October – Spooky & Kooky Musical Month

We’ve already met with Uncle Fester, but starting tomorrow you can meet the whole mysterious Addams Family!  Click thru for our favorite October shows, series and even a fancy dinner too.

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Looking Thru The Lens: Interview with Director Ian Harnarine

Continuing our look at the 2012 Filmmaker Magazine 25 New Faces of Independent Film I chatted with Director Ian Harnarine.  The NYU grad/professor gave us a real personal look at his Caribbean background with his short film, Doubles with Slight Pepper.  Click thru for our interview with the talented director.

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Anthony Bourdain Coming to Dallas in October!

“Chef, Author, and Host of The Travel Channel’s No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain, will visit the Majestic Theatre for one night only, Thursday, October 27th at 8:00pm.“  The juicy details after the jump!

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Thats One Tasty Scallop…..and One Not So Tasty Scallop….Which is Which?

Yummy!!!!!  Dallas Restaurant Week Reviews!

Last night the lady and I ate at Stephan Pyles downtown Dallas restaurant.  Combined with last week’s venture to Bijouix Restaurant, New French Cuisine hotspot right next to our beloved Inwood Theater.  The experiences at the restaurants were on the opposite sides of the spectrum of each other with one as really bad and the other really good. 

Lets jump into how I “scored” our experience.  I feel that there are three important issues when deciding on where to spend my money.

Scoring Breakdown: 100 point system with three areas – Food, Atmosphere, and Service.  Each section is broken down to 3 or 4(in case of Food) parts worth 10 points each ….So -

Food =  4 sections worth total of 40 points -  Quality/Ripeness of Food (10 points) ,  Sauces/Garnish/Spices (10 points) , Portion Size/Appearance (10 points), Dessert (10 points). 

Atmosphere = 3 sections worth total of 30 points -  Inside Decor (10 points),  Outside Decor/Area of Town (10 points), Music/Ambienance/Noise (10 points).

Service = 3 sections worth total of 30 points -  Greeting/Matrie’ D (10 points),  Lead Waiter (10 points), Rest of Wait Staff/Owners (10 points).

Most Restaurant Weeks around the country are usually in place to allow “everyday” people to enjoy fine dining and the money goes for a good cause.  KRLD restaurant Week in Dallas had over 300 dining options and should bring about great help.   Stephan Pyles is highly ranked and recognized restauarant.  Bijoux is an elegant french cuisine gem to the Inwood/Lovers area. 

Now to the Scoring.

We’ll start with the first meal Sarah and I went to – Bijoux on Satruday, August 15th, 2009.

Food: What We Ate.

First Course
Salad of Mixed Greens with thyme vinaigrette and Asparagus and Crab Salad with truffles

Second Course
Pan Seared Scallops with a creamy marscarpone polenta, smoked tomato and panchetta.  And the N.Y. Strip Steak with Asparagus and Tellicherry pepper sauce.  We also had a paired wine with each – 06′ Hess Chardonnay with the Scallops and 03′ Chateau Sissan (deep red from Bordeaux – great soccer team in the French Ligue in the 00′s).

Third/Final Course
Cheese Panna Cotta and a Chocolate Tart.

Extra Courses
(brought a beginning and in between second and third courses ) A bite of Couscous salad and then a set of five extra mini-desserts on a tray.  All complimentary from the Chef.

Grade – 37/40.  Almost flawless precision on each section of the courses.  Everything was perfectly cooked, highlighted by the Scallops.  The complimentary courses were also a huge treat especially a blood orange bite and the Couscous salad.  The portion sizes were also pretty much spot on – not to light and not to heavy – did have maybe one to many slices of NY Strip (but I did finish the plate completely so no problem).  Visually the meals were simple and elegantly laid. The spicing was very minimal and even the sauces were very understated.  The Desserts were much larger and filling then I expected after the mini-dessert tray.  The really only gripes with the full meal was the Salad of Mixed Green was a bit to strongly sauced.

Atmosphere: 

Outside Decor/Area – The Area is really nice and happening for all varerity of people.  The movie theater is right around the corner the part of town is a staple of the West Dallas community.  The restaurant itself is on the corner of a shopping center.  It is pretty plain and simple outside and merely has the B logo on the door. 

Inside Decor – elegant, but not suit and tie (though I pimped it that way).  There are three major rooms that each have slightly different tables – but as a whole pretty consistent with the “look”.  The paintings on the walls were mostly (if not all of them) of french places or people.  Sarah commented it was really laid back and comforting place.

Audio Ambiance – Its a quiet place – you can here other people’s conversations a bit – because of the proximity of the tables – but it has a very quiet and soothing atmosphere.  You mainly here the extend wait staff helping customers. 

Grade – 25/30.  Love the decor being so simple that it doesn’t scream look I’m French and YEAH!!!! BON APPETIT!!! Instead it very suttle with the choices and really creates a calm atmosphere.  The outside and location are a bit hidden but not terrible – parking is very accessible and plentiful.  My biggest gripe – is you’d expect a more Romantic feel – but its far from a great “date” place.  You come for the incredible food and that is obvious – Atmosphere is meant to allow the food to impress you and to let the staff take care of you.

