduction -and thick-cut. thinly breaded onion rings are both preferable to another potato. And we appreciate the diminutive (only three-and-a-half pounds!) Maine lobster, perfectly steamed and cracked, and only $64. Even dessert, which frequently seems like an insult in a steakhouse, is spectacular. 10477 Lombardy Ln. 214-366-2000. $$-$$$.
Stone Trail Steakhouse. Lavish décor, live music for late dancing, an upscale menu and wine list mark this sprawling steak spread as the brainchild of restaurateur Tony Taherzadeh, former owner of Farfallo and Papillon. A clubby ambience and prescient service support terrific beef treatments (try the bone-in ribeye, an Everest of a steak); seafood and other meats provide variety. Dinner only. 14833 Midway Rd. 972-701-9600.$$$.
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 donut-sized onion rings are heavily beer-breaded and greasy. Prices are less than you’d expect. 17795 Dallas Pkwy. 972-267-9393. $$.
Texas Land and Cattle. It’s nice to see that Texas Land and Cattle doesn’t have a $30 filet on the menu-their prices top out at S 18.95. and that includes a salad or soup and one side. The place has a kitschy, Texas-log-cabin ambience with concrete floors and deer heads mounted on the wail. The 16-ounce pepper-smoked sirloin is delivered sliced and is as rich and juicy as prime rib, perfectly cooked and delicious. The trail quail are grilled and dry-we prefer pan frying. A huge baked sweet potato served with cinnamon-sugar sauce and butter is a nice diversion from boring baked Idahoes. 3130 Lemmon Ave. 214-526-46664. Multiple locations. $$.
III Forks. The special pepper sirloin is mealy and chewy, and the peppercorn sauce is dull. The trout swims in a weak brown sauce accompanied by a few lonely roasted pecans. But we do love the salad, a mix of mesclun, red oak leaf lettuce, and sliced green apple, topped with roasted pecans and crumbly Maytag blue cheese, all lightly dressed in a sweet vinaigrette. 17776 Dallas Pkwy. 72-267-1776. $$-$$$.
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. @ Montfort Dr., Addison. 972-960-2999.$$.
Mango. This is the second restaurant from the folks who brought Chow Thai to Dallas. Playful proportions and offbeat hues color Mango California-cool. House special Mee Sea Go is an ocean broth full of scallops, shrimp, and cala-mari. Pad Thai is appropriately sweet and crunchy with peanuts. 4701 W. Park Blvd., Piano. 972-599-0289. $-$$.
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. 5500 Greenville Ave. 214-691-3555.$-$$.
Thai Garden. Thai Garden serves homestyle Thai; a beautiful plate of beef satay skewered and grilled comes with a light creamy peanut sauce. The takeout is top-notch, too. Even the usually lowly Lo Mein is an elegant mixture of soft noodles, bean sprouts, cabbage, and celery in a silky broth- Rice pudding made with sweetened black rice blended with a salty-sweet coconut milk and topped with fresh lotus seed and fruit is a treat. 6090 Campbell Rd., Ste. 124.972-248-8861. $-$$.
Toy’s Cafe. This hole-in-the-wall joint has all the elements of a great neighborhood “find.” The tantalizing aroma of curry and garlic is welcoming. Thai iced tea is a hit; eggplant and tofu in Thai green-curry coconut milk is perfectly prepared. Squid salad with Thai herbs is fresh and tasty. 4422B Lemmon Ave. 214-528-7233.$.
Green Papaya. If you’re going to learn anything about pronouncing Vietnamese. learn to say pho correctly. The traditional Vietnamese bowl of broth comes thick with rice noodles and your choice of beef, chicken, or meatballs. Most of the other traditional country dishes are good, but someone in the kitchen needs to adjust some of the uninspired seasonings. 3211 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-521-4811.$.
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.$-$$.
Viet Num. A little bit of Southeast Asia transplanted to East Dallas. VietNam has very little Western influence to make the cultural transition easier. This is Vietnamese food designed for the Vietnamese community. But some things are universal-die appeal of hot soup, for instance. And VietNam’s hot pot, a comforting, steaming cauldron of soup, noodles, and vegetables, is enough to share, 4302 Bryan St. 214-821-4542.$-$$.
Abuelo’s Mexican Food Embassy. Usually we stick to hole-in-the-wall joints, avoiding slick contrived cantina-esque restaurants like the tap water in Mexico. But Abuelo’s gives us a few reasons to cross the line, We loved the house specialties of grilled bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with Monterey Jack and the medallions of chicken stuffed with chorizo. But the Tex-Mex offerings covered with pounds of cheese send us straight to the nearest bring-your-own-six-pack spot. 824 Airport Fwy., Hurst, 817-514-9355. $$.
Angelo’s. The big, wood-paneled dance hall of a room is lined with a self-service buffet line, cold-drink coolers, and chip racks on a linoleum floor. You grab a round tray and a frosted stein of Bud and eat from styrofoam plates under antler heads mounted on the walls. The chicken, served “while it lasts,” goes fast -it’s juicy and smoked off the bone. All the usual sides -beans, cole slaw -stand up to the ribs, but we wish they’d put more punch in their thin, vinegar-based sauce. 2533 White Settlement Rd., Fort Worth. 817-332-0357. $.
