With a nationally recognized reputation as the creator of "New Texas" cuisine, 30-plus years of experience honing his craft and numerous awards to his name, Chef Stephen Pyles isn't hurting for credentials. Still, he continues to impress, particularly with the reimagined South American flavors showcased at his newest restaurant, San Salvaje.
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This Arts District gem helped to earn Pyles yet another accolade this month: The Dallas Morning News' Chef of the Year. Our own Scott Reitz also recently named Pyles as a game-changer, noting that many beloved Dallas chefs blossomed under Pyles' tutelage. While much of the praise for San Salvaje centers around the unique savory dishes, dessert often seems to be mentioned as an afterthought. Obviously, though, a chef of Stephan Pyles' caliber surrounds himself with a highly skilled team, including pastry chef Keith Cedotal. With this in mind and with lunch out of the way, I headed downtown in search of a dessert that would measure up to all of the recent praise.
Let's cut to the chase -- it delivered. The moment you lay eyes on the menu, you know it's going to. Some may be overwhelmed by a menu that literally includes a glossary, but to me, it was foreshadowing that dessert would be worthy of headlining the main event. The lucuma suspiro met my expectations. It was unlike anything I've ever tasted before. With the help of my glossary, I determined that it's a pudding made from a Peruvian fruit (lucuma) that looks similar to an avocado with a mango-like flesh.
The presentation of the dish is stunning, and the curled fritter garnish is completely over-the-top, a fitting counterpart to the more understated custard. Described by the server as similar to butterscotch, I found the flavor of the pudding to be much more subtle. Flawlessly smooth, slightly sweet, and topped with a tart, perky nipple of passion fruit meringue, it's perfect for sharing with a date.
While the restaurant itself is upscale and the service is what one expects from a fine dining experience, it's easy to get comfortable here. South American flavors get a "New Texas" spin, dessert takes center stage, and you and your date enjoy an evening in the shadow of Cathedral Guadalupe.