Good eating in Dallas

IMG_6645

Bullion

In a world dominated by mega franchises and celebrity-chef chains, it’s refreshing to see a handful of new and original dining options emerging deep in the heart of Texas. Dallas might be proud of her storied reputation for Barbecue, but I stumbled upon a couple of culinary standouts that are taking the city of big hair to even bigger heights.

1514500200-NG_19Bullion14

Bullion

Curiously suspended in mid-air like a golden-tiled hornet’s nest clinging for dear life to the 3rd floor of a downtown office tower, is an oblique chocolate box that is home to Michelin star chef Bruno Devaillon’s newest bistro – Bullion. It’s hard not to wonder what a French bistro might be doing just a block-and-a-half from the Kennedy assassination site, and after overhearing a fellow diner climbing down from her white Yukon Denali proudly exclaiming: “I eat French food all the time. French fries. French toast. French bread. All of it!” I couldn’t help wondering just how much chef Bruno might have to “Tex-ify” some of his Franco masterpieces. But my fears were unfounded. After ascending the spiral stairway, you leave Texas behind you for an hour or so, and find yourself in a cruise-ship styled cocktail lounge that leads via the pastry rack to an ornate, yet unpretentious dining space with dark woods and golden trims, somewhere along the border of cosy and chic.

IMG_6651

Bullion

The menu reads like any you’d find along la rive gauche with a few contemporary items wedged between stalwart classics like a hearty saffron and tomato Bouillabaise with a mix of seafood shells and scales served with shards of grilled country bread, and an immaculately charred Foie Gras Torchon complete with berry marmalade and squishy brioche. But nothing gets a table arm-wrestle match going like a bowlful of the most amazing Gougéres au Gruyere. These caramel colored puffs are lighter and fluffier than a cheerleaders’ pom-pom. And as they go about their miraculous disappearing act, it feels like a kiss to the lips from a cheese-dusted feather.

IMG_6647

Gourgéres de Gruyére, Bullion

I was intrigued by the notion of a leek salad and so had to try the Poireaux, which features a regimented row of steamed leeks trying their best to impersonate white asparagus, dotted with soft goat-cheese and roasted hazelnuts in a super light truffle vinaigrette.

IMG_6648

Poireaux, Bullion

Even though this is grill country, the sumptuous Tournedos filet mignon with potato gratin and a trickle of mild oxtail au jus is an extraordinarily smooth cut that submits its salty umami without resistance.

IMG_6654

Tournedos, Bullion

The Cabillaud & Brandade awash with a tart tomato and caper confit is just light enough not to kill the subtle cod flavor, and the Agneau is an incredibly toffee-tender lamb loin, very gently accented with a sparkle of anchovy vinaigrette, accompanied by a bright and crunchy summer succotash. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, there was enormous restraint from over-flavoring the food – true to the kitchen’s mission to prepare dishes that don’t overshadow the key ingredients. Even the table-side flambéed guava and coconut ice-cream centered Baked Alaska is meek, mild, subtle and delicate.

IMG_6659

Baked Alaska, Bullion

Foxyco, chef Jon Steven’s latest effort in the Design District, is anything but meek and mild. His 6-week old second act following nearby neighborhood darling Stock & Barrel is a bucking bronco of runaway flavor. He coyly describes it as “modern American”, but that seems far too reticent for his brave, adventurous and (dare I say) aggressive approach to breaking rules and ignoring conventions. Even as you walk into the monochrome open space flanked by a massive mural that could be the result of a toddler’s paint party or a wannabe tribute to Jackson Pollack, you smell wafts of hickory coals emanating from his open kitchen. He’s obviously having loads of fun flexing his dexterous abilities with a mélange of cooking styles ranging from sous-vide to wood-fire grilling, to both at the same time!

IMG_6642

Foxyco

The menu is a tornado of way too many “must try” items like a red curry and Thai basil Warm Crab Dip, or a Farro Risotto, or perhaps a crab and hazelnut Squid ink Spaghetti (which will hopefully still be there on a return visit). I finally landed the plane on two starters, a main and a vegetable.

IMG_6632

Foxyco

First to emerge was an astoundingly delicious row of 4 cubes of crispy rice-cakes supporting a mound of miso-marinated Big Eye Tuna Tartare topped with basil, cilantro and a grate of lemon.

