Obviously, I was looking forward to the opening of Chef John Tesar's Spoon Bar & Kitchen in Preston Center for some time.
Everyone knows John and I are buddies – (I have no financial interest in the
restaurant, however I have consulted on certain design elements).
Regardless, it is my opinion that Spoon is excellent and is another
important chapter in the renaissance of the Dallas dining scene.
As the critics chime in (Dallas Observer, Modern Luxury, Dallas Morning News) the consensus has been extremely positive – I concur …and I get around. This place is good.
But critics are not always able to experience a restaurant with the depth afforded a devoted, food obsessed patron.
With that in mind, I'll do what I do best – here are a bunch of
pictures from some of the many meals I've enjoyed at Spoon, along with my trademark sentence fragments:
Spoon already has a crowd of devoted regulars and still sees its share
of curious customers looking for a glimpse of the deftly crafted
character Tesar has created and Top Chef promoted – "The Most Hated Chef
^L: Oyster and Truffle Stew
^L: Lobster Pot Pie
^ Remarkable Smoked Sturgeon Head Cheese.
Sommelier Sabrina Snodderley's wine program features interesting and nicely priced
selections that match wonderfully with the food. John and Sabrina
continue to add depth to the White Burgundy program – music to my ears.
Tesar's passion and pedigree are reflected in the constantly evolving
menu of exceptional seafood dishes as well as other "Not Fish"
selections (not pictured, lol.)
The recent addition of David Collier as pastry chef completes the meal in an artful manner – creative, whimsical and delicious:
To be sure, Tesar has his fair share of haters, and now – many more devotees. He is without question an outstanding seafood chef.
Spoon is easily one of the most important and exceptional new
Dallas restaurants to open in some time. The city's diners, critics, and even bloggers need to support and
encourage more of this passionate risk-taking and attention to detail –
less. …and the place also has a cool logo.
As The French Laundry chef de cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth prepares to hand over the reigns to his executive sous chef David Breeden, we popped in for a blowout.
Here’s what went down (and nicely, I might add):
^R: “OYSTERS AND PEARLS”
“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar.
^L: “OEUFS EN GELEE” Royal Ossetra Caviar. Brioche “Soldiers.” Lobster “Salpicon” and Scaliion Salad.
^L: SALAD OF FRENCH LAUNDRY GARDEN FENNEL Tokyo Turnips. Sour Michigan Cherries. Sicilian Pistachios and Mache.
^R: “KOULIBIAC” OF COLUMBIA RIVER STURGEON “Pomme Puree,” Nantes Carrots and Tarragon Jus.
^R: SWEET BUTTER-POACHED MAINE LOBSTER “FRICASSEE” Caraway Melba. Heirloom Beets. Melted Cabbage and Horseradish Creme Fraiche.
^L: RUSSET POTATO GNOCCHI with Shaved Black Winter Truffles.
^R: Some old bottle of wine…
^L: SALMON CREEK FARMS PORK BELLY “EN FEUILLE DE BRICK” Gamet Yam.. Brussels Sprouts. Pearson Farm Pecans. Noble Maple Syrup and Black Truffle.
^R: HERB-ROASTED ELYSIAN FIELDS FARM LAMB SADDLE Pearl Barley. Creamed Mushrooms. Petite Onions. Mizuna and Sauce “Soubise.”
^R: “BREBIS DES PYRENEES” Moroccan Olive. Piquillo Pepper Marmalade. Pine Nuts. Eggplant and Olive Oil Jam.
^L: POMEGRANATE “SODA” Jasmine Ice Cream and “Fleur de Sel” Shortbread.
^R: PASSION FRUIT “SWISS ROLL” Valrhona Chocolate Cremeux, Caramel Mousse and Banana Ice Cream.
^R: “Coffee and Doughnuts>”
What’s not to like? A wonderful experience.
On a side note: It’s nice to realize after a meal like this just what talent we have here in Dallas. Bruno Davaillon’s tasting menu at The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek is equally superb. An omakase meal from Teiichi Sakurai at Tei-An is equally sublime. Enjoy!
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!
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.
Old news by now – every local food lover was left reeling by the abrupt closure of what many considered the best restaurant in town.
Along with the continually brilliant Tei-An, York Street was always a place to take visiting food connoisseurs – and at the top of any list of recommendations to locals. I enjoyed many meals here, but lament not going more often.
Sharon's passion and respect for quality ingredients and her honest, strait-forward preparation made this little restaurant a true gem.
Here are some memories of York Street – from meals that I have previously not posted.
