August 2008

It’s all true… Tei-An FINALLY Opens!

Well, I can’t believe it either – But, it was worth the wait!

Tei-An AddressOpen!

Located in the burgeoning One Arts Plaza, Tei-An had it’s official opening Monday. The bar was overflowing with flower arrangements from owner Teiichi Sakurai’s many friends and associates – Masayuki Otaka (Masa), owner of Teppo, sent a particularly beautiful display. But enough with the pleasantries… where’s Yosuke? Well, right back where he belongs! We go back to the days when Moosh was a private club, an oasis of Japanese serenity on bustling Greenville Avenue.

YosukeSuntory Time!

(^L) (in profile) Yosuke Fukuda, Bar Manager

(^R) My first Suntory Whiskey in the new joint (18 year-old Yamazaki).

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(^L) Perfect set up to enjoy Shōchū… “iichiko & grapefruit, please!”

(^R) Dallas golfer Anthony Kim‘s table needs Patron – served in these awesome ICE shot glasses.

Oh, yeah… SOBA! Tei-An is all about Soba, a thin Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour – which, for the first time in Dallas, is being made fresh here on the premises. The room is stunning, minimalist but inviting.

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We are seated around the large Soba Bar. Servers scurry about between us and a magnificent rock garden, featuring a large stone imported from Japan. It lightly trickles water, sustaining patches of live moss. Cool.

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At the far end of the bar is a large window through which you can see the chefs making the fresh buckwheat soba noodles from scratch.

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(^L) Spicy Tuna Pressed Sushi – not your normal rendition… and delicious.

(^R) Tempura Zara Dipping Soba – Cold.

Eating the soba noodles cold allows you the really experience their unique flavor and texture. Very common in the hot summer months in Japan – seems the thing right here-right now, as well. The noodles are served on a bamboo zaru, after having been cooked in dashi. The eating process goes like this: you select a potion of noodles with your chopsticks, then dip them into a small bowl of tsuyu (commonly dashi, sweet soy and mirin) into which you may have added any number of spicy condiments or yakumi, (daikon, scallions, and – here – fresh wasabi!). If you’re like me you’ll also need Shichimi Togarashi (Seven-Flavor Pepper)… Then slurp away! Yes these are those slurping noodles you have heard about. I believe the practice of the affirming “slurp” also has the benefit of cooling the hot variety of noodles – with the cold noodles, the intake of air enhances the taste, plus, it’s half the fun anyway.

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We also tried the Walnut Soba – cold noodles with a tasty walnut dipping sauce. At the end of the meal, they bring out the traditional Soba-yu, or cooking water, and add it to what’s remaining in your little bowl of tsuyu. Drink up! It’s good and good for you!

Also available are Hot Dipping varieties and Hot Soba Soups, not to mention many varieties of Sanuki Style Udon. Check it out – Teiicci’s Tei-An is a welcome addition to the scene, from a pioneer of Japanese cuisine in Dallas.

Tesar can’t sit still…

There is a reason I often find myself slinking around the phoenix that is The Mansion on Turtle Creek. A number of times in the past few months, and in various lauded gastronomic environs (including his own) Chef John Tesar has looked at me with glee and exclaimed, “I love this guy!” I am the perfect foil, my mantra being “I am addicted to crazy good food and all that is associated with it’s preparation, presentation, and consumption.”

Well back at ya, John… I love this guy! So, last week it was announced that the Chef’s Room at The Mansion would “pause service” for the remainder of the summer, to resume on Labor Day. Hmmm… Well, in these challenging economic times, I had beaten down the gourmand monkey on my back a bit… but I needed a fix. A quick e-mail to my pal made it clear that if I wanted said fix, I’d better get my ass over to the restaurant on Saturday night – as he’s off to Europe Sunday morning… As it happened, a group of foodie friends and I had planned to hit Abacus on Sat. – but they had to bail… so, I had no choice but to drop by my favorite haunt. Usually I just hang at the Mansion bar and drink whatever new concoction Michael is tinkering with, and BS with the (fascinatingly diverse) clientele… and, then, yummy food arrives for my pleasure. It’s obvious that the cat is out of the bag, however, as this night performing in the bar was none other than Hunter Sullivan and his able three piece – doing what they do… to a packed house. Great for biz, but I’m all just huddled near the service bar with uber produce guru Tom Spicer, suffering an endless chorus of “Excuse me, sir.” Rrrrrrr. I still look 35… oh, wait… 28… no dice. Soon enough, Chef pops out of the kitchen and is all “Well, you hungry? What do you want?” Dude, WTF, where’m I gonna park? “Oh, come on, I’ll stick you in the dining room.” …fine.

