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.
So, everybody knows I have an unnatural relationship with White Burgundy. Last weekend I had Italian white wine on my mind and realized I didn't have much experience with Italian Chardonnay wines. I googled around Piedmont and Alto Adige, ruminated on pinot bianco, and salivated. Since Jeremy or Alfonso weren't handy with samples, the urge to visit Lucia grew more intense than usual.
Within moments of stepping inside Lucia last Wednesday evening, Jennifer Ugyur and I were in deep discussion. I know what I need and I need it now. Bam! Let's try this: Bastianich Vespa Bianco, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Picolit from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Like, yep.
Well, now we have to eat 'cause I need to drink this – and my friend Maria wants to start with red – and…
^ Salumi misti – Rabbit and pistachio pâté, fennel/orange salame, porchetta, soppressata,
Duck salame cotto, Iardo and chicken liver crostini. Love it.
^^ Crostini with chicken liver and black mission figs.
^ Fritto misto of baby squid, smelt and rock shrimp and with a green almond aioli.
^^ Chickpea soup with rosemary and olive oil.
^ Rabbit tortelloni en brodo.
^^ Cavatelli with lamb ragu, pecorino and mint. Nice!
^ Chef David Ugyur always has something else up his sleeve. As he know my love of sea urchin – this time he whipped up: Smoked lardo on crostini with sea urchin over slow scamled eggs. Frickin' awesome.
^ Slow-cooked pork shoulder with lady cream peas.
^^ Carnaroli pudding with blueberries and almonds.
We closed down the place, sipping away. This was Maria's first visit and beside the food being wonderful across the board, she was really struck by the warmth and care demonstrated by everyone we came in contact with – the lovely Fauna at the door, co-owner and wine director Jennifer Ugyur, and our excellent server Michael (previosly at York Stree and Aurora).
Nice job, once again.
Here we are, back again for more goodness! We had, like, four or five people – so we pretty much ordered the menu:
^ Salumi misti – a tasting of house-made cured meats.
^ Baccala fritters with olive salad and aïoli.
^^ Baby artichoke salad with faro, arugula and Parmigiano Reggiano.
^ Seared beef tongue with roasted onions in salsa verde.
^^ Sea urchin risotto with chives. (Chef David Ugyur knows how to push my buttons.)
^ Raviolone with egg yoke, escarole and brodo Parmigiano.
^^ Potato gnocchi with caramelized cabbage, Gorgonzola and Speck.
^ Orecchiette with spicy lamb sausage, broccoli raab and ricotta salata.
^^ Veal chop with fingerlings, cippolini, guanciale and brown butter.
^ Braised rabbit leg with polenta taragna, root vegetables and Brussels sprouts.
^^ Duck breast with a porcini and foie gras peverada.
^ 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:
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:
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!
^ Shirako Agedashi (kind of tempura style); ^ Shirako Ponzu.
^ Shirako Sauté; ^ and, meanwhile, Maria's dinner awaits her arrival.
^ 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).
^ 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.
Yep – It's great. Hype: deserved. Anticipation: rewarded. Welcome to Lucia.
^ 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.
^ 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:
^Seared Beef Tongue with Roasted Onions and Salsa Verde; ^ Crispy Lamb Meatballs.
^ Oyster Risotto with Parsley (Nice); ^ Potato Gnocchi with caramelized Cabbage, Taleggio and Speck.
^ 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.
^ 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.
^Manager/Owner Jennifer Uygur at the window of her Bishop Arts District gem.
The Carnivores Delight.
I've eaten at Smoke at the Belmont Hotel here and there over the last year and always pretty much enjoyed it just fine – but this time it was different. At the one year mark of this hipster-cool Oak Cliff joint, chef Tim Byres has reinvigorated the menu. Familiar barbeque favorites are now accompanied by inspired and creative dishes that remind me that there is, indeed, an executive chef in the kitchen.
^Dry Cured Pork Jowl Bacon w/ House-made Half Sour Cucumber Salad, Sweet Chiles, Molasses and Mustard.
^Crispy Veal Sweet Breads & Fire Roasted Figs w/ Jalapeños, Asparagus, Lime, Blistered Onions, Our Smoke Bacon, Wild Mushrooms & Goat's Milk Crema; ^Spicy Lamb Meat Balls and Pasilla Chile Mole, Garlic Potato, Golden Raisin Chutney & Preserved Lemon.
