Category Archives: Restaurant Review

Underground Dinner with Ryan Barnett

You’ve heard of those underground dinners, right?  Pop-up restaurants?  Well, Hub and I were unexpected stand-ins for a good friend of ours who couldn’t make it.  I had always wanted to attend an event like this but never really gotten around to it.  Such fun!

It was held at My Private Chef in Deep Ellum by Chef Ryan Barnett.  There were two communal tables and a four course dinner.  Delicious!  Ryan likes to focus on locally sourced food.  The freshness and purity of the flavors really showed through in each dish.

Our first course was a chilled mussel salad with peach and grapefruit.  A light vinaigrette and the bitterness of the greens perfectly complimented the shellfish and the fruit.  I would have never thought of a mussel salad, but I will from now on.  It was very nice.

Next, a veloute’ of sweet Texas corn topped with a little crab and some thinly sliced green onion.  And sweet it was.  It was delicately, yet fully flavored.  Creamy and smooth, delicious with the little touch of crab.

I wanted to pick up the bowl and drink it.  But, I behaved and used my spoon!

Next on to the fish.  Flounder served with an assortment of local squash.  Very nice.  A squash blossom was a lovely touch, as well.  The flounder was cooked perfectly.

So good.  I love fish.  But, what I don’t usually like at all is lemon desserts.  I am glad that I’m not the type that won’t even try something I have disliked in the past because the lemon tart was fantastic!  Not overpowering.  Tender crust.  It really was excellent.

Chef Ryan will be doing these dinners every two weeks.  We went to the first one on the 3rd.  So check in with him for more info… ChefRB@me.com.  Request to be on the mailing list if you want to be notified of new dinners.  This one was $50 for four courses. It was BYOB with wine service provided.  The service was great.  Conversation was lively and the food…  wonderful!

Like Chef Ryan on Facebook.

http://www.facebook.com/ChefRyanBarnett

Del Frisco’s Grille for Lunch

What’s better than a free brunch at the new Del Frisco’s Grille?  Not much!      Hubbard and I were treated this Saturday and loved every bite.  This is the steakhouse’s answer to a bar and grill.  Very stylish and a great location.  The patios is spacious.  They even have an patio upstairs in their second dining area.  Bonus:  they serve brunch on Saturday and Sunday.  I love that.  I’m always craving something delicious on Saturday afternoons.  I think if you see the pictures you’ll be craving it, too!

I’m a sucker for deviled eggs.  With truffle-chive vinaigrette?  Are you kidding?

Hubbard is still talking about these cheesesteak eggrolls.  They really were delicious.  Tender beef.  Cheesy, crunchy.  Great idea.

I thoroughly enjoyed this Carbonara Flatbread.  Isn’t it lovely?  Prosciutto, Parmesan, cracked black pepper cream sauce.  Kind of like a ham and egg pizza but better.  And we still haven’t gotten to the the entrees yet.

Want a drink?  How about that white Sangria?  So light and refreshing.  Makes you want to drink it all day!  The Bloody Mary comes with a tray of garnishes that you can use to fix up your own glass.  I never got to that because I was actually just interested in tasting the mix.  I hate a dull Bloody Mary and this one was nothing but dull.  Not too spicy, still full of flavor.  Of course, the brunch punch isn’t too bad either.

Bacardi, Malibu, orange and pineapple juices, grenadine… yum!

When I go to a new place for brunch I always try the Benedict.  This one was particularly good.

Sitting atop white cheddar and scallion biscuits, topped with chipotle hollandaise, the eggs were perfectly prepared.  I’m pretty picky about poached eggs.  This was a great entree and very filling.  Hubbard had to try the chicken fried steak.  He makes a mean chicken fried steak here at our house.  So, he can be critical when it comes to CFS.  Not much to complain about when it’s made from ribeye!

The chorizo gravy gave a nice full flavor to the dish.  Hub liked it a lot.  The steak was very tender and not chewy or fatty at all.  And yes, the crust says on the meat when you cut into it!  Delicious fries.

Yes, they are really called Sea Salt and Parmesan Frites.  Call them whatever you want.  They’re really good.  Maybe not as good as the desserts.  But, damn close!

