By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
Mediterranean shakshuka baked in a wood-burning oven was a kind of clay pot breakfast stew of potatoes, peppers, and eggplant in marinara sauce topped with two eggs. The dish was hearty and satisfying yet light. The only drawback was that the marinara left it watery.
A trio of little dishes turned out to make a swell dessert. Triple creme brulee included a tiny cup each of chocolate, black cherry, and vanilla flavored custard capped with hot, crunchy caramelized sugar. The custard was creamy smooth without being runny, and the black cherry had a good tang while the vanilla and chocolate flavorings didn't overrun the filling.
Our server at brunch warned us the shredded filo with white cheese knaffe with rose-water syrup was an acquired taste and that it might be best to experiment with something a little more mainstream. And when it arrived, I admit I had my doubts. An angular chunk of cheese is carpeted with filo shreds that look like mealworms after a neon orange rinse in a Deep Ellum salon. But it actually turned out to be a refreshingly undessert-like dessert with mild, chewy white cheese mingled with the restrained sweetness of the syrup.
Bistro A's reconstituted back-to-basics flare is reflected in its location as well as the menu. Far from a busy North Dallas mall or a flashy slot on McKinney Avenue (a strip that is suffering from glitter corrosion with all of the recent restaurant closings and shifts nearby), Bistro A is shoehorned into a space in a residential neighborhood surrounding Snider Plaza--in a former paint store, for God's sake.
And it's elegant, though it's obvious it was done on the cheap. The dining room is populated with standard-issue laminated tables and padded chairs. Dark green awnings hang over the front door and windows whose aluminum frames have been subjected to some kind of copper-hued, texturized spray paint. From a distance, it looks distinctively handsome. But a closer inspection reveals paint flaking and chipping on the door. The entrance is furnished with rustic tables, benches, and armoires with a special wood-plank dining table near the front window.
The upper portion of the walls is covered in wide stripes of textured silver and gold paint on which rest pen-and-ink artwork and a row of odd sconces composed of two thick layers of greenish-blue glass. Pottery Barn-like spot lighting hangs above the seating area in front of the open kitchen, which sparkles with aluminum trim and copper pots hanging from above. The design shows make-a-dollar-scream resourcefulness in execution.
And although Samuel's role is limited to a consulting on menu and restaurant design (he's not listed as an owner or officer), the question remains: Can this place survive with Samuel heading the kitchen, given his legendary capriciousness and volcanic temperament?
"Avner has really decided he's going to be a new man and put all the things that have gone on in the past behind him," relays Keller. "That's part of the reason we have the kitchen in the middle of the restaurant. So he's somewhat forced to keep those things in control."
Almost as if to subliminally address doubts about Samuel's stability and commitment to this cozy neighborhood eatery, assorted photos of him and his family are arranged in the waiting area. Service reflects this pampering, comfortable tone without getting sickeningly drippy.
Bistro A is owned by a small partnership--which includes Samuel's wife, Celeste--called Asher Investments (hence the A in the name) headed by restaurant consultant Matthew Feldman. Feldman says Samuel's track record doesn't concern him, and he feels Samuel is a changed man. "He's very committed to what he's doing," he explains. "I think we have the winning formula with Avner, to keep him happy and focused. I've known Avner for a long, long time, and I know what the challenges have been in the past, and I think we've overcome a lot of those issues."
More than a few operators and investors have teamed up with Samuel harboring these same beliefs, only to see things collapse a short time later. Here's hoping it's different this time.
6815 Snider Plaza Blvd.,(214) 373-9911.Open for lunch Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.Open for dinner Monday-Thursday 5:30-10 p.m., Friday & Saturday 5:30-10:30 p.m.Open for Sunday brunch11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.$$-$$$