^Smoked Sausage: All Spiced Rabbit, Spice Pork Andouille & Beef Paprika Fennel Seed w/ Mustard Sauce and Caraway Pickled Cabbage. LOVED 'em; ^Tamarind BBQ Salmon w/ Roasted Sweet Peppers, Tomato & Watermelon Vinaigrette.
^ Beef Short Rib Chimichurri & Dry Rubbed Pork Spare Ribs.
^Tim shows off the Primal 3 Bone Short Ribs: spice-rubbed and reverse-braised "low and dry" for about 22 hours. Yep.
^More Rib porn; and the Ham.
^ Smokehouse Cured Ham w/ Sorghum Molasses, Honey Peach Preserves and Sweet & Sour Jalapeño Jelly.
^Look at that friggin' ham! ^One of Tim's smokers…
^Mescal & Key Lime Meringue Pie – the meringue alone was so delicious we could have done away with the rest, even. ^And a Michael Martensen cocktail: Cedar Infused Tequila & Sour Bourbon Cherries.
The new menu went live a couple weeks ago, get over there and check it out. Really. And don't forget about brunch – my buddy Matt is always jonesing for Tim's Blueberry & house made Ricotta Cheese Pancakes.
^ First a little something from the Bar Bites menu, Jalapeño Stuffed Quail Legs – Smoked Bacon, Ale Glaze. ^ But the bomb was the Andouille Pâté by Charcuterie Chef Richard Blankenship – brilliant and decadent.
The next night I met some other friends and we enjoyed perfect weather on the patio. The Joule sits in the middle of a particular block of downtown Dallas that actually has some foot traffic in the evening – almost seems like a city, even!
Pimm's sounded a great choice to compliment the temperate air and the handsome Adam Tihany room glowing through the restaurant's wall-to-wall glass front.
I was once again slinking around the bar at The Mansion recently…
LK and I sampled some of the tempting new cocktails under development while chatting up chef Bruno Davaillon. When I asked what was new, I was well rewarded:
^ Charcuterie from Bruno’s family recipes. Nothing went to waste from this little piggy – and not a morsel remained on this plate.
^ That Thursday, after enjoying Somm Michael Flynn’s Wine Chat, I was able to enjoy the Head Cheese once again, this time with Black Truffles; along with a little Squab, Foie, and Duck with Sunchoke and Truffle Purées. …Damn…
My quest for exceptional cured meats has me lately hovering around the kitchen of Charlie Palmer at The Joule. Of interest last night was the 'Pigs and Pinot' dinner offered this week as it features "Pork Trio," not to mention Grilled Pork Belly. Chef Palmer was in town for a couple days pimpin' his new "Charlie and Clay" private label wine – so, seemed time for a post. Oh, and some friends dropped by as well.
^Executive Chef Scott Romano (center), and Charlie Palmer (right).
^Executive Chef Scott Romano in his kitchen.
^The Pork Trio, consisting of: ^ Sautéed Head Cheese;
^Country Pate; ^Foie Gras and Pork Jowl Terrine.
^Pork Trio at the table. This is a killer dish.
^Grilled Pork Belly – Apple Soubise, Clementine, Braised Red Cabbage. This dish will kill you!
^Grilled Pork Belly; and from pastry chef Ruben Torano: the Poached Comice Pear – Chevre Sorbet, Red Berry Compote.
Small Plates were passed, including:
We were talking with the lovely and talented Sharon Hage about what's doing for lunch this week when Chef Romano brought out this number for her to sample:
^It's a sous vide Squab dish: Porchetta / Braised Leg / Brown Butter Spaghetti Squash. Amazing.
Sharon helped style the dish for my photo, then grabbed us some forks and bade us 'Dig in!"
Big fun, kids. And, Sharon, see you soon!
Glossary: salami is the plural form of the Italian word salame, referring to traditional cured meats – specifically, ground salted and spiced meat forced into animal gut with an elongated and thin shape, then left to undergo some kind of fermentation process. Salumi refers to prepared meat products generally. Let's see if I use these terms correctly here. (Ruhlman is always lurking.)
I recently posted a comment referring to my love of Molinari Salame as a favorite comfort food. My Italian immigrant grandfather got me hooked on sliced salame as a snack at an early age. Back then, he had Boun Gusto salami shipped in from San Francisco. Years passed, my family moved around, and it became very rare to get ahold of this specific type of dry cured salame. It bore no resemblance to anything found in the cold cut isle, or even a meat counter, not to mention a Jewish deli. Of course, these days artisan salumi can be readily found at specialty markets, and locally produced charcuterie is available if you seek it out… look for posts on these subjects in future.)