Best Thing To Happen In Addison Since...Ever (Tie) 2005 | Monica's Aca y Alla, Go Fish | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Best Thing To Happen In Addison Since...Ever (Tie)

Monica's Aca y Alla, Go Fish

Remember when the Boss lamented the sorry state of cable television? You know, "57 channels and nothing's on?" As a dining and nightlife destination, Addison has a similar unfavorable reputation. Despite hosting the area's only authentic British pub (The Londoner), a good Chinese spot (May Dragon) and the best-known comedy club, people refer to Addison as a land lacking originality. Ah, but it's all changing. If you don't believe us, consider Go Fish, an actual chef-driven concept. Sure, it's located in one of those ubiquitous strip shopping centers, but it promises a VIP lounge and other "Dallas" touches. Go Fish is the work of outstanding seafood chef Chris Svalesen. After earning critical acclaim at the late 36 Degrees and very late Lombardi Mare, he may hold the best reputation of any seafood chef in the entire metro area. Yeah, we know Monica's isn't a one-off establishment. Other derivatives (Sambuca, for example) no longer carry the same clout as way back when. With Deep Ellum in the midst of a swoon, however, the suburban version of Monica's may supersede the original location. It's a more intimate space with fresher décor and free parking. Best of all, it sits next door to Svalesen's place.
No matter how earnestly gourmands discuss truffle oil or jicama or whatever, the success of a restaurant hinges on the human element. In other words, ambience and service matter more than food. That's why the best restaurants find someone to set the tone, make an outstanding first impression. Comely babes with firm implants work in a pinch, sure. Remembering names and treating each guest with the utmost respect, well, Al Biernat built his namesake restaurant into an institution just by holding real conversations, however brief, and showing great concern for each guest. Hector Garcia employs similar tactics. He bears the same casual dignity as Biernat, putting people at ease without betraying the restaurant's high standards. As he maneuvers through the room he checks on everyone, yet never intrudes. His sincerity is evident when concerns pop up. Complain, and he'll fix it. Or at least listen carefully and provide an explanation. Yes, Hector's serves tremendous food. But Garcia, he distinguishes the place from all 5,000 or 6,000 other restaurants in and around Dallas.
The posts upon which the ceiling beams rest are photo galleries. Digital pictures, shot by Zoom owner Tess Nguyen, have been blown up and pasted onto the curving surfaces: craggy cliffs in a deep blue bay and villagers harvesting salt from a lagoon in Vietnam; frolicking ducks that look suspiciously like future candidates for ped kee mow (drunken duck with basil). Loud colors--coral, aqua--crackle off the walls. The spindly spread of ductwork, tucked in the ceiling like a wasp, eschews black camouflage in favor of Tour de France jersey yellow. Zoom is a Thai-Vietnamese linkage, and the results can be extraordinary. Instead of rubbery and chewy, thord man plah (deep-fried fish cakes) is supple and moist. Tom yum kai (chicken soup with lemongrass) is bright and complexly layered with flavor. Sizzling beef is juicy, rich and bedded down with separate, firm strands of vermicelli and crisp vegetables. Firmly tender flesh seeds the squid with lemongrass and chili. Decent wines, too, like an Oregon Riesling and a New Zealand Mutua Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which works well with most of this food as long as it doesn't zoom in with a blast of chili.

Readers' Pick
Mai's 4812 Bryan St. 214-826-9887
True Thai pierces the mouth like a laser, with cleanly articulated flavors delivered with succinct accents. Chile must strike but not ravage. Citrus must stoke but not reap strangling winces. Fish sauce and lemongrass aromas must arouse but not descend into a choking stink fog. Thai Chili chisels out these flavors and aromas with sharp definition and grace. Pad Thai is delicately woven and firm with a pronounced but not overbearing peanut flavor. Seafood--whether it's shrimp, mussel or scallop--is vigorously plump, firm and delicately sweet. Curry sauces are luxuriously clean, coating the mouth with a wisp of satin. Go ahead, Thai yourself in knots.

Readers' Pick
Royal Thai 5500 Greenville Ave., #608 214-691-3555
NORFOLK, VIRGINIA--People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced today that Teppo chef Teiichi Sakurai, the top sushi maestro in Dallas, has made the animal activist group's list of the world's Top 10 Vegan Villains, faulting the chef's exquisite work with raw, hand-carved fish with triggering a sadistic sushi obsession among Dallas consumers. "Pigs wag their tails when they're happy, and octopuses collect bottle caps, attractive stones and other finds from the ocean floor and decorate their dens with them," said PETA spokeswoman Dawn Cabbage Lodge. "These animals have characteristics that are not unlike the average person's great aunt or even J. Lo. It's horrifying that Sakurai slices his delicious chewy octopus strips with one protruding suction cup rising from the center, subliminally and deceptively playing into the average consumer's Oedipus complex." Compounding the cruelty, Teppo has the cleanest, coolest, most tender raw fish packed onto moist and supple rice wads, Cabbage Lodge said. Uni (sea urchin gonads) is rich and freshly nutty; tuna is silky and tender; salmon sings with briny luster. Plus Teppo serves everything from beef tongue to quail eggs, making it a horror show of uncommon depravity, she added.

Readers' Pick
Blue Fish Multiple locations
Take a flounder, mount horns above its gills, give it a cud to chew on and hoofs to flap and you have Oceanaire, the bloodthirsty steak house of the nation's fisheries. Servings are big and bold. Fish is fresh, nuzzled in 1930s supper-club ocean-liner hyper-swank. At the raw bar, a dozen varieties of oysters rest on the half shell. Crab cakes are big as a fist and brutally sweet. Portions and prices land with a thump. These fish are full of bull, so stuff yourself to the gills.

Readers' Pick
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen Multiple locations
You-Chun is small and simple. Proof: A water cooler with hot and cold spouts dispenses water and tea. The menu is brief. Proof: Under "meat dish" there is just one dish, an exquisite beef rib served sizzling with white, crisp onion shards. Meat is impeccable: juicy, rich, loaded with flavor, easy to pinch with chopsticks. Korean dumpling hot soup is a clean, slightly dark green broth with a strain of pungency that holds yellow strings of egg and strips of seaweed. Dumplings are tender but firm noodle pouches with just the right amount of give. Entrées are served with the usual array of Korean meal components: kimchi (fermented cabbage); salad; pale yellow strands of dried squid dotted with dark sesame seeds. Cold spicy noodle with sashimi is tangled with supple arrowroot pasta with ray meat in a stainless steel bowl. A thin but large half-moon slice of Asian pear and a hard-boiled egg rests on top. You-Chun is hard-core but clean. Culinary adventurers seem to amuse the staff, and the chef travels from the kitchen to offer dining pointers.
Overhearing a Hooter habitué dining with his gourmet wife:
Hooterman: Saltimbocca! What the hell does that mean? Is that one of those boysenberry microbrews from redwoods hippies? Never could wash down a five-wing flappertizer with that dreck. What color are the shorts?
Wife: Sheesh, Burt. It's a classic Italian dish with thinly sliced veal, a dusting of sage and a lacy sheet of prosciutto.
Hooterman: Hey, don't get hoity-toity with me. I've had the gourmet wing dinner before, the one with 20 wings and the bottle of Donny Peron. Tank tops or tubes?
Wife: Look up there on the wall, Burt. It tells you what saltimbocca means: "Jumps in your mouth."
Hooterman: Holy mothering. And you don't get arrested?
Wife: Look how thin the veal is, Burt; like parchment. It's draped in a lush prosciutto slice tucked under a thick blanket of mozzarella. Taste how moist and tender the meat is. And this rich sauce, oh, it's sooo smooth.
Hooterman: Hmmm, sure. Tasty. Needs a dip in ranch, though.
Risotto is a fickle mistress. Demote it from the center of attention, and she will kick you where jewels reign. Stir it improperly, and you will hang your head in a mush of starchy shame. But get it right...Taverna's risotto ai frutti di mare is this: clams, mussels, calamari and shrimp--loads of all of it. All of it is fresh and cleanly sweet, perspiring subtle layers of marine sweat. Coarse grains of rice are creamy yet firm and distinct, well speckled with pepper. Risotto agli scampi e zucchini is good, too. Juicy, briny shrimp dance through pesto stains and thin threads of fried carrot over the top of the risotto mound. They behave like sweet-potato shavings, playing off the sweetness of the shrimp while mimicking the pesto pine nut motif. Genius, that. Don't try this with Uncle Ben's.
Grand Lux is a solemn cathedral--if you don't count the eggs Benedict and the servers scouting the floor with walkie-talkies. But in time these will be reverent, too. After all, chanting, long flowing robes and smoking heirlooms were strictly brothel before they went Notre Dame. Grand Lux is kind of holy, too, with lots of loud yellows, gas lanterns, glorious heavy metal, oversized banquette pews, art deco sconces fitted with cobalt blue balls and the marble tabletops. Marble planks the floors, and gold flakes the ceilings, just like in those Vegas wedding chapels. Outside, a klatsch of angels is mounted on the building's face. They look not toward the heavens, but toward the Tollway. Do you doubt that in a thousand years archaeologists will dig up the Dallas citadel ruins and determine that we worshipped the great trinity Nordstrom, Macy's & Saks and prayed for toll tags to pass into the afterlife?

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