UpStage Supper Club -- You don't need to sign up for theater to sample the quisine of Chef Kile Tansy (formerly of Quinn's) as the third floor of the old Odd Fellows Hall on West First is now open for dinner. The Scallops Mornay appetizer ($10) was generous, with meaty scallops in a delicious sauce under a blanket of melted cheese, served with thin French bread toasts. The Spice Island Tuna ($17) was a monumental portion of two yellow fin tuna steaks, with a thick rub of a pungent spice mixture served over a delectable, creamy coconut-almond rice. On top of the whole thing was a generous amount of a colorful fresh mango salsa. Some lightly steamed spinach grounded this beautiful and very tasty plate. Look for the menu items to change about every three months. 1017 W. First. Call: 747-8243. (LM)
Delhi Palace -- "Palace" may be a stretch (it's a remodeled fast food building) but the tables are nicely appointed and covered in glass. Oversize cloth napkins add a gracious touch. The menu is expansive and helpfully divided into sections. The Tandoori surprise ($15) was a big sizzling platter of meats -- tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, boti (lamb) kebab, minced lamb kebab, tandoori shrimp -- marinated in mixtures of yogurt and spices and cooked in the tandoor (Indian clay oven). The chicken goa curry ($10) was wonderful, served over the saffron-flavored basmati rice, or scooped up on a piece of naan bread that accompanied our meal. The elegantly flavored coconut milk-based sauce left a bit of heat behind while allowing the complex flavors to shine through. 11114 E. Sprague. Call: 927-0500. (LM)
Far West Billiards -- This is much more than merely a prime spot to get in a game of 8-ball. Far West is an easygoing neighborhood joint with a good jukebox, good booze, friendly servers and interesting chow. The fish taco platter ($8) comes with two white corn tortillas stuffed with lightly battered fried cod strips, spring greens and a wonderfully tangy feta-yogurt sauce, servings of fresh guacamole and pico de gallo salsa and a heap of tri-colored tortilla chips. The Pasta Carbonara ($8) is the perfect size for lunch and comes with a little cup of mixed field greens. The pasta was a nice toothsome al dente, and the sauce excelled with little bits of salty, savory prosciutto blended into the Alfredo sauce. Topped with grated Parmesan, it made for a fortifying, comforting meal. 1001 W. First Ave. Call: 455-3429 (MC)
The Catacombs -- With only an understated sign marking the entrance, this pub is easy to miss. Don't, because it's a fun subterranean space with a medieval castle feel, thanks to massive oak beams across high ceilings, huge wrought iron chandeliers, a fireplace, warm brick, stonework and tapestries. The menu features interesting appetizers and salads, and hearty fare such as brick oven-baked thin-crust pizzas and calzones. Mediterranean pizza ($10.50) with chicken, artichoke hearts, red onions, mozzarella, garlic and white sauce was generous and tasty but lacked pizzazz. The porco con I Faioli ($18) with tender pork cutlets, cannelloni beans, tomato sauce and fresh herbs over roasted vegetable polenta was sheer perfection. Great wine and beer selection and good service, too. 110 S. Monroe St. Call: 838-4610. (LM)
Coeur d'Alene Casino -- Skipping the casino's conventional, full-service fare, we headed straight to the buffet line ($9.99), helping ourselves to mini-burritos, taquitos, rice, chicken and even cod. There were a few misses but almost everything was fresh-tasting and well-prepared. The cod was moist and flaky in a sour-cream sauce, and the taquitos walked the fine line between crisp and oily with perfection. The fajitas tasted more like teriyaki than Mexican food, but the fresh strips of multicolored peppers and the warm flour tortillas made them delicious in any case. The salad bar was smaller than the word "buffet" might suggest, but the options were impressive. On Hwy. 95 in Worley, Idaho Call: 1-800-523-2464 (MD)
Herbal Essence Caf & eacute; -- The Herbal Essence Caf & eacute;'s understated mix of old and new results in a very open, bright and comfortable dining area. The crab cakes ($6.75) are crispy on the outside, succulent and tender on the inside. The $3.50 cup of Manhattan-style clam chowder was smashing: rich and hearty, with a mild tomato zing, and clams that were tender and not overly assertive. The thick and delicious corned beef on the Reuben ($5.95) was piled high and the grilled dark rye remained remarkably crisp under the load. The Crab-and-Artichoke sandwich ($8.25) mixed fresh snow crab with artichokes, parmesan cheese, white onions and a sour cream sauce served atop a French roll and finished with sliced tomato. Sound good? It was. 115 N. Washington. Call: 838-4600. (MC)
Capsule reviews are written by Lauren McAllister (LM) and Mike Corrigan (MC), unless otherwise noted.