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The traditional Vietnamese "shaken" beef followed this same vein, and its somewhat steep price of $24.95 didn't elicit the slightest winces once it was delivered. A generous heap of sautéed tenderloin cubes is seeded on an array of lettuce leaves surrounded by tomato wedges. The meat is mingled with scallions and sheened with a soy-based sauce with brown sugar and white wine. The beef was firm with full body and rich flavor.
To pull off this metallurgic strain of cuisine, Steel employs an army of chefs including an executive Japanese chef, an executive Indo-Chinese chef, a premier sous chef, a pair of master sushi chefs and a sushi chef. Together they launch an array of Asian dishes including sushi and sashimi, grilled Japanese dishes and "Indo-chine" selections including fire-pot soups, salads, and the clay pot dishes.
Steel sushi is cool, supple and delicious. Everything, from the tuna and octopus sashimi to the spicy tuna rolls and the uni, was at least as good as the best you can sample in Dallas, and in some cases (uni), better.
3180 Welborn St
Dallas, TX 75219
Region: Uptown & Oak Lawn
Chicken cabbage salad: $11.95
Vietnamese carpaccio: $13.95
Fried whole fish: $41.95
Traditional Vietnamese shaken beef: $24.95
Monkfish clay pot: $25.95
Grilled prawns: $28.95
Banana tempura: $4.95
Steel prances on an exotic plane similar to the one occupied by Tei Tei Robata Bar. Some of the offerings and specials are unlike anything you may have seen before. Steel's grilled prawns slip into this category. A nearly barren plate is spread with the split halves of two huge Vietnamese blue prawns the size of truck mufflers. They looked like the thing that popped out of John Hurt's belly in the first Alien flick, which made it hard to approach them unarmed. Yet when you get close enough to taste them, the flavor is subtler than the prawns' looks. The meat is briny and firm, and the flavors came alive when dipped into ponzu-like sauce that accompanied the dish.
Even Steel's salads harbor little miracles. Chicken cabbage salad tasted better than you might expect from a head of cabbage sassed up with breast meat. Finely cut cabbage and mint is mixed with Vietnamese herbs, fried shallots, cilantro and ground peanuts doused with lime juice. The result is both delicious and refreshing, with crisp cabbage slivers and moist chicken strips kicked up a notch with some spice heat.
Steel doesn't have much for dessert, other than fruit and green-tea ice cream and bananas. Go for the bananas. The tempura banana is covered in batter and fried, creating a thing that looks like a form of sea life. Its crispy coating harbors a soft, gooey core, its sweetness concentrated a little from the heat.
Steel's wine list is tight with offerings from California and France to Germany to Australia and New Zealand. But while you can with some work match a wine decently with Asian fare, sometimes it's just better to sit back with a beer or sake and not put forth the effort. Especially since the house sake (served warm) has better, more complex flavors than can be found with most house sakes served at temperatures that could melt solder.
Steel is a compelling place with lots of unusual corners and twists. Just come well-armed with plastic and make sure the servers stay out of your spotlight beam.