Restaurant Reviews

NEWCOMERS



CHAROLAIS

You don’t hear Dallas diners asking “Where’s the beef?” anymore. The born-again red meal industry has infiltrated almost every major intersection in town with a high-dollar steak house; husband and wife team Clair and John Rubede (Clair de Lune) have opened another one. The Rubede’s new age twist? French-but of course!-and their menu only offers France’s favorite. Charolais beef.

Located in Preston Royal just a few doors down from Clair de Lune (now run by their daughter Rebecca and her husband Patrick Deacy), the Rubedes have again created a charming atmosphere. A cozy tire bums in the fully stocked wine cellar, reminding my dinner date and me of a nameless inn we discovered while roaming the country roads of Burgundy. The café-curtained dining room surrounds a stunning copper-lined grill. Both nights we dined, chef John was under the Vent-A-Hood grilling steaks and fussing and fretting about the room with his wiry gray hair protruding from bis ten-gallon toque.

On our first trip to Charolais. the restaurant was completing its third day of operation. Considering the staff was still overcoming opening night jitters, the tableside salad tossing went smoothly. Despite the pomp we were disappointed in the uninspired house-made blue cheese dressing. Even though the 14-ounce prime-aged pepper steak was served with splendor- studded from stem to stem with crunch) peppercorns and accompanied by a trio of classic sauces, including béarnaise, brandy, and bordelaise-the meat was tough at medium rare. We had better luck with a chargrilled porter-house, but the overall flavor failed to reach the heights attained at other chophouses in town.

Yet we’ve learned never to underestimate the talents of the French. Despite the appeal of the designer steaks offered at Charolais, the seafood rules. A hot plate of rich, lumpcrabmeatserved”Lorenzo”- rolled with mushrooms, breaded, and baked-was a perfectly sophis- ticated starter. A special entrée of redfish stuffed with shrimp and crab was sauced a la Francaise with light lemon butter. Broiled chicken isn’t just a token entrée at Charolais either. C’ est magnifique. 5950 Royal @ Preston. 214-692-0900. $$$.



MAGUIRE’S

When we opened the door to Maquire’s. we were immediately surrounded by a sea of middleaged men wearing khaki pants and golf shirts. The bar was standing room only, and martini glasses clinked in chorus. The dining room appeared flashy, almost sexy.

But aller soaking up the scene. we realized that it was like seeing the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders up close for the first time. The longer we looked, the less we liked what we saw.

While we wailed for our Chef’s Pagoda of appetizers, we surveyed the upscale Denny’s atmosphere-yellow paper cone lights hang above a serpentine counter in front of the kitchen. At least we couldn’t see the orders hanging down behind the hot lights. Order in! Pick up!

But back to the Chef’s Pagoda, which was an old-fashioned three-tiered pie server loaded with plates of Food. Our server (Can we see your license, please?) put it down smack dab in the middle of our twosome, forcing us to lean right to continue our conversation.

And we had plenty to talk about. Like the rosemary sprigs sticking out tike a tree line down the side of a mash potato mountain. Or the brown gravy (Oh that’s what it was) surrounding the grilled New York strip. The maple-ginger salmon was grilled until it had the texture of an overcooked chicken, while the center of a herb-marinated chicken chop was faintly pink-the color of properly prepared salmon. But enough of the visuals.

lit between disappointments we did manage to find something to eat: Thai mahogany (huh?) chicken wings that were actually meaty drumsticks glazed with a tangy chili-lime peanut sauce, and the house salad was a memorable blend of greens, roasted pecans, and blue cheese tossed in a walnut apple cider vinaigrette.

Dessert was an entirely different event. We were served a dramatic molten lava cake thai spilled hot gooey chocolate at the touch of a fork-the likes of which you will never find at Denny’s. 17552 Dallas Pkwy. @ Trinity Mills. 972-818-0068. $$.



MADRAS PAVILION

My neighbor is a macho man when it comes to food. I’ve watched him pop a habanero pepper into his mouth like it was a cherry tomato. But I made this grown man cry when I challenged him to try the exotic curry specialties of Southern India at Madras Pavilion.

He pouted as we headed north to Richardson, the Mecca of Indian food in Dallas. Inside Madras Pavilion, the unforgettable aromas of jasmine, coriander, and turmeric greeted us. My friend, we’ll call him Eric, was hesitant to face his “curry-phobia” and was relieved that lunch was a buffet. Walking along the harmless-looking specialties that were neatly arranged and identified, he nodded and admitted, “Hey, this really looks good.”

His first test was a bowl of rasam, a hot and sour lentil soup rumored to have the power to prevent cancer and cure arthritis. It certainly took care of Eric’s sinusitis as his eyes rolled back into his head, having to soothe his tongue with a lassi (iced buttermilk). But tough guy that he is. he went back to the steam table to fetch a plate of vadas (crunchy lentil puck-size cakes filled with corn) that he dipped into coriander, coconut, onion tomato, and tamarind chutneys. Undaunted, he tore through a selection of dosai (thin rice crepes) tilled with various vegetable, onion, and potato fillings before discovering a classic palak paneer.

