After a bit of recent social media chatter, I realized I had yet to visit Mesa Veracruz Coastal Cuisine on West Jefferson in Oak Cliff. My friend, Mesa neighbor Jim Richardson of Oak Cliff Cellars, suggested we run over there. Jim's wines will be featured on the new Mesa patio, and he is also planning some fun wine dinners with the Mesa folks.
Mesa strikes a pose on the bustling little strip of West Jefferson between Beckley and Zang – just a couple blocks from 35E.
The Reyes family – with Olga and Raul in the kitchen, daughter Jaret front of the house and Raul Jr on the floor – radiate genuine enthusiasm for the cuisine and the guests. The rest of the staff is equally warm and helpful. Let's eat:
^L: Surtido Veracruzano: enfijoladas, plantanos rellenos, empanada, picadas.
^R: Robalo and Gulf shrimp Ceviche. Nice.
^L: Chilpachol de Jaiba y Camaron: spicy seafood broth with fresh crab, Gulf shrimp, dumplings, mussels. The broth was remarkable.
^R: Sopa de Lentejas: lentil soup with pork ribs, plantains, tomato, boiled egg.
^L: Costillas en Adobo: pork ribs in red chile and plantain sauce, jasmine rice.
^R: Huachinango ala Veracruzana: fillet of Gulf snapper sauteed with stewed onions, capers, olives, tomato, jalapeños, carrots.
^ and my destination dish, Mole Mama Cata: Chef Olga's unique mole with over 20 ingredients, recipe has passed down from her mother Catalina. Here with duck. Mole, Mole, Mole! Just divine.
^L: Chocoflan Flan de Naranja; Tres Leches; Arroz con Leche.
Well, it looks like the long wait for this place to open was worth it.
Driftwood, Chef Omar Flores’ (Abacus) seafood restaurant at 624 W. Davis in Oak Cliff (next to Bolsa Mercado), has a welcome feel, a cool patio deal, and some nice stuff on the plate. Owner Jonn Baudoin’s hospitality doesnt hurt, either.
Our group ordered almost everything from the heavily seafood-centric menu – but there are many gems from the land as well. Here are some dishes I could get pics of before they were attacked. Read the ingredients in each description – lovely dishes on the page, plate and palate.
^ Malpeque Oysters – Jalapeño Sorbet, Pickled Green Apples.
^L – Naked Cowboy Oysters – Champagne Bubbles, Rio Red Grapefruit Mignonette.
^R – Little Neck Clams – House Made Fennel Pork Sausage, Marinated Tomatoes, Calabrese Peppers, White Wine Broth.
^ Berkshire Pork Rillettes – Pickled Dried Apricot Compote, Bread n’ Butter Baby Beets, Rustic Toast. A heart attack in a jar – and almost worth it! I love rillettes, and this dish did not dissapoint.
^L – Maine Lobster Roll – Gherkins, Tarragon Aioli, Truffle Potato Gaufrettes.
^R – Chargrilled Octopus – Fingerling Potato Confit, Manzanilla Olives, Watercress, Pickles Onions, Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette.
^L – Crispy Seared Idaho Trout – Serrano Ham, Pimenton Roasted Fingerlings, English Peas, Sherry Vinegar Pan Sauce.
^R – Madagascar Vanilla Crème Brûlée – Orange Caramel, Cajeta Whipped Cream. Nice.
We also had the Hiramasa Crudo, Grilled Shrimp, Softshell Crab, Diver Scallops, Brussel Sprouts, Fried Cauliflower, and the Rabbit Duo. Nearly every dish was a hit with our jaded table. Some interesting selections from the wine list assisted in our revelry.
People are always asking me: “What’s new? Where should we go?” How about Driftwood, friends.
As exceptional as Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek chef Bruno Davaillon's dinner tasting menus are, a little light lunch can be equally stunning. Err – light, in this case, may refer only to the time of day! Check this out:
^ Crispy Pig Trotter, Watercress / Horseradish Sauce, Pickled Vegetables.
^ Pan-seared Sweetbread, Carbonara Ravioli, Sunchoke / Black Truffle Sauce.
