Quick, name your favorite Filipino dish. If you're stumped for a response (roasted poodle is not an answer), it's time to go back to foodie boot camp for a refresher course in delicacies like dinguan and bulalo, the national dish of the Philippines. The outré ingredients of Filipino cooking have been denigrated by some, and you may have to screw up your courage as you scan the menu at Pegasus Pinoy. But if entrées like pork cooked in pork blood ($6.50) and deep-fried pork belly ($6.95) don't satisfy your yen for authenticity, nothing will. In fact, as exotic as it may sound to cook a beef stew of coconut milk, onions, bell peppers, green peas, and olives, one taste of kalderetang baka ($7.50) makes you wonder why you haven't been whipping up a pot of the stuff every Sunday morning. Even the wildest dishes are tamed by the spicy, sweet, and sour dipping sauces -- like one made from vinegar, sugar, and liver paste. Real men eat daing na bangu, grilled milkfish marinated in vinegar, garlic, pepper, and salt. But even the faint of heart will tremble with anticipation when a plate of peppery pancit guisado ($6.95) -- wheat noodles with sautéed shrimp garnished with julienned carrots, celery, cabbage, and green beans -- is put down in front of them.

Though the raw (and cooked, for that matter) fish is stellar, Kiko is best-known as perhaps the region's finest -- only? -- country-style Japanese restaurant. Instead of the flashy, neon-drenched techno-meal you'd find in the hip sections of Tokyo, this clean, bright space in the Fountains Center offers food you'd discover a farmer serving to guests in the old country. Ramen and other noodle dishes are outstanding, as is the deep-fried pork cutlet with panko breading ($13.95), a true comfort food. Try nabemono, with vegetables cooked together in a clay pot, or yakimono, with various samplings of meats or seafood in different sauces. The provincial fare is heartier and less delicate than what Westerners are used to -- some of the menu is a rather radical departure from our usual strip-mall sushi spots -- but it's authentic and served with artistic flair in a Zen-like realm. Kelp salad, brown rice, and tofu galore set Kiko apart, but on those rare, cold and rainy subtropical days, nothing warms body and soul like a steaming hot bowl of udon soup with fat, chewy noodles, Japanese cabbage, and big chunks of chicken (starting at $6.95).

The latest relentlessly trumpeted diet plan? To stay chic and slender as any Frenchwoman, you have to eat like one. And that plate of escargots with mushrooms, garlic cream sauce, and chives, the one that promises to melt away unwanted pounds like magic, is waiting for you at 4-year-old Brasserie La Cigale. Executive Chef Farid Oualidi turns out classic retro dishes like sole meunière ($34), caesar salad, cuisses de grenouilles (frog legs, $11 -- sounds better in French, doesn't it?), and the euphoniously euphemistic "sweetbreads" ($10). These elegant dishes are balanced with subtle butter,- wine-, shallot-, and cream-laden sauces of great art and complexity. And if all this sounds a bit rich, consider that Cigale's canards are served in a setting so cozy, relaxed, and unpretentious that you could be tucking into a plate of Julia's very own moules (may that blessed lady be forever sautéeing chickens in heaven). "Life itself is the proper binge," Mrs. Child once said. Bien sur, even better if life contains plenty of foie gras with black currant sauce.

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