India Palace Restaurant & Bar

Not many places in Dallas serve goat. Only one that we know of allows you to enjoy your goat (the bovid ruminant kind, not the leering lecher type) with a mango margarita. India Palace is such a place. But India Palace is more than just a herder's handiwork laced with tequila. It's a cornucopia of mysterious Indian flavors such as Balti dishes: an Indian cooking technique that utilizes a cast-iron pot stuffed to the gills with a crush of spices--onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, fennel and mustard seeds--that collapse into a rich sauce to bathe the dish centerpiece (such as beef). Good flat breads, opulent aloo gobi (spicy potatoes and cauliflower) and delicious mulligatawny moghlai ("pepper water" soup), too. Plus India Palace makes enthusiastic use of bargain-hunter buffet tables at selected times. It's also drenched in Pepto-Bismol pink with burgundy accent points, which just might get your goat before the goat gets you.

There can be no argument that the fish is fresh at TJ's Seafood Market--it's flown in two to three times a day from exotic ports of call. A regular United Nations of fish, you've got your Dover sole from England, your sea bass from Chile, your tilapia from Ecuador. Swimming closer to home are shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, catfish from Mississippi, rainbow trout from Idaho and lobster from Maine. Few other fish markets go to such extremes to bring you the variety, the freshness, the quality of TJ's.

Mozzarella Company
The Mozzarella Company's whole-milk mozzarella gives the gunk sold in grocery stores a really bad name. The company, located in Deep Ellum, is celebrating 20 years of making cheese. Grocery store shoppers may not generally know that the cheese that's sold in plastic bags with far-off expiration dates would hardly be called mozzarella in Italy. It would probably be called spoiled. The Mozzarella Company's whole-milk mozzarella is so creamy, pliable and delicious you may want to consider a helping even if you're severely lactose intolerant. Just saying, it wouldn't be a bad way to go. Besides mozzarella, the company sells cream cheese, ricotta, goat cheese and many others. Cheeses, not goats.

Chef Hsu Chinese Super Buffet

Dallas doesn't have a Chinatown. It has a Koreatown. And there's a Cowtown to the left. But no Chinatown, no parades with dragons and firecrackers. Perhaps that's why most Chinese cuisine in Dallas is forgettable: heavy, dry, greasy and sticky--with dumb fortunes. Chef Hsu busts that mold with a fat bronze Buddha (they have a nice collection on the bar). Chef Hsu features lithe treatments of the old standard retreads: kung pao chicken, Mongolian beef, sweet and sour pork. Then it goes on a rampage of Chinese exotica with braised sea cucumbers with pork belly, various versions of stewed and braised shark's fin and shredded jellyfish salad among others, all impeccably prepared with an eye on clarity and a palate sensitive to intrinsic flavors. Plus they have a large live lobster and crab tank for the kids, and buffet tables the size of container freighters for the value-minded. Dumb fortunes, too.

Kuby's Sausage House

Without a doubt, Kuby's has always been the best of the wurst--the best bratwurst, knockwurst, even bloodwurst, if you're gutsy enough to try it. But their vast array of meats goes beyond sausage and incorporates some of the choicest cuts of beef found this side of the Rhine. Try the tenderloin, the T-bone, the sirloin strip--all cued up and displayed with Teutonic exactitude. But if you really want to savor the saturated fat that is Kuby's, let them smoke you a large turkey for the holiday season. Artfully sliced and plentiful, you will be eating turkey sandwiches well into the new year. And you will enjoy it!

Keller's Drive-In

A Dallas institution, Keller's offers a hamburger dining experience like none other. The drive-in joint, in all its tattered glory, conjures up Happy Days memories with a grown-up twist. On a recent weekday evening, a line of cars formed in the drive-thru, where six-packs of Coors Light were the item du jour. Oh, and its hamburger is pretty good, too. Cooked to order, the modest patty comes with pickles, tomatoes and onions on a lightly grilled sesame seed bun. The price is old-fashioned, too: just $2.05. Add 20 cents for cheese.

Madras Pavilion

The traditional South Indian, all-vegetarian restaurant offers a lunchtime buffet that stretches the width of the restaurant, with both sides of the long, heated serving table offering dishes to sample as you circle it. This industrial utopia offers standard buffet items such as fruit and vegetable salads, and the ethnic dishes are thoughtfully labeled. But, more important, the trays are always hot, fresh and filled with an array of vegetables, soups, nan and rice, with standards such as curried vegetables finding room along items such as a coconut and veggie salsa. In addition, a crepe filled with potatoes and peas is brought to the table in either spicy or regular versions.

The spring rolls at Green Papaya are like little pieces of heaven wrapped up in rice paper. Stuffed with vermicelli, lettuce and cilantro, these rolls come with your choice of shrimp, chicken or pork--known as goi cuon tom, goi cuon ga and goi cuon heo, respectively--and they're served with a dish of peanut sauce that makes these appetizers even more appetizing. This tiny restaurant on Oak Lawn Avenue does other dishes well, too. We suggest the flat noodles, the cabbage salad and anything made with the garlic sauce. Above all, don't forget the spring rolls. They're the perfect start to a near-perfect Vietnamese meal.

Taj Express

Popeye's straight-from-the-can approach to spinach has nothing on Taj Express' creamed spinach, and neither does any other spinach dish we've tried. Almost always available on the buffet, this spinach creation isn't bitter or oily and is mixed with chunks of soft cheese. We prefer it slathered on Taj's warm nan. Fortunately for those who dare not like the steamed greens, the buffet is also stocked with rice and dishes such as fried potatoes, tandoor chicken, chickpeas in sauce and curried vegetables.

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

It isn't one of the swankier steer temples. It isn't showered in the kind of swarthy wood paneling you thought was only used in confessional booths. It's well lit so that you can tell the difference between the creamed spinach boat and the iceberg lettuce wedge without tripping over the fork. It has 105 wines by the glass that can be used to patch together tasting flights. Their meat isn't even dry-aged (it's wet-aged, which is kind of like spending your 30s and 40s with your fingers in a Ponds jar). And it doesn't do everything well. The fish seems more pummeled by steer hoofs than scorched by grill bars. But what kind of fool eats tuna in a beef bordello anyway? Fleming's hits it where it counts: in the meat, primewise. Bone-in New York strip, a craggy piece of thick black meat, is so juicy, tender and rich that modifiers like "buttery" and "silky" fall flat on their face. It's prepared simply, with a little salt, pepper and butter, and served on a plate heated to 350 degrees. Yet the meat and its effect on the mouth are hard to describe. It's chewy without being gristly; it's packed with flavor without being fatty. And these steaks don't cost as much as Botox injections. Sometimes aging is cheap.

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