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Best New Restaurant 

Aixois

Although the trendy Aixois, owned by chef Emmanuel Langlade and his wife, Megan Sparks, has only been open since August 1, it's already become the busiest -- and most talked-about -- new restaurant in town. Even perpetually cranky curmudgeons have fallen for the place. ("It's mostly wonderful, although I detest the kind of tasteless grocery-store tomatoes that Emmanuel uses," says former suburban restaurant critic John Hastings. "But mostly, I love it.") Ditto for members of the upwardly mobile see-and-be-seen set, who have become bored with supping at Lidia's and Zin. But will Aixois simply be this season's café du jour, or does it have staying power? Langlade is a talented chef with a creative kitchen crew; Sparks has hired a charismatic, attentive staff and is working hard on the problems. "We had no idea how noisy this room could be until the day we opened," she says. "We have experts coming in to consult." And what about those tomatoes? Or the oven-roasted chicken that's dry as the Sahara? "We're still tweaking the menu," says Sparks. "You'll see a lot of changes on the fall menu." The restaurant also gets honors as the hardest name for Midwesterners to pronounce ("ex-wah"), although it is hilarious to hear a Mission Hills snob say "Ay-Souse."

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