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by Inlander Staff & r & & r & SYRINGA & r & & r & It's not your typical Japanese restaurant. With its bistro-like interior, pristine presentation and European-flavored menu offering, Syringa Japanese Caf & eacute; and Sushi Bar could easily be at home in a bigger city. Dishes like eggplant ravioli and beef tenderloin with Dungeness crab delight, alongside traditional Japanese fare including sukiyaki, udon noodles and tempura. Syringa might even convert those with the misimpression that Japanese food is just raw fish. If it's sampling you want, try the abundant small plate menu or something from the sushi bar: simple tuna rolls, the fiery dragon roll, the unusual Northwest roll -- saut & eacute;ed wild mushrooms with tempura-fried green bean and smoked salmon -- or even custom orders. A wine, beer, sake and specialty cocktail selection complements chef Viljo Basso's inventive yet reasonably priced menu. Reservations are recommended as this neighborhood eatery has developed an ever-widening circle of devotees. 1401 N. 4th St., Couer d'Alene, (208) 664-2718 (CS)





Twigs


The minimalist vibe at Twigs is soothing, earthy and pleasingly inviting. The Moroccan beef ($13), little chunks of beef nicely seasoned with a hint of cinnamon among other spices, served with a Gorgonzola fondue, was a tasty prelude. The blue steak sandwich ($12), a little steak grilled medium and served on a bun with tomato, lettuce, lemon-garlic aioli and melted Cambozola, made a bold statement on the first bite, but it was overwhelmingly rich. Steak penne ($16) -- a m & eacute;lange of beef tenderloin morsels with crisp broccolini, garlic, shallots and bacon in a "white truffle scented parmesan cream" -- was another very rich dish; I couldn't discern truffle in the thick sauce, but its contrasting textures and the savory beef helped make this a successful dish. Like a wild tree, some of the menu items at Twigs may need a bit of pruning, but their unexpected taste combinations are often quite successful -- and lots of fun. 4320 S. Regal, 443-8000; River Park Square, 232-3376; 9820 N. Nevada, 465-8794 (LM)





ISABELLA'S RESTAURANT AND GIN JOINT


Isabella's boasts a wide selection of martinis and cocktails, but there's also a great lineup of wines, many by the glass. The extensive menu emphasizes classic American fare, cleanly executed with simple flavors, plenty of garlic and not a lot of fuss. It's not trendy, but that's OK -- a little black dress isn't trendy either. The house salad is a highlight, with mixed greens, cucumber, blue cheese, walnuts and pears in a lightly sweet vinaigrette. The seafood-stuffed rib-eye steak ($24) could serve two easily and is almost too rich, but the saut & eacute;ed scallops ($18) with fresh pasta are sublime. You won't find Bogie at the bar, but Isabella's is a gin joint worth walking into. 21 W. Main Ave., 624-0660 (AC)





DAILY GRIND UPTOWN


Owner Lauren Izenberg and her staff take pride in knowing their customers and giving them great service and scrumptious food. With daily specials like chicken pesto panini, a tuna melt and a meatball sandwich, you have to come back again to try regular lunch items. Rotating soups include roasted Yukon Gold potato, chicken basil chili and crab red-pepper bisque. Salads run the gamut from house to Greek to the fully loaded Hopped-Up. Among sandwiches, the Riverside's turkey with cranberries on focaccia is a comforting m & eacute;lange of flavors and textures. And freshly baked scones are Izenberg's trademark. 120 W. Riverside Ave., 448-1281 (SH)

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