Service:

Greeting – Nice Host greeted us and quickly figure out where we need to go.  Very polite guy, but the “waiting” area/door way was a bit tiny – if a lot of people stop by this could be a bit of a cramp. 

Lead Waiter – The tricky thing is they had a lady who explained everything – but then we also had our lead waiter (we’ll call him Tim…wait…no Tim will work) Tim who was very attentive.  Between the two of them I felt like I was gently placed in a baby carriage and taken on a tour of the food.  It may sound a bit overly in your face – but once the food came they didn’t bother us with questions of how was the food and what your favorite movie is.  Overal these people are pretty spot on and obviously well trained.

Extended Wait Staff – Drink Guy, Bread Guy, Drink Girl, Wine Girl, Utensil Changer, and the Kitchen Sink.  Really they most wait over head and watch you as you eat then pounce when you least expect it , but so want something like a bit more ice for your water (BAM its filled).  It did get a little crazy with the “thank you’s” to six or seven different people – but they are very quiet and don’t really bother you at all.  Sarah and I were able to go thru the 30 topics we normally jump around to during a dinner – so they can’t be overbearing.

Grade – 29/30.  Some might not like having close to Ten people to meet, but they are all trained well and never seem to be annoying.  I have to say the food was incredible, but the service at Bijoux is the amazing quality it has over most other restaurants.  These folks deserved and recieved there hefty tip.

Bijoux deserves its 5 star rating from the Dallas Morning News and is a highlight to the Dallas Metroplex.

OVERALL GRADE FOR BIJOUX = 91/100

Now we switch gears to last night – Tuesday, August 25th at 9pm. 

Stephan Pyles in downtown Dallas right around the block from our World-Famous Nasher Sculpture Center. 

Food:  Menu (opted for fourth extra course and only one glass of wine for Sarah’s main course)

RESTAURANT WEEK MENU

First Course
Local Heirloom Tomato Salad with Paula’s Bocconcini, Fried Avocado and Balsamic Gelée
Scallop and Pork Belly Carnitas with Sweet Potato Hash, Smoked Onion Confit and Plum Purée

Extra Course
Red Snapper in Thai-Red Curry Masa with Veracruzana Sauce and Caramelized Fingerling Banana

Second Course
48-Hour Braised Beef Cheek with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes and BabySquash
Pan-Seared Salmon with Hoja Santa Pesto, Corn Griddle Cakes and Clay PotBlack Beans

Third Course

Mexican Chocolate Fondant with Fleur de Sel Caramel and Kahlúa Crema
Deep Ellum Goat’s Cheesecake with Thyme-Infused Cherries Jubilee

Grade:  25/40
Let
me start off by saying th
e cuisine for Stephan Pyles, according to the website (and Pyles himself), New Millenium Southwestern Cuisine.  Big and Bold flavors are a staple and expected going into the meal.  However there were some things that stood out nicely but more so things that stood out negatively.  The First Course was by far the highlight with a well cooked scallop (a bit salty and spiced  heavly – but good) and the Pork Belly Carnitas was the single best thing we ate, the smoked taste was very nicely done.  The Red Snapper was quite over powered by the Curry and without the banana could linger (the Banana was a saving grace for our taste buds).   Ok now for the really bad experience of the meal ( much more highlighted in the Service section) It says 48-hour braised Beef Cheek – but sadly we wanted the Wood-Fired Rotisserie Chicken with Wild Mushroom Tamale, Heirloom Tomatoesand Queso Fresco.  So having to eat something we didn’t intend to and were “talked” out of by our waitress (much more in a sec).   On the finale of Top Chef Masters highly-acclaimed third place finalist (HE GOT ROBBED I TELL YA!!) Hubert Keller brought up the use of beef cheek as a great inexpensive sub for most expensive cuts of beef and that he personally uses them.  I agree a master like Keller and a great chef like Stephan Pyles can pull off greatness with this cut of meat, But Stephan cooks only occasionally and didn’t cook this cut of meet.  Don’t get me wrong I’m not trying to hate on Executive Chef Matt McCallister but I didn’t like the braised cheek.  I didn’t even finish my portion and rather decided to finish the Salmon.  Speaking of the Salmon – it was well cooked and thankfully not highly seasoned – though the Hoja Santa Pesto was tasty.  The Desserts were a bit to strong and we ended up not even finishing them. 

Atmosphere:

Outside Decor – Beautifully Location and nice outside area that looks upon downtown, the back of the Nasher and the light-show that is the Bass Building.  The outside to Stephan Pyles is snazzy and screams high-class hip restaurant.  The Bentley and Maserati outside also looked nice next to Sarah’s new full loaded Altima.  Really a great local and look for the restaurant.

