The Goods

Chef John Tesar’s Spoon Bar & Kitchen

Obviously, I was looking forward to the opening of Chef John Tesar's Spoon Bar & Kitchen in Preston Center for some time.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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
in Dallas."

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^Crudos

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^L: Oyster and Truffle Stew

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^L: Lobster Pot Pie

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^ Remarkable Smoked Sturgeon Head Cheese.

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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.

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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.)

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The recent addition of David Collier as pastry chef completes the meal in an artful manner – creative, whimsical and delicious:

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To be sure, Tesar has his fair share of haters, and now – many more devotees. He is without question an outstanding seafood chef.

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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 –
not
less. …and the place also has a cool logo.

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Spoon Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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. 

Mesa Veracruz Coastal Cuisine – Oak Cliff, Dallas

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.

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Mesa strikes a pose on the bustling little strip of West Jefferson between Beckley and Zang – just a couple blocks from 35E.

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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:

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^L: Surtido Veracruzano: enfijoladas, plantanos rellenos, empanada, picadas.
^R: Robalo and Gulf shrimp Ceviche. Nice.

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 ^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.

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^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. 

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^ 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.

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^L: Chocoflan Flan de Naranja; Tres Leches; Arroz con Leche.

We enjoyed both the meal and the convivial atmosphere this Friday night. I think they could use some support during the week as well – so head on over and enjoy this little "joya."
Mesa on Urbanspoon

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

Saturday Lunch with Bruno Davaillon at The Mansion, Dallas

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:

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^ Crispy Pig Trotter, Watercress / Horseradish Sauce, Pickled Vegetables. 

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 ^ Pan-seared Sweetbread, Carbonara Ravioli, Sunchoke / Black Truffle Sauce.

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 ^ Duck Meatballs, Duck Consomme, Foie Gras, Black Trumpets, Green Cabbage, Chestnuts.

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^L: Chatham Cod, Potato / Cod Brandade, Tomato Confit, Capers, Lemon Brown Butter.

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^ 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! 

Mansion on Turtle Creek on Urbanspoon

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.

Chillin’ at Lucia, Dallas

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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.

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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.

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Well, now we have to eat 'cause I need to drink this – and my friend Maria wants to start with red – and…

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^ 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.

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^ Fritto misto of baby squid, smelt and rock shrimp and with a green almond aioli.
^^ Chickpea soup with rosemary and olive oil.

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^ Rabbit tortelloni en brodo.
^^ Cavatelli with lamb ragu, pecorino and mint. Nice!

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^ 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.

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^ Slow-cooked pork shoulder with lady cream peas.
^^ Carnaroli pudding with blueberries and almonds.

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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.

Korean with a personal touch – Yourim Restaurant, Dallas

It's fair to say that I do get around – to a large number of Asian restaurants anyway. Friends of many cultures take me to a variety of establishments, but when certain chefs make a point to drag me somewhere multiple times… noteworthy.
Here at Yourim, located next to Mac Karaoke in the Korean enclave of Royal & 35, we find familiar dishes – made with integrity, detail… and love.

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^ Jokbal – sliced pig's feet. Traditionally eaten wrapped in lettuce. Here with many delicious banchan.

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^ Banchan detail.

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^ Jokbal preparation. ^ and Pajeo with seafood – a pancake made from eggs, rice flour, and here – green leeks. Wonderful.

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Soups on!

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^ GopChang JunGol… Intestines of Ox, tripe, vegetables… amazing.

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^ the previous week we did the YumSo JunGol – an excellent goat and vegetable soup.

Love this place. We go late, you can enjoy Soju until 2am, and food until 4am.

I have heard some discussion that the restaurant's name is "Youlim."  When I asked at the restaurant they pointed to the menu. It's somewhere lost in translation.

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Regardless, Find it at 2525 Royal Ln, #317, Dallas, 75229. And as Andrew comments below, yes they are off to Korea 'til late September! I might have told you guys that part – d'oh!

Tei-An turning Three!

I'm already celebrating!

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Tei-An's 3rd Anniversary festivities commence Monday, August 8, 2011 at 7 p.m. Food, beer, sake, Hunter, $10 – all good.

Deets here. Drool here.