Best Of :: Food & Drink
What is it about a bowl of piping-hot red that enables it to create a culture all its own? Chili cook-offs, chili championships, chili parlors, chili with beans or without. What's the best chili, the hottest, the reddest, the meanest? Texas chauvinism aside, none of these is an easy question, and weighing into the great chili debate about what constitutes the best chili can be just plain foolish. But here goes, anyway. The chili served at Highland Park Pharmacy for at least the past 20 years, and probably longer, is our sentimental favorite. No, it's not hot; no, it's not spicy; and yes, it's full of beans. But it's mighty tasty, goes down smooth and is a welcome complement to just about any sandwich the old-fashioned soda fountain has to offer. Summer or winter, it just seems to work its magic, particularly when doused with a chocolate malt or a vanilla Coke.
It's not so much that Breadwinners has the kind of coffee that could turn a three-toed sloth into a crazed New York commuter within three sips. It isn't even so much that Breadwinners has the kind of fresh-baked muffins, sweet rolls, cakes and fresh breads that make you almost fall in love with the cellulite and spare Firestones they will turn into with just a little butter. It's the scrambles, the omelettes, the velvety pancakes and the lush interior courtyard. Plus, Breadwinners serves breakfast until 4 p.m. If you can sleep until 3 and still get a hot breakfast, why mess with an alarm clock?
Brunch is a natural for a venue whose first name denotes a street bar--a natural disaster, that is. But Greenville Bar and Grill, a white-tablecloth retrofit of a once gunked and grimed watering hole that's been hovering around Greenville Avenue since 1933, beats the odds. Greenville's eggs Benedict is like no other. Slathered in a smooth, tangy hollandaise sauce, the fluffy and plump poached egg sits on a chewy sheet of Canadian bacon bedded down on a muffin so tender and pliant that it disintegrates as soon as it hits the mouth (and it isn't one of those watery, predigested muffins either). Perhaps even more amazing--and rare in the world of Benedicts--is that this version is actually hot through and through. Not cool, not warm, not piping hot hollandaise over a chilled egg with icy whites and golf ball-hard yolks, but hot, from muffin bottom to hollandaise tarp. There's no rubbery egg white or watery poach discharge either--grave hazards after a night of serious drinking or a morning of serious molten brimstone lingo. Omelettes are constructed with the same exacting care. They're fluffy and light, almost like little soufflés. Even the fruit plate--typically a thoughtless ensemble starring the mealy and the insipid--is riddled with the plump, the bright and the fresh. Greenville Bar and Grill's brunch is so good, you'll find yourself forgetting about that dog-hair remedy you're convinced you need to help the eggs and the head whir stay down. But there's plenty of that behind the handsome bar if your memory is extra sharp.
Frisco is a long way to travel for good seafood. But hell, so is the ocean, and it's much harder on pickup trucks than the asphalt and browned prairie grass of the northern most reaches of the metroplex. 9 Fish, so named because the number means good luck in much of Asia, is a fascinating clash of highly disciplined culinary craft and freewheeling protocol, all executed with some of the ugliest critters ever seen outside a Jerry Springer installment. A display case stores an assortment of fish, giant prawns, clams and live geoduck--the giant clams from the Pacific Northwest that flaunt 18-inch siphons from their measly 3-inch shells, which are held together with rubber bands. This place can be exhilaratingly exotic, serving sculpted Japanese foie gras (monk fish liver) and giant whole prawns tossed and turned on the robata grill. 9 Fish also serves sushi: cool, firm and silky without any sinewy strands to get tangled between your crowns. The flesh literally dissolves between your cheeks. Seared peppered tuna, perched on black sticky rice and "escorted by fresh field greens," arrives as two tall pink wedges rising out of the dark rice like coastal palisades. In the mouth the fish behaves like pristine slivers of ocean silk. It's hard to get seafood better than this without a snorkel and an airline ticket.
If clones are going to attack, let them do it with weapons of flaccid tuna slices, gooey uni and fluffy tobiko in shades that would make a Day-Glo palette wince. That's what Sushi Kyoto II does. A replica of Sushi Kyoto I in Coppell, the Kyoto clone along this SMU pavement strip bombards you with buxom scraps of fresh raw fish: silky tuna that disintegrates in the mouth with just a little tongue pressure; smooth, delicately smoky salmon that can easily be parsed with chopsticks; sweet satiny hamachi; fluffy tobiko. Even the uni, the urchin gonad ensemble that makes infrequent successful appearances in Dallas, is firm, nutty and smoothly cool. Octopus is tender and chewy, with a gentle touch of salinity. But one of the most compelling dishes in this place isn't a fleshy aquatic critter at all. It's a snarl of seaweed pimpled with sesame seeds. The flavors in Sushi Kyoto's seaweed salad are so clean, crisp and addicting, it'll seduce all your friends and family who belt raw fish-phobic squeals whenever sushi and dinner are mentioned in the same breath. It also makes a great vegan French tickler.