We both loved the huge variety of condiments-cold raita (yogurt with onion). cucumber, fresh coriander leaves, salads of chopped carrots, cucumber and tomatoes. and refreshing marinated lemon rinds. Like my friend, you might be afraid to try something beyond enchiladas, but trust me-this is one mental hurdle worth getting over. 101 S.Coit @ Beltline. Dal Rich Shopping Center. 972-671-3672. $-$$.

The Riviera

We could describe our most recent experience at Riviera with one word: impeccable. Ubiquitous host Franco Bertalasi sets the tone by greeting diners as warmly as he would old friends. Our evening began as he graciously escorted us through the elegant dining room set with Villeroy and Boch china and surrendered us to a wait staff that filled our wine glasses every few sips without intrusion. 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 examples of the quality that keeps The Riviera 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. 214-351-0094. $$$.

ASIAN FUSION



Abacus. Kent Rathbun’s kitchen is a stage; dinner is a show. Lobster shooters are served sake-style-six cups contains a chunk of lobster tossed back with a shot of coconut milk, red curry, and sake, Enlrées 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 is served on the vase of an upside down martini glass and sake is 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 S15 an ounce, 3858 Oak Lawn. 214-522-7253. $$$.



Voltaire. All the elements of fine dining have been taken to surreal extremes. The wine list is 15.000 strong while the menu is surprisingly minimal. There are three fish dishes and four plats de Voltaire including a lovely lobster harissa with garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and a warm Thai-scented sauce. 5150 Keller Springs Rd. at North Dallas Tollway. 972-239-8988. $$$.



BARBECUE



D BEST Peggy Sue 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 b\ a rib in meats, side dishes, and sauces. And the smoked chicken quesadillas alone are worth a trip. The ribs- baby backs and pork short ribs-are always moist, tender, and free of gristle. A new favorite is brisket fajitas-soft flour touillas filled with grilled barbecued brisket, onions, and green peppers. 6600 Snider Plaza. 214-987-9188.$.



Sammy’s Barbecue. Barbecue for the banking crowd at bankers’ hours. Everyday at lunch. Sammy’s is lull 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 al I 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. $.



BAKERY/SANDWICHES



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 winner- 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.$.



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. 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. $.



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 $4.5(1. For serious beer drinkers, there are 120 beers to choose from. 2726 Commerce St. 214-741-4406.$.

Culture Club



When was the last time you casually ordered a generic chardonnay only to be stunned by the $10 price tag? You owe it to yourself-and your retirement account-to invest in wine education.

The Bacchus Wine Society presents a series of seminars and tastings designed to increase your grasp of the grape.



The Bacchus Wine Society Memberships: $20 single, $30 per couple 214-630-5000



Chip’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers. Perhaps Dallas’ best rendition of the ail-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 lime 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. $.



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 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 that college was the prime of their life. They probably were, if you continue to eat things like Snuffer’s cheese fries {a basket 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. $.



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 meat-loaf with a tasty tomato sauce laden with celery, onions, and peppers. 1616 Market Center Blvd. 214-747-2222. $.



D BEST Z Cafe. Pizza is 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 tilled 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. 214-821-0991.$.



CHINESE



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.$-$$.



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 lire as well. 7979 Inwood Rd. 214-902-9500.$$.



D BEST Jenny Ho’s Szechwan Pavilion. Aller 20 wars ut trying, Jenny Ho’s is serving some of the best Chinese in town. We never eat here (or lake ont) 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 lime, 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 that has been faithfully eating here since Buck Kao and his family opened the place in 1974. Appetizers are still in peak performance, including a wonderful hot and sour soup and perfectly steamed pan-fried pork dumpling. Bui 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 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 Bell Line Rd., Addison. 972-387-2333. $-$$.



Uncle Tais Hunan Yuan. Not much has changed here over the past. 15 years. Bow-lie 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 Tars 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. $$.



DELI



Deli 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



Bistro A. Peripatetic chef Avner Samuel’s latest venture is his best yet. and belter yet, Bistro A looks like it’s going to be around awhile, Dishes with Middle Eastern influences are especially good, hut 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. $$-$$$.



Broad 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, regoing 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 overed with melted jack cheese) are as good as ever. The One for John-a grilled marinated empeh 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 picy 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 vegeta-bles, along with your choice of oils and sea-sonings. Then you give your bowl 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 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 Boom. 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 fooled by the young staff, they know the menu and wine list and service is hip and polished. 2715 Elm St. 214-748-7666. $$-$$$.



Plano 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, Plano. 972-516-0865. $$.



