Alma: Great Mexican Food, but Give Us Tea for Texas.

"This is the society we're living in," rants angry-guy podcaster/comedian Adam Carolla. "You can order iced tea and get something that tastes like somebody took a pillowcase of potpourri and boiled it."

Ask for iced tea at Alma, the latest addition to Consilient Restaurants' Henderson Avenue collection (along with Hibiscus and Victor Tango's), and you get a glass of watermelon-pineapple-basil "tea." That's the house brew. No other choices. Not even if you beg, bat your eyelashes and slip a nip. Welcome to the further L.A.-ification of our city's eating establishments.

Having waved the white flag (and too many five-dollar bills) at the tyranny of restaurant valet parkers hired to move your car 12 feet (the mandatory valet lot at Alma is directly behind the place), we must now bend to the will of imported chefs who don't cotton to traditional tea-leaf-and-tannin-based Texas-style iced tea, sweet or otherwise. Look, fellas, fruit teas aren't tea. They're watery juice. Watermelon-pineapple-basil tea is watery juice with a top note of vegetable soup.

Almost everything about Alma is pleasing...except the tea.
Sara Kerens
Almost everything about Alma is pleasing...except the tea.

Location Info

Map

Alma

2822 Henderson Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: East Dallas & Lakewood

Details

Alma 2822 N. Henderson Ave. 214-827-2820, www.almadallas.com. Open 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Thursday, 5 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday. $$$
Campechana (seafood cocktail) $14 Ceviche de hongos (vegan ceviche) $10 Enchilada de pollo $14 Tacos carne asada $18 Cochinita pibil (pork shank) $21 Goat cheese cheesecake $8 Chocoflan $9

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We're not mad, just thirsty. And if Alma, which opened in February, could get its iced tea in as good a shape as the rest of its menu, it would be just about perfect. They make food that tastes good here. We ate a whole bunch of it and want to eat a whole bunch more. And we dug the service, which in our two dinner visits (they'll start opening for lunch in late June) was friendly, informed and crisp without being pushy. (On our second time in, waiter Joel remembered us, asking with a wink, "Will you be having the iced tea this time?")

Driving Alma's kitchen is chef Michael Brown, a high-profile restaurant star from Los Angeles (there you go) who was hired away from Rick Bayless' red-hot, reservations-only Mexican regional cuisine spot Red O on Melrose Avenue. Brown, assisted by Anastacia Quiñones, is sending out some fine regional Mexican dishes at Alma now—and you don't need a reservation or special financing to enjoy them.

Servings of most things are XL at Alma. Two or three diners could share the ceviche con hongos appetizer, an all-veggie take on seafood ceviche. Tiny cubes of jicama, fresh beet and wild mushrooms marinate in a bowl of light citrus juice. Instead of tostadas, the dippers are paper-thin slices of plantain fried in rice bran oil that adds a nutty flavor to the chips. You'll run out of the veggie ceviche before you run out of plantain crisps, which are piled high on an oblong tray. Add a side of creamy guacamole made from the slightly oilier fruit imported from Michoacán to keep from wasting the chips.

Entrées are sized generously too. Our enchilada con pollo was certainly big enough for sharing. Not a traditional rolled enchilada like you'd find in a Tex-Mex cafe, Brown's version is made of thick layers of tender handmade corn tortillas, each layer topped with Chihuahua cheese and shredded chicken, and the whole dish covered with a creamy tomatillo sauce. The same sauce envelopes the enormous seafood enchilada, which is overstuffed with fresh lump crabmeat and shrimp.

The "regional" flavors of the cochinita pibil may be the best example of a dish that sets Alma apart from other Mexican restaurants trying to expand beyond nachos and combo plates. A 10-ounce pork shank, marinated in achiote—a reddish-brown spice used to infuse woodsy flavors and colors into traditional pork recipes in the Yucatan and Oaxaca—is braised overnight wrapped in banana and avocado leaves. The result, served on black beans and topped with a salad of wild arugula and pickled onions, is a fall-off-the-bone tender chunk of pork, dense with dark, but not heavy, earthiness. It's easy to share, thanks to the little house-made corn tortillas that come alongside, so good for wrapping and sopping.

Tacos de carne asada, also on the hefty side, feature the same velvety handmade tortillas to fold around slivers of grilled Texas Wagyu rib-eye steak, charred onions, watercress and avocado. Like the enchiladas and the pork dish, the tacos sting with fresh herbs such as micro-cilantro leaves that add something new and punchy to every bite.

From the sides, we doubled down on our order of "street corn." Fresh white kernels, stirred into lime juice, mayonnaise, queso fresco and chili powder, are spooned into tiny corn-husk baskets and served three at a time on an iron skillet.

Two desserts inspired us to eat sparingly the second time to leave more room for sweets. Pastel de queso is a thick goat-cheese cheesecake topped with candied pumpkin seeds. Dios mío. A spoon-licker. Watch the blackboard over the kitchen for the special "chocoflan," a hard-to-master layered dessert of caramel custard flan, chocolate cake, coffee-whipped cream and drizzles of Kahlúa sauce. It's sized for splitting, but you won't want to. For something light as a finisher, go for bayas con crema, a mini-platter of seasonal berries scattered over a sweet mint cream, Cointreau and bitter Oaxacan chocolate.

If you can take your eyes off the plates, everything about Alma is pleasing to see. The décor is simple and elegant with white paper lanterns the shape of small moons, comfy white-leather-upholstered chairs and blue and white cotton kitchen towels rolled around the silverware. The main dining room downstairs faces west to an outdoor patio on the Henderson Avenue side, but there's a more intimate upstairs dining area that offers more tables, another sit-down bar and a "den" at the back with couches, a fireplace and antler chandeliers. Green succulents decorate the tables. The patio is fenced with a low wall of spiky snake plants.

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4 comments
Melram19
Melram19

HEY Guys, if you got the money to spend on a new twist on Mexican food, try Almas. I first tried when they first opened and as a person born in south Texas, it hard to impress and complete my appetite for border cravings. Please try their version of mole, its spicy and too much to eat in one sitting and cool off with one of theirs mixed drinks. I hope they are here to stay.

Williams
Williams

Can't get enough of this Mexican regional food and yea the TEA is amazing. Tired of boring sweet Texas tea. Some originality finally.

Coleman
Coleman

I got so bogged down about you bitching about TEA that I had to take a break. Then you end it with MORE tea-bitching? That's exhausting.

Rdlewisjr
Rdlewisjr

Seriously? You actually devoted that much of the review to whine about not getting the same iced tea that you can get in ANY other restaurant in town? Which is exactly the point: a restaurateur trying to offer their guests something that you can't get somewhere else. How about Ms. Liner expand her childlike beverage preferences? Dallas is lucky to be getting talent laden restaurants like this. Wish we could get equally talented restaurant critics too...

 
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