Friday, August 28, 2009


Amidst all the hoopla, shouting, and all-around carry-on about this year's Restaurant Week, I've been hearing a few whispers of disappointment. Apparently, some restauranteurs are using the Churn and Burn approach to get through the week, turning over their tables as fast as possible in their quest for profit. While Steve Dublanica of Waiter Rant fame and other industry professionals have confirmed that this can indeed be the case on such high-pressure holidays as Mothers Day and Valentines Day, I submit that Restaurant Week should be different. True, there are still going to be a lot of bad tippers and bargain-shoppers out there looking for a five-star experience, and there's really nothing to be done about such folk. However, these weeks should be retitled Restaurant Showcase Weeks because this presents new opportunities for an establishment to make customers for life out of curious newbies. Happily, I can report that Stephan Pyles Restaurant was quite up to the challenge, at least as far as our experience was concerned, and we will definitely be back.

Atmosphere? Well, rather than use my own words, please allow me to quote from the restaurant's own website at "(The design) sensually melds ultra-modern geometric shapes in metal and wood with vivid regional accents--Southwestern sunset and desert colors, stacked Texas flagstone and terra-cotta brick." There, I couldn't have said it any better myself. Walking in, my lovely wife the Rock Star and I immediately saw something that put our minds at ease; there in the open kitchen was The Man Himself, sampling dishes and directing traffic. Coupled with the warm welcome we had received from the staff, we knew we were likely in for a very special evening.

We were right. My beautiful bride began her repast with the local heirloom tomato salad. Tart and tangy with a touch of sweetness, she adored it even though she was perplexed by the balsamic gelee. No matter, it was a successful dish. For myself, I was determined to sample the dishes which I felt were the most South-of-the-border in nature, so I stared with the scallop and pork belly carnitas. The scallop was properly charred and the belly had lots of bacony flavor, so this starter worked quite nicely, particularly when paired with the delightfully unoaked Catena chardonnay. On our most recent trip to Central Market, we were careful to pick up copies of their Fourth Course certificate, so we were primed and ready for the Red Snapper in Thai-red curry masa, paired with Van Duzer Estate Pinot Noir. I was happy to see that chef is not afraid to served red wine with fish, and this slightly spicy snapper whetted my appetite to see what he could do with it as an entree. In fact, my wife's entree of pan-seared salmon proved no match for the snappy fourth course; although it was sided by very good black beans and corn griddle cakes, it was a somewhat uninspired choice, and I think that restaurants would do well to start pushing snapper and trout, the seafood stars of my youth. My own choice fared somewhat better: the wood-fired rotisserie chicken was full of juicy flavor, particularly the crackly skin, and the accompanying tamale was quite tasty if a tad dry. Again, two excellent pairings: the Latour Domaine Valmoissine Pinot Noir and the Morgan Cotes du Crows Syrah-Grenach (a blend I love dearly, I must confess). By the by, forgive me for not mentioning this sooner, but the tiny artisan breads served throughout were some of the best in town; my wife positively swooned over the potato foccacia, while my own favorite was the blue cheese scone. Simply marvelous. Dessert was another highlight: Mexican chocolate fondant rich with caramel and Kahlua crema, while my bride fell in love with the Deep Ellum goat's (cheese) cheesecake served over cherries jubilee, and stated that she wanted to have cheesecake prepared in precisely that fashion forthwith.

Service was delightfully paced and our waiter was properly apologetic when he had to leave us for extended periods to attend to the large party dining nearby. The Man Himself stopped by to wish us well and was quite nice, although he seemed rather perplexed when I informed him that I chose the most quintessentially Southwestern dishes for my meal. Since he is a pioneer of the genre, and all the cuisine that night reflected Southwestern influences in some form or fashion, I'm not surprised by his confusion. Again, the website is, and we long to return some day for ceviche and cocktails.

In sum, we were two happy campers for our Restaurant Week choices, and find it hard to choose which was better. Needless to say, we'll be back to both. Discover your inner Southwesterner soon, and remember:


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