Simply Fondue. The appeal of Simply Fondue is lost on us-if you’re not going to stay home and cook, why would you go out and cook? Still, the place is always booked. Cooking together evidently gives young couples something to talk about (because there’s no TV hanging from the ceiling and the noise level is reasonable, conversation is called for). The professional and friendly staff makes the process manageable. Bread and cheese are staples of the age-just like chips and queso, but you can’t spear a tostado. And the meal is as good as melted cheese, sauléed meat, and melted chocolate can be. 2108 Greenville Ave. 214-827-8878. $$-$$$.



Soho. The imaginative one-world-on-a-plate concept isn’t as complicated as il sounds. The Mahi Mahi its 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 masearpone cheese is simple elegance done well. 5290 Belt Line Rd.., Addison. 972-490-8686. $$.



St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin. 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.$-$$.



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 plate 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. Tex-Mex meets the world under the “Salsa. Smoke, and Sizzle” style. Stick to thin-crusted pizza topped with a smoky-sweet barbecue sauce and dotted with chunks of grilled chicken and onions. Soft tacos filled with tem-pura shrimp, fruit pico de gallo. bacon, and cilantro is a bizarre combination that somehow works. But the restaurant may lose you with the cheeseburger taco-a big cheese-topped patty wrapped in a Hour tortilla. We’re Texans; we agree that thai almost everything tastes better wrapped in a tortilla, Almost. 2626 Howell St. (across from the Quadrangle), 214-999-0059. $.



FRENCH/CONTINENTAL



Addison Cafe. It’s called “Le French Bistro.” but in reality, Addison Cafe is a restaurant serving classically prepared French and New American dishes, which has kept them in business for 15 years. Tournedos of beef are cooked medium-rare and served in a textbook bordelaise sauce. And dark chocolate mousse is worth every hip-hugging calorie. 5290 Belt Line Rd.. Ste. 108 at Montfort Dr.. Addison. 972-991-8824. $$-$$$.



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 plaies 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.$-$$.



Bizu. This is the beginning of the Gallic flood we’ve been predicting. It’s a bistro-you can order omelettes for lunch (we like the tomato-basil one), steak tartare, and pommes frites. The patés, including a smooth-as-cream chicken liver mousse and a coarse country meat loaf, are fragrant and spicy, a great lunch with the Bizu salad: a toss of pear slivers, mature spinach leaves, feta. and raspberry vinaigrette. 2504 McKinney Ave. 214-303-1002. $$.

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. $$-$$$.



Clair De Lune, Tucked behind some trees in the comer of a small strip of shops in Preston Royal, this cozy French country restaurant delights with delicious food and impeccable service. A classic house-made pork paté is served with diced onion. French cornichons, and mustard. Poitrine de canard, a splendidly moist duck breast, is served with a delicate port wine sauce. 5934 Royal Ln. at Preston Rd. 214-987-2028. $$-$$$.



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 Moors, quaint bar candles, flowers, and line 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 the best, yes, French fries in town. 45 14 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. $$-$$$.



Paris Bistrot. Paris Bistrot spills out onto McKinney like a sidewalk café 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. $$.



The Pyramid Boom. The table d’ hote menu is a good deal-$68 for four courses with wine. $44 without. Cream of carrot soup with celery root and gorgonzola croulons is gOOd. hot, and thick, with a spicy nose. As for the main courses, a fan of rare duck slices with a wonderful apple-pineapple wild rice goes perfectly with an Indigo Hills pinot noir, the food and the wine forming a perfect circle on the palate. Fairmont Hotel. 1717 N. Akard St. 214-720-5249. $$$.



St. Martin’s. Rich paneling, soft-lit paintings, and louches 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. $$-$$$.



Tramontana. This cozy little dining room has charming murals on the walls and an inviting-looking bar. but service and food vary. Some high points; The steak is perfectly good-flavorful red meat with a simple emphatic wine reduction-and the salad is a mix of lovely. flowerlike greens with pungent, mouth-cleaning flavors, 8220B Westchester Dr. 214-368-4188,$$.



Watel’s. French food may be the latest trend on McKinney. but Watel’s has been the top French bistre 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, Although the roast pork loin can be dry. the tasty apple and calvados sauce would make a meal out of shoe leather. 2719 McKinney Ave. 214-720-0323.$$.



GOURMET TO GO



City Gate To Go. Does anybody cook from scratch anymore? According 10 the servers at City Cafe To Go, most people don’t even know how to use a regular oven to reheat the precooked food they buy there. They all want microwave instructions. 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. 5757 Lovers Ln. 214-351-3366. $-$$.



City 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. $-$$.

Eatzi’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.214-526-1515.$.

Izmir Dell. Dallas’ new fascination with Middle Eastern food means there have been long lines at Cafe Izmir since it opened. You can avoid those crowds now by ordering in from the Izmir Deli, just down Greenville from the original cafe. Gyros, tenderloin, mozzarella. grilled vegetable, and chicken sandwiches, pila, hummus, couscous:, anil eggplant clip 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 ils 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. $-$$.