Angelina. The patio swarms with an artsy Chanel-and-Chardonnay crowd before and after events at the Bass Performance Hall across the street. The “one-world-on-a-plate” menu features designer pizzas, pastas, and spinach and mushroom salads corralled by delicate potato rings. Who cares if it’s more about style than substance? After all, the parent company is in Aspen. 215 E. 4ih St.. Fort Worth. 817-334-0080.$$.
Benito’s. Like an old familiar friend, Benito’s appearance may be spruced up from lime 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 lime with the menu-everything on it is worth trying. 1450 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth. 817-332-8633.$$.
Bistro Louise. This gem of a bistro offers takeout now. but the staff seems curiously challenged by the idea. The famed smoked duck and stuffed lamb loin travel well, but even delicate reheating of an appetizer of Brie roasted in pastry petals fails to restore it. Savored in the sunny bistro, the cuisine works Mediterranean magic. Enjoy it there as often as possible, 2900 S. Hulen St., Fort Worth. 817-922-9244.$$.
Cacharel. 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. Ala carte menu also available. 2221 E. Lamar Blvd., Ste. 910, Arlington. 817-640-9981.$$$.
Cattlemen’s Steak House. Fort Worth ate cattle before cattle was cool, and Cattlemen’s is still the quintessential stockyard steakhouse. There’s not much but beef accompanied by rolls, potatoes, and iceberg lettuce salad, but the atmosphere is genuine cowboy. 2458 N. Main St.. Fort Worth. 817-624-3945. $$-$$$.
D BEST Grape Escape. The gimmick here is education-Grape Escape is trying to do the same thing for wine that brew pubs did for beer. So you order “flights” of the grape of your choice. and the waiter brings a four-glass lasting of say. Chardonnay, from Sonoma, Napa. Australia, and New Zealand. Compare and contrast. The food is designed around the wine, so you can change direction mid-meal – start with white wine and suggested matches, finish with red wine and cheese. The selection of small plates -merguez sausages, pate, salads, stuffed potatoes, pizzettes-adds up to a full meal that’s lots of fun. 500 Commerce Sl.,FortWorth.817-336-9463,$$.
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 .ill the old favorites from burritos to tantales. 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.$$.
D BEST Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Dishes. The quintessential Fort Worth restaurant. Its location near the Stockyards can handle the crowds for whom the restaurant’s status hovers somewhere between ’Institution” and “nirvana.” Wait for a spot outside by the pool, and order the enchiladas. Joe doesn’t do credit cards or reservations, either. 2201 N. Commerce St.. Fort Worth. 817-626-4356. $$.
Kincaid’s. 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. It’s been a while since we left a restaurant this satisfied for only $5. 4901 Camp Bowie Blvd.. Fort Worth. 817-732-2881. $.
Mi Cocina. The food is dependably good. If there’s a line, cool your heels with great mar-garitas. The menu features upscale dishes in addition to basic Tex-Mex-tacos habanas are stuffed with chicken and covered with ground chile and cilantro; Latin stir-fry fajitas provide a great option for vegetarians. 509 Main St.. Fort Worth. 817-877-3600. $-$$.
Pegasus. Fort Worth has good restaurant news-this newly opened eclectic spot with strong Middle Eastern touches is a winner. The mezze menu features hummus softly spiked with garlic, handmade dolmas stuffed with lamb and rice, and moist falafels served with an inspired fresh mango and mint coulis. A chocolate cappuccino tart smothered in Godiva chocolate sauce is nearly an overdose for chocoholics. 2443 Forest Park Blvd.. Fort Worth, 817-922-0808. $$.
D BEST Randall’s Gourmet Cheesecake Company. It’s a wonderfully romantic, candle-lit French cafe serving delightful classic specialties. Beef tenderloin medallions served with rosemary-roasted shallots come with crunchy haricots verts and garlic mashed potatoes. But the pièce de résistance 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.$$.
Saint Emilion. Some are surprised to see this Fort Worth restaurant on the list of top 10 restaurants in the area. But the brick-walled, country French atmosphere is charming, and the food is mostly terrific. The wine list features many vintages from the Saint Emilion region, as you might expect. 3617 W. 7th St.. Fort Worth. 817-727-2781.$$$.
Queen of Sheba
Owners Berhane and Eisa K if lorn have a tough job getting people to try the ultimate dining oxymoron, Ethiopian food. But despite the odds, Queen of Sheba has thrived in Dallas for more than 17 years, and when the Klfloms took over nine years ago, they committed themselves to presenting the natural hospitality and ceremonies of Ethiopian cuisine.
We were prepared for the spicy nature of the food, but we were unaware of the Ethiopian custom of eating everything with your fingers-Including the plate. Our Yebeg Wott (spicy lamb stew) was served on injera, a spongy, crepe-like sourdough bread that we quickly figured out to be both the platter and our fork. Like pros, we Just tugged off a piece, scooped up some lamb, and off we went.
