"I'm just floppin' around, man," says chef Gilbert Garza. First he flipped from the executive chef position at the badly listing Toscana. Then he hooked up with Sea-Worthy Restaurants (Rockfish Seafood Grill) for a potential equity stake in Mother Pearl's Seafood House on Lemmon Avenue and a corporate blessing to transform the casual seafood concept as he saw fit. But that quickly turned sour. "It wasn't a really good fit for me," Garza explains. He contends one of Sea-Worthy's owners was willing to give him free rein, while the other cringed at every Garza-inspired tweak. So he flopped off that ship and is now splitting kitchen time with former Americana chef Russ Hodges (AIMS Academy) at Suze, a 65-seat bistro launched by Susie Priore in the former Going Gourmet location on Northwest Highway. Garza says he'll remain there at least through December. In the meantime, he's scouring Dallas and Austin for a spot to open his own restaurant, which will serve "relaxed" Northern Italian cuisine. "Dining in Dallas right now is just a proliferation of high-priced restaurants," he grumbles. "And a lot of 'em are boring."
D for demise
"Ararat fills our minds with mystery," gushes D magazine in its August issue cataloging the best new restaurants of 1999. A lot of mystery, it seems. They put the Middle Eastern restaurant (which ranked No. 2 in its top 11) on the cover. Or, more accurately, a sultry model in a slinky red dress reclining amongst Ararat's plush Persian furnishings. Ararat must fill D's minds with prescience too. "What is this restaurant where no one goes?" D's Ararat blurb asks. "How does it stay in business?" Apparently not with the commanding weight of a D cover. Shortly after the restaurant issue hit the stands, Ararat went belly-up, despite the vigorous twists and sinuous twitches of in-house belly dancers. A sign on the door says the Deep Ellum restaurant is temporarily closed pending relocation. But owner Hasan Tunc (he operates an Ararat in Austin) says Dallas won't see another Ararat. Dallas diners apparently aren't adventurous enough for Ararat's somewhat flabby brand of eclectic Middle Eastern cuisine. "Dallas wasn't our kind of place," Tunc says. "It wasn't what we expected." Strangely, he thinks Cowtown might be -- he's probing downtown Fort Worth for the next Ararat location. Which means that model might sprawl across D's next restaurant cover in a pair of slinky red chaps.
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