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Jun 2, 2008 09:27 AM

Best of the Dallas Area

I'll begin with a short story. For the last four years, I've been a student at UT Austin. As you can imagine, over this period of time I've spent a lot of effort finding the best restaurants in the area for a variety of cuisines. Now, I'm stuck in Plano for at least the summer, if not for much longer, and I don't really know of many good places to eat. I am fairly willing to drive if the food is worthwhile, so it's ok if the restaurants are outside of Plano or Dallas. Thus, I'm requesting a list of the best restaurants in the Dallas/Plano area in the following categories:

- Vietnamese (both for pho and regular dishes)
- Japanese (sushi and other food)
- French (bistro or more refined style)
- Italian
- Chinese
- Mexican
- Thai

Naturally, I'd prefer to stay away from chains and franchises as much as possible, but I'm willing to make exceptions for good food. Thank you all in advance for any information or advice you can offer me. I really don't want to be stuck in this city with nothing to eat but Chipotle and my own cooking. =)

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  1. As a side note before I go into the long list of Chinese places several general rules of thumb apply:

    1. Always bring cash a lot of Chinese places in town accept only cash. My wife and I just bring cash all the time.

    2. Don't order what they have at Pei Wei or Panda Express, explore the menu heavily and always ask what is on the specials on the wall or board that you won't be able to read. I firmly believe that the waitresses appreciate the fact that you are adventurous more so than not.

    3. If you like a particular item (i.e. Chinese Broccoli) and just see the same thing on every menu in town ask to have it a different way (i.e. Chinese Broccoli with Chinese Black Mushrooms). Most of the times little substitutions like that will be simple and will be no additional charge but will change up your mundane dishes to make them memorable.

    4. Always ask for recommendation of the wait staff. Just tell them what meat (chicken pork, beef, or seafood) and what vegetable you want on that night. I like to ask them what they would get if they were eating that night. It usually turns up something not on the menu and something that is memorable.

    As for the list here it is

    Chinese - Sichuan Style
    Little Sichuan (Legacy @ 75 - Plano) - my vote for best in the style of Sichuan as the dishes are freshly prepared and the flavors are well balanced. Supposedly some of the vegetables are grown by the employees (nice concept).

    Sichuanese Cuisine (Coit & Park - next to Dunkin Donuts - Plano) has the better spice (i.e more pepper and sichaun peppercorns) to the Sichaun dishes but the atmosphere is not quite as nice, still much better than anywhere else for Sichuan style. Service can be spotty depends on the waitress, but if you get the right one (the one w/o the scowl on her face) or the manager they can suggest great dishes (ask for some of the specials written in Mandarin on the wall)

    Shanghainese style

    Yao Fuzi (Park & Preston same shopping center as Studio Movie Grill - Plano) solid renditions of Shanghai style cooking a bit nicer than any chinese place in the metroplex and prices to match.
    Shanghai Restuarant - (SWC Preston & LBJ - Dallas) another shanghai style restaurant. Lots of fellow chowhounders and other posters love the xiao long bao (soup dumplings). I could have gone on an off day but I wasn't blow away by them. The other dishes were above average a bit on the greasy side but again still better than your typical place.

    Not sure what style???

    Mr. Shabu Shabu (Coit & Park next to May Hua Market - Plano) - I believe this place is a Chinese version of the shabu shabu that is a Japanese variation on a hot pot. Either way this place is real good for their standard fare and on colder days this place really hits the spot. Place is almost immaculate in its cleanliness and the service was prompt and friendly even for a non-Mandarin speaker as my wife and I were the only caucasions there on a recent trip.

    Cantonese style
    First Chinese BBQ - this place has several outlets (Coit & Parker - Plano). I tend to like the one in Carrollton better but that is just me. This place has awesome barbecued meatsin the Chinese since of the word barbecue, shrimp wonton soup, etc etc.. I especially like the duck but would suggest bringing someone to join you as a plate gets a bit much for one person to take on. They have so many dishes that I really enjoy it would take forever to write them all down here are a few: Steamed Fish Fillet w/Tofu, Lemongrass Porkchop (not on the menu), Fried Tofu (on the specials board), Crispy Shrimp and Chinese Broccoli with Chinese black mushroom (not on the menu). CASH ONLY!!!

    Maxim's (Greenville @ Belt Line - actually just north a bit on Greenville - Richardson China Town) I have had great meals here on the special menu meant for groups. If you can convince 6-8 of your closest friends to go this place can be awesome. If going solo I would say skip it.

