Food News

No, Our Food Critic Does Not Want to Talk About Salt Bae’s New Dallas Steakhouse

The home of Nusr-Et Dallas at 1900 N. Pearl St. in downtown Dallas.
Taylor Adams
The home of Nusr-Et Dallas at 1900 N. Pearl St. in downtown Dallas.
OK, fine: Downtown Dallas has a new steakhouse, Nusr-Et, which charges up to $1,000 to grill you a steak and then theatrically bounce too much salt off somebody’s body and onto your meal. Are you happy?

Nusr-Et is a global chain of 18 ultra-expensive steakhouses in cities like New York, Dubai and Istanbul, which has been greeted with hostility wherever it goes, and not just for the prices. But about those prices: The cheeseburger is $30, steak “spaghetti” is $80, vegetable sides are all $19 and a piece of baklava for dessert is $25. A mustard-marinated beef tenderloin runs $140, and the tomahawk rib-eye, which is called #SALTBAE, is $275.

As if that isn’t enough, customers in Miami allege that staff upcharged them to $1,000 gold-wrapped steaks without their permission. The Miami Herald reports that the location has called police over a dozen times on customers disputing their bills. Another guest was more satisfied: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, whose visit sparked international outrage.

City authorities temporarily shut down the Boston location for opening without a health permit, blocking two fire exits and ignoring COVID-19 protocols. Two different restaurants in the group have faced wage theft lawsuits, settling one for $230,000. This brand-new Dallas location already faces legal action over unpaid bills to contractors. Oh, and the food apparently is uneven: New York Times critic Pete Wells described “terrific” steaks but “awful” mashed potatoes and cocktails that tasted burnt, while BuzzFeed’s Scaachi Koul had a burger that “oozes greasy tears” and then had diarrhea.

The whole chain is built on the premise that there is a guy who does a thing, and you can Instagram a picture of the guy doing the thing. The thing is putting salt on food in a flamboyant manner. The guy is Nusret Gökçe, nicknamed Salt Bae, a Turkish chef and butcher who became a meme for his salting technique and has been cashing in ever since.

With 18 locations and only one guy, there is at best a 5.6% chance you will see the guy do the thing.

If I sound annoyed, then I’m getting my point across. As a Turkish-American food writer, I feel protective toward people who share my heritage. I just wish they would stop acting like giant tools. Gökçe could be the biggest embarrassment to Turkish-Americans since Mehmet Oz joined the Trump administration. In fact, there aren’t a lot of us out there being famous and good. It’s pretty much just Enes Kanter and D’Arcy Carden. Ugh, now I’m sad.

Sorry. Want to talk about the menu at Nusr-Et? Let’s talk about the menu, which isn’t posted online yet, certainly not with prices, but has made its way onto Facebook.

“We are proud to announce that 99% of our meat selections are highly marbled authentic wagyu beef sourced from the top wagyu producers from around the world [sic],” the menu reads. OK, but which producers? Almost every Dallas steakhouse has been naming ranches and farms for years. And what about the other 1%? How do you know if your steak is one of the second-class cuts slipping through?

What could make a mashed potato worth $19?

My biggest question concerns the sautéed broccoli, described thus: “The sauce consists of shell fish and gluten [sic].” On broccoli? I’m guessing that’s a sauce of butter, flour and shrimp stock. If you go, let me know.

Also: Please don’t go. The list of Nusr-Et locations is a list of places around the world where it is especially easy to part fools from their money. Dallas makes perfect sense for them.

We’re in the middle of a pandemic that threatens to destroy every small, locally owned business we love. We could support them, or spend $19 on a potato. The pandemic has killed more than 2.5 million people around the world. Did Gökçe wear a protective face mask while he threw salt at Dallasites’ food this weekend? You get one guess.

Tantuni Mediterranean Grill, in Richardson, is a very good Turkish restaurant with delicious kebabs, lamb chops and, for $6, baklava.

Nusr-Et, 1900 N. Pearl St.