From the mind behind Dallas Farmers Market favorites 8 Cloves and Laili comes chef Afifa Nayeb’s first full-service concept. Âme, now open in Bishop Arts District, offers powerful, flavorful Indian dishes by way of French cooking techniques.
Nayeb is one of the founders of The Nayeb Group, a Dallas-based real estate company. She has always had a passion for the food and hospitality industry, so nine years ago she decided to study at Le Cordon Bleu, where she found joy in cooking with French techniques.
“My actual degree is for pastry and, at that level, we learn all of the French techniques,” Afifa says. “I think [Âme] will be a very good marriage of two cuisines.”
To open Âme, Nayeb partnered with her daughter Sabrina, who has been helping her handle operations, branding and team building. When choosing a location, they wanted a place with character and charm. They are operating out of the space previously occupied by Hattie’s.
“Throughout Dallas,” Sabrina says, “I feel like Bishop Arts is the one area that everyone has kind of stuck true to who they are and what they want their restaurant concept to be … and with the diversity, the culture, the environment and community, it all makes sense.”
Upon entry, guests of Âme will find a large bar with French-inspired decor. Part of the fun is waiting to be seated and sipping cocktails. Lighter, refreshing cocktails include the blackberry spritz, a sweet blend of Aperol, lemon, blackberries and prosecco ($15). The thick, creamy raspberry lassi, made with Citadelle Gin, lime, raspberry, yogurt and club soda is also a great cocktail to start with ($15).
The dining room contains a simple design, however, there is a small section in which the wall is bedecked with Indian playing cards. French and Indian music plays throughout the restaurant, creating the feeling that one is on an excursion.
The chaat, a blend of chickpeas, onions and yogurt, makes for a great appetizer ($16). Bold in flavor yet thick and spreadable in texture, it’s a small taste of the spices you’ll experience throughout your meal. Lighter, vegetarian-friendly appetizers include the paneer salad, made with paneer, Campari tomato and beets, flavored with oregano, mint, olive oil and lemon ($15).
The entrees are designed to be shared and are best when paired with one of Âme’s grain and lentil plates. The anari chicken ($27), flavored with ginger, chili and fenugreek, topped with pomegranate seeds and garnished with yogurt, pairs delightfully with the emerald pilaf ($22), a rice plate blended with spinach, kale, cilantro, parsley and serrano.
Yes, they have cashew chicken tikka, a favorite Indian dish among Americans, but Afifa has put her own spin on it.
“Chicken tikka masala is, I think, the most popular Indian dish and one everyone is familiar with that,” Nayeb says. "But chicken tikka comes in two different [forms]. One is called chicken tikka and it comes dry tandoor style, but chicken tikka masala is the curry style, with sauce. So we manipulated both in one plate. We're going to take the chicken tikka plate and drizzle the sauce around the plate. It’s kind of like two entrees in one.”
After one consumes a symphony of spices and seasoning throughout dinner, the pistachio kulfi, a frozen sweet cream custard, is the perfect dessert to cool off your palate ($9).
Before you leave, you’ll want to end the night in the Elephant Room, a Champagne and cocktail lounge encased in green velvet curtains, inspired by Sabrina’s European travels. With community-style seating, the Elephant Room encourages libations among friends and conversations among strangers.
“When I studied abroad in Paris, a lot of my friends wanted to go clubbing,” Sabrina says. “I was really interested in the craft cocktail scene. I went to this one bar, it was called Prescription, and it just blew me away with how much detail every single one of the bartenders was putting behind each cocktail. And that's really stuck with me throughout the years. It was very dark and candle-lit. And the chandeliers aspects brought that royalty touch and European [style] to the room.”
Âme fits right into the Bishop Arts District, and you’ll want to set aside a few hours to get the full experience. The exchange of cultures can be felt throughout the space, along with a feeling of familiarity, all coming down to the mother-daughter duo.
“It's been a great experience working together,” Sabrina says. “And we've had our ups and downs. But I definitely can come out of this saying that I'm grateful for the great life my mom has given me.”
Âme, 418 N Bishop Ave (Bishop Arts District), Open for dinner 5-10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 5-9 p.m. Sunday, and Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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