    Kirin Court (75 & Belt Line - Richardson) I really like this place a lot and it has the nicest set up for a Chinese restaurant (it is classy without being expensive). They have continually the best dim sum on the weekends and even during lunch on weekdays (just not a big selection on the weekdays). Solid dishes all they way around and no barbecued meats like First Chinese. Classy service, Chinese nationals all the time, and great food hard not to like this place.

    Kings Noodles (Greenville @ Polk St - Richardson, across from the Richardson First Chinese BBQ) This palce probably has the best cheap eats I think the most "expensive" dish is $7. It is in a farily new shopping center. I really have to think of something I don't like here, unfortunately I am coming up short. IT IS CASH ONLY!

    Jeng Chi - (Greenville in the Richardson Chinatown) this place has some awesome freshly made dumplings. Can have em there or get them to go. That is all I like the place for. Food IMO was typical authntic style but nothing stood out besides the dumplings.


    Jasmine Thai (Spring Creek @ Alma - Plano) This is going to sound pompous but try any other place and see if it compares, it really is that good. Again nothing comes to mind as a dissapointment here besides the shrimp appetizer. Get recs from the wait staff, some can be difficult to understand but rest assured they are Thai! This is also one of the few places if you tell them hot they will deliver and the some, jungle curry probably being the spiciest dish on the menu. The steamed red snapped (better bring a friend) is not on the menu but has the Thai rendition on a common way to prepare fish.

    Taquerias El Fuego (Campbell & Plano Rd - Richardson) No need to go searching for a close place in Plano because I drive all the way from Lewisville for this place. Fresh hand made corn tortillas, odd items on the menu (huitlacoche - corn fungus and flor de calabaza - squash blossoms), very solid preparations with not the grease typical for other places, and very friendly staff (family run). Weekend buffet on Saturday is the way to go to get your fill of everything and I deplore buffets!

    3 Replies
    1. re: LewisvilleHounder

      Don't worry. As someone with extensive experience in eating at Chinese owned and operated restaurants, I am well aware of the usual rules of thumb regarding Chinese food. I actually hold Pie Wei and PF Chang's in particular contempt such that I essentially never eat there unless someone else wants me to go with them (and is paying.)

      Knew about the First Chinese, as there is one in Austin, and it's the place I'll probably go for Chinese food in general. I've also eaten at Yao Fuzi, which is surprisingly good considering the history of its location, but the good stuff on the menu costs more than I care to pay at a Chinese restaurant. And I've been to Mr. Shabu Shabu before, and it's a fun place, but I typically think of shabu shabu as winter food. Just a personal thing, I'm sure. I'll have to look further into the rest of your recs, though. Thanks.

      1. re: LewisvilleHounder

        excellent recommendations all. The only place right off the top of my head that strikes me as missing is Big Easy @ 75 and Chisolm Trail for inexpensive Cajun. There's also a decent bakery in Allen, Voila, which is on McDermott.

        oh yea ok how about Masami in Richardson, on Beltline close to 75. Probably my favorite sushi place in town although I haven't been to the places downtown to compare.

        1. re: luniz

          Masami is one of the tops for "close" to authentic Japanese as you can get besides Hanasho in Irving. My wife and I went on Sunday, less crowded and still fresh. Rio created wonderful dishes some highlights were: snapper head steamed in sake, mito natto, Tai (Japanese Snapper), and the plain salmon. I always get the tear roll b/c Rio uses only fresh wasabi and a lot of it. Some dining companions on that night loved the Hawaiian Kampachi. I drive from Lewisville and by pass everything else for Masami. The prices are more reasonable than Tei Tei or Yutaka also. My wife and I were stuffed on $60 worth of sushi/snapper head and a mochi dessert, we did not order sake.

        1. What is your budget? You looking for swanky or hole-in-the-wall?

          Yutaka and Tei Tei for Sushi. Both expensive, both delicious.

          The Grape for a Bistro. If you leave right now, you might catch me there. I'm having dinner at The Grape tonite.

          Asian Mint for Thai. It's good and centrally located.

          Cafe San Miguel and El Ranchito for Mexican. Luna Noche is OK as well.

          I haven fallen in LOVE with King Noodle. I am no expert on Chinese Food, but good god are their various noodle soups delicious. First Chinese Rocks as well, but there is just so much . . . fat. Duck fat, pork fat, ribs, etc. King Noodle seems to be healthier and the broth usually has a nice flavor to it.

          If you're looking for good bar grub, head to Vickery Park, The Old Monk, The Capitol or The Libertine. All have good to very good bar food and are great places to get all kinds of liquored up. Which is fun.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Epicurious Esquire

            I really love the whole gamut of food, from hole-in-the-wall to fine dining, and I'm willing to spend big bucks for worthwhile endeavors. Regardless, my common eating is done at about the level of First Chinese in terms of cost. Also, I really love all the fat at First Chinese, especially on the bbq duck and pork, but King Noodle sounds interesting.