This was my favorite.  Coconut cream pie.  Delicious!

Bread pudding?

Lemon cake?

Oh, come on!  You know you want it!  We’ll be going back for sure!

Celebration for Lunch

I had been meaning to visit Celebration forever.  Evidently it’s been there since 1971.  It’s an old house converted into a restaurant and all the rooms are separate little dining rooms.  It has a full bar and some really good food.  It’s the kind of place you could take your grandmother.  She’d love it.  The food is wholesome and satisfying.  Hubbard said, “It’s what Black Eyed Pea wants to be”.

Basket of Mixed Breads

Basket of Mixed Breads

The breads were warm enough to melt the butter.  Freshly baked.

Field Greens with Red Pear, Blue Cheese and Walnuts with Lemon Garlic Dressing

I paid a dollar extra to have this as one of my three sides.  Worth every penny!  Actually, much better than I was expecting.  Kind of elegant.

Chicken Fried Chicken with Jalapeno Cream Gravy

I was very impressed with this.  I don’t usually order chicken breast because I hate dried out chicken.  This was moist and juicy.  Perfectly done.  The gravy had just a hint of spice.  Not hot or anything.  Mashed potatoes and roasted beets on the side.

Burgundy Pastures Chopped Beef with Mushrooms and Onions

Hub was pretty well into his plate before I got him to stop and take a picture.  He ate it all and liked it quite a lot.  Then he ate about a third of my chicken.  He loved that chicken.  Mashed potatoes and corn on the side.

Coconut Cream Pie

For sure someone’s grandmother made this.  It was delicious!   It all tastes homemade.  What’s not to like about that?

We both had a glass of wine and the bill was $49 before tip.  Keep in mind, the wine we chose was $9 a glass.  So, without the wine, that’s a pretty good price for a very good lunch.

Smoke for Brunch 2012

Smoke is a meat lover’s dream.  They make practically everything themselves.  Take the Bloody Mary…

They pickle the vegetables they use for garnish.  They make their own roasted tomato and chile mix.  The drink is super flavorful.  The waiter said spicy, but I didn’t think it was hot-spicy.  Just good.  Although it seems funny to pay $10 for a drink and $15 for a steak and egg breakfast, that’s exactly what we did.

Hanger steak, sliced and served over a fluffy biscuit topped with peppercorn gravy.  A huge pile of scrambled eggs, though you could have yours fried, if you want.  Frankly, I didn’t even eat more than a bite of my eggs.  They were good, but there was so much on the plate that was better and I knew I couldn’t eat it all.  Potato cakes made with goat cheese were a little overdone.  Still a nice starch to accompany the meat.  A broiled tomato and and a couple of spears of asparagus made it a really nice plate.  The steak was cooked perfectly.  But, we still couldn’t resist a couple of sides…

They call the bacon “thick cut pork belly bacon”.  Which seems a little funny because all bacon is pork belly.  Who cares what they call it.  It’s amazing.  Looks like it’s a little crunchy, doesn’t it?  It’s really not.  It’s firm enough, but nice and chewy and meaty.  The “artisanal style pork ham” has just a touch of sweetness and is pleasantly moist.  Love it.  Both these meats are cured and smoked in-house.  Out back, you can see the huge smoker on the patio and firewood is abundant.  These side dishes are a deal at only $3.50 each.  You can pay that much much for a side of crappy store bought bacon.

Yes, I took home a to-go box.  With tax and tip, $72.  Not bad for something you can’t get anywhere else in Dallas.  In fact, Hub and I have some pork belly curing in the fridge right now.  I’ll be shocked if it turns out to be even close to as good as the bacon we had today.  At least we know what to shoot for!

Stackhouse Burger

Thanksgiving was behind us.  We needed a burger house and decided to try the new place with the spectacular view of downtown, Stackhouse Burger.  It’s just up the street from Baylor Hospital.  Unfortunately, we were there on a super windy, kinda chilly afternoon.  No great view of downtown for us.  We ate inside.