In the past, when not ensconced at the bar, I have enjoyed dinner at the Chef’s Table, or the Chef’s Room

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^The Chef’s Table

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^The Chef’s Room (Scene of many crimes…)

But tonight, Chef plops me down in a comfy corner table in the main dining room, pillows to each side on my plush banquette. It was a pleasure to sit here – at the end of service – and take in the elegance of the space… it just glows.

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And in step with the “next generation” attitude of this well established venue, it was fun to faintly hear the crowd singing along with the band in the bar across the lobby. It’s decades away (literally and figuratively) from my first memories of this restaurant – birthdays as a young man with my parents… and later, my best friend and I bringing our girlfriends to dinner before our high school prom… crazy…! (I mentioned this prom anecdote to Dean Fearing a few months ago – we looked at each other, did the math – and changed the subject.)

In his tempered New York staccato Tesar says: “So whadd’ya wanna eat… huh? … I got the short rib for ya.” Fine, John.

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It’s a new preparation, and the finest of the 4 or so that I have enjoyed here. Michael Flynn drops by – “Oh, Hi! Here’s a nice cab – you’ll enjoy this…” Yes, I do.

Chef: “I have to leave at 7:30 in the morning… I haven’t even packed… you want something else? You OK? You want dessert? … Bring him the Lemon. Or the Chocolate… Bring him both – he’s good to go.” Fine, John.

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…Delicious.

So, you going to Spain? “Yeah, Spain, France, Italy… It’s all good.” And thus the silver lining to my culinary hiatus.

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Upon his return from this European adventure, we will enjoy a dramatic refresh to the already innovative menu he has crafted to date. He beamed while discussing even the IDEA of turning his own distinctive vision for The Mansion on it’s ear. …I love this guy.

Safe travels, Chef…. can’t wait!

Michael Martensen is the shiznit.

Molecular Mixology.
Yes, a gimmick. Of course, right?
Well, go see my buddy Michael at the bar at The Mansion and get over yourself. (UPDATE: Michael is no longer at The Mansion… continue reading and drool.)

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^Michael working up my tab.

What’s going on over there frustrates the both of us. He wants more clients… I see his star rising, and thus my days of BSing with him about cocktail theory are numbered.

Tobacco Rum. Deconstructed Cosmo. Smoked Coca-Cola. House-made Tonic. Oh, and one time he had come up with his own naturally effervescent lime soda. The guy is a nut.

Looks like to me, he got hoodwinked into leaving Nantucket and coming to Dallas 9 months ago. “The Mansion is committed to reinventing fine dining in Dallas, as well as providing a unique platform for a true artist behind the bar,” I imagine the pitch to have been. He’s here now, and loves the town BTW, but we need to keep him interested.

He was telling me the other night that they are building him an outside bar, on the sweetest patio in town. I’m looking into sponsoring a permanent seat for the fall.

Meanwhile, here is a recent concoction: Bacon Bourbon Manhattan.

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Bacon Infused Bourbon… and, yes, Bacon Garnish. It’s insanely good.

I AM on a budget… too!

Kim Pierce so screwed me by her recent post over at DMN’s Eats Blog. The LAST thing I need is more great wine lingering around my pad… but, see – I actually MADE money by taking advantage of our local fine dining pullback. See, wait – stay with me… a GRAND worth of vino for $300 and change… I’m ahead right?

Whatever… My bottom line will deal with me later… here’s some of the bounty:

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Head over to Screen Door and get “Lucky” behind the bar.

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…well, Eddie “Lucky” Campbell, that is. Like my buddy Michael Martensen over at The Mansion, “Lucky” is expanding our libatious vernacular with his brand of Molecular Mixology. And on this night at Screen Door, flowing forth is an endless stream of wisdom and facts regarding the spirits of the south – particularly, Bourbon.

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(^) Eddie “Lucky” Campbell, obscured by “bar grass.”

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(^) Here is a frickin’ good Mango Mint Julep. That frosty Julep cup makes this a real crowd pleaser.

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(^) A “Tasting” of Manhattans – I mean, we had to frame the discussion… Each is prepared with a different Bourbon and style of Bitters – it was a fun discussion… Oh, we ate, too… too dark for the ol’ iPhone camera – we had some good selections from the Tasting Menu – will do another mission and report further. Meanwhile, it’s hot out – go see Lucky and be refreshed!

Read of a past Julep misadventure here!

Dessert of Champions

When in the course of fine dining… situations arise when you should skip the crème brûlée and succumb to the sexiness of the cheese course. I’ve taken this route more often lately… resulting in blissful indulgence. Everything in the pic below is simply friggin’ devine (save for my unfinished artwork visible through the dome to the right… “D’ooooooooooohme!“)

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More on THIS subject later… meanwhile – take a field-trip over to Molto Formaggio.