Salve's Tartufo is a double-chocolate gelato truffle with lively brandied cherries that spark its creamy heft out of cloy range. This tight little dessert will arouse any set of sweet teeth.

It's topped with diced tomato, cheese, and cream. It's smooth. It's creamy. It's got a little tang in there. Plus a little smoke. And the horns won't start for at least an hour.

Spiced and fried balls of ground chickpea paste sounds less than appetizing. But for the aficionados of this Middle Eastern treat, any traveling distance is worth it for a bite. At this family-operated restaurant tucked into a Richardson shopping mall, the $7.95 platters of falafel satisfy even the newcomers from the oldest part of the world.
Behold, a pouch of tiny mushroom magic (not that kind of magic).
Beth Rankin
Behold, a pouch of tiny mushroom magic (not that kind of magic).
There are a many things to love about this tiny room with an open kitchen and an ice pit where live lobsters twitch and quiver. First, there's the cozy bar with odd, sloped couches and great martinis made with sake. Then there's the chalkboard where all kinds of exotic specials are posted, depending on the catch of the day, which may be sea urchin wrapped in sheets of raw flounder or whole sardines scorched on the robata grill, or any number of swimmy things. Beer-guzzling things too. Tei Tei features Kobe beef, meat that comes from the rare wagyu cattle. Wagyu cattle spend their lives getting massaged with sake and fed a diet that includes copious amounts of beer. The more expensive cuts of meat come from wagyu, which are known for watching sports on big-screen TVs, belching, and telling lewd Holstein jokes.
The $5.95 lunch special at Nuevo Leon, a Mex-Mex mini-chain, is not for the feint of appetite. Nuevo Leon's eight selections on its daily lunch special menu are nicely prepared with fresh ingredients, sauces that go well beyond the ordinary Tex-Mex glopfare, and generous portions. The plates here are huge. A hearty eater is hard-pressed to get through, say, the No. 8--two beef enchiladas, one pork tamale with chili con carne, rice, beans covered with cheese, and the usual basket of chips--without expecting a little siesta back at the office. The solution: split. At $3 each, you and a friend can be well taken care of. Tax, tip, and Coke and you're out the door for $5 a head. Now that's cheap.

If you can keep your mind and your lunch plans open, you will certainly enjoy the gourmet goodness and styling of Monica Greene as she opens up her Mexican kitchen to power-lunchers looking for the best bargain in town. Five bucks can buy you hefty portions of enchiladas, tacos, and burritos, but don't look for traditional Tex-Mex here. We are talking about fare with flair, Mexican food prepared and presented with thought, delicacy, and whimsy--whatever that means. The noise level here gets way over the top, but what did you expect? This is Deep Ellum.

Cafe Madrid
Tapas and tarps have a lot in common. A tarp is a waterproof cover designed to keep things from getting wet. Tapas, which means "covers," came into prominence in Spain in the 19th century when barflies began topping the mouths of little sherry glasses with slices of cured ham or sausage to keep out the dust and flies. Flies apparently are as fond of a chilled glass of bone-dry sherry as anyone. Though why a Spaniard would prefer flies socializing on a slice of cured meat to drunk and sterilized in a glass of fino is anyone's guess. Anyway, you can relive this 19th century appetizer tradition at Caf Madrid. With a cozy dining room furnished with old wooden tables and chairs, Madrid's little plates are always fresh and intriguing, from chopped octopus salad to anchovy filets in garlic to chewy marinated quail. Caf Madrid has a broad Spanish wine list organized by regions and a splendid selection of sherries.

Yes, the place gets a bit pricey as far as pricey places go, and, yes, it has a history of being a bit snobby as far as snobby places go, but look around and see what everyone is eating at Star Canyon. It's a big, fat, juicy hunk of rib-eye steak, and its been cooked with a tangy Southwestern sauce, and it's heaped with these amazingly thin onion rings, and the sauce and the rings mix and meld into a splendid goop of their own making. What can we say? It's just a great piece of meat that's worth the bucks and the attitude.
They're golden, crisp, well seasoned, moist, ample, and they make a terrific palate prelude to the "kiss of mint" condoms this place passes out at closing time.

Everyone now knows that real Mexicans rarely eat a steady diet of nachos, burritos, stiff tacos, and Mescal worms. Real Mexicans eat limp tacos and veal short ribs braised in red mole--at least the haute ones do. Monica Greene's Dallas interpretation of Mexico City cuisine is at once intriguing, dazzling, and soothing--from the clay-pot fish entres to the chicken tacos. Maybe they'll even drape a couple of Mescal worms on a salad every now and then.

Café Brazil
In Lakewood, Deep Ellum, University Park, and elsewhere, the groovy diners of Caf Brazil add character to neighborhoods and make for a great place to get everything from empanadas to blackened salmon and smoked turkey migas. Breakfasts are similarly excellent, and the French toast is a must. It's also not a bad place to snack on artichoke spinach dip or simply enjoy coffee. Though Caf Brazil is multiplying in number, it has not yet lost its authenticity or neighborhood feel. It also has an excellent (and tasty) vegetarian menu.

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