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 Zizikis. 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 wait. 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



Barbec’s. Barbec’s regulars love the tabloid newsprint menu, the hearty, what-canget-you-Hon? waitresses, the awesome anytime breakfasts. The food ranges from pretty good to good, but it’s all cheap. And they’ve always got those legendary beer biscuits, sweet and high and truly loved by all. Great meringues. 8949 Garland Rd. 214-321-5597. $.



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.$-$$.



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 el 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 cornbread and mashed potatoes. The prize is the chocolate pie-tall, dark, and topped with clouds of meringue. 2014 Irving Blvd. 214-742-8646. $.



Natalie’s. It’s the ultimate neighborhood spot: The portions are large, and the prices are small. The meatloaf is a popular choice: For $7.95 you get an eight-by-three-inch slab of finely ground meut with a light tomato sauce on top. mixed crisp steamed vegetables, and a hunk of mashed potatoes. But the secret to Natalie’s success is the cinnamon rolls. We always order extra to take home for the next morning. 5944 Royal Ln. 214-739-0362.$.



Poor Richard’s Cafe. Honest home-cooked food. featuring a huge spread of the one meal Mom (old you never to leave home without-breakfast. 2442 Ave. K at Park Blvd.. Piano. 972-423-1524.$.



INDIAN



India Palace. India Palace has long been considered one the best Indian restaurants in town. Recently 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 Jamb-and very good. The Vegetable Bhojan was an institutional presentation but tasted good, 12817 Preston Rd. 972-392-0190. $$.



ITALIAN



Alfonso’s. If you don’t live in east Dallas, it’s time to load the kids in the car and take 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. at Northcliff Dr. 214-327-7777.$.



Amore. Amore has all the elements of a successful neighborhood rest an ran l but the food, like most Italian food in town, is average. There’s plenty to choose from-the menu is loaded with chicken, seafood, and veal dishes with cream sauces presiding over tomato-based marinaras. Half plates make it easy for families with kids. 6931 Snider Plaza. 214-739-0502. $$.



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 entrees. 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. 498.5 Addison Cir. 972-458-1010. $$.



Avanti. Avanti has maintained the feel of a small, intimate neighborhood cale 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 Salvias 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 loo heavy. 220 Las_Colinas Blvd., Irving. 972-869-0713.$$.



D REVISITS Café Expresso. Dieter Paul’s Café Expresso is one of the best-kept secrets in town. Call ahead or get there early to avoid waiting in a line full of people you’ll he likely to recognize. By no means pretentious, Paul knows most of his customers by name and won’t hesitate to call them at home when a special shipment of Dungeness crab or sea scallops arrives. The menu is an uncomplicated list of Italian specialties that range from simple to sublime. Recently, we ordered a bowl of Italian comfort-penne smothered in a thick Bolognese sauce-and thin crust pizza topped with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. Specials change nightly, offering versions of sautéed veal scaloppine or fresh steamed mussels. Paul is always around, so don’t forget to introduce yourself and leave your number. 6135 Luther Ln. 214-361-6984. $$.



D REVISITS Glovanni’s. We had received severa letters asking to try Giovanni’s, so we were disappointed on our first trip when we had to wait five minutes for someone to notice us. Once seated, we wailed another five minutes for a menu. Then there was the waiter. We all have bad days. However, it’s unfortunate that, when we aren’t having a bad day we get a waiter who is. Thankfully, the food was better than the service. Manicotti stuffed with cheese, spinach, and basil was just the way we like it-heavy on the oregano. Brandy cream sauce nicely covered four huge ravioli squares plump with chunks of sweet lobster. Jus! when we thought it was safe to smile, our waiter came back. With dessert. Billed as tiramisu, usually a light Italian pick-me-up, it was more like a Sara Lee cheesecake, a thick layer of caulk-like frosting on top. 18484 Preston Rd. 972-596-8610. $$.



Iano’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. $$.



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 arrabbia-ta, 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. 972-934-8424. $$-$$$.



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 ate always perfectly prepared. 18352 Dallas Pkwy.,Ste. 112. 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 while chocolate ice cream has customers driving long distances just for dessert. 2104 Greenville Ave. 214-826-6376.$$.



Nicola’s. Nicola’s makes its 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 Salsicciu. 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. at LBJ. 972-788-1177. $$.



Patrtzio’s. Move over. Campisi’s. Patrizio’s signature crab claws just took first place in the crah 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 at Preston. 214-522-7878. $$.



Ruggeri’s. We’re happy to report that our old favorite chicken parmigiano remains unscathed. It’s still served sautéed to the appropriate firmness without becoming blobby or covered with too much tomato sauce and moz-zarelia cheese. Even on busy weekends, service flows evenly. 2911 Routh St. 214-871-7377: Beltline Rd. 972-726-9555. $$.



