Diner's Notebook

Comings and Not Goings
The Rumor Mill: Forget whatever you've heard about the hot new Daily Review Cafe having to find new quarters. Ain't so, according to proprietor Carl Eaves -- despite the nervous-making fact that all the buildings in a two-block area have recently been knocked down, leaving the funky little cafe standing in Beirut-like solitude. It all has to do with developer Jenard Gross' new mid-rise luxury condominium project, a twin to his fancy Reata on nearby Allen Parkway. But Gross is a contented Daily Review patron, and Eaves has what he calls a secure ten-year lease on the space. Bottom line: the most original restaurant to come along this year will remain in its highly original digs. (3412 West Lamar at Dunlavy, 5209217.)

New Neo-Creole: Chef Angus McIntosh's spring menu at the wonderfully stagy Lagniappe has a toned-down quality to it ("responding to the market," I believe it's called), but his essential friskiness remains in effect. To wit: a "Fried Green-Tomato Torte" that's a crisp, opulent sandwiching of bi-colored tomato wheels and the lightest, freshest mozzarella; its spring-green lake of nutty, quietly peppery pesto has far more character and subtlety than one expects from the genre. Peanut-crusted soft-shell crab meuniere courts disaster but slides home free: somehow its dark-brown nut crust and dabs of cayenne-spiked aioli don't obliterate the crab's gentleness, and its underpinnings of delicious, jambalaya-style crawfish dressing and tart demi-glace sauce add to the excessive fun. A splendid trove of oven-roasted carrots makes you wonder why people cook this vegetable any other way.

Not all of McIntosh's notions come off. Pasta remoulade is a great-sounding idea gone wrong: shrimp, tomato and greens with creamy remoulade sauce are surprisingly wan against a predictably limp, sodden mass of angel hair. (Am I the only one who regards these wimpy little noodles as a plague?) The very word "remoulade" implies an edge, a feistiness, that's missing from this dish. And a creole tomato salad, its bracing vinaigrette fortified by pickled okra, implodes when the tomatoes involved are of the hardish, pale winter variety. Still and all, this is lively food in a lively setting, fronted by one of the sexiest and most underutilized bars in town. Maybe I mourn the departure of McIntosh's snapper Baton Rouge, whose red-wine sauce made it one of the most interesting fish dishes in town, but there's cause for cheer when his nightly specials include the likes of Bermuda-onion-crusted salmon. Where McIntosh is concerned, cheek pays. (3009 Post Oak Boulevard, 6215900.)

-- Alison Cook


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