How simple. How healthful. How easy to like, even for those few souls who haven't been initiated into the ways of sushi. The California roll--tuna, avocado, rice and a light coating of roe--is sort of a basic building block of American sushi dining. This is starter sushi, as much American as Japanese. Some would say it's passé, but not us. If it's over, then prime steak was out after 1966. (Actually, it was, but it hid in the mountains like a patient guerrilla fighter.) Same with the California roll. At this solid, unpretentious and thoroughly popular sushi palace, they make this old standard flawlessly. The flavors meld and blend in your little puddle of soy sauce. Start here, then work deeper and deeper into the dining ways of the Far East.
It could happen to you, and it probably has: You're shopping, you're trying on, taking off, and you haven't been successful. What's more, you are now in a state of shopping fever. Sweat has formed on your upper lip, your stomach is growling louder than you can and you haven't found anything fresh in which to clothe yourself. Take a deep breath, we have found salvation. Not only does Nikolini feature incredible originals in the way of clothing and shoes, but it is also connected to one hell of an organic Greek restaurant, Organicity. The options are now limitless...a dip in the hummus, a glance at some Mary Janes, a bite of dolma, a quick try-on for that exceedingly cool A-line skirt. The original designs are on the steep side, but the bites are reasonable.
Not many places in Dallas serve goat. Only one that we know of allows you to enjoy your goat (the bovid ruminant kind, not the leering lecher type) with a mango margarita. India Palace is such a place. But India Palace is more than just a herder's handiwork laced with tequila. It's a cornucopia of mysterious Indian flavors such as Balti dishes: an Indian cooking technique that utilizes a cast-iron pot stuffed to the gills with a crush of spices--onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, fennel and mustard seeds--that collapse into a rich sauce to bathe the dish centerpiece (such as beef). Good flat breads, opulent aloo gobi (spicy potatoes and cauliflower) and delicious mulligatawny moghlai ("pepper water" soup), too. Plus India Palace makes enthusiastic use of bargain-hunter buffet tables at selected times. It's also drenched in Pepto-Bismol pink with burgundy accent points, which just might get your goat before the goat gets you.
There can be no argument that the fish is fresh at TJ's Seafood Market--it's flown in two to three times a day from exotic ports of call. A regular United Nations of fish, you've got your Dover sole from England, your sea bass from Chile, your tilapia from Ecuador. Swimming closer to home are shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, catfish from Mississippi, rainbow trout from Idaho and lobster from Maine. Few other fish markets go to such extremes to bring you the variety, the freshness, the quality of TJ's.
The Mozzarella Company's whole-milk mozzarella gives the gunk sold in grocery stores a really bad name. The company, located in Deep Ellum, is celebrating 20 years of making cheese. Grocery store shoppers may not generally know that the cheese that's sold in plastic bags with far-off expiration dates would hardly be called mozzarella in Italy. It would probably be called spoiled. The Mozzarella Company's whole-milk mozzarella is so creamy, pliable and delicious you may want to consider a helping even if you're severely lactose intolerant. Just saying, it wouldn't be a bad way to go. Besides mozzarella, the company sells cream cheese, ricotta, goat cheese and many others. Cheeses, not goats.
Dallas doesn't have a Chinatown. It has a Koreatown. And there's a Cowtown to the left. But no Chinatown, no parades with dragons and firecrackers. Perhaps that's why most Chinese cuisine in Dallas is forgettable: heavy, dry, greasy and sticky--with dumb fortunes. Chef Hsu busts that mold with a fat bronze Buddha (they have a nice collection on the bar). Chef Hsu features lithe treatments of the old standard retreads: kung pao chicken, Mongolian beef, sweet and sour pork. Then it goes on a rampage of Chinese exotica with braised sea cucumbers with pork belly, various versions of stewed and braised shark's fin and shredded jellyfish salad among others, all impeccably prepared with an eye on clarity and a palate sensitive to intrinsic flavors. Plus they have a large live lobster and crab tank for the kids, and buffet tables the size of container freighters for the value-minded. Dumb fortunes, too.
Without a doubt, Kuby's has always been the best of the wurst--the best bratwurst, knockwurst, even bloodwurst, if you're gutsy enough to try it. But their vast array of meats goes beyond sausage and incorporates some of the choicest cuts of beef found this side of the Rhine. Try the tenderloin, the T-bone, the sirloin strip--all cued up and displayed with Teutonic exactitude. But if you really want to savor the saturated fat that is Kuby's, let them smoke you a large turkey for the holiday season. Artfully sliced and plentiful, you will be eating turkey sandwiches well into the new year. And you will enjoy it!