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ARTISAN CULINARY LOUNGE


Just when you think you've seen it all, you go to a restaurant with a big bed front and center. Several items on the expansive menu were tasty but overly enthusiastic, with flavors competing for attention. The wild mushroom bruschetta ($9) with tomatoes, baby spinach, Fontina cheese, basil and white truffle oil was a crowd favorite, though, with lots of cheese and goodies loaded on crisp, thin slices of bread. Among entr & eacute;es the rigatoni ($12) with sweet Italian sausage and pine nuts was a zesty winner, as was the halibut meuni & egrave;re with capers. I liked the Yukon mashed potatoes and the generous portion of steamed, colorful veggie accompaniments. The seared sea scallops, served on a flavorful cassoulet of sausage, lentils and beans, was a strange combination that seemed to work, with the sweet scallops playing nicely off the earthy salty taste of the legumes. 515 W. Sprague, 747-6272 (LM)





OPA


This north-side restaurant offers diners a zesty taste of Greece and southern Italy in the cozy dining room -- blue textured walls bedecked with photos of Greece and Italy, a welcoming fireplace and infectious Greek music. The Greek meze appetizer offers an array of traditional dishes from spanikopita to dolmades, while the Italian baked lasagna features a family-recipe sauce, oozy cheeses and noodles combined in a well-executed dish. The Greek kota is chicken breast marinated in butter, lemon, fresh garlic and wine sauce served over al dente fettuccini noodles. Dessert is not to be missed -- baklava, tiramisu and spumoni. 10411 N. Newport Hwy., 464-1442 (SH)





Ambrosia


Inside the attractive dining room, with its warm, richly painted walls and shiny dark wood tables, you'll find a pleasant start with the simple hummus appetizer ($7) -- clear, clean flavors of lemon, garlic and cumin and a drizzle of olive oil accented the sensuous chickpea puree, served up with warm triangles of grilled flatbread. Our French onion soup ($6) was rich and tasty, if a little messy, with the croutons and cheese on top, and lots of onions in the broth. The appealingly earthy gnudi ($15), a cousin of gnocci, is made with ricotta cheese and topped with crisped prosciutto, fresh sage and mushrooms. Service was pleasant, if a bit distracted. 9112 E. Montgomery Ave., 928-3222 (LM)





SYRINGA


It's not your typical Japanese restaurant. With its bistro-like interior, pristine presentation and European-flavored menu, Syringa Japanese Caf & eacute; and Sushi Bar could easily be at home in a bigger city rather than in mid-town Coeur d'Alene. Surprises like eggplant ravioli and beef tenderloin with Dungeness crab join delicacies like the Chilean sea bass and spiced duck. Traditional Japanese fare includes sukiyaki, udon noodles and tempura. The fish is off-the-dock fresh and full of flavor. Sample from the abundant small plate menu or try 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 menu, which is extremely reasonably priced. Reservations are recommended as this neighborhood eatery has developed an ever-widening circle of devotees. 1401 N. 4th St., Coeur d'Alene, (208) 664-2718 (CS)

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