Kirin Court
In Dallas, the quest for good Chinese food is not only about grub quality; it embraces clean fragrant ambiance and graciously attentive service too. Many, if not most, Chinese restaurants skirt the service part. But not at Kirin Court, a second-story restaurant nearly as big as a football field with a burbling tank filled with live crustaceans on one end and a stage often filled with live entertainment on the other (sometimes Vietnamese rock-and-roll). But it's best just to eat. Graze from assorted clay pots and fried-rice dishes. Or chew delicious dim sum--from tasty chicken feet to steamed buns with a molten core of barbecued pork--delivered from passing carts. And for those with tongues finely tuned to exotica, pluck nourishment from double-boiled shark fin soup, braised sea cucumbers with black mushroom or crispy fried pig intestine. Does the thought of such culinary adventures set the gullet butterflies a-fluttering? Then dampen them with a tasty, crispy roasted squab. Crunch, crunch.
What's there to say about Stephan Pyles? Much and little, all at the same time. He demonstrated his paranormal facility with flavors at Routh Street Caf, his imaginative wittiness at Star Canyon, his ability to weave and float a pan-American mesh at AquaKnox and his skill at panning commercial karats with his work with Carlson Restaurants, Dragonfly and the Gaylord. With Stephan Pyles restaurant, the man is not merely back, he is transmogrified. After years absorbing influences and steeping in ideas, Pyles is unleashing a torrent of interpretations never savored before in Dallas--maybe anywhere. From his distinctive ceviches (halibut, scallop, hamachi, bronzini) posted in martini-esque display bowls, to his seared foie gras "Tacu Tacu" with lentils and bananas, to his poblano-asiago soup with scallops salpicn and smoked tomato foam, to his coriander-cured rack of lamb, the food doesn't stun the senses via an array of "aggressive, bold" flavors, as Pyles contends. Rather it gives pause because of the imaginative way Pyles applies his ruthless finesse to these vigorous tastes and aromas. Pyles has never discarded his West Texas roots (the dining room is a panoply of stone and sunset hues with chandeliers mimicking tumbleweeds). Rather, he has taken his Texas rootstock and grafted a careful parsing of every relevant flavor and aroma he has ever come across, re-engineering it with that distinctive Pyles craft. We're lucky his Texas roots exert enough force to keep him fixed in Dallas' orbit.
What kind of a mad chef would do Iranian osetra caviar on chiboust of Yukon potato and Maine lobster with green apple sorbet? Or beef tenderloin with foie gras Rossini with Himalayan truffle potato marble? Poached lobster with chlorophyll tart? All disgorged from a glass jewel-box display kitchen into a dining room nipped and tucked with ultra-suede, exotic wood and Limoges china? If you guessed Avner Samuel, you ain't heavy, just rich. In the annals of fine, fine dining, nothing surpasses Aurora, outside of a set of Michelin stars. You'll know this when Aurora kicks in; when the overbearingly self-important menu prose congeals on the tip of your tongue in a surging rush of paroxysmal glee. Shed a tear of joy. Feel the heat flashes. Grip the smelling salts. Catch your breath. Twitch. Repeat. Just make sure you don't use up all of the smelling salts before the check arrives.
Pappas Brothers Steakhouse
Just as Pappas Bros. was cleaving its way into the North Texas steak house storm, the Steakhouse ran a series of sonically sensual radio ads. Its dry-aged steaks splintered silence with the sputtering hiss of rendering beef fat. Cigar tips kindled with the scratch and pffft of a stick match. Cognacs sloshed in clanking crystal. Much of that swirled down the drain of Dallas history--the cigar part, anyway. The cognac isn't gone, but it isn't the same without a heady Partagas fume. The steak, however, remains: rich, silky, seasoned simply but with mind-bending effectiveness, its nutty dry-aged aftertaste lingering long enough to be gently sluiced away by a strapping, gripping Cabernet or Barolo. Service, too, is seamlessly orchestrated. Notice how the valet plucks the ticket stub from your windshield as he hands you the keys. Prime stuff, that.
Dairy-Ette
You can season french fries to death or smother them in pounds of ketchup and come away with a satisfying hunk of cooked taters, but there's something to be said for the perfect car fry. It always happens: You grab an order to go and can't wait to start in on those fries, their aroma filling your mid-sized sedan with delicious temptation. But ketchup isn't gonna happen during your drive, and too much seasoning results in a messy steering wheel. What's a fry purist on the go to do? Grab 'em from the Dairy-ette, where the fries' delicious balance between crispiness and plumpness is unrivaled--not soggy, not overcooked. Makes sense that the Dairy-ette has the car fry down; after all, they're one of the few joints left that comes right to your car window to serve 'em up. Oh, they'll hook a shelf to your car window and offer ketchup...but you won't need it for the fries.

Best Three-Course Lunch for Less Than $10

East Wind

East Wind Quadrangle
This spot in the Quadrangle is a stylish room with linen tablecloths and napkins and fresh flowers. It's also got one of the best cheap three-course lunches in town: soup or salad, an entre and dessert for $9.95. Entres include sushi or sashimi boxes, stir fry and big vermicelli bowls, mounded with charbroiled chicken, pork, beef or shrimp and topped with crushed peanuts and cilantro. It's all fresh, healthy and well-presented. And did we say cheap, cheap, cheap?

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of