Overhearing a Hooter habitué dining with his gourmet wife:
Hooterman: Saltimbocca! What the hell does that mean? Is that one of those boysenberry microbrews from redwoods hippies? Never could wash down a five-wing flappertizer with that dreck. What color are the shorts?
Wife: Sheesh, Burt. It's a classic Italian dish with thinly sliced veal, a dusting of sage and a lacy sheet of prosciutto.
Hooterman: Hey, don't get hoity-toity with me. I've had the gourmet wing dinner before, the one with 20 wings and the bottle of Donny Peron. Tank tops or tubes?
Wife: Look up there on the wall, Burt. It tells you what saltimbocca means: "Jumps in your mouth."
Hooterman: Holy mothering. And you don't get arrested?
Wife: Look how thin the veal is, Burt; like parchment. It's draped in a lush prosciutto slice tucked under a thick blanket of mozzarella. Taste how moist and tender the meat is. And this rich sauce, oh, it's sooo smooth.
Hooterman: Hmmm, sure. Tasty. Needs a dip in ranch, though.
Risotto is a fickle mistress. Demote it from the center of attention, and she will kick you where jewels reign. Stir it improperly, and you will hang your head in a mush of starchy shame. But get it right...Taverna's risotto ai frutti di mare is this: clams, mussels, calamari and shrimp--loads of all of it. All of it is fresh and cleanly sweet, perspiring subtle layers of marine sweat. Coarse grains of rice are creamy yet firm and distinct, well speckled with pepper. Risotto agli scampi e zucchini is good, too. Juicy, briny shrimp dance through pesto stains and thin threads of fried carrot over the top of the risotto mound. They behave like sweet-potato shavings, playing off the sweetness of the shrimp while mimicking the pesto pine nut motif. Genius, that. Don't try this with Uncle Ben's.
Grand Lux Cafe
Grand Lux is a solemn cathedral--if you don't count the eggs Benedict and the servers scouting the floor with walkie-talkies. But in time these will be reverent, too. After all, chanting, long flowing robes and smoking heirlooms were strictly brothel before they went Notre Dame. Grand Lux is kind of holy, too, with lots of loud yellows, gas lanterns, glorious heavy metal, oversized banquette pews, art deco sconces fitted with cobalt blue balls and the marble tabletops. Marble planks the floors, and gold flakes the ceilings, just like in those Vegas wedding chapels. Outside, a klatsch of angels is mounted on the building's face. They look not toward the heavens, but toward the Tollway. Do you doubt that in a thousand years archaeologists will dig up the Dallas citadel ruins and determine that we worshipped the great trinity Nordstrom, Macy's & Saks and prayed for toll tags to pass into the afterlife?
August Moon
Buffets, MSG, goo, glop. Chinese in Dallas is mostly high-horsepower gullet ballast. But the food at August Moon is deft. Seafood bisque imperial is packed with king crab, shrimp, scallops and calamari in a "bisque" of chicken broth and egg whites. Whole red snapper is sweet and moist with shredded pork, snow peas, shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots in sweet soy-vinegar hot Hunan sauce bunched up against the hull. Kung pao chicken is moist with stinking rose fragrance. Instead of muddled, the flavors are lithe and distinct. And as Confucian teachings dictate, where pork moo-shis and appetizers pu-pu, there must be buffet tables, and August Moon has the most beautifully elaborate buffet table you'll find outside of Reno.


