Leslie Brenner, the Restaurant Critic and Dining Editor at The Dallas Morning News, joined Gene and Julie this morning to talk about her list of the Best Chefs in DFW!
Best Chefs in DFW
By Leslie Brenner
Tim Byres: Smoke
When Tim Byres opened Smoke at the Belmont Hotel with two partners last year, it had a bit of an identity issue. Barbecue joint? Garden-to-table spot? But since then, Byres has found his footing, taking the ideas of “garden fresh” and “cooking from scratch” and blowing them sky-high. Of course, wood smoke is involved. The result of all this is that Byres is now turning out some of the most original, forward-looking dishes in town. What sets them apart is his attention to detail: His thin-sliced, lightly pickled slices of beet carpaccio seem almost luxurious; he tops them with beautiful watercress, ricotta he makes himself and a pitch-perfect horseradish vinaigrette. He pairs delicately smoked, silky-moist pork jowl with a salad of carefully pickled half-sour cucumbers. How good it all is may not surprise if you know Byres’ résumé: He’s held impressive positions in Miami (Pacific Time), New York (Tom) and the American embassy in Brussels (which gave him the opportunity to work a stint at Michelin three-star Comme Chez Soi); once in Dallas, he was chef de cuisine under John Tesar at the Mansion, then he served as executive chef at Stephan Pyles.
In the Belmont Hotel, 901 Fort Worth Ave., Dallas. 214-393-4141. smokerestaurant.com.
Bruno Davaillon: The Mansion Restaurant at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek
What is the food like at the Mansion Restaurant these days? In a word, it’s eloquent. Consider chef Bruno Davaillon’s “Flavor of Duck.” In the center of an oblong plate he places a crisp-skinned square of duck confit. Slices of rosy breast with amazing texture flank it on one side. Davaillon cooks it sous-vide, then sears and slices it, topping it with a bit of fatty duck skin fried like chicharrón. Its flavor melts onto the tongue. A perfect poached duck egg in a small bowl on the other side hides a treasure of sautéed, parsley- flecked chanterelles. Magic happens when fork goes into egg and mushrooms; braised scallion adds yet another dimension.
What’s behind the eloquence? Luxury and precision, Davaillon’s exquisite taste and surprising, engaging ideas, such as pairing sweet corn ravioli with a fresh, bright shrimp-and-tomato “Bolognese.” The sauce gets its depth from including tomatoes both roasted and raw. A touch of white soy sauce (“I know it’s not traditional,” says the chef) brings it into balance.
Davaillon, who has been in Dallas only about a year, has started to pick up a Texas accent: That’s serrano chile in his foie gras shabu-shabu. Amen.
2821 Turtle Creek Blvd., Dallas. 214-443-4747. www.mansiononturtlecreek.com.
Scott Gottlich: Bijoux
It used to be that if you wanted to dine at Bijoux, Scott and Gina Gottlich’s formal, elegant Inwood Village restaurant, you had no choice but to order a multicourse fixed-price menu. Now you can order a la carte, and that offers a good opportunity to check out Scott’s sophisticated cooking. His technique is sure and his sauces superb, as in the demi that dots the plate under a dusky wild mushroom duxelle wrapped in savoy cabbage paired with perfectly seared, succulent prawns. Or the beignet of velvety brandade you might find tucked under a fillet of Chatham Bay cod.
5450 W. Lovers Lane (Inwood Village), Dallas. 214-350-6100. www.bijouxrestaurant.com.
Sharon Hage: York Street
Forever searching out the ingredients that excite her and changing her menu constantly, York Street chef-owner Sharon Hage excels at cooking that’s at once rustic and careful. Her dishes are so delicious, so deeply satisfying, you might want to keel over, but it’s hard to figure out why. They’re deceptively simple; behind them is a devotion to technique and a profound understanding of flavor. To wit: her braised rabbit, strewn with sweet diced carrots and kernels of yellow corn shot through with streaks of red. Rabbit is usually tough and hard, yet Hage manages to achieve a melting tenderness. “Controlled heat,” is her modest answer. That means incredible attention to braising, to be sure, along with, as she points out, a superior product. And why are those sautéed, butterflied sardines so perfect? She dredges them lightly in chickpea flour first. So simple, and so brilliant.