Terilli’s. A Lower Greenville fixture, Teriili’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 lopped 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. $$.

NEIGHBORHOOD FIND



Tony’s Wine Warehouse



Close your eyes and imagine yourself seated at a romantic corner table lit by soft candlelight, with gentle jazz blending with the pop of a cork. (Stay with me here.) Take the imaginary table with a single red rose centerpiece and transport it to one of the liquor aisles at Sam’s Club. Sound crazy?

Open your eyes to Tony’s Wine Warehouse.

Just inside the double doors is a huge room filled floor to ceiling with cases of wine. Making our way past the madness up front, we found our aforementioned tables tucked between shelving units and stacked crates. None of It made much sense until our waiter explained the layout: The wine is loosely organized into rows-red, white, California, French-and prices are retail. You can pick out a bottle to take home or uncork it there for no fee.

The night we were there, the kitchen gave us plenty of reason to linger. Everything we sampled from the Mediterranean-inspired menu was at least a B*. Veal medallions gently sautéed with port wine, roasted garlic, and shitake mushrooms paired nicely with the Nuit-Saint-George we selected, and the lemon cream sauce drizzled on the grilled Norwegian salmon was light enough to enjoy without having to walk home stuffed with guilt. 2904 Oak Lawn. 214-520-9463. $$.

JAPANESE



Chaya Sushi. The tuna roll is lean, deep red. and fresh. From the robata bar. try the char-grilled 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, like a global chicken soup. 10! Preston Royal Shopping Center. 214-361-0220. $$.



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.. Piano. 972-881-0328. $$



Tei Tel We still haven’t tasted the kobe beef (which comes from caille 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. $$-$$$.



D BEST Teppo. Our only vakitori bar is also one of the city s most exciting sushi bars and a favorite weekend dale 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 moisi 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. Slay 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. 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 Frailinha (bottom sirloin) is lender, 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-vegetarians who can get past the carnivorous atmosphere will find nirvana in the form of big bowls of steamed asparagus, mozzarella cheese balls, rice, marinated red peppers, hearts of palm, and sun-dried tomatoes. 4300 Belt Line Rd? Addison. 972-503-7300.$$.



Samba Boom. It’s impossible not to fee] transported to an exotic Havana night-huge palm trees: windows covered by wooden-slat shutters; warm brawns, 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 lopped 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 anil garlic-makes french fries obsolete. 4514TravisSt.2l4-522-4137.$$.



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. $$.



II 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.. Travis Walk. 214-559-3888. $$-$$$.



D BEST Suze. 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. at Midway. 214-350-6135. $$.



MEXICAN



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 gel an order of sopapillas-a platter of three gold puffs sent from heaven with a little honey. 106 Denton Tap Rd? Suite 240. Coppell. 972-304-0321.$. Margaritas.



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 cov-ered in a light ranchera, sauce. Enchiladas can be customized from a mix and match ingredients menu and is a must for vegetarians look-ing for a Tex-Mex fix. 4714 Maple Ave. 214-520-2700. $.



Galle Doce. The new Lakewood digs has the same menu and quality as the popular Oak Cliff location. Undoubtedly the best Mexican seafood in town, the fresh cold seafood cock-tails-octopus, ceviche. and oysters-are full of spicy tomato sauce rilled with chunks of celery and green peppers, The grilled whole catfish served with vegetable and rice shouldn’t be missed. 1925 Skillman. 214-824-9900: 415 W 12th St. 214-941-4304. $$.



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, slewed chicken in a soft, fresh tortilla. But the doppelganger 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. $$.



Casa Navarro. This little cafe in a former 7-Eleven specializes in the same unpretentious cheesy fare we used to love before Tex-Mex became chic. The beer is bring-your-own, and on Wednesdays the enchilada plate is $3.75 all day long. Sopapillas, once the darling dessert at every Tex-Mex joint, are still handmade, light, and greaseless. such a surprisingly elegant finish to the meal that we wished we’d brought our demitasse, too, 11742-A Marsh Ln. at Forest. 972-357-0141. $.



Casa Rosa. There’s almost always a table available at the pink-tinted Casa Rosa, but only because the place is so big. The appeal of the food would certainly pack a smaller place. Casa Rosa does well with standards-except the chimichanga-but the real finds here are the more unusual dishes such as the goat cheese chile relleno and the mushroom enchiladas. 165 Inwood Village. 214-350-5227. $-$$.



Javier’s Gourmet Mexicans. 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. $$.



Las Gazuetas. This tiny East Dallas jewel serves up marvelous food. Starring with the killer salsa that’s made with fresh cilantro, onion, and tomato essences. On Mondays, the special caldo de res. chunky with beef and vegetables. is Fabulous, as is the super-hot chile relleno. 4933 Columbia Ave. 214-827-1889. $.



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 pecans sauce. The fruit flau-tas are the best dessert find around.7602 Jupiter Road at Lookout, 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.$-$$.



