The posts upon which the ceiling beams rest are photo galleries. Digital pictures, shot by Zoom owner Tess Nguyen, have been blown up and pasted onto the curving surfaces: craggy cliffs in a deep blue bay and villagers harvesting salt from a lagoon in Vietnam; frolicking ducks that look suspiciously like future candidates for ped kee mow (drunken duck with basil). Loud colors--coral, aqua--crackle off the walls. The spindly spread of ductwork, tucked in the ceiling like a wasp, eschews black camouflage in favor of Tour de France jersey yellow. Zoom is a Thai-Vietnamese linkage, and the results can be extraordinary. Instead of rubbery and chewy, thord man plah (deep-fried fish cakes) is supple and moist. Tom yum kai (chicken soup with lemongrass) is bright and complexly layered with flavor. Sizzling beef is juicy, rich and bedded down with separate, firm strands of vermicelli and crisp vegetables. Firmly tender flesh seeds the squid with lemongrass and chili. Decent wines, too, like an Oregon Riesling and a New Zealand Mutua Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which works well with most of this food as long as it doesn't zoom in with a blast of chili.


Readers' Pick
Mai's 4812 Bryan St. 214-826-9887
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Jon+Lagow
Thai+Chili+is+tiny+and+cleanly+simple%3B+it%27s+also+one+of+the+best+Thai+restaurants+in+the+city.
True Thai pierces the mouth like a laser, with cleanly articulated flavors delivered with succinct accents. Chile must strike but not ravage. Citrus must stoke but not reap strangling winces. Fish sauce and lemongrass aromas must arouse but not descend into a choking stink fog. Thai Chili chisels out these flavors and aromas with sharp definition and grace. Pad Thai is delicately woven and firm with a pronounced but not overbearing peanut flavor. Seafood--whether it's shrimp, mussel or scallop--is vigorously plump, firm and delicately sweet. Curry sauces are luxuriously clean, coating the mouth with a wisp of satin. Go ahead, Thai yourself in knots.


Readers' Pick
Royal Thai 5500 Greenville Ave., #608 214-691-3555
Teppo Yakitori Sushi Bar
NORFOLK, VIRGINIA--People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced today that Teppo chef Teiichi Sakurai, the top sushi maestro in Dallas, has made the animal activist group's list of the world's Top 10 Vegan Villains, faulting the chef's exquisite work with raw, hand-carved fish with triggering a sadistic sushi obsession among Dallas consumers. "Pigs wag their tails when they're happy, and octopuses collect bottle caps, attractive stones and other finds from the ocean floor and decorate their dens with them," said PETA spokeswoman Dawn Cabbage Lodge. "These animals have characteristics that are not unlike the average person's great aunt or even J. Lo. It's horrifying that Sakurai slices his delicious chewy octopus strips with one protruding suction cup rising from the center, subliminally and deceptively playing into the average consumer's Oedipus complex." Compounding the cruelty, Teppo has the cleanest, coolest, most tender raw fish packed onto moist and supple rice wads, Cabbage Lodge said. Uni (sea urchin gonads) is rich and freshly nutty; tuna is silky and tender; salmon sings with briny luster. Plus Teppo serves everything from beef tongue to quail eggs, making it a horror show of uncommon depravity, she added.


Readers' Pick
Blue Fish Multiple locations
The Oceanaire Seafood Room
Take a flounder, mount horns above its gills, give it a cud to chew on and hoofs to flap and you have Oceanaire, the bloodthirsty steak house of the nation's fisheries. Servings are big and bold. Fish is fresh, nuzzled in 1930s supper-club ocean-liner hyper-swank. At the raw bar, a dozen varieties of oysters rest on the half shell. Crab cakes are big as a fist and brutally sweet. Portions and prices land with a thump. These fish are full of bull, so stuff yourself to the gills.


Readers' Pick
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen Multiple locations
You-Chun+is+a+short+list+of+fine+things--with+subtitles.
Tom++Jenkins
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You-Chun is small and simple. Proof: A water cooler with hot and cold spouts dispenses water and tea. The menu is brief. Proof: Under "meat dish" there is just one dish, an exquisite beef rib served sizzling with white, crisp onion shards. Meat is impeccable: juicy, rich, loaded with flavor, easy to pinch with chopsticks. Korean dumpling hot soup is a clean, slightly dark green broth with a strain of pungency that holds yellow strings of egg and strips of seaweed. Dumplings are tender but firm noodle pouches with just the right amount of give. Entrées are served with the usual array of Korean meal components: kimchi (fermented cabbage); salad; pale yellow strands of dried squid dotted with dark sesame seeds. Cold spicy noodle with sashimi is tangled with supple arrowroot pasta with ray meat in a stainless steel bowl. A thin but large half-moon slice of Asian pear and a hard-boiled egg rests on top. You-Chun is hard-core but clean. Culinary adventurers seem to amuse the staff, and the chef travels from the kitchen to offer dining pointers.
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.

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