^ Duck Meatballs, Duck Consomme, Foie Gras, Black Trumpets, Green Cabbage, Chestnuts.
^L: Chatham Cod, Potato / Cod Brandade, Tomato Confit, Capers, Lemon Brown Butter.
^ Chesnut Mont Blanc, Chocolate Macaron, Vanilla Chantilly, Rum Ice Cream.
Yes – a little crazy – but ridiculously well-crafted and delicious. And better than another steak and bottle of – Heaven forbid – Silver Oak.
A reminder to occasionally expand your horizons, and your palate. Cheers!
Timely update: Bruno Davaillon has just been nominated for the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef Southwest award. Sweet!
Check out these pics from For You, Taste of Poland, a family owned market and restaurant featuring traditional Polish specialties: Pierogi domowej roboty, Galabki – stuffed cabbage with tomato sauce, Bigos – Polish hunters’ stew based on cooked sauerkraut, Polish sausage, Pork cutlets, Red and White Bortscht, Placki Ziemniaczane – Potato pancakes, and a bunch of other great stuff. Check out the menu here.
It's a cool space – and should be, as owners John Paul Valverde and Miguel Vicéns run the design shop Coevál Studio. They also had the good fortune of snagging former Stephan Pyles Exec Chef Matt McCallister to run the kitchen, for the time being at least. Matt has generated crazy buzz and amassed significant praise for his dishes at Campo – almost frustrating, in fact, for a guy about to leave to open his own signature restaurant in the burgeoning culinary destination that is the Dallas Design District. He can handle it.
^ Drool-inducing items for the food-lover. Let's eat:
^L: Chorrizo Fritters – Charred Oregano Aioli, Manchego;
^R: Smoked Baccalao (Salt Cod) Dip
^L: Roasted Cauliflower-Gratin Dip;
^R: Matt's house-made Charcuterie – Farmhouse Salumi, Rossette de Lyon, Sopprasata di Calabria, Lonzino, Chicken Liver Mousse
^L: Lambs Tongue Salad – Celery, Coriander, Pecan, Pear;
^R: Beef Heart Tartare – Mustard, Cider, Black Truffle
^L: The table devours:
Tonight's 3rd Coast Catch;
Acadian Dutch Mussels – Linguini, Carrot, House Pancetta, Bottarga;
Pressed Pork Shoulder – White Beans, Sage Chimichurri, Cippolini Onion Jus;
^R: Here's Matt's riff on the old skool snack Ants on a Log.
The next evening Matt introduced 11 new menu items – we'll have to get back while the gettin' is good! Actually, the staff Matt has in place in CampO's kitchen – including Josh Black, Ian Starr and Matt Gatsey – are very talented as well. In fact, Gatsey staged at Alinea and Gramercy Tavern and was on staff at Per Se. It will be interesting to follow the team's progress after Matt takes his leave.
Always a good festive evening. This years scholarship winner was
austin's Renée Morgan, who not only banked a $15,000.00 scholarship
for her school, she also received a $500.00 stipend to travel with
Chef Pyles to a celebrity chef fundraising event and the opportunity
to present a the amuse at this evening's dinner – a lovely Bone Marrow
Brulée Tartlett with Cranberry and Red Onion Relish, as well as
Country Ham and Gouda Goat Fritters; and Tomato Martini Shooters with
Mozzarella & Basil Oil – paired with NV Nicolas Feuillatte Brut
^L: David Garrido – Garrido's, Austin:
Scallop with Bacon-Potato ball, red Jalapeno Crema and Pumpkin Seed
2010 Evening Land Vineyards Bourgogne Blanc, Burgundy
^R: Stephan Pyles & Joel Harrington – Stephan Pyles & Samar by Stephan
Bay of Fundy Salmon Confit with Horseradish Panna Cotta, Honeycrisps
and Manchego Chicharron
2008 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
^ Nick Badovinus – Neighborhood Services, Dallas:
Cider Roasted Texas Quail, Butternut Squash Grits, Luxardo-Walnut Compote
2008 Pedernales Cellars Family Reserve Red Wine, Texas
^L: Stephan Pyles.
^R: Joel Harrington.
