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Byline: Holly Haber / Rusty Williamson

Duni’s For Foodies
Meats and sweets are the draw at Dallas’s La Duni Latin Cafe.
On the carnivorous front, the Latin American-inspired fare includes roasted steak, pork and chicken dishes. One of the restaurant’s signature poultry dishes is pollo al oreganato, a piquant grilled chicken breast marinated in parsley, oregano, lime and garlic and served with crispy garlic-parsley shredded potatoes.
But if dining etiquette permitted it, many diners would skip the entree and head right to dessert. Vanilla sponge cake layered with fresh lemon and lime curd and topped with caramelized Swiss meringue, Venezuelan rum-cream and chocolate-truffle cake and triple-truffle chocolate cake with fresh whipped cream are some of La Duni’s rich temptations.
“We wanted to do an unpretentious, uncomplicated authentic Latin American homestyle cooking in a tasteful, warm setting with affordable prices,” said Spanish expatriate Espartach Borga, who runs the restaurant’s kitchen, as well as a chain of Mexican restaurants called ZuZu. His wife, Duni, a native of Colombia, is responsible for the eatery’s desserts.
He added, “In South America, pastry eating is a major, major endeavor. People love to go out and have coffee or tea on a daily basis, so there are places that specialize in that.” 4620 McKinney Avenue, (214) 520-7300.

Paris on a Plate
Restaurateur Mico Rodriguez — the man behind Dallas-area eateries The Mercury, Citizen, Mi Cocina and Taco Diner — this month opened Paris Vendome, a French brassiere in the West Village.
The restaurant is likely to quickly garner a following of fabulous foodies and offers classic French fare in three dining venues — including a semicircular bar — all of which are styled in a warm honey and deep golden Art Deco motif. Chef Chris Ward, well known for his gourmet skills at Mercury and Citizen, is in charge of the menu.
Rodriguez, controlling partner in Restaurant Life Partners, said he modeled Paris Vendome after Parisian brasseries and New York’s Balthazar restaurant — but took into consideration Dallas sensibilities.
“People here like fashion and a scenester place with good food and good service,” Rodriguez said. “This will be very homey, with rich woods and a nicely appointed retro glamorous Art Nouveau decor.”
It’s a big departure from Mercury, which bears a sleek Sixties-style decor with stark white walls, colorblocked artwork and steel furnishings. But Rodriguez said he took the same approach to both eateries: To create an atmosphere where people are comfortable and feel they look good.
Mercury’s cuisine blends French influences with American ingenuity, creating such alluring salads as beet and hazelnut-crusted goat cheese over mixed greens and succulent entrees like spicy braised pork over a four-cheese polenta and seared salmon with carmelized endive. The Mercury, Shops at Willow Bend, 6121 West Park Boulevard, Plano, Tex., (469) 366-0107. Paris Vendome, 3699 McKinney Avenue, Dallas, (214) 999-8900, ext. 268.

Bali or Bust
Most major cities have a see-and-be-seen pan-Asian eatery: Paris has Buddha Bar, New York has Tao. And now, Dallas has Bali Bar.
An exotic ambience, a hip deejay and tasty French-inspired Polynesian food have quickly garnered Bali Bar, which opened in December, a hipster following.
Dimly lit Moroccan lanterns, a golden Buddha statue, red-velvet banquettes and Balinese wood carvings framing the bar evoke the ambience of a pleasure den. Bali Bar also features a hookah stoked with apple tobacco in the VIP area.
This serene atmosphere gets a jolt of electricity after 10:30 p.m. on weekends, when a Parisian deejay turns up the volume on European house music and tables are removed to make way for dancing. That’s when the line forms at the door.
Entrees include pan-seared fennel-crusted chicken, lobster with shitake mushrooms, toasted sesame seared tuna with Kabul rice and rack of lamb with strawberry rice.
It’s no surprise that Bali Bar appeals to fashionistas, since two of its creators are industry veterans. Barry Adler, Bali Bar’s managing partner, is known for operating Wearabout The Factory, a denim and urban streetwear shop that he sold in 1998 and has since closed. Scott Blair, an investor, is a sales representative at the International Apparel Mart who specializes in contemporary lines.
The haunt’s name was initially Buddha Bar, but before the owners could even raise a sign, they were visited by representatives of the Buddha Bar in Paris, who hold a trademark.
“They made us change the name,” said Adler. So it became Bali Bar, an apt reflection of its many Balinese furnishings.
“It’s got a European loungey restaurant feel,” said Adler. “There are not too many places like that in Dallas, where you can have a decent dinner and be entertained later with good European music. That’s what the nice thing about the place is.” 5027 Lovers Lane, (214) 956-7700.

A Theater Blooms
After numerous construction delays, the Magnolia Theatre is now in full bloom.
The five-screen art film house opened in January at the West Village retail and loft development in the Oak Lawn neighborhood of Dallas. The cinema, whose competitors include the Angelika Film Center and the Inwood Theater, plays classic movies and current independent films, as well as screenings from local and foreign filmmakers.
The Magnolia also hosts various film events in conjunction with local film festivals, as well as Q&A discussions and panels, hosted by film experts. Every Sunday afternoon in its lobby, Magnolia hosts “Movie Talk,” hosted by manager Lance Crayon and head of operations Tearlach Hutcheson. At the event, cineasts discuss their favorite films and learn about the industry.
The Magnolia also features stadium seating and a bar called Fuel. 3699 East McKinney Avenue (214) 520-0025, magpictures.com.

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