Readers' Pick
Pei Wei Asian Diner Multiple locations
Yin's Wok
Chinese food delivery is always an iffy proposition. Just looking at some of the menus we find on our front door on a regular basis can induce some sort of psychosomatic food poisoning. That, however, doesn't mean we haven't tried them. And it certainly doesn't mean we haven't regretted it. But there's one delivery place that has never let us down, and that's Yin's Wok. Lunch specials, which fall somewhere in the $5 range, come with the choice of steamed rice or fried rice, a spring roll, soup and, of course, a fortune cookie. Veggie lovers will be delighted with vegetable delight; those not counting calories will salute General Tso's chicken; and all of the lo mein dishes rank high on our list. While Yin's could win on taste alone, it also gets props for customer service. From phone call to delivery, everyone is so nice, we don't even mind when we get a crappy fortune.
India Palace gushes with fine interior appointments--and pink. The large space is portioned into separate rooms where candles flicker and chandeliers glow. Pink drips from the walls and linens. The servers are finely dressed. Hooch is available. The breads--warm naan, a leavened white bread; tandoori roti, unleavened wheat bread; and aloo paratha, wheat bread stuffed with potatoes and peas--is delicious. Just about everything has a deft touch. Chicken tikka Marsala, diced tandoori chicken cooked in a tomato, onion and herb cream sauce, is lush, with juicy, firm pieces of meat. Vegetable samosas are remarkable. But it's the dishes employing the balti cooking technique that arouse the most. Balti shrimp and chicken, served in a silver dish with two tiny looped handles on the sides, is drenched in a lusty, aromatic sauce with pieces of moist, tender chicken. Nothing pink there.


Readers' Pick
Clay Pit Grill & Curry House 4460 Belt Line Road, Addison 972-233-0111
Wine lists don't have to be as thick as the tax code. They don't have to be as ostentatious as a set of Park Cities fingers. They just have to be concise and make sense within the context of the menu while they challenge, pique and intrigue. This little list does all of that. The wines are smart, unexpected and beg you to experiment, so designate drivers. The white part of the list kicks Chardonnays down the field and opens with some of the most food-friendly varietals: Albarino, Roussane, Viognier and Sauvignon Blancs from new and old globe corners. Pinot Gris and Riesling hold up the back end, straddling Australia, California and Germany and tantalizing with an Austrian Gruner Veltliner. Of course there are sparklers, a couple from Veneto, Italy even. The red section sheds some Cabernet/Merlot bulk in favor of Syrah, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc and Tempranillo, wines that normally work better with food than those ham-fisted wines with the big scores. Plus, Taste has 35 wines by the glass. Sassy.


Readers' Pick
The Grape Restaurant 2808 Greenville Ave. 214-828-1981
A city of high-maintenance winos needs a few good sommeliers. For uninitiated inebriates, sommelier is just a French word for guy who brings you wine. Anyone can mumble "very good, sir" and trot out the bottle of swill you ordered. Lincicome excels at the delicate art of pairing wine with menu items and individual tastes. Love big, bold cabernets but prefer fish? No problem. We've even challenged him to find a bottle to suit a table of four with distinctly different and two very adamant drinkers, one wanting a sweeter wine and one demanding dry. He found a perfect solution. After more than a decade of experience, he still studies fermented grapes from each region, so he's able to recommend the usual French and California varietals, but also bottles from Australia, Argentina, Oregon, etc. Keep in mind there are other talented sommeliers in Dallas with similar pairing skills and a strong aptitude for guzzling. We mean sipping, of course. But Lincicome manages it all with a great depth of knowledge. He's a stickler for tradition, shunning wines produced with artificial "oaking." Yet he's no snob. For us poorer folk, he's quite willing to select a, shall we say, modest bottle and will discuss cheap but decent wines at great length.
Do not, repeat, do not let the word "lager" fool you. In fact, in the name "Rahr Blonde Lager," perhaps you should concentrate on the word "blonde," because this beer is more fun to drink than just about any other lager out there. The brewery describes the flavor as "rounded maltiness" with good reason: There's a heft to the sweet, grainy flavor completely unlike any watery, mass-produced lager. Crisp without being sharp. Bright with just a hint...you know what? Just go try the stuff. It's a damn good beer, made right here in the area.
Hibiscus
You can do whatever you want to fries. You can pour industrial Velveeta on them and blast them with bacon bits; you can serve them with 14 varieties of Wishbone; you can braid them with beads of French's and Heinz; or you can cut them as thin as thong string, dust them with herbs and call them frites. But we like them Hibiscus simple: thin-cut, crisp, greaseless, sprinkled with parsley (if you must) and pebbled to hell and back with sea salt. Serve them on a white cloth napkin in a porcelain bowl for that black-tie effect and stomp your carb calculator under your boot heel. Dig in. Is there more to say?


Readers' Pick
Snuffer's Multiple locations

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