^ Jason Dady – The Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, San Antonio:
Pan Seared Lamb Loin with Root Vegetable Spoonbread, Fennel, Wild
Mushroom and Smoked Huckleberry Bordelaise
2007 Fontanafredda Barolo “Serralunga”
^L: Rebecca Rather – Rather Sweet Cafe & Bakery, Fredericksburg
Sweet Potato Doughnuts with Garrison Brothers Bourbon, Bacon Caramel
Sauce and Caramel Ice Cream
2007 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve, Alsace, France
^R: Some auction items of interest to me!
Already been here three times – love it. Mico Rodriguez – yes, of Mi Conina fame – offers us Mr. Mesero (Mr. Waiter). The menu touts "American Standards, Mexican Classics" I'm all over the Mex-Mex stuff, myself.
It's a great space (previously Burger Girl, and before that Lombardi's La Cubanita) at 4444 McKinney Ave.
Color accents the room and explodes on the plate.
^L Chiles: Jalapeño, Pulla, Habanero y Tomate, and the house salsa.
^R Toreados – pan fried Serrano peppers w/ grilled onions. Here with Aguacates (Avocado).
^L Don't call it a Mambo Taxi! – it's the El Santo (same effect, as you might imagine).
^R Complimentary pickled goodness! I'm so crazy about these I can't see straight – however it may be the heat, on second thought.
Delicious Caldos at $5:
^L Pollo y Tomatillo – Mexican pozole verde – pulled chicken, tomatillo, cilantro broth. I have this on each visit – sure hits the spot with the crisp air.
^R Fideo y Pollo – Consomme de pollo – con esencia de chile morita.
"The American Side" of the menu features a Caesar ("have to have it on the menu"), Saturday Afternoon Pork Sandwich, Texas Coast Shrimp Salad, Strip Steak and Fries, and The Rose Burger. It's in honor of Rose Stivers' famous double meat cheeseburger, served for decades at her Rose’s Bluebonnet Sandwich Shop at the corner of Greenville and Yale, until she passed away in 2003. There is a tidbit about her here.
^L Mico is testing this preparation out – steak prepared either on the oak wood grill or the plancha.
^R Arroz – a sampling of the three rices. Individual sides are also served with this wonderful mole.
^ a Combo Plate $7-$9; and a Taco Plate $7.
Service is attentive and endearing, this is not Mico's first rodeo.
^L A bunch of tacos, we had to try them all. Among them: Jardineros, Carnitas Mi General, Fino, Barbacoa, Callejeros, and Huerfano.
^R The Pescado Tacos – salmon, Mesero slaw, elote rostizado, tomate.
^L 5 Milk Pastel.
I adore this place and have brought all types of my food pals here to unanimous delight.
Well done, Mico – nice to have you back.
On Sept 22nd, I was able to dine at the fascinating new restaurant Romera New York – located at the Dream Hotel Downtown in the Meatpacking District. Michelin-starred neurologist/chef Dr. Miguel Sánchez Romera, of L'Esguard outside of Barcelona, was brought stateside by Sant Singh Chatwal to head the Dream Hotel's flagship restaurant.
They have a strict "NO PHOTO" policy, but I was able to take just a few shots before being informed of it and respectfully complying. Above: the chef's wife (L) and translator (R) look over the interior herb gardens.
Vintage Versace china and Christofle flatware called for a '98 Krug Clos du Mesnil to kick things off.
The menu: 11 courses. $245. Not that anyone's counting…
Here is the menu, transcribed. Each course was also accompanied by "ingredient-driven waters that compliment the flavors and aromatic properties of each dish."
A coupage of extra virgin olive oils accompanied by a pistachio and mint puree, a black olive puree, mini pansy flowers, rose water, crisp potatoes, pollen grains and poppy seeds.
A creamy mousse of seaweed and shellfish wrapped in a fine, transparent sheet of rose water marinated the Daikon radish and flower petals.
Toro and hamachi tuna overlaid with seasonal flowers and freshly snipped aromatic herbs with coconut cream and crystalline sauces of jasmine and orange blossom.
Twelve varieties of grains drizzled with olive oil encircling a smooth tandoori sauce topped with black olive jam and sliced black truffles.
