Monday, February 24, 2014

Central 214 // Dallas

Central 214
5680 North Central Expressway
Dallas, TX 75206

Appetizer:  “Scotch Egg”

Entrees:     “Louisiana Redfish” 
                  “Oxtail Ragu”

Drinks:    “Pony Up!”
                “Shiso Passion”

I pass by Central 214 often and it has been on my restaurant list forever, but I just made my way there this past weekend. Attached to Hotel Palomar, Central 214 sits across from Mockingbird Station on the east side of 75 at Mockingbird. 

The restaurant is spacious and open, with the bar on the left when you walk in, an open kitchen at the center and tables surrounding all. The warm, amber lighting softens the contemporary décor. We dined on a Friday night and there were plenty of open tables; but people filled the bar area steadily throughout the evening.

We both began with cocktails. The cocktail menu boasts that the “Amsterdamme” is a “national award winning cocktail;” gin based, it was citrusy and balanced alcohol and flavor well. The “Shiso Passion” tasted similar to the “Amsterdamme” but consisted of vodka, lemon and passion fruit garnished with a basil leaf. For our appetizer, we ordered the “Scotch Egg” upon recommendation from our waiter. Essentially, the dish consists of a hardboiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, dipped in a coating and fried (or maybe baked), all sitting on a bed of frisee. I enjoyed the “Scotch Egg,” but it is breakfast-y!

For the main course, we chose to split two different entrees, the “Louisiana Redfish” and the “Oxtail Ragu.” Pan seared and presented on top of a bed of flash fried savoy spinach, the fish tasted great. The oxtail was taken off the bone, braised and tossed with fried gnocchi and a basil pesto sauce. The meat resembled a pot roast recipe, mixed with diced carrots and onions and very flavorful. I truly enjoyed both entrees, but I think I prefer the oxtail because it was so unique. During our meal, I ordered a glass of cabernet sauvignon and Kirk tried a different cocktail, the “Pony Up!” A whiskey cocktail, this concoction included hints of lemon and maple (I could definitely taste the maple).

Unfortunately, we were too full for dessert, but the dessert menu had some very appealing options! 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Kitchen LTO // Trinity Groves

Kitchen LTO (Limited Time Only)
3011 Gulden Lane
Suite 108
Dallas, TX 75212

Appetizers: “Velvet Hammer Glazed Pork Belly”

Entrées:       “Butternut Squash Risotto”
                    “Lemon Rosemary Chicken”
                    “Salmon BLT”
                    “Double Boned Pork Chop”

Desserts:     “Buttered Popcorn Crème Brulee”
                    “LTOMG! Chocolate Dome”
                    “White Chocolate Bread Pudding”
                    “S’Mores Flourless Chocolate Cake”

On Friday night, Kirk, Travis, Annie and I ventured across the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge to the recently developed Trinity Groves area. Several restaurants line both sides of Singleton Blvd, but we decided to check out Kitchen LTO, thankfully, on the recommendation of Annie. We made reservations at 9:00, but got to the restaurant a bit early for drinks. While at the bar, I chatted with the bartender/mixologist Jason. He informed us that quite a few of the concoctions on the cocktail list are his creations. Throughout dinner and between the four of us, we tried the LTO Manhattan, Aviation, Ginny French, Old Fashioned and Templetreuse. Check out the “Imbibe” menu on the website. The menu includes quite a few unique and delicious twists on classic drinks! I decided to stick with Pinot Noir. Before the host sat us, I asked Jason for a few recommendations for entrees. He informed me that the “Salmon BLT” is the dish that got Chef Eric Shelton voted into the kitchen. He also recommended the “Double Boned Pork Chop” and “Butternut Squash Risotto.” I already had my eye on the risotto, so hearing the dish among his recommendations confirmed my decision.

The host sat us and we made fast friends with our server, Brian. For an appetizer, he told us that we must try the pork belly, so that made our choice simple. Brian was very patient with us, especially with Kirk and Travis who asked him to return over 3 times before they finally stopped talking to decide what they wanted to order for their main entrees. Brian is chill; he cracked jokes and laughed with us. I ordered the “Butternut Squash Risotto,” Annie – “Double Boned Pork Chop,” Travis – “Lemon Rosemary Chicken” and Kirk – “Salmon BLT.” I loved the risotto, not too rich, but still contained great flavor. The “Salmon BLT” is so unique; the chef sears maple bacon on top of a filet of salmon, which holds in a lot of the flavor, and it all sits on a bed of greens. It is not a sandwich, which I was curious about before it got to the table. I definitely understand why this dish won Chef Eric Shelton the vote into the kitchen. The “Double Boned Pork Chop” and the “Lemon Rosemary Chicken” both held the juice and flavor of the meat, yummy and fairly large portions. One side dish, however, kind of stole the show at our table: the “Mac and Cheese Cake.” The presentation does resemble a piece of cake, but consists of a special take on macaroni cheese. You must order this when you go!! Chef Eric Shelton gave us a bit of inside scoop, saying that the “Mac and Cheese Cake” may make its way to the menu as its own dish! We all absolutely loved our entrees.

