Molecular Gastronomy Finally Makes Quantum Leap to Dallas

As a remarkable number of press releases this month have pointed out, molecular gastronomy has made its way to Dallas. Stephen Pyles, who "detests the words" molecular gastronomy, is planning to trot out a few mad science techniques for a new tasting menu debuting in August; Urban Crust is serving nitrogen cocktails to celebrate its July 25 anniversary and -- as City of Ate's own Steven Doyle told us -- J. Chastain's now whipping up cotton candy garnishes at The Second Floor.

Molecular gastronomy isn't exactly new. The cooking methods associated with such culinary big shots as Ferrna Adria and Wylie Dufresne long ago entered the fine-dining diaspora, making it possible to munch on bacon cotton candy in Charleston and sample olive oil jam cookies in the tiny town of Chilhowie, Virginia. Since 2008, when experimental chef Richard Blais finished second on Top Chef, nitrogen's become a standard item in most serious chefs' tool kits.

So why did it take molecular gastronomy so long to get here?

"Welcome to conservative Dallas," Pyles says with a laugh when I ask him.

Pyles said he wasn't aware of any other local restaurants trying out the techniques grouped under the "molecular gastronomy" heading until this year. "People just get freaked out when they hear molecular gastronomy," he says.

So, Pyles says, he sat out the molecular gastronomy craze, opting instead to adopt its most successful techniques after they'd been tested by more faddish chefs elsewhere.

"At these other restaurants, they're all doing these little tricked-out things, but it's really about the ingredients," he says. "It's more about the science of it. I just want people to come and have fun."

Bijoux's Scott Gottlich, who helped develop The Second Floor menu, agrees Dallas wasn't the right venue for beta testing molecular gastronomy.

"We really wanted to go about it in the right way," he says. "We wanted to find the right situation to put these techniques in play. At Bijoux, to do tomato and mozzarella spheres, it makes perfect sense."

Gottlich says he's been struck by the mainstreaming of molecular gastronomy in other cities: While cooking at an out-of-town event last year, he recalls, "This guy was like, 'I've got some soy lecithin in my bag.' That didn't happen 10 years ago." Still, he isn't worried that molecular gastronomy's become passé.

"Pork belly was a fad, and it's still delicious," he says. "Like anything else, if it tastes good, people are going to enjoy it. That's what this is all about, creating memories."

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