Mattito’s. The Baja shrimp stuffed with Monterey jack cheese and fresh jalapenos then wrapped in bacon is a change of pace from our favorite Matt Martinez recipe chiles rellenos stuffed with cheese and topped with ranchero sauce, sour cream, raisins and pecans. The gorditos we tried were dry and tasteless, but save room for chocolate caramel nachos-this is a destination dessert. 5290 Bell Line Rd. at Monitor! Dr.. Addison. 972-503-8100. $-$$.



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 plaie satisfies, if you don’t mind processed cheese. 6332 La Vista Dr. 214-823-5517.$-$$.



D BEST Monica’s. 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 corn, 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.



Nuavo Leon. Nuevo Leon has the uncanny knack of blending perfectly with a neighborhood while serving the same menu at 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. Service is slick, and the food is excellent-fat enchiladas, avocado-like cold cream, thick tortillas. So far. this is a winning formula. 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 wanned 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.



Plano 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 will) more cheese. The cheese-fest continues with a “Tex” version of a chili relleno: a cheese-stuffed poblano pepper, dipped in a qucso and egg hatter, 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 ale it all. 3309 McKinney. 214–220-0510. $.



Rafa’s. One Dallas institution replaced another when Raphael’s (now Rafa’s) opened in Mr. Peppe’s old space on Lovers Lane, The arched brick wine cellar is bright orange, and the pastoral Swiss view lias been replaced by pictures of many Aztec gods and one happy tomato. The place could still use a few velvet paintings, but (he tablescape is complete: Light, fresh chips, vinegary salsa, and fast margaritas are the intro to a meal that’s quintessential Dallas Mexican. 5617 W. Lovers Ln. 214-357-2080. $-$$. Margaritas.



Rodolfo’s. Stan with the home-fried chips, huge half-tortilla rounds served with a full-bodied salsa. Then try the Big Tex-Mex dinner or the Number 0 (yes, they start numbering at zero). The star on the Number 0 plate is the Idaho enchiladas made of, yes, mashed potatoes, pleasantly spiced and available with a choice of seven different sauces. 2002 S. Edgefield Ave. 214-942-1211.$.



Sol’s. The goal here seems to be to offer pretty good Mexican food in a pretty comfortable place to folks who live pretty close. Sol’s has found a niche where old-fashioned combination plates-oozing enchiladas, rich chili gravy, deep fried flautas, and lush guacamole-are all dial’s required. Nachos come with a pile of sliced jalapenos, margaritas have plenty of tequila, and the set is tuned to Mexican TV. Really, ?hat more do you want on a Sunday evening? 6434 Mockingbird Ln. 214 821-7911.$-$$.



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 munitions. 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 mealy mushrooms are all complemented by the fragrant masa tortillas. Service is hit-or-miss. 4011 Villanova. 214-696-4944. $. Margaritas.



MIDDLE EASTERN



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. Bui there are also some less well-known dishes to try. 7402 Greenville Ave. 214-739-2647. $$.



Ali 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. Thal and a stack of hot pita could do you. but the grilled chicken is irresistible, and the tabbouleh. mostly chopped parsley with hits 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. OK. hummus is good, too. 2217 Greenville Ave. 214-824-7794. $$.



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 Lu., 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 me/es 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. $$.



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 slopped 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. $$.



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-cymbals her way around the room. 5207 W. Lovers Ln. 214-357-4104.$$.



NEW AMERICAN



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. $$-$$$.



Anzu. The Nakamotos spent a considerable amount of money to alter Anzu’s entrance so its feng shui would be perfectly balanced. Maybe it helps the consistently balanced flavors in the bento boxes. Lunch at this orientally inclined restaurant has always been a great deal-a beautiful arrangement of tempura and sushi or a plate of Asian-influenced fish or chicken, served gracefully, under a Hock of origami birds, for less than S 1(1. 462(1 McKinney Ave. 214-526-7398.$$.



Beau Nash. 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. 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 Hash ol’ invention. Fresh tomato basil soup is famous. The service is confident and careful, and the American wine list is one ol’ the best, 5757 W, Lovers Ln. 214-351-2233. $$.



Gershwin’s. Pretty people, pretty food, pretty prices set Ilic 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. $$-$$$.



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. $$$.



The Mercury. Chef Chris Ward has taken control of the kitchen and is doing a bang-up job. A normally pedestrian potato soup was delivered thick and hoi and the arugula pesto drizzled on lop provided the perfect kick of flavor. Two savory pork chops resting easily beside a creamy rosemary risotto was easy on the eye and palate. 1418 Preston Forest Sq. 972-960-7774.$$.



Parigi. Menus still change weekly, and the food is prepared to order, by hand. Service can be a little flaky, but the food-specials and perennials-is excellent. The famous beef tenderloin with mustard sauce and “smashed” potatoes is as good as ever, the beef rare and unusually flavorful, the potatoes buttery and Just lumpy. Il ’s been on the menu since Parigi opened. A long lime. 3311 OakLawnAve.214-521-0295.$$.