The place is pretty small but very well appointed.  I really liked the look of it.  Lots of natural light.  You order at the register and then they bring the food to the table.  You decide if you want a single, double, etc…  then the toppings come at an additional cost.  I think lettuce and tomato comes with it.  There’s a list of additional toppings.  You can get wine and beer.  Our order consisted of a cheeseburger with grilled onion and bacon, an order of the housemade potato chips with homemade carmelized onion dip and a grilled cheese with bacon and tomato.  We also got a beer and a glass of Savignon Blanc.  It was about $35.  Not horrible.  But, not cheap either.

Hub ordered his burger pink.  The choices were pink and well done.  He thought that maybe his burger was a bit more on the red side when it arrived.  But, he did think it tasted great, though it was messy.  I didn’t confirm, but the rolls look like those fabulous Empire Bakery buns.  He said he would order it next time with less stuff.  My bite was delicious.

The grilled cheese was good.  Could have been a little more melted.  But, the bacon and tomato really made it a meal.  Yummy.  The star of the show was the house made potato chips.  Really good.  I like blue cheese, but we really didn’t need it.  The dipping sauce, a basic French onion dip, was perfect.  I could go for some right now.  They should make a bigger deal of the chips.  The only reason I knew about them was that someone mentioned them on a blog.

I’m ready to check it out again.  Then, maybe go across the street to The Elbow Room for a drink at the bar.  Or have some knives sharpened at Viega!

The Grape for Restaurant Week

I know I’m late.  I should have written sooner.  But, I’ve been thinking about it…

I have always been this huge fan of Restaurant Week.  And I mean it.  Like “fan” as in “fanatic”.  I believe in the good that it does for the North Texas Food Bank and I think it’s a great way to go all out.  Discover new food.  New styles.  New wines and dining rooms.  I’ve always felt liberated by Restaurant Week.  $35 for three courses in some of the best restaurants in town?  What’s wrong with that?

This year, I was unenthusiastic.  I always like to try new places during this time.  I’ve been to most of them on the list now.  Go back to one of last year’s winners maybe?  Then I thought, why not go to one of the places I already love?  I know The Grape is my kind of place.  When I saw their RW menu I decided I couldn’t miss it.  The chef, Brian Luscher, came out to say hi before the meal.  The food was fantastic.  Everyone around us seemed to be having a great time.

Chef explained that he liked Restaurant Week.  It showed.  The menu was loaded with intriguing choices.  The wines were fantastic.  And everyone in the room seemed to be genuinely glad to be there, including the people who were working.  Sound like a typical RW story?  Hell, no.  People bitch like crazy about RW.  Yet, there they are.  Making the reservations and hoping they’ll have a great evening. 

The Grape felt just like it has every time I’ve ever been there.  Because it’s a great place.  Intimate.  Wonderful food.  Amazing happy hour.  Good people.  If you just relax and say yes, you’ll always come back.

Pho Is For Lovers

Pho Is For Lovers is delicous!  The broth was fantastic.  The banh mi (sandwiches) were outstanding.  Affordable, too.  Would make great take-out.  Now if they would just deliver!

Urban Crust in Plano

I know… I never eat outside my little comfort zone.  But, we had a birthday party to attend in Plano and Hubbard wanted to show me their cute little historic downtown area.  And it was very cute!  Lots of little shops and an amazing amount of restaurants and bars in such a small area.  Our original plan was to go to Jorg’s Cafe Vienna.  They were on vacation.  Our friend Justin had recommended Urban Crust, too.  So, that’s where we went.

The interior is tad upscale for a pizza place.  They have a full bar and a wood burning pizza oven.  When they sat down the little appetizer bread basket with a finely chopped tomato basil topping and some tapenade, I immediately forgot about schnitzel.

Both of the bread toppings were very tasty.  The tomato was bright and flavorful and the tapenade wasn’t overpowering.  I wish mine at home was that good.  We started with calamari.  I was tempted by the carpacio.  But, I figured, why not start with a tried and true favorite.  Plus, calamari can tell you a lot about what’s going on in the kitchen.  Is it battered nicely?  Is it tough or chewy?  Does it look real?  This looked like the real deal.

Served in a cute little fryer basket, the calamari was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  Marinara and a mayo based dipping sauce accompanied the basket.  I asked our server what was the flavoring in the mayo sauce and she said, “They won’t tell us”.  Well, it was good.  Whatever it was.

The pizza we chose was one of their specialty pizzas.  Goat cheese, arugula, fig preserves and proscuitto drizzled with balsamic glaze.  They will grate fresh Parmesan for you at the table. 

It was a great looking pizza.  The crust was very nice.  Kind of chewy and supported the ingredients well.  But, I think I’d order a different pie next time.  This one kind of went over the top with the sweetness of the preserves and balsamic on the same pizza.  The ingredients were all fresh and tasty, though.  And if I ever go back to Plano…  I wouldn’t mind stopping in again.

RedFork for Brunch

Got my first taste of Redfork yesterday!  Yep, Saturday brunch.  I love Saturday brunch because I can’t always have it.  So many places just serve brunch on Sunday.  And since I devoted my Saturday to not accomplishing anything, what better way to start than brunch?

They don’t really have a cheap drink special here.  But, the drinks are pretty special.  How about a White Bloody Mary?  It packs the punch of a regular Bloody Mary, just lacks the tomato.  Notes of celery, jalapeno Tobasco, a bit of citrus.  This is a seriously good drink and terrific for summer…

Sticking with the white theme on this white hot day, our next round was a caraffe of white Sangria.  Again, delicous!  Refreshing.  Light.  Loved it.

The next pleasant surprise was my breakfast.  I ordered Eggs Benedict with a side of bacon.  I liked the addition of spinach to this dish.  Really deepened the flavors.  And the eggs…

Probably the most delicately poached eggs I’ve ever had.  Nothing worse than a hard poached egg.  Well, I guess a lot of things are worse than that.  But, I prefer the jiggly egg, myself.  The country ham was nice and salty.  Potatoes were great.  Overall, excellent breakfast.  

Hubbard got the Hanger Steak and Eggs with handcut fries.  I forget how much I love beef with Bernaise sauce until I taste it again.  Excellent.  Hub said, “They didn’t ask me how I wanted it cooked.  It’s perfect.”  I guess if you know how to prepare a hanger steak you don’t need to ask.  And look at those fries…

Are those some beautiful handcut fries or what?  Served with ketchup and remoulade for dipping.  I couldn’t stop eating that remoulade with those fries.  So tender and then crispy on the outside.

Loved the meal.  The people were friendly.  It’s a very comfortable spot.  Should be a fantastic addition to the neighborhood.  I’m ready to go back for dinner!

The Commissary in Photos

It’s really too early to give a full on review of The Commissary, John Tesar’s new spot for burgers and small plates.  I will say my first impression was fabulous!  So, here it is in photos…

We went with the punch bowl of Sangria.  It was plenty for the four of us throughout the meal.  Plus, it’s fun to look at!

We were talking about the fact that they had sweet potato tots and the man next to us at the bar offered us a taste of his.  Were they good?  Hell, yeah.

We started with small plates…

N'Duja - Spreadable Sausage

 

Deviled Eggs with Caviar

 

 

Tempura Battered Sweetbreads

 
 

Fried Oysters with Salsa

 
All of the small plates were tasty.  I really loved the egg with the caviar a lot.
 
 
 
 
Recognize the man in black at the end of the bar?  Yep, that’s him.
On to the burgers…
 
 
Slade had the Tandoori Burger.  Ground lamb, rubbed with tandoori spice served with tzatziki sauce in a grilled pita.
 
 
 
Hubbard had the Tail End.  Braised pig’s tail, ground pork and beef topped with roasted pork belly, green tomato chutney and jalapeno mayo.  I had to have a bite of that.  Fantastic.
 
 
Lori’s is The Farmer.  Check out the fried duck egg.  Gotta love that.
 
 
 I had the pork belly sliders.  Aren’t they cute?  I could only eat one, though and gladly took the other two home.  Hubbard is the only one who left room for dessert.  Pecan pie…
 
 
I can’t wait to go back.  Another bonus is that the kitchen is open late.  Can you say Lobster Bake on Sundays?