Wild Salsa Opens For Lunch With a Polished Look and Some High-Priced Tamales

Wild Salsa, Dallas Restaurant Group's latest addition to Dallas' upscale Mexