Casual

Dipping into TJ’s Seafood Market and Grill on Oak Lawn – Dallas

Quickie here:

Jon Alexis can be proud of his new digs in the Shops of Highland Park.

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TJ’s Seafood Market and Grill is now open – I just ran in to take a look and loved the place.

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There is a daily menu available – or grab a piece of fish and have them prepare it for you – or select a marinade and a finishing sauce and do it yourself, at home. Dig. It. The Lobster Roll is already news. More on this later. …and the ‘Charcuterie of the Sea’ looks amazing.

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We could not resist and snagged some caviar and blinis, then bribed Avner next door at Nosh with a bite in return for a set up and some lovely lemon crème fraîche. 

Collecting some of Chef Omar Flores’ Driftwood, Oak Cliff – Dallas

Well, it looks like the long wait for this place to open was worth it.

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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.

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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. 

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^ Malpeque Oysters – Jalapeño Sorbet, Pickled Green Apples.

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^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.

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^ 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.

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^L – Maine Lobster Roll – Gherkins, Tarragon Aioli, Truffle Potato Gaufrettes.
^R – Chargrilled Octopus – Fingerling Potato Confit, Manzanilla Olives, Watercress, Pickles Onions, Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette.

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^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.

Driftwood  on Urbanspoon

Checking In: For You, Taste of Poland, Plano

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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.

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Dropping in on Matt McCallister at CampO, Oak Cliff

Better late than never. Our crew rolled into CampO Modern Country Bistro after a delightful Thursday Wine Chat by Michael Flynn at The Mansion (read: we needed foods).

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.

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^ Drool-inducing items for the food-lover. Let's eat:

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^L:  Chorrizo Fritters – Charred Oregano Aioli, Manchego;
^R:  Smoked Baccalao (Salt Cod) Dip

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^L:  Roasted Cauliflower-Gratin Dip;
^R:  Matt's house-made Charcuterie – Farmhouse Salumi, Rossette de Lyon, Sopprasata di Calabria, Lonzino, Chicken Liver Mousse

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The Goods:
^L:  Lambs Tongue Salad – Celery, Coriander, Pecan, Pear;
^R:  Beef Heart Tartare – Mustard, Cider, Black Truffle

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^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.

Campo Modern Country Bistro on Urbanspoon

Loving Mico Rodriguez’ latest, Mr Mesero – Dallas

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.

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Color accents the room and explodes on the plate.

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^L  Chiles: Jalapeño, Pulla, Habanero y Tomate, and the house salsa.
^R  Toreados – pan fried Serrano peppers w/ grilled onions. Here with Aguacates (Avocado). 

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^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. 

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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. 

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"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.

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^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. 

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^ a Combo Plate $7-$9; and a Taco Plate $7.

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Service is attentive and endearing, this is not Mico's first rodeo.

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^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.

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^L  5 Milk Pastel.

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I adore this place and have brought all types of my food pals here to unanimous delight.

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Well done, Mico – nice to have you back.

Chef John Tesar tours The Commissary and The Table at One Arts Plaza, Dallas

My 200th post:

Check out this peek at chef John Tesar’s new digs at One Arts Plaza: The Commissary.


 

The Commissary will feature gourmet burgers, small and large plates, wines by the bottle and glass, tap wine, beers, Michael Martensen’s sangria bowls, artisan sodas and a retail wine program.

Included is a look at the separate tasting room “The Table,” and some toys in the kitchen. The place should be open in a week or so. See you there!

Disclaimer: Friends and followers of my blog are no doubt aware that Tesar and I are buddies. As the concept for The Commissary developed, we collaborated on certain design elements including the logo and signage. I do not do criticism on my blog – but rather champion excellence. My opinion of Tesar as an excellent chef is shared by most anyone who has tasted his food. In that spirit, you will see additional posts about what is going on at this establishment – as you will for many other restaurants I feel strongly about. So, there. Go forth and eat, and support the food you love!

Tim Byres’ Whole Pig on the Patio at Smoke, Dallas

I smell like "Smoke," and I like it. In celebration of Tim Byres winning Food & Wine Magazine's "The People's Best New Chef Southwest," the boys put together a little fiesta on the patio.

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^ Check out that pig! (and Tim, too!)

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^ Ceviche; and fixin's.

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^ Chef Byres adds some flavor, as a interpretive piñata version of himself looms above.

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Friend-foodie-bloggy-chefy types.

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^ Mariachis perform as the comedy classic "Three Amigos" plays on the wall above. We make many El Guapo references – a plethora of references, in fact.

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Byres overlooks his patio, and contemplates the potential of similar evenings coming this summer. Stay tuned!

Chef John Tesar Dinner @ The Cedars Social Cocktail Den – Supper Bowl #2, Dallas

Cedars Social owner Brian Williams got a kick out of my post featuring Tim Byres’ (of the freshly 4 starred restaurant Smoke) Supper Bowl dinner, but begs me remind everyone that this place is a cocktail joint with modern comfort food. There has been allot of attention surrounding the pre-opening Supper Bowl dinners… which I will now add to here! But first:

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^ Just look at that… Michael Martensen‘s lust-worthy back bar. A major cocktail story to come – but in the meanwhile, I’ll have a Compass Box Oak Cross whisky, one rock, please:

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^ The view from the bar.

And now – more food! Some of Tesar’s passed hors d’oeuvres:

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^ Sommeliers Scott Barber and D’Lynn Proctor chat wine; ^ The menu and pairings.

