Best Ice Cream 2008 | Natsumi Gelato and Frozen Yogurt | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

There's a scene from 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in which Charlie and company taste Wonka's new lickable wallpaper while he boasts, "Lick an orange, it tastes like an orange. Lick a pineapple, it tastes like a pineapple. Go ahead, try it!" Ol' Willy Wonka was onto something—not the lickable wallpaper necessarily, but the idea that treats should actually taste like the flavors used to describe them. Enter the mod blue and white frozen treatery of Natalie Nguyen, Henderson's newly beloved Natsumi. Pick a flavor of gelato—we suggest the greens: green tea, avocado or pistachio (flavors vary daily). What you'll taste is the sublime almost-chocolate green tea flavor, a smooth hint of the green fatty fruit or that distinct, unmistakable nutty essence. These dead-on flavors are assuredly a result of Nguyen's use of organic dairy and sugar...and her use of authentic fruits, nuts and spices. The real deal, people. Using actual food instead of artificial flavors might not scream innovation, but it makes for gelato so good it's not only brain-freezing, it's mind-blowing. We all scream for Natsumi.

Nick Rallo

No doubt about it, the Preston Royal mainstay since 1974 needed a sprucing up; no matter the quality of the food, always high and occasionally top-notch, the place felt and smelled its age. Not even a sneak peek at the plans for the redo could have prepared us for what we found upon the eatery's reopening in late August, following a two-month shutdown. The place feels absolutely modern—marble and steel and glass, all polished to perfection. But even better is the updated menu, which brims with dumpling specialties and tea choices that have turned Dallas' most beloved Chinese restaurant into a dim-sumptuous alternative to our former fave Maxim, way up in Richardson's Chinatown and now off the menu when we need a quick fix of Far East cuisine closer to home. And the regulars have spoken: The place is more packed now than ever before. Thank God there's now a full bar right inside the door, so we can sake before we sup.

In the strictest traditional sense, Bengal Coast is not an Indian restaurant at all. But it is Indian-inspired, and that's close enough when the food's this good. Bengal Coast roasts its own spices and simmers more than 27 distinct sauces and marinades. The startlingly fresh dishes blend Indonesian, Malaysian and Thai influences with an Indian center. The result is not your typical Dallas Indian cuisine—that is, it's not dry and indistinct. Our faves include the Thai lobster samosas, satay-like sticks and kebabs, curries and naan wraps. Or try the fish and chips Masala, fish coated in chickpea-Kingfisher beer batter.

This isn't strictly authentic regional Italian food. Instead, Nonna—carved out of the foyer of The Food Company catering firm—employs a strict Italian approach (freshness, simplicity) while borrowing and combining ingredients and influences and techniques from all over the Italian landscape. House-cured salumi. Fresh-kneaded and -extruded pastas. House-ground and -cased sausages. Wood-fired meats and pizzas and breads. The best inauthentic authentic Italian in Dallas, which means we can finally say goodbye to spaghetti Western dining.

Don't let the kids sidetrack you to the Chili's next door or the Goff's across the parking lot. The real deal in kids' meals is the far pricier Fuji's Steak House and Sushi Bar. Yes, this is one of the best sushi bars in the city, thanks to chef Son Le, formerly of Steel fame—one that you and the spouse could easily enjoy on your get-the-hell-away-from-the-kids date night. No matter. Plunk your antsy kids down at one of Fuji's many teppan grills and prepare to be amazed at them being amazed at the slice-and-dice antics of the knife-wielding hibachi chefs. Maybe it's the oil fire that flares in their warmed faces, the flying shrimp tails that land artfully in the chef's tall hat, the smoking stack of onions shaped like a volcano, the bottle of Ramune (Japanese Sprite) with the marble inside, or the actual food—steak, chicken, shrimp, lobster and calamari—that tastes as good as it looks cooking. Whatever. A good time will be had by all ages. And the kids might not even bitch and moan about eating their vegetables, not with a big honker of a knife pointing the way to health.

