Above and Beyond

The bar munchies at Daxx would make most fancy restaurant operators wince in envy.
Kristen Karlisch

Why do the munchies that are served with belts of booze have to possess culinary panache? They don't, or maybe shouldn't. After all, such craft is ultimately pulverized into an alimentary ooze mere moments after creation and hustled through yards of plumbing. Sure, the same thing happens during a fine dining experience. But this at least entails a few moments of sensual pleasure before digestion.

In the bar this sensory bliss is short-circuited by tequila, rum, bourbon and perhaps some dark mesh tucked in stiletto heels. Or in the case of Daxx, a new bar on Lower Greenville Avenue, gin and vodka. Daxx offers a range of frozen drinks and martinis, the latter embracing the classic (dirty) version along with flavors such as nuts & berries, mango, chocolate and the ill-conceived apple and watermelon. (The 23rd law of thermodynamics stipulates that a jigger of gin will explode before it can be blended with apple or watermelon flavoring.) So it's odd that this slickly burnished and minimalist bar proffering high-octane belts has a simple food menu that could make your average fancy restaurant operator wince in envy.

Simple, stupid things are done with mind-blowing skill. Fresh blond potato chips were installed in a basket with a rich homemade salsa. They were thick, airy and crisp pieces--tortilla chips in ballet slippers.

Tokyo tempura market fish is another airy marvel with an elusively crisp golden exterior that strains to preserve the equally elusive white fish flavors within: a duet of whispers, one that nearly cancels the need for the wasabi-lemon tartar sauce that accompanies the fish.

Chinese to-go cartons serve as service platters for a few entrants, such as the chicken and wild mushroom spring rolls that come with a zesty "firecracker" sauce. These fried rolls were swaddled in a thin, crisp coat that, though slightly greasy, bound a fresh, moist and tasty core. The bottom of the carton had a bedding of crisp slaw soaked in a brisk dressing perhaps made of rice-wine vinegar.

Tacos have always made for swell bar food, the flour tortillas absorbing and holding noxious fluids with the effectiveness of a Pamper. Daxx's pork tenderloin taco with chili and pineapple chutney is a flour tortilla stuffed with juicy pork with a crisp, citrus-like touch on the finish. Quesadillas also fall into the same traditional bar food vernacular. Yet Daxx's shrimp BLT quesadilla wasn't the heavy gullet insulation you might expect. This was light and fluffy with a stealthy smoky thread weaving its way through the supple ingredients.

Kuby's spicy fajita dog was also wisped with smoke, layered with sweetness from a pinch of caramelized onions.

The least successful offering sampled--which given the timbre of the menu isn't really a slam--was the jerk chicken salad served in one of those cute Chinese to-go cartons. Despite the "jerk" moniker, the salad was a bland, leafy slump firing ethnic blanks.

Daxx is the formulation of Sipango owner Ron Corcoran and his bartender Smokey Hill with food crafted by Sipango chef Kelley Hightower. The long narrow space is rich in burnished stainless steel, Brazilian granite, treated Formica, Andy Warhol-like graffiti-esque facial expressions and Sony Wega boob tubes. But the real star here is the food. So apply the gin and vodka sparingly.

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