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^ A Tesar classic: Butter poached King Crab with Parsley Puree and Garlic Foam.

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^ Chef Tesar and his ridonculous prawns!

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^ The Roasted Gulf Prawns with Finocchiona, Avocado and Lemon Garlic Aioli.

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^ Penne Bolognese with aged Pecorino Cheese; ^ and a new classic: Whole Roasted Sweetbreads with Creamer Potatoes, Oyster Mushrooms, Truffle Vinaigrette, and Spicer’s Greens.

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Pastry Chef Corey Thompson’s Hazelnut, Milk Chocolate and Banana Torte.

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JT greeting the room of diners who had braved the ice storm to make this another warm and wonderful evening at The Cedars Social.

Chef John Tesar & Tim Byres Kick-off The Cedars Social – Supper Bowl #1, Dallas

I’ve endured tales of the eminent debut of The Cedars Social for the better part of a year – and even walking through the space a week ago one needed allot of imagination and a good deal of faith in one’s proprietor pals to see the potential. Now it’s all real. Welcome to The Cedars Social.

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^ In my opinion – this is by far the most satisfying use of the space, at 1326 S. Lamar, that has previously housed Amuse and Sala. It’s warm, retro, alive – it feels like hanging out in a friend’s living room – from a simpler time. Oh, and there’s kick-ass cocktails and bad-ass food.

This place is ALL about cocktails and hanging out – they call it “a cocktail den and comfort food kitchen.” But before they open the doors for reals – we get a preview of the space this week during the run up to Super Bowl XLV, thanks to the 5 Supper Bowl dinners. Last night’s dinner was the first service at Cedars and featured chef Tim Byres of Smoke.

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^ But first some hors d’ oeuvres by chef John Tesar, who created the Cedars menu for owner (and former Green Bay Packers linebacker) Brian Williams. Tesar will open the kitchen at Cedars and be cooking nightly for the next few weeks – ahead of the debut of his One Arts Plaza joint, The Commissary.

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^ We all immediately fell in love with the room.

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^ Consulting Sommelier D’Lynn Proctor steals a sip from his private stash; as Tim Byres and John Tesar explain the evening’s menu.

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^ Byres’ clever and delicious Boudin Balls & Brick Roux Gumbo with Smoked Chicken & Sausage.

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^ The guys prepping Tim’s Smoked Pheasant & Rio Star Grapefruit Salad with Sprouts, Radicchio & Almonds. (The cylinder is removed prior to service.)

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^ The dramatic open pit fireplace is comfortable and welcoming in the space.

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^ Sweetbreads and Oxtail – featuring a winning spin on German Potato Salad.

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Former Mansion Pastry Sous Chef Corey Thompson’s Citrus Panna Cotta: and homemade pies by Tracy Tesar. (Trace – that Buttermilk Pie just ain’t right! OMG!)

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^ Peeps facebooking the meal, no doubt.

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^ Tim and friends.

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^ Cool.

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^ after… more cocktails; and conversation in the library. A major part of this concept is Michael Martensen‘s cocktail program. I’ll have much more to say about this once the place is officially open.

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^ Nice to have JT back in the kitchen – his Supper Bowl dinner is Feb 1, but you can try his Cedars menu after things settle down next week; ^ Owner Brian Williams, happy to have the first night in the history books.

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^ Get over to The Cedars Social and explore its many delights. Nice job, guys.

A Taste: Jennifer and David Uygur’s Lucia, Dallas.

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Yep – It's great. Hype: deserved. Anticipation: rewarded. Welcome to Lucia.

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^ We are greeted with warm Olives in Rosemary Olive Oil; ^ and a selection of Chef David Uygur's house-made Salumi. The standout is the ridiculously good n'duja (like the French term 'andouille' , 'n'duja' is derived from the Latin for "too insert") - a highly spiced spreadable pork sausage originating from Calabria – here spread on crostini. We had to have a second order. Learn more about n'duja here.

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^ A late Friday evening found us among a nice group of like minded Dallas food types.

We decided to grab a bunch of stuff to share on our first visit:

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^Seared Beef Tongue with Roasted Onions and Salsa Verde; ^ Crispy Lamb Meatballs.

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^ Oyster Risotto with Parsley (Nice); ^ Potato Gnocchi with caramelized Cabbage, Taleggio and Speck.

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^ Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Corona Beans and Broccoli Rabe; ^ Panna Cotta with caramelized apples and Aceto Balsamico.

The rest of this week's menu is equally tantalizing. (View the Lucia menu for the week of December 17 here.)

After two bottles of wine, my conspicuous dining companion and I rattle off numerous adjectives in praise of the food – the deft balance of fat and acid, the skillful execution – to which Jennifer U. simply responds, "Well, that's great! We hope you had a lovely time and are glad you enjoyed your meal!" Later on Chef David chats with us in some detail, but kinda humbly shrugs off the accolades. He's just cooking with integrity and procuring great ingredients. The Uygurs have created something special. A small neighborhood restaurant that cannot avoid the reality that it is important for the Dallas food scene.

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^ Chef/Owner David Uygur.

It's been over a year since that last service at Ugyar's previous culinary home, Dallas favorite Lola. There has been a real dearth of excitement in restaurant openings in that time, and we've had to endure some painful closings lately. That's why there's almost a feeling of relief that Lucia is as wonderful, welcoming and satisfying as one might have hoped for. It's great already, and they are only getting started.

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^Manager/Owner Jennifer Uygur at the window of her Bishop Arts District gem.

Lucia on Urbanspoon