Straight to the ultimate Queen’s Dinner-a feast that includes almost everything on the menu presented beautifully on a silver platter. The banquet, a real bargain at $30 per person, also Includes a special hand-washing ceremony-once with an apéritif before the meal and again after we’d sopped up the East of the juice left from our pureed lentils, 3527 McKinney Ave. @ Lemmon Ave., 214-521-0491.
From the 18th Annual Food & Wine Classic
Each year 5,000 foodies, culinary superstars, and winemakers meet and mingle in Aspen. Here’s the latest scoop,
Steve Jenkins, cheesemonger extraordinaire, passed out samples of the latest rage- Portuguese cheeses.
The new wine regions soon to be on local shelves are not really new, but they are making new impressions. The panel of gurus- MadelineTriffon, Andrea Immer, Joshua Wesson, Larry Stone, Mark Tarbell-highlighted wines from Lebanon, Austria, Portugal, and Mexico.
Cyberspace has invaded the restaurant world. Online reservations will soon be sophisticated enough to remember your last order, how much you spent on wine, and your birthday. Yikes!
“Jacques and I agree-it’s time to make great food convenient. “
-La Madeleine founder Patrick Esquerre on buddy Jacques Pepin’s top-secret new venture, which happens to be similar to Esquerre’s.
These restaurants represent the best ii 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 nth paid advertising.
$: Dinner entrees under $10
$$: Most entrees $10 to $25
$$$: Most entrees $25 or more
Full Bar Beer/Wine
(Based on a typical dinner for one. not including drinks, tax, and tip.)
Don’t let the August heat get you down. Just look at the world through blue-colored glasses- the ones full of frozen watermelon mar-garitas at Ciudad. Magically, the icy concoction garnished with a simple orange twist is the perfect cure for the summertime blues.
3888 Oak Lawn Ave., Ste. 135, 214-219-3141.
When you pull into this East Dallas shopping center, don’t blink or you’ll drive right past the paned windows draped with lace at York Street. That is unless you’re one of the locals who has been frequenting this 12-table dining room that, like a big easy chair, is snug and comfy. Even the hallway to the restrooms, which is almost too narrow to walk through, is a charming adventure.
The food is a mellow fit with a handwritten menu of New American specialties combined with a few flourishes from France-pate campagne, escargot bourguignone, tomato and red bell pepper soup. The menu changes seasonally.
We were relieved to find that after 10 years, the kitchen still hasn’t given in to trendy architectural presentations, so our delicious pork chop with chipotle cream sauce was displayed simply and tasted heavenly. The wildest dish we found was a roasted duck with fresh blueberry sauce that was perfectly cooked-moist meat inside and crispy outside-but the sauce could have used a touch of acidity to punch up the flaccid blueberries.
But hey, we’re really getting nitpicky because York Street is the type of restaurant that every neighborhood would love to have. The service is friendly and efficient, and while the entrée prices are a bit steep-hovering around $22-the overall dining experience is far from the madding crowds. And it’s worth the price to be able to hear your dining companion without having to cup your ears. 6047 Lewis St. (off Skillman between Oram and Live Oak), 214-826-0968. $$-$$$.
Summertime And The Living Is Easy
FOUR QUAFFABLE QUENCHERS UNDER $15
We know there’s no cooler place than Dallas In August-as long as you’re ensconced in the comfort of an air-conditioned garden room watching your poolside plants wilt. August is the time of record highs, but not when ft comes to the prices of some flawless wine finds.
We’re here to share with you some cool wines to quench your thirst as a last goodbye to the long, hot days of summer.
PECHE IMPERIALE, Loire, France, $10. This refreshing 100 percent Chenin Blanc sparkler is the charming “Georgia Peach” cousin of true Champagne. Make this fruity chiller the “Belle of Your Ball” for its splendid pairing with salty foods like prosciutto and melon, or serve it solo at evening’s start or finish on the verandah.
BLANC, 1999, Washington State, $7. (Rhymes with “Just call me.”) The smell of the salty surf should be your first clue to slurp It with chilled raw oysters on the half shell and celebrate the earthy joys of America’s Pacific Northwest. This Texas newcomer, fresh from the snowcapped Cascades, will thrill your palate and restore your parched summer soul.
MERLOT, 1998, $10. This blend, rich with notes of currant and chocolate, calls out for a great grilled steak, succulent lamb chop, or seared salmon. Once you’ve tasted this hidden treasure of the Columbia Valley, you’ll call out for more. No need to cellar this winner, as winemaker Joy Anderson’s credo is “enjoy now.”
DURNEY VINEYARDS. Cachagua Cabernet Sauvignon, 1995, Carmel Valley, $15. This robust California Cab is surprisingly bold and satisfying, despite its organic upbringing. No “sprouts and nuts” here-just tangy cherry and plum flavors with soft tannins on the finish. Enjoy with takeout ribs or rotisserie duck and call us in the morning. Word has it this wine’s rich relatives are offered at The Mansion on Turtle Creek. Enjoy it at your mansion for a lot less.
-Sybil Kipriotis and Susan Kendall