By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
Lift and peer beyond the underbrush of olives, beans and nuts, and Stephan Pyles becomes a West Texas desert reflection flooded with dry browns, barren rock and a faux tumbleweed chandelier woven from crepe myrtle twigs. A concrete slab finished in Venetian plaster dams the lounge din from the dining lull. The slab punches through the outside wall, seeping out onto the patio overlooking a water garden.
Dishes seem to absorb cues from the restaurant's random geometry. Lentils with chorizo (Spanish sausage) and clams arrive in a small terrine resting in a fitted square glass charger. The dish breathes subtle complexity: earthiness, rich spark, suppleness and hints of marine sweetness. Because they are chopped or otherwise pulverized, the chorizo and clams cast only shadows over the spread of lentils. One glaring flaw: no spoon rests on the charger. Forks don't dance well with lentils. The unctuous ooze, where most of the richness seeps, slips through the tines. And all efforts to plumb it reek of gaucheness.
Perhaps geometry is most potently absorbed in the micro arugula salad. It arrives on a narrow serving strip. Splashed with citrus vinaigrette, the arugula rises from one end of the plate like a hair knot. In the center a triangular Tunisian phyllo turnover stuffed with potatoes and parsley is fitted with a quail egg fried into the same shape. At the opposite end of the plate is a grid composed of tiny bars carved from red and yellow beets.
Pyles upends perceptions in other ways. Tacu tacu is a peasant dish of seasoned beans and rice from colonial Peru. Pyles uses it as bedrock for foie gras, of all things. A two-ounce lobe, seared and deglazed with Spanish sherry and poultry stock, is positioned on a spread of rice and stewed lentils pocked with bits of smoked bacon. The liver is firm with a chewy veneer instead of delicately creamy with a slightly tense surface. Maybe this foie gras is too firm, overshooting the luxurious creaminess. Admittedly this is a difficult texture to achieve, if in fact this is Pyles' desire. Yet what sets this rendition apart from most other examples is that, aside from the fried banana slices x'd across the top, it has dispensed with fruits. Perhaps foie gras should simply glance at sweet and fruity and veer harder into the savory to draw the nutty richness, as the lentil-rice surely does.
Pyles is so loaded, it's hard to dissect. Even focused visits seem to scuff just one of its many and varied surfaces. It's stockpiled with sultry innovations rendered from simple discoveries that never come across as pretentious or forced. It's a twisted vision that blends the traditional with the contemporary, the natural with the contrived, the food with the architecture into one logical, compelling alloy. Is Dallas ready for this? No. But it will be. Just watch. 1807 Ross Ave., 214-580-7000. Open 6 p.m.- 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday. $$$-$$$$