1722 Routh St., No. 110, tei-an.com
Tei-An's dining room is like a zen retreat you can enjoy whether you want to blow your wad on a multi-course omakase or cheap out and just drink a beer at the bar. This is a restaurant that lets you unplug and find some peace in your busy life. We're lucky to have it.
21. Jonathon's Oak Cliff
1111 N. Beckley Ave., jonathonsoakcliff.com
Jonathon's is built on pancakes, chicken and waffles, and eggs with two sides, but a whimsical affinity for hunger busters of the highest order makes this place a little more fun. Ask for the nooner, and if the timing is right you'll get a burger with so many heart-stopping toppings you'll re-think your choice before you even pick it up. If you can pick it up.
20. Yutaka and Sharaku
2633 McKinney Ave., No. 140, yutakasushibistro.com
The best way to experience this pair is to start at Sharaku, after you've told the hostess at Yutaka you'd like a seat at the sushi bar. Order a good bottle of sake and a few of the grilled meats that will warm up your appetite. The wait for a good seat at Yutaka can be long, but with access to plums wrapped in pork and charred perfectly over charcoal, and an endless selection of sake, the burden's worthwhile.
When you do make it to Yutaka, you'll be buzzed on rice wine. Switch to crisp beer and work your way through whatever the chef tells you is freshest that evening.
2936 Elm St., localdallas.com
We could use a few more restaurants like Local, where chef Tracy Miller cooks with a delicacy and restraint that lets the ingredients she's working with stand out on their own. It's in stark contrast to other chefs, many of whom ham-handedly construct their plates like Fritos pies.
1617 Hi Line Drive, ft33dallas.com
FT33 is an important restaurant because it's the first to open in some time that truly brings something new to the table. Chef-owner Matt McCallister's cooking has a unique way of combining new techniques with time-tested approaches to produce dishes that challenge a diner without getting too abstract. When a plate of mushrooms and potatoes lands on your table, your immediate reaction is, "Oh, this is food." And then you come to realize how beautiful and satisfying it is.
12255 Greenville Ave.
Unlike some vegetarian meals, forgoing meat while eating Ethiopian will hardly leave you longing. Many of the dishes ladled onto your massive, round injera bread are inherently vegetarian, and significantly more satiating that your favorite tofu-turned-animal-part protein substitute. And in the case of Ibex, if you find yourself without party plans on a Saturday night, your dance party needs are taken care of, too. Call ahead to make sure, but on many weekend evenings a DJ sets up as the dinner business wanes. Ibex becomes a full-on party spot, and if you want to throw down with the local Ethiopian-American crowd, this is the place.
1628 Oak Lawn Ave., pakpaothai.com
If customers are never exposed to anything new, their palates will never grow. That's why dishes like Pakpao's jeo pla pao are so important. The restaurant may not sell as much of this fish paste as they do the pad Thai, but the dish is there for those who are curious.
And apparently customers have been curious enough. The dish amounts to little more than roasted mackerel and seasoning in a blender. It has the appearance of loose, wet and gritty clay and smells intensely of fish. Despite what might seem like a challenge to consume, the dish is delicious, and it continues to sell sufficiently to remain on the menu.
15. Chennai Café
5024 Tennyson Parkway, Suite 200, Plano, chennaicafeusa.com
Sure, there are the usual suspects, but chances are you've never heard of many of the dishes you'll find on this Indian menu that slants toward the south. The kitchen staff puts in the extra time to honor the authentic preparation of many of these dishes, and the resultant flavors reflect their labor.
901 Fort Worth Ave., smokerestaurant.com
What makes Smoke special is not what is cooked but how it's cooked. Chef-owner Tim Byres' obsession with antiquated techniques has revived kitchen practices that might otherwise go the way of pie birds and butter churns. The kitchen is anchored by a massive wood-burning stove that isn't just a showpiece — it's the heart of the restaurant.
4115 Lomo Alto Drive, nonnadallas.com
Nonna opened in 2007, well before chef-owner Julian Barsotti's 30th birthday. Though youth is not often associated with measured cooking, he steadily built a reputation as a chef who embraces hand-craftsmanship and thoughtful execution. His pastas are delicate and beautiful, his salads are balanced and bright, and his desserts are creative, honest and satiating.