IMG_6644

Big Eye Tuna Tartare, Foxyco

Just as I was recoiling from the electric jolt of Asian flavors, a gorgeous snowball of scrumptious Burrata sailed in, surrounded by a bed of harissa and orange blossom infused olive oil. But the deal-clincher was the sprinkling of mint, salt flakes and honey-comb on top. That’s it. From now on, everything I eat will have to be topped with mint, salt and honey-comb.

IMG_6635

Burrata, Foxyco

As I waited for my Wagyu Short rib, contemplating how slowly it must have cooked in a sous-vide bag for 72 hours before being espresso-rubbed and then flame grilled to fall-apart perfection, the three strands of saffron continued to stain my Canary gin and kaffir lime cocktail a soft and rosy shade of gold.

IMG_6637

Wagyu Short rib, Foxyco

Needless to say, the combination of shaved horse-radish with pickled onions together with an anchovy salsa verde elevated the incredibly beefy flavor of the Wagyu – just the way meat used to taste in the olden days. Switching back and forth between the short rib and a heap of corn-flour dusted florets of Fried Cauliflower anchored in a spectacular cilantro-heavy green goddess dressing with parmesan and shaved dates felt like juggling between diamonds and rubies.

IMG_6639

Fried Cauliflower, Foxyco

So next time you’re passing through the big “D”, consider a bold detour from in-room dining. Because there’s more than oil in them there hills.

www.bullionrestaurant.com

http://foxycodallas.com/home/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lionelli Taberna – review

FullSizeRender[2]

Lionelli Taberna, at the Evelyn Hotel

Twelve days ago, former Lincoln Ristorante chef Jonathan Benno launched the first in a triptych of dining enterprises that will round out the newly renovated Evelyn Hotel in New York’s NoMad district. Lionelli Taberna is the Roman-inspired casual bistro that will be sandwiched between Leonelli Focacceria e Pasticceria, a bakery coffee shop which opens today, and Benno the formal Mediterranean scene stealer which will be making a grander entrance later this year.

905x480-interior.detail

Lionelli Taberna

The taberna feels as much like a magnificent brass-and-glass treasure chest as an archeological discovery of original art-deco ornamentation. The L-shaped room wraps around a glass fishbowl kitchen, featuring gorgeous vertical lighting units and stained-glass accents, that complement the mix-n-match hardwood and semi-original remains of a terrazzo floor.

FullSizeRender[4]

Saffron & Soppressata Arancini, Lionelli Taberna

The ample menu spreads a lot further than Rome as its geo-flavor-epicenter, with seafood, veggies and cheeses that whiplash across much of Italy, plus a rather odd layover or two in Mexico (for a Salsa Verde and a classic Caesar Salad which we all know has nothing to do with Julius Caesar) but you can rest assured that the wondrous Arancini’s, Carciofi, Bistecca and Pastas are as nostalgically authentic as you’d hope for.

FullSizeRender[3]

Gnocchi alla Romana, Lionelli Taberna

While some dishes have yet to find some focus (the Lasagne Spinach with bolognaise ragú – which Benno lifted from his menu at Lincoln – doesn’t quite turn the lights on for me yet), the hallelujah hit has to be his Gnocchi alla Romana, which is a large, single shingle of fluffy gnoccho draped in the dreamiest stew of braised oxtail, that took everything I had not to squeal out loud.

FullSizeRender

Lionelli Taberna

While we were watching the uniformly bearded and maroon baseball-cap toting chefs do their meticulous thing, wrangling rotisserie chickens or searing wild salmon, we didn’t realize that the maître d’hôtel was watching us (me) struggle to free a few precious morsels of mint-infused meat from the utterly delectable yet excessively fat-engulfed Elysian Fields Farm Lamb steak. Just as I was ready to cry “uncle” on the entire mission, she stepped in to apologize for my melee and promptly erased the item from the bill. Now, that’s how you spell “customer-satisfaction-with-built-in-loyalty-for-life” my friends.

FullSizeRender[1]

Torta di Limone, Lionelli Taberna

Armed with a knapsack of complimentary homemade Italian cookies – even after gorging on the delicious Torta di Limone with Strawberry Sorbet – we munched our way home planning, promising and predicting our very next visit.

https://www.leonellirestaurants.com/

FullSizeRender[5]

Focaccia with tomato, Lionelli Taberna