Tuesday, March 8, 2011
5 memorable Dallas-Fort Worth restaurant dishes
Dave Faries of Critic's Guide recommends trying the Brussels sprouts at Neighborhood Services Bar & Grill, among others.
How often do most of us dine out? Averages vary depending on economic trends and gas prices, but they imply a fairly reliable two-point-something times each week — at least in this market.
Of course, many of these visits involve chains, familiar neighborhood joints and the same old dishes we know and love. Once in awhile, however, we break the pattern. And in that occasional point-something night out, we perhaps encounter that memorable dish.
You know the one: the glorious foie gras paired to dessert wine at Nick & Sam’s or the crisp and peppery chicken fried steak at AllGood Café. Certain moments stay with us. We recall the dense, explosive flavors Joel Harloff hid in a simple roasted pheasant broth during his stint at Landmark, for example — just a bowl of murky water, really, but...
Wow — that’s all I can say six or seven years later. But here are five that stand out for me from more recent excursions:
5. Bean sprouts at Blue Ginger Garden
Bean sprouts with salted fish: a simple, even a bit oily stir fry presentation in a sorry looking Malaysian restaurant. But imagine the almost sour floral and nutty essence of seedlings swaying back and forth with the intense bittersweet bit of smashed scallions, while underneath a malty, meadowy soy acts as a pinion. Meanwhile, deep fried shreds of salted fish provide a complex bite, like savory bacon and pungent fish sauce at once. When the plate arrived, it looked like any ugly sprout salad. By the second bite, however…
4. Whiskey cake at Whiskey Cake
I remember shrugging when my friend suggested we finish things off with whiskey cake. If a restaurant dared to stake its name to an alcohol soaked dessert, why not? We didn’t really expect much. Oh, but the dark, nutty, bitter and spicy cake rests in a pool of rich sauce, spiked with enough spirit to rile spicy traces while soothing the bitter aspect. It’s a dessert you want to wallow in. A fat dollop of whipped cream cresting over the top just makes it all the more elegant.
3. Steak with egg at Grace
I’m generally opposed to topping prime beef with anything. The rich flavor of red meat is surprisingly demure, unable to stand up against sauces, crab or whatever else restaurants throw on top. Only the bittersweet char remains…except in this case, when the oozing yolk envelops each fiber of beef as it falls apart on your tongue, drawing out the rich sensation, making it feel more extravagant.
2. Brussels sprouts at Neighborhood Services Bar & Grill
Yeah, it’s a side dish. And, yes, Brussels sprouts are a much maligned vegetable. But the kitchen brings fresh squeezed lemon juice, maple syrup, rendered pancetta and butter to bear, slow roasting the sprouts until a bitter and jaggedly sweet char develops. The rough, dense molasses character jousts with the greens’ tangy bite, with sharp and fatty pork strips moderate the haze of burnt maple. One bite is enough to make your eyes glaze over.
1. Almond crusted trout at Suze
I ordered this for the first time back in 2001 or so. Slivers of almond break, revealing firm, clean flesh. Each bite seems to melt away in your mouth leaving nutty, buttery reminders. Hints of salt and pepper rise up here and there, lightly pricking through the softer sensations. It’s so simple yet so elegant—I spun reveries to this dish in my mind through years overseas. The kitchen still includes this dish in their repertoire. And it’s still the same. But the experience is so consuming I only order it on the rarest occasion.
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