A Romarian mosaic of dried vegetables with vanilla and wild garlic aroma, garden-fresh mini vegetables with Cassavia butter en-cocotte followed by a vegetable soup.
ROSA DEL AZAFRAN
King salmon with savory aromas of saffron, orange, ginger and beets accompanied by smoked shellfish cream and salmon roe.
Foie gras poele with a fine layer of white chocolate Cassavia gel topped with radish, strands of garlic, rose water and beets, tandoori, turmeric, ceps, rosemary, and vegetable charcoal accompanied by smoked eggplant mousse and a sauce of black truffle, ginger and aromatic herbs.
New York strip loin on the grill with black truffle butter and garlic served over a Romerian mosaic of cheese, bacon, onion and tomato, completed with a homemade sauce of smoked black truffles and ceps.
Strawberry, kiwi, mango and blackberry sorbets coated with natural lemongrass and served over a mousse of lychee with white chocolate.
A homemade dark chocolate soup served over sweet banana and dark chocolate cake with orange and white chocolate confiture and gold leaf flakes.
A selection of sweets featuring our in-house production of Romero Chocolate Gourmand bonbons and tablets, along with signature bonbons filled with coffee cream made from a homemade Coffee Gourmand, carrot cake with lemon, vanilla and saffron and tandoori meringue with mint cream.
The take-away: cards describing the inspiration behind each dish.
A quick Google search will return an avalanche of negative comments from early diners on various mass critisism sites. "Preposterous!" "Pretentious!" "Bonkers!"
My take? LOVED it. I'm not a casual diner and my dinner companion had capped an impressive culinary tour of Michelined Europe with one of the final seatings at elBulli earlier in the year. We found it whimsical, visually breathtaking, and fascinating on the palate. Obviously, it's ridiculously expensive – remember that this is my only hobby, this sport dining thing. Romera's "neurogastronomy" may not be for everyone, but it is certainly not the work of a madman – well, perhaps… but I dig it.
The waters were fun and did progress the meal in an unusual and pleasant manner. But the Clos du Mesnil didn't hurt!
The platings were exquisite - some examples can be found on the Romera website, but not even the most impressive are featured.
The next day I was chatting about the experience with another multi-Michelin-starred New York chef who had also dined at Romera earlier in the week. He, too, found the experience remarkable and his eyes gleamed as we recounted the meal. But, he knows New York. If the reviews don't come in, he could see how New York would – eat this one alive.
UPDATE: Seems like some of the traditional media is having a positive first reaction. Here is what the Wall Street Journal's Katy McLaughlin has to say in the piece Romera New York: Does the Food Live Up to the Hype? (Hint: it does.) Katy was allowed to take a few snaps.
I finally made it over to the hugely popular Vietnam Restaurant on Bryan St., if just for a quick Phở.
The broth is of the rather heavily spiced aroma variety.
^ After I do my doctoring. Not bad. I need to get back and try some other stuff. Interesting fact – the entire staff is able to go about their business, including fully bussing tables, without breaking their stare on one of the dozen TV's featuring soccer matches from across the globe. Amazing!
Cafe Madrid has been a staple of Dallas Spanish cuisine for about a quarter of a century – a pioneer, really. We ran in for some tapas… and something special.
^L - Caperberries and the Plato Iberico – an assortment of Spanish cured meats, served with manchego cheese, olives, and marcona almonds.
^R – Pulpo a la vinagreta – octopus marinated in a vinaigrette of tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers.
But I was here for the Morcilla – with which I torture my dining companion who, while being Colombian, has had an aversion since childhood. Let's just say she was in on the sausage being made.
Morcilla, a Spanish version of Blood Sausage, may look unappetizing, but is crazy deliscioso! It is made from pig's blood and rice, typically mixed with onion, garlic, sweet and spicy paprika, oregano, and various other spices that may vary from region to region.
^L – We enjoyed the Marqués de Riscal Reserva Rioja…
^R – Morcilla de arroz y cebolla – fried blood sausage served with toasted bread.
I'll be featuring other preparations of Blood Pudding from a number of cultures in this category. Stay tuned!