6047 Lewis St., Dallas. 214-826-0968. www.yorkstreetdallas.com.
Jeff Harris: Craft Dallas
Uber-chef Tom Colicchio oversees the menu at the various Craft restaurants around the country, dreaming up many of the dishes himself. But the outstanding cooking at Craft Dallas is largely thanks to chef de cuisine Jeff Harris, who’s been creating some of the dishes that are Craft’s most exciting. I’ve eaten my share of branzino, that delicate, soft-fleshed Mediterranean sea bass. But Harris gives it a completely new dimension and texture by crisping the skin and adding a cheeky fillip: a stripe of vibrant salsa verde, brightened and heightened with lemon zest. For his butternut squash ravioli he uses pasta that’s just supple enough – as fragile as it dares to be – and fills it with a beautifully seasoned, silken squash purée, a counterpoint in texture to the dice of squash in the sauce. Luxury fashioned from humble ingredients: What a luscious step into fall.
W Hotel, 2440 Victory Park Lane, Dallas. 214-397-4111. www.craftrestaurant.com.
If you want to know where gastronomy is going in Dallas, look to Ross Avenue: That’s where you’ll find the ideas that dazzle. Stephan Pyles has turned his namesake flagship restaurant into something of a workshop, with his ceviche bar taking raw fish to exciting new heights and the kitchen dancing a merengue with lamb and quail and beef. Lately Pyles introduced the Fuego, a four-seat section devoted to experimentation and improvisation. There, several nights a week, he and chef Matt McAllister apply the bipolar magic of molecular gastronomy and fire from the wood- burning oven to the best ingredients they can find. Just up the block at his year-old Samar, Pyles leads food lovers on a journey along the spice road, with creatively charged stops in Spain, Lebanon, Turkey and India along the way. How original. How fabulously forward-looking.
Teiichi Sakurai: Tei-An
It seems fitting that so much creative energy is being expressed in the Arts District. At One Arts Plaza, Teiichi Sakurai (pictured on the cover) has established Tei-An as Dallas’ pre-eminent noodle palace, but Sakurai is a brilliant chef, and Tei-An is so much more than a great noodle house. Sure, you can count on Sakurai for one of the city’s greatest simple pleasures: a $12 bowl of oroshi soba, perfect cold hand-pulled buckwheat noodles served with soba tsuyu sauce and garnished with cool grated daikon. Or his sublime matsumae zuke soba, topped with herring roe, dried squid and shiso. Sakurai spent 21 days attending an elite soba-making course to perfect his technique. But one bite of his 24-hour braised beef tongue, paired with potato purée with the barest touch of truffle, or the tender, deep-flavored duck meatball that he pairs with hot soba, and you understand that Sakurai transcends the genre, and then some.
One Arts Plaza, 1722 Routh St., Dallas. 214-220-2828. www.tei-an.com.
Casey Thompson: Brownstone
Success on Top Chef doesn’t necessarily mean you’re one of the best chefs in your city. The skills that catapult young cooks to reality TV stardom hardly match up to those required heading up a real-world kitchen. But Casey Thompson, who left her position at Shinsei after achieving media-darling status on TV in 2007 and now heads the kitchen at 4-month-old Brownstone in Fort Worth, has shown us that success in both realms is more than possible. She cooks with confidence, aplomb and a style that’s literally down- to-earth: Thompson is at the forefront of North Texas’ burgeoning farm-to-table movement, and she delivers on the plate what feels exactly right for the season. Add to that a sense of balance – think of gorgeous young vegetables gently pickled at their peak of flavor and served as a counterpoint to sumptuous potted pork. There’s some serious talent at work there.
840 Currie St., Fort Worth. 817-332-1555. brownstonerestaurants.com.
If you feel someone was left off the list, sent them a message, visit: http://eatsblog.dallasnews.com/
How they choose:
The Best in DFW series presents critics’ and staff picks and asks readers to chime in with their favorites.
Critics’ picks are presented without ranking.
To view other dining features, check the Restaurants page at DallasNews.com.
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