Rooster. The room is as easily gracious as a family dining room. And the Slaff offers naturally Southern-style hospitality. The traditional Senate bean soup is authentic-substantial and scented with smoky ham-and the breadbasket is tilled with corn muffins and bacon biscuits. The catfish, thick and white as cake, is crusted with molasses and pecans, then sauced with brown Imiter. 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 appetiser 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 the salmon roasted on cedar planks is scented with a mild burgundy sauce. A slice of warm apple caramel pic is enough for two. and the Tillman’s special coffee-spiked with 3 liquors-is reason enough to sit back and relax in this home away from home. 324 W. 7th St. at Bishop. 214-942-0988. $-$$.



York Street. As Dallas restaurants get bigger and bigger, this litlle chef-owned cafe seems smaller and smaller. And its value rises as the qualities we love about it become rarer and rarer. The choices of elegant food-pheasant paté with pears, frogs’ legs, roast duck, and quail, are a wonderful relief from beef and chicken.It’s easy for dinner to spin into hours of conversation just because the atmosphere is so conducive toil. 6047 Lewis St. 214-826-0968. $$-$$$.



SEAFOOD<BR>

D REVISITS AquaKnox. The lounge formally known as AquaKnox has undergone more philosophical and physical changes than Prince. With its own name, front entrance, and sushi, sake, and noodle menu. Fishbowl has relegated AquaKnox to the back of the bus. Sadly, AquaKnox’s seductive blue chenille dining room feels like what it is-half a restaurant.

The décor isn’t the only boat that’s been rocked at AquaKnox. Stephen Pyles has thrown a few captains overboard recently, so it is no surprise the quality has been inconsistent. One night the signature red snapper with com pudding was so salty we sent il back for fear we wouldn’t be able to get our rings off the next morning. Bus now that new chef Ethan Powel, fresh from Commander Cody’s in New Orleans, is on board, the kitchen is back on course. Recently, we were reassured thai Southwestern is what Pyles does best, and a brilliantly seared beef tenderloin with chipo-tle mashed potatoes was our proof. 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 Slaff. 24 Highland Park Village.121 214-526-1170.$$-$$$.



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, pep-per-crusted sea scallops served on hoi creamy risotto-flavored With lemon, red peppers and sweet basil is a comfort and a delight. 302 S. Houston St. 214-747-3474. $$$.



Fishmonger’s. Over the years, we’ve had good and bad experiences ai Fishmonger’s, but never great ones. The crawfish étoufée’s only resemblance to Cajun cuisine is the fact that it looks like the muddy Mississippi, Tuna fajitas. a weird diversion from the mostly Cajun-themed menu, are tasteless strips of grilled tuna rolled in tortillas and served with a tortilla soup made with shrimp. But seafood gumbo is surprisingly well-flavored and filled with loads of okra, tomato, and baby shrimp. 1915 N. Central Expwy. 972-423-3699. $-$$.



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 com for S 10.95. 4021 Bell Line Rd., Addison. 972-774-9518. $$.



D BEST Lombardi Mare. The stylishly polished interior is a real mind-blower, and so is the food. Feast on live 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-town-er. Lombardi Mare would be our choice. 5 100 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-503-1233. $$.



Newport’s. Enjoy an imaginative seafood menu thai 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. $$-$$$.



Nicholini’s. Don’t be fooled by the neon lights outside, because once your seated in the sexy dining room, the dining experience is elegant. We love the herb crusted orange roughy with a thin crunchy breading on a moist filet sauced sparingly with citrus paprika glaze. Attentive service and consistent food have the tables packed with neighborhood diners who all seem to know each other. 17370 Preston Rd. 972-735-9868. $$.



Rockfish. Rockfish is cozy and uncontrived: even the cute stuff, like the tin-pail light fixtures and the out-of-place ambience, like the rock fireplace on the patio overlooking the parking lot. feels comfortable. You can get an oversized plat1er 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 $22.99. Our main problem with Rockfish is thai it’s a neighborhood restaurant, but it’s not in our neighborhood. 7639 Campbell Rd. at Coit. 972-267-8979. $-$$.



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 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. $$.



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 ail you’ll remember is the claws and cake-four layers ol’ dark chocolate cake covered with a whipped milk-chocolate icing. 5001 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-503-3079; 2401 McKinney Ave. 214-220-2401.$$-$$$.



Vincent’s. 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 a lighter side: A lovely broiled halibut was sauced with about half the snapper’s butter. The whole experience is completely unhip and. therefore, completely comforting. 2432 Preston at Park. Piano. 972-612-6208.$$-$$$.