Since we made reservations later in the evening, the crowd began to clear out as we finished our main dishes. As Brian came to clear our table, Chef Eric Shelton came over to chat. He was making the rounds to the remaining customers, and got to us just as we were about to order dessert. Before I knew it, all four of us ordered our own dessert. I tried the “Buttered Popcorn Crème Brulee,” Kirk – “LTOMG! Chocolate Dome” (Chef’s favorite and recommendation), Annie – “S’Mores Flourless Chocolate Cake,” and Travis – “White Chocolate Bread Pudding.” Annie’s dessert came out on fire and Brian poured a boiling hot chocolate sauce over Kirk’s to make it melt before our eyes. My crème brulee was awesome, it tasted like caramel popcorn infused crème brulee (not a misleading title). I managed to try a bite of the bread pudding and the LTOMG! dome, both were awesome. The current seasonal filling for the chocolate dome is a strawberry shortcake-type flavor, quite delicious. I could not bear to try Annie’s, but she said it was great.

We talked with Chef Eric Shelton for quite a while. He talked to us about our dishes, our desserts, his vision and his journey to becoming the current chef at Kitchen LTO. We were dining on his first Friday night as Chef at Kitchen LTO. I am excited to return to try some of the other dishes on his menu. Chef Eric Shelton is certainly someone I will follow wherever his career may take him.  

As the website describes, Kitchen LTO is “a permanent pop-up restaurant;” meaning that “up-and-coming chefs and designers will get to take the reins every four months and show the city of Dallas what they’ve got to offer!” Thankfully, Chef Eric Shelton will be there until May 31st, but go sooner rather than later to try his amazing “New American” cuisine. This place is pretty packed, so be sure to make a reservation, especially on a weekend evening!

Incredible food, incredible Chef and an awesome concept!

"Velvet Hammer Glazed Pork Belly"

"Butternut Squash Risotto"

"Salmon BLT"

"Double Boned Pork Chop"

"Lemon Rosemary Chicken" (see the "Mac and Cheese Cake")

With Chef Eric Shelton

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Local // Deep Ellum

2936a Elm Street
Dallas, TX 75226

Appetizers: Local’s Fried Green Beans (creamy thyme + garlic infused dipping sauce)
           Tomato Basil Soup, Grilled Cheese side
Entrees:      “Fleur-de-sel sprinkled wild salmon” (parsnip whip, flash-fried spinach + pinot noir reduction)
                   “Grilled Grass-Fed Tenderloin Filet” (panko-crusted tater tots, baby arugula + balsalmic finish)

Local is situated in Deep Ellum, marked by a small, but graceful sign that you will miss if you’re not careful. Having made a reservation, the host seated us promptly in a room farther back in the restaurant, allowing us the opportunity to wind through part of the restaurant. The restaurant is comprised of several different rooms, divided by velvet curtains, sleek white walls or crackled glass partitions and defined by mid-century contemporary artwork. The dim lighting set an elegant and sophisticated ambiance. I did not find out until later that this location is the former home to the Boyd Hotel, a Dallas landmark known to entertain jazz greats and even the infamous Bonnie and Clyde! 

Once seated, I started with a glass of “Ara Single Estate” sauvignon blanc. The wine list is fairly extensive and unique. Kirkland enjoyed a cocktail. After a comfortable amount of time to enjoy our initial drink selections, our waitress requested our orders for appetizers. After discussing our options with her, we landed on the Fried Green Beans, a “Local” classic that we were told we could not leave without trying. Also, Kirkland decided to jump in with a second appetizer tomato basil soup with miniature grilled cheese sandwiches. The Fried Green Beans came out first. They were incredible, amazing and unlike anything I had tasted before. They came with a creamy dipping sauce accented by thyme and garlic, a perfect accompaniment to the battered and fried green beans. The tomato basil soup and mini grilled cheese sandwiches followed, which I was able to snag a quick taste; delicious and simple, a classic American dish. 

For our main entrees, I chose the salmon and Kirk chose the tenderloin filet. Now, for our second drinks we followed the advice of the menu, which provides drink pairings for each appetizer, main dish and dessert on the menu. I love a restaurant that gives you suggestions; mainly because I am indecisive and have the tendency to become overwhelmed when making a decision, but also because I am just beginning to embark on the journey of “food and wine pairings.” (Read about the beginning of my journey when I blog about Napa). Kirk and I both chose the recommended wine pairings for our entrees, the “Hook + Ladder” pinot noir for me, and the “Pedroncelli” cabernet sauvignon for him. Both cooked to a perfect medium, the salmon and the filet held all the flavor and juice to the last bites. The salmon sat on a bed of whipped parsnips (which I had never eaten, nor knew that it is a close relative of the carrot); which tasted semi sweet and more like potatoes. Alongside the whipped parsnips sat a serving of flash-fried spinach. The grilled filet sat next to some richly delicious tater tots and a bed of tasty arugula. We were in food heaven. Chef Tracy Miller emerged from the kitchen to greet the patrons in our room, stopping by our table to make sure that all food met our desires. Mouths stuffed with food, we both nodded to show our gratitude. We finished our dinner and our wine and relaxed for a while longer. The waiter did not rush us, which I am always thankful for and brought us a bite of dessert, compliments of the chef. 

Dining at Local is a true experience. Chef Tracy Miller and staff work to ensure that your time with them is more than just about eating out. It is about taking you back to the 1950’s with the décor, the 1940’s with the jazz-era themed tunes and the 1930’s with the pure elegance meant for a special dining experience. Local is great for any occasion. I love Local and cannot wait to go back.