January 2011

Matt McCallister & J. Chastain “Play” at 2nd Floor Bistro, Dallas

The name might be fun, the preperations whimsical – but Chef Matt McCallister is serious about his “Play.”

Play is the name of McCallister’s moveable feast – a combination of collaboration with the chef of the hosting restaurant, interaction with the diner, and yes – just plain fun.

On this occasion we are hosted by Chef J. Chastain at Second Floor Bistro Bar. We start with some of Chastain’s Molecular Cocktails (J. offers a Molecular Mixology Happy Hour on Friday evenings in the Second Floor bar – I’ll show you more on that soon).

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^ Right: Don PX Sherry with Bacon Cotton Candy; Albrecht Champagne & Caviar; Cherry Mojito Sorbet; Vanilla Mudslide; Glenmorangie Nectar with Lemon.

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^ Detail of the Don PX Sherry with Bacon Cotton Candy. ^ We diners sit at the Second Floor bar as the chefs prepare the meal before us.

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^ A note about the Bar at Second Floor: they have one of the best – if not THE best – whisky programs in town. Seen above are the over 100 selections – heavy on single malt scotch, with a nice choice of blends, Irish whiskies and even Japanese Yamazaki. I’m a scotch freak and this bar always gets me twitching.

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^ Right: “Borscht” – beet-top, beet, potato, horseradish, creme-fraiche, pickled quail egg.  Matt: “I wanted to take all the components in a borscht and reinvent them in the form of a salad with an emphasis on perfecting each ingredient on their own and bringing them back together in a playful way.”

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^Whipped Mortadella – pickled sunchoke, grilled toast. This went right to the deviled ham loving soul of the child inside me – fun! ^ Right: Tuna – shallot, Australian finger lime, espelette.

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^ Blown Up Blue Cheese – honey mustard, watercress, radish, bacon powder.

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^ Slow Cooked Potato – leek, olive oil, brandade, American osetra.

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^ Duck Sugo – house fettuccini, shaved foie gras; ^ “Roast Beef” – caramelized onion, turnip, carrot, celery, truffle jus.

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^ J. and Matty. 

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^ Bay Leaf Panna Cotta – lemon gel, strawberry sorbet, almond crumble (LOVED this.) Matt: ” I love bay leaf so I wanted to incorporate it into a dessert…this is what I came up with. With desserts I always try to incorporate extreme contrasts… whether it be cold and hot, sweet and salty, or acidic or basic.:”

^ Right: Brioche Sponge – cardamom coffee soil, brown butter ice cream, pistachio, milk chocolate.

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Happy food lovers (and/or chocolatiers as in the case of (r) Zach Townsend).

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You can still catch another Play by Matt, this time with Salum chef Abraham Salum on March 3rd. Better hurry on that res – and to see Matt before he sets off on his months long journey to ‘stage’ at some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country. “I am really excited to go work for the chefs at the restaurants I am staging at. I just want to absorb as much knowledge of technique and flavors as I possibly can in the next year, I also want to see how the flow of their kitchens are and hopefully get some insight on the operations as a whole,” Matt explains. Go get ‘em, dude!

Matt also appearing at: Cedars Social Supper Bowl on February 2; and the Chefs for Farmers event on March 13.

And now for tonight’s musical guest…

Peek at Tristan Simon’s Alma on Henderson, Dallas

A buddy and I ran over to a friends and family preview night at Alma – Tristan Simon’s new spot located in his previous Cuba Libre space on Henderson. Here’s a quick post to give you a look:

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^ Tristan and his chef, Michael Brown (previously of Red O in L.A.)

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^ The Alma & Omega: Espolon Blanco Tequila, hand pressed Serrano Peppers, Cilantro, Creme of Coconut, freshly squeezed Lime Juice.

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^ Anejo Bravo: Pueble Viejo Tequila, Agave Nectar, Angostura Bitters, Grapefruit Zest: ^ Brandied Horchata: Gran Duque D’Alba Spanish Brandy, Dry Sack Sherry, house made Horchata, freshly grated Canela Bark.

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The menu isn’t quite set – but we sampled a number of dishes. Not a bunch of description – just take a gander:

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^ Chef’s Salad; ^ Ceviche.

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^ Shrimp and Rice.

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^ Duck and frijoles refritos.

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^ A real standout was the Cochinita Pibil – a Mayan-style slow-cooked achiote-marinated pit pork dish. Nice.

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^ Of course, the bar scene upstairs was already rockin.

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^ The fireplace upstairs.

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^ The delicious Tres Leches. 

This place will be a big hit – and the food is very promising – bonus!

Alma on Urbanspoon

Warming the Chill at Lucia, Dallas

Here we are, back again for more goodness! We had, like, four or five people – so we pretty much ordered the menu:

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^ Salumi misti – a tasting of house-made cured meats.
OMG.

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^ Baccala fritters with olive salad and aïoli.
^^ Baby artichoke salad with faro, arugula and Parmigiano Reggiano.

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^ Seared beef tongue with roasted onions in salsa verde.
^^ Sea urchin risotto with chives. (Chef David Ugyur knows how to push my buttons.)

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^ Raviolone with egg yoke, escarole and brodo Parmigiano.
^^ Potato gnocchi with caramelized cabbage, Gorgonzola and Speck.

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^ Orecchiette with spicy lamb sausage, broccoli raab and ricotta salata.
^^ Veal chop with fingerlings, cippolini, guanciale and brown butter.

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^ Braised rabbit leg with polenta taragna, root vegetables and Brussels sprouts.
^^ Duck breast with a porcini and foie gras peverada.

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^ Hake with celery root purée, capers and celery salad. Jennifer Ugyur delighted our party with her repartee and interesting wine list.

There was Dolci, but it went so fast no pics were possible.

So how was the meal? … let's look at it through the raw lens of the iPhone:

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…fantastic!

Lucia on Urbanspoon

Shirako & More at Tei-An, Dallas

Teiichi Sakurai has been taking my five senses on an educational journey for the last 16 years. Last night at Tei-An I graduated to the next level. This is Shirako 3 Ways:

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So what is shirako, you ask? The most pleasant description is to say Cod Milt. If you don't know what milt is – don't ask. Suffice to say that it is sublime. Shirako has now surpassed Uni and Ankimo as the most amazing and unique pleasure I've yet experienced in my study of Japanese cuisine. Teiichi is pleased at my response – because now he says I have a good 4 or 5 more levels to go – so I've got that going for me!

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^ Shirako Agedashi (kind of tempura style); ^ Shirako Ponzu.

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^ Shirako Sauté; ^ and, meanwhile, Maria's dinner awaits her arrival.

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^ Ama ebi – this is the actual traditional "Sweet Shrimp." Much smaller and more delicate than the more common, larger variety often seen in sushi bars. These literally melt on your tongue. Stunning; ^ And we also had some fun with some nice pork dropped off by new One Arts Plaza neighbor Chef John Tesar. Here, Teiichi obliged with a favorite of mine: Uni under Lardo (Pata Negra).

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^ Tesar's Salt & Herb Cured, Air Dried, Texas Hog Jowl. Teiichi cut is at 90 degrees and served it ishiyaki style. Awesome.

Tei-An was recently designated one of only two restaurants in Dallas awarded 5 Stars by the Dallas Morning News (along with Chef Bruno Davaillon at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek). DMN critic Leslie Brenner has also written about her experience with shirako at Tei-Tei Robata Bar, which along with Teppo was previously owned by Sakurai-San and continues to be closely connected in passion, philosophy – and often, produce.