SOUTHWESTERN



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. But the menu at the new Lincoln Plaza location is mostly new. There’s a new churrascaria section and a number of new entrees. New Mexican-style blue com chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce are richer than anything ever dreamed up in Santa Fe- they have a definite (and welcome) Texas richness and come with a com cake and gingered rice, a nice relief from the usual Spanish. 770(1 W. Northwest Hwy. 214-378-8686; 5100 Bell 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. $$-$$$.

D BEST StarCanyon. 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. $$-$$$.



YO. 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 wailing at the bar for one of the mismatched tables in the storefront space. For those who insist, there is a prix-rixe, three-course dinner menu, but Cafe Madrid is a great place to linger over a succession of small dishes-an assortment of olives, oxtail slew, the potato omelette called a tortilla, and braised lamb slices. 4501 Travis St. 214-528-1731.$$.



STEAKHOUSES



Al 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. $$-$$$.



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. The New York strip steak is also outstanding. 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. 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 mini 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 S6.75 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. Richard Chamberlain makes fine dining simple and elegant. Yon won’t find any singing cowboys or 20-page wine lists. Prime rib is 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 sautéed in garlic and buttered com freshly shucked from the cob. 5330 Beltline 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, and the prime rib was pure retro-quality. 3525 Greenville Ave. 214-821-2122: 3408 Preston Rd., Piano. 972-867-2122.$$.



Nick & Sam’s. Nick & Sam’s is a steakhouse first, hut 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 ’n’ 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. $$-$$$.



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. $$-$$$.



The Palm. The four-pound lobster (at S20 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. $$-$$$.



Randy’s Steakhouse. A meal in this cozy Victorian home-cum-restaurant can make you feel like you’re having dinner at a friend’s. But your friends never served steaks like these. Graded prime and cut by hand, these beauties are rich and buttery. Ten seafood selections offer plenty of alternate choices. 7026 Main St… Frisco. 972-335-3066. $$-$$$



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. Prices are less than you’d expect. 17795 Dallas Pkwy. 972-267-9393. $$.



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. 529(1 Belt Line Rd. at Montfort Dr., Addison. 972-960-2999. $$.



D BEST Liberty. Annie Wong, the mother of Thai food in Dallas, still owns three all-Thau 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. $$.



Mango. This is the second restaurant from the folks who brought Cow Thai to Dallas. Playful proportions and offbeat hues color Mango Califomia-cool as the noodle-slurpers. House special Mee Sea Go is an ocean broth full of scallops, shrimp, and Calamari. Pad Thai, is appropriately sweet and crunchy with peanuts. 4701 West Park. 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. In Old Town. 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 lopped 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 a Thai green curry coconut milk is perfectly prepared. Fresh squid salad with Thai herbs is fresh and tasty. 4422-B Lemmon Ave. 214-528-7233.$.



VIETNAMESE



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. 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 entrees 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. $-$$.



Miss Saigon. Texas-size portions abound at this authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Egg rolls the diameter of baby bottles, a mound of fried rice, a pile of lemon grass chicken, and three plate-sized mu shoo pancakes stuffed with Mongolian beef were all delicious and kept us feed for three days. 12300 Inwood Rd, 972-503-7110. $$.



VietNam. A little bit of Southeast Asia trans-planted to East Dallas. VietNam has very little Western influence to make the cultural transition easier. This is Vietnamese food designed tor the Vietnamese community. But some things are universal-the 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. $-$$.



TARRANT COUNTY



Angelo’s. The big. wood-paneled dance hall of a mom 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 ol’ 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 While 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 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. 4th St? Foil 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 seized 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, the cuisine works Mediter- ranean 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. 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 Si.. 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 “(lights” 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 while 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 St., Foil Worth. 817-336-9463. $$.



Joe T. Garcias Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery. Although not as fancy as its cousin around the comer, the chefs do an excellent job preparing all the old favorites from burritos to tamales. Breakfast is a work of an 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.. Fon 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 arc worth the drive from Dallas, and so are the sides: fried okra. deviled eggs, and pimiento cheese-sniffed 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 $5. 4901 Camp Bowie Blvd.. Fort Worth. 817-732-2881.$.



D BEST Randall’s Gourmet Cheesecake D b est 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 gar-lie mashed potatoes. But the piece 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. $$.



Reata. Reata’s upscale “cowboy cuisine” ’ includes a chicken-fried steak the size of a boot and steaks with Mexican side dishes. Sit in the north dining room and watch the sun sink in the west and the Dallas skyline twinkle in the east. 500 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth. 817-336-1009.$$-$$$.



Reflections. Surely among the most gracefully romantic dining settings in the Dallas-Foil 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 risot- to 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 lop 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. $$$.



Sundance Market and Deli. Every neighborhood could use a Sundance Market and Deli. Urbanites can 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. A cafeteria line offers specialty soups, salads, and spuds. Our favorite is the pastrami, bacon, Swiss, and tomato with spicy mustard grilled on fresh pumpernickel. 353 Throckmorton St.. Fort Worth. 817-335-3354. $.

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