My Last York Street Meal:
As I occasionally do, I ducked away from the peeps and relished in a lavish multi-course tasting menu (with wine pairings), all by my lonesome – it is my only hobby, after all. I have no problem doing this from time to time – facebook keeps me company as I people watch, and I can indulge with ravenous glee – with only strangers the wiser. I've been looking forward to dinner at Marea, Michael White's Italian influenced seafood restaurant on Central Park South – and two dishes in particular. I chose to enjoy the grander of the tasting menus that are available upon request.
But first, a cocktail at the handsome and impressively stocked Egyptian onyx bar.
I sat at Table 1, with a full view of the goings on. And now the first of the dishes I covet:
^ Ricci: sea urchin, lardo, sea salt. Stunning. This sets the stage for the meal to come. Salt, fat, uni… it's a revelation. Having an intimate relationship with sea urchin roe in its many Japanese preparations, I find this dish fascinating, challenging, and remarkable. It continues to evoke meaningful discussion with the chefs that I count among my friends.
^ Ostriche: east and west coast oysters served with morellino mignonette & cucumber-lemon vinegar; and Crudo al Taglio.
^ Astice: nova scotia lobster, burrata, eggplant al funghetto, basil seeds. Outstanding; ^ and the Calamari: lobster and shrimp filled squid, slow cooked tomato, basil oil.
^ Risotti Mare: shrimp, lobster, scallops, rouget; ^ and the Orecchiette: spot prawns, chilies, rosemary.
And the other dish – my raison d'être. ^ The Fusilli: red wine braised octopus, bone marrow. The dish is White's play on a Surf & Turf, if you will. It's alchemy. The gelatin from the octopus binds with the liquified marrow, allowing the sauce to emulsify. Brilliant. Decadent. Perfect.
My server was excellent. When there was a slight mis-pour on the wine pairing for my requested seafood "main" course, I was asked if I'd prefer to keep the red on the table – enjoy my fish course with the appropriate pairing, and accept the meat course on the house… no need to waste that gorgeous Brunello.
Above ^ Dentice: seared atlantic snapper, blood sausage, whole roasted sunchoke, apple, chiodini mushrooms, sunchoke puree. Are you kidding? …killer. ^ and the Bistecca: grilled Creekstone Farms 50 day dry aged sirloin, bone marrow panzanella, braised romaine.
^ Gianduja: cocoa nib crema, hazelnut chocolate, fior di latte gelato; and dessert truffles.
A wonderful meal, excellent pairings – and equitably priced. Marea did not disappoint. I'll return for a full serving of the Fusilli, and that seductive Ricci to start.
What is that line about opinions…? Well everybody has one about Restaurant Week. Mine is generally of the "skip it" camp, but I give it a go once in a blue moon. Such an event occurred last Thursday, quite organically.
I was attending Mansion sommelier Michael Flynn's weekly Wine Chat (every Thursday at 6:15 sharp). My buddy, former Mansion mixologist – now bad-ass spirits ambassador Michael Martensen, brought along another spirits guy and his friend to check out the venerable Mansion Bar.
I ducked in to say hi to Chef Bruno and check out how RW was going. After a quick glance at the enticing offerings, the boys and I scored a table in the Salon (for the record I had a suit on – rabble…)
^ The Mansion's Restaurant Week menu. "We'll do the Flynn's wine pairings as well."
^ Vichyssoise amuse. Martensen and I wanted the boys to have a taste of the regular menu as well – so we ordered some starters for a pre-course:
^A kindly split order of the Shrimp Cocktail, Horseradish Panna Cotta, Tomato Syrup; ^and my fave, the Asparagus and Wild Mushroom Risotto, Meyer Lemon Dust. Mike had the brilliant King Crab Soup with Potato Capelletti (not shown).
^Michael Flynn's gracious table-side manner. Now to the RW menu: ^House-Made Salmon Gravlax with Shaved Fennel Salad.
^Watermelon Salad with Local Feta Cheese, Crispy Prosciutto and Pink Peppercorn Vinaigrette.
^Braised Veal Breast, Roasted Eggplant and Natural Jus; ^Sweet Corn Ravioli with Shrimp Bolognese Sauce. Nice.
^ I took Bruno's advice and ordered the chicken: Crawfish-Stuffed Texas Chicken, Roasted Potato and Baby Spinach and Shellfish Reduction. Fantastic – beautiful and delicious.
^Chocolate Caramel Tart: Soft Caramel, Chocolate Ganache, Vanilla Ice Cream; ^Peach Sundae: Vanilla Panna Cotta, Poached Peach, Almond Crumble, Peach Ice Cream.
I am a big fan of Chef Bruno Davaillon and The Mansion, and eat here as often as I can. This meal was cleverly conceived – and executed with the same skill and nuance as any other I've enjoyed here. Nicely done.
On the news that Avner and Celeste Samuel have decided to close Aurora after seven years and regroup, it seems a good time to reflect on the exceptional experience that was and still will be Aurora until July 31, 2010.