            Thanks for all the great suggestions. I'm most interested in finding really good sushi, as I had a few really excellent places to go in Austin for phenomenal fish, and my old favorite from high school, Awaji, has not held up over the years.

            1. re: ZephyrSeija

              Well, you just made it easy on me.

              Tei-Tei. Outstanding fish. Incredible grilled items (the salmon collar is one of the tastiest items on earth). Red Miso Soup with Seafood is fantastic. Great people watching. Great bartenders. Stiff drinks.

              Yutaka. Very tiny. Very delicious. Some of the best sushi in Dallas, if not THE best.

              Steel. Super Sushi/Asian Fusion menu. Super trendy. I prefer Tei-Tei and Yutaka, but every time I've been to Steel, I always think to myself "Why don't I go more often?"

              Sushi Axiom - just about to open in the new development on Henderson. I've head the Sushi Axiom in Fort Worth absolutely rocks.

              Closer to you, everyone raves about Sushi Sake and Mr. Sushi.

              1. re: Epicurious Esquire

                As of this past weekend, Sushi Axiom had yet to open. Is it finally up and running? I would second the Yutaka and Sushi Sake recs. I would also recommend Shinsei which has the former sushi chef from Tei Tei. Another place that the north Dallas people like is Simon Sushi in Richardson.

                1. re: Bhutani

                  Simon's Sushi is actually in Plano at Plano Pkwy and 75 behind Hooters and just down from El Fenix

                2. re: Epicurious Esquire

                  There's a Sushi Sake in Austin that is absolutely horrible, but from what I understand, they're not related. Sushi Sake is fairly close, so I may give that place a shot first and then work from there, depending on how it goes.

            2. A few to add:

              -Sushi of Plano on 15th/Custer in Plano
              -Thai Soon on Belt Line/Coit in Richardson

              EE, I'd been curious about Axiom whenever I swing by Natsumi. Sounds like I'll have to give it a shot sometime.

              2 Replies
              1. re: air

                Sushi Axiom is NOT open. My post says that I have heard the Fort Worth Sushi Axiom absolutely rocks. I've heard that from several people. I like The Capitol and Natsumi and have poked my head inside SA. Wow, are they ever spending a lot of money. I can't wait until it opens.

                I actually ate at Tei Tei last nite. I can't believe how good it is. I can't believe how much I spent. That damn sake . . .

                1. re: Epicurious Esquire

                  Oops, I should've clarified - I meant give it a shot, with regards to the one in Fort Worth.

                  I was chatting with one of the folks at Natsumi the other day and one of the owners shared her experience when she went out to Fort Worth. There was nothing but positive points for the food and the service. She specifically praised the calamari as a must-order for your appetizer. She also said lots of attention to detail was put towards the decor and the atmosphere.

                  I asked if there's any idea when the Henderson location will open up, and she says they've been working on it for as long as Natsumi has been in business. If I remember right, I think FDluxe said they're looking at an opening sometime in June, so we'll see if that does happen.

                  On that note... did you also see the FDluxe section of thursday's Dallas Morning News? They did a spread about the Shops on Henderson and all the places around it. It sure was nice to see that the commercial real estate property managers are interested in keeping those spaces locally owned and operated.

              2. Vietnamese - Bistro B. A Cali restaurant that has landed here. You wont be disappointed. Large portions plus a " Super Bowl " pho if you are interested. Large portions.

                Japanese - Yutaka on Mckinney Ave hands down. Runner up Teppo for the Yakiotri and Spanish Mackarel Sashimi.

                French - St Martins on Greenville...Nothing flashy or nouvelle just straight up classic French cooking. Fois Gras was pretty good standard but good. (For Dallas


                Italian - I have not found a good italian restaurant to reccomend sorry =/

                Chinese - There are many in teh richardson plano area as listed before...But the ones I mainly go to are 369 bbq on legacy and First Chinese BBQ all in Plano.

                Mexican - I am from LA so tex mex does not appeal to me that much but one time after partying in Greenville I found this place called COQUITAS. Family owned homoe style mexican cooking and open pretty late. El fuego in Richardson has breakfast tacos and a buffet on the weekend as well.

                Thai - Been to a few around the area but the best one for my taste buds is Banana Thai. Love their whole fried fish...Panang...Papaya Salad...all good. If you are feeling adventurous ask them to make your papaya salad Laos style!

                Thai -

                1 Reply
                1. re: PWORD9D8

                  Ooh good thing you mentioned Bistro B, almost forgot. I'll also throw in Zander's House in Plano. Very good Vietnamese there.