Inside Decor – Ritzy and Happening would be the words that come to mind.  The open kitchen in the middle of the house – is a great touch and really ads to the hole experience.  Also there are large rooms (one being a closed off Glass VIP room) add an aura of “big-time”.  The vibrant reds and yellow hues run through out.  The bar area/tapas area really is nice and place around the open kitchen (the best spot in the whole place – to bad we did not sit there).  Also as an extra nice touch the little “lamps” in the men’s room over the urinals – Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Nice.  However, I did have a WTF moment with a particular piece of art.  Candles are strategically placed through the entire restaurant, but one particular wall had a big piece with five or so rows with candles and a large glass in front to distort and “cool” the lights in a glow of orange.  Now this sounds nice and for most people may look cool.  But for me I had a horried moment as damn if it didn’t look (minus the orange glow) as an exhibit in the Jerusalem Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem.   FOR REAL!!  Now I can’t find pictures online of the room in Yad Vashem – but man it was WEIRD to notice.

Audio Ambiance – Suprisingly it wasn’t as loud and boasterous as I expected it to be.  Maybe it was due to our late dinner time, but the place has good acoustics and isn’t a bad atmosphere.  Overall we felt comfortable and had plenty of time to discuss how much we didn’t appreciate our lead waiter.  I digress.

Grade:  27/30 – Amazing Location and high-class look really give it a nice staple and presence that no other Dallas restaurant quite has going for it.  It by far is the best element of Stephan Pyles and a highlight to the Arts District of D-Town.  The building was originally built in 1963 (not the greatest of years for Dallas on a Presidential note) by architect legend George Dahl. 

Service:

Greeter – Nice host girl – quick to seat and then disappeared before our lead waiter joined us.  On big occasions the Owners and maybe even Stephan Pyles himself would make this obviously a nice treat – but nonetheless decent to good.

Lead Waiter – Our waitress (we’ll call her Tim) Tim was the real down fall of our entire evening.  Between getting Sarah’s order wrong (Beef instead of the Chicken she wanted, there were only three options how do you mess that up).  Then when we asked her about it – she had Sarah try the Beef and said “This is better and more to your liking” (calmly we let that slide, but for real – to our liking? How would you know that information).  Then, as I was away admiring the lamps in the bathrooms, Sarah had to deal with “So for dessert you guys want the pudding, right?”.  Um know we didn’t want that and so Sarah corrected her to what we wanted.  Overall our waitress wasn’t overtly mean, but just really intrusive and lacked the polish of other waiters we’ve had (I’d be pissed with her if we were eating at Cheese Cake Factory, and know for a fact there were better waiters there then SP last night.).  In the end I just wanted to leave and mainly because of this single person.

Other Waitstaff – Less then at Bijoux – all quick, polite and quiet.  They were like ghosts and no complaints with there service.

Grade: 7/30. 

Stephan Pyles is a well respected establishment of the Dallas eatery world.  Sadly I wish they concentrated on hiring the right people on top of keeping the place hip and cool. 

OVERAL GRADE: 59/100.

Ok  PHEW!! Hope you enjoyed that.  Best of luck to those still enjoying KRLD’s Restaurant Week and if you want a suggestion -

GO TO BIJOUX IT’S AMAZING!!.

East Dallas Treasure Chest of Tacos

Here in Dallas, there is no shortage of places to grab quality sustenance. You can grab amazing Tex-Mex at a thousand different places, but there is a place in my hood that needs a little love…..that is the absolute Greatness of the Taco Joint off Peak and Gaston.


I can’t tell you how many times that I have rolled in before work and picked up a Gaston Grab for myself and the guys at the office. Just over $10 for 6 of the best breakfast Tacos that I have ever tasted. Just ask the fine folks at D-Magazine.
 
If you have been there on a Saturday morning you know the store is packed with fine folks from all around the Metroplex. The guys that run the place, Corey and Jeff, are fantastic people, uber-friendly, and can crank out the goods in a very short amount of time. Even though it can be very busy at times the store is always clean and there is plenty of place to sit and enjoy the best tacos in Big ‘D’. I don’t want to forget to mention the salsa bar that has regular, tomatillo, and (my favorite) jalapeno ranch.

You must know that this place is only open until 2PM and closed on Sunday, so you do need to make an effort to swing by during operationg hours, but even if you made a haul all the way from Oklahoma I can guarantee you that you will go home very satisfied. The guys have a different daily special and I can tell you from experience they are all fantastic.

Maybe the best part about the place….it is not a chain or corporately owned….like so many other places here in DFW. Some say Dallas doesn’t have a lot of soul and doesn’t do enough to preserve it’s own history, but when you walk in you get a sense that this place could be a landmark many years from now. In fact, the owners are very proud of the city with the giant mural on the back wall of the skyline and other familiar icons of Dallas. Not to mention some cool art work and black and white photos of regulars lining the walls.

Taco Joint is truly one of a kind and authentic. Word is spreading rapidly about this East Dallas jem, I can’t urge you enough to stop in and have your life changed forever.