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The Best of the Rest

The ten best new restaurants do not exhaust this year’s worthy dining options; here are four more to consider.

By February 2005Comments

• Tell me if this idea is not totally Dallas: a restaurant with a conjoined clothing boutique. At Cretia’s on McKinney, both sexes can peruse trendy garb while the kitchen whips up their food. To be honest, I prefer lunches here because the damage to my pocketbook is less if a dish falls short (which it has: muttonlike rosemary lamb shanks, for instance). Cretia’s noontime appetizer of baked goat cheese and a spicy tomato topping was super with crisp Parmesan-topped crostini, and the lemon chess pie defined homey goodness.

• In Houston the locals will tell you, “Oh, Beso is more of a bar than a restaurant.” And I suppose it is, but I ate astonishingly well there on one occasion, less well on another, amid the dining rooms’ gauzy curtains and high ceilings. What I loved most was a starter of shrimp en hamaca, perfectly cooked crustaceans on a bed of plantains (the “hammock”) in a soy-ginger wine sauce that positively danced. But the fearless seasoning that made the shrimp work so well sank another dish: too-garlicky quail unsubtly marinated in beer and soy sauce.

• If you’re in downtown Houston, hop on the sleek METRO train and glide out to Julia’s Bistro, where the walls are painted persimmon, mango, and cherry (and every color in between) and a varied menu offers the likes of succulent kalamata-and-mustard-seed-crusted lamb chops. For dessert, try the Brie-filled crêpes sided by stewed figs punched up with a bit of chile adobo, which can be fabulous if the kitchen doesn’t go crazy with the Brie.

• Let me state categorically that I have never had better ceviche than at Houston’s Red Onion Seafood y Mas. It is impeccable in its freshness and astonishing in its variety (nine different preparations of flounder, snapper, tuna, or salmon). Totally raw, not “cooked” in citrus juice, this is Peruvian-style ceviche, with some local ideas thrown in for good measure. The Don Mamon Salmon is tossed with tart lemon-lime olive oil and sweet lychee fruit—a brilliant juxtaposition of textures and flavors; a coconut-dill sauce gilds the silken Tuna Caribeña. Perhaps inevitably, Red Onion’s entrées (which include meat as well as seafood), while quite respectable, aren’t in the same league. But that doesn’t bother me; I’m obsessed with the ceviche.

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