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What's cooking/capsule reviews Dec. 22

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What's cooking

Peter Brave of Brave New Restaurant will be cooking and showing some of his secrets for the River Market Cooking Club in January. Brave’s cooking demonstration will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, in the River Market’s third floor facility. The cost of the class is $10, and participants can ask questions and sample the prepared food afterward. Call 375-2552 to register.

Updates

FANTASTIC CHINA This Heights standby is fantastic, for many reasons. Its updated, minimalist decor with sleek wood tables and high-tech chairs wears well, blessedly free of Chinese kitsch and elevatorized gong music. Service is super fast and quietly efficient. Food is mostly familiar, but the kitchen isn’t afraid to experiment (fish fillets in bean sauce, for example). It’s a lunch bargain, particularly given the high-dollar neighborhood. The $6 lunch deal is a knockout. Ours included perfectly balanced and chunky hot-and-sour soup with a bowl of far too many fried wonton skins for our health on the side. The rice-paper-wrapped egg roll was flaky and non-greasy and crammed with vegetables. Our main dish was a warhorse, Szechuan shredded beef, but simple perfection. It had lots of tender strips of smoky beef filet, very finely shredded crunchy carrot and other vegetables and, most of all, the sweet and fiery sauce was applied judiciously. It didn’t drown the food in a syrupy, oily glop. Sticky steamed rice was a nice alternative to fried rice. Our tea was hot and tasted like, well, tea. Not dish water. A fantastic lunch. No wonder the place was full. 1900 N. Grant St. 663-8999 LD $-$$ CC Full bar.

BROWNING’S MEXICAN GRILL We were driving through the Heights on Kavanaugh and were hit by a bit of nostalgia. It was many years ago during mom’s Christmas shopping that she took this reviewer, then maybe in single digits, to Browning’s for the first time. We mostly remember two things: the Razorback schedules and scores up on the wall from the era we now fondly call the “glory days,” and the orangey, fluffy cheese that covered everything we ate that day: chips, cheese enchiladas. That hooked us on Browning’s, which we also knew from its advertisements on “The Frank Broyles Show” on Sundays in the fall. So, back to today. Again it’s Christmas time, we spotted Browning’s, and it summoned. They offer daily plate lunches, we didn’t realize, and you can order from what is an American-looking array of items, including burgers. But we came for Tex-Mex, and that, like the entire place itself, hasn’t changed. It’s one of the few places around that you can find the “yellow” cheese dip anymore, what with all these “authentic” joints serving up the white variety. It’s still floury fluffy. The salsa is tomatoey, dark and pepper-fiery, and we like to mix it up in the cheese dip. There are various lunch special combinations that don’t top $7 and are quite filling. Ours came with a cheese taco (on the plate, a tortilla rolled up around cheese and covered with it), a tamale (decent) and a Tex-Mex enchilada (great, cheesy on the inside and covered in chili). Two large slices of onion topped the entree. On the sides of the hot plate were smoky beans (better than we ever remember Browning’s beans) and rice, which seemed heated a little too long. We had punch, maybe for the first time since that initial experience, and it was sweet, fruity in an orange-pineapple way, perhaps, and delicious once again. 5805 Kavanaugh Blvd. 72207 Beer and wine. CC $-$$ 501-663-9956 LD Tue.-Sat.

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