Best Kosher-Vegetarian-Indian Restaurant

Madras Pavilion

Not that trying to locate an Indian restaurant that serves only kosher vegetarian fare is something many people struggle with, but Madras Pavilion offers diners enough options that you can find something savory enough to satisfy within the bounds of any dietary restrictions. They have several sampler-style entrees that make for easy grazing, and there are several safe items to start with, like the flawlessly flaky samosas or the tasty uthappams, which are often referred to as Indian pizzas. But if you want to be sure to find something you'll like, then show up for the lunch buffet, the shining star of the restaurant. Seven days a week, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. an immense buffet table, nearly the entire width of the dining area, is continuously filled with items from veggie curries and naan to soups and dosai. Everything they serve is prepared fresh daily, and make sure you order their mango lassi. Theirs is one of the best we've ever had and the perfect sip to soothe one's stomach after the spiciness of the food.

Fearing's at the Ritz Carlton

Though his namesake restaurant might in time be best known for its lush, smoky prime rib served on Sundays or its "mopped" rib eye slobbered in a slop of molasses, German beer and vinegar during mesquite-firing—a welcome departure from Dallas steakhouse monotony—Fearing's wood-grilled coriander lamb chops might take the cake in some minds, as it does ours. These chops tease with a raciness that never unravels into gamy chaos. They whet with clean juices and deep red flesh and luxurious, silken chewiness. Seasonings and treatments serve only the meat; the meat serves only the tongue. And that tongue is verrrry happy.

Aló Cenuduria and Piqueos serves the sort of street foods sold off carts and from stands along the thoroughfares of Mexico and Peru. Founding chef Taco Borga (La Duni and its offspring) accentuates the Japanese DNA inherent in his Peruvian creations, like his cebiche, diced bits of shimmering halibut tossed into lime and orange juices blended with a fish broth called tiger's milk for just a few seconds and then served immediately. Peruvian sashimi is strips of yellowtail or tuna percolated in a pool of sour orange runoff blended with Peruvian peppers, onion, cilantro and garlic with a squeeze of lime. There are beef picadillo burritos, enchiladas rolled with tortillas in a choice of mole or roasted tomatillo/pinto bean sauce, and crispy tacos with Peruvian pineapple salsa wadded with coarse cabbage shreds and threads of jicama. There are Peruvian brochettes (anticuchos) and the Afro-Peruvian peasant tacu-tacu, a sticky black bean and rice pie served in a cast-iron skillet topped with hash brown-like shreds of radish and tufts of frisée plus a crowning choice of scrambled egg, seafood or a "pork wing."

It's difficult to stay energetic and productive without a bit of something in the tummy and a break from the office. That's why so many people nix the brown bag and spend the cash dollars on the weekday lunch. But those hard-earned bucks don't have to be wasted on greasy grub or even four-star noshes. Luna de Noche has the cure for a bad day and more in its Xochitl soup. The dish is an event from start to finish. A server first presents a bowl of rice, chicken chunks, pico, avocado and tortilla strips. Then comes a shower of white peppery chicken broth over the top. The aromatic effect is exhilarating and enticing. The bites and slurps, however, exceed all expectation. The combination of fresh pico and avocado in the broth amps up spice and richness while the chicken offers an additional level of savory wholesomeness. Sodium aside, the warm and soothing concoction offers a rejuvenation of soul while being healthful, and finishing a bowl makes for a full-but-not-bursting satisfaction. This is what chicken-and-noodles wants to be when it grows up.

In the new shopping center across the street from the old Divino's location, on Gaston between Peak and Haskell a few blocks from Baylor Medical Center, the new Divino's sells a lunch that's one slice with two toppings and a drink for $2.30. How can you beat that? And this is not lukewarm pizza that tastes like it came frozen from Tom Thumb. This is real-deal, oven-baked Italian pizza—rich, creamy cheese on thin, crisp crusts with all the standard topping choices. They also offer a good Italian menu including baked ziti (five bucks), linguini with white or red clam sauce, $5.95, and other dishes, served with salad and bread. That's cheap.

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