So many, particularly in Europe, have completely the wrong idea about what eating out in Texas, or more specifically Dallas, is like. I’m not going to go into the no it’s not all about Tex Mex or guacamole rant as I so often have (although I have to confess a love both of these), but just to say that for those not in the know, most of the time eating out here is sophisticated and delicious, with a high element of fun and excellent service. But of course it helps to know where you should go.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Dallas make sure you book in advance, put on your highest heels (they’ll valet park your car) and favourite LBD and be ready for a great gastronomic experience. You don’t have to dress up, by the way, but I certainly wouldn’t pass up the opportunity.
This is not a restaurant on the typical tourist trail, and you may not find it in your guide book, but having visited Stephan Pyles I can tell you that it’s lively, modern, interestingly designed and full of locals, which is the best recommendation there is. The service is friendly and efficient without being over-effusive (but typically friendly Texan), and the food is seriously worth travelling the distance for, well maybe not 5000 miles you would probably comment, but certainly from anywhere in and around Dallas.
There are several items not to be missed here; the first is to sample from the choice of one of his specialities, Ceviche, – fish ‘cooked’ by being steeped in lemon juice, lime or similar. You’ll find a first course tasting of six ceviches, ranging from sea scallop with golden tomato to branzino with avocado and tomatillo. Interestingly service with a cleanser of popcorn, these are delicious.
Then there is the steak. Provided you’re truly hungry order his USDA prime bone-in Cowboy rib-eye with red chile onion rings. This is a feast, not just for the eye, as the steak arrives, beautifully tender, and piled with a mountain of thin, spiralling and totally delicious onion rings. If you can’t manage it yourself persuade one of your party to order this and make sure you’re sitting next to them to sample the delights.
Stephen Pyles has also introduced ‘molecular gastronomy’ to Dallas, and has created Fuego, a four seat ‘restaurant’ within the main restaurant. This features a 7 – 10 course tasting menu including many items created with molecular gastronomy techniques including ‘cooking’ with emulsion blenders, liquid nitrogen and reverse spherification. I have to confess I haven’t tried this, however I understand it is almost totally booked up so you may want to give it a go. The most famous proponent of this style of cooking was/is Ferran Adria of famed restaurant El Bulli.
'”Stephan Pyles, a fifth-generation Texan, has received numerous awards as well as nationwide recognition. Bon Appétit credited Pyles with almost single-handedly changing the cooking scene in Texas. The New York Times called Pyles "an absolute genius in the kitchen." (Wikipedia).
Take it from me, if you get the opportunity, go there, and by the way make sure you ask for extra jalapeno cornbread – my only complaint - there’s never quite enough. And if you make it through to desert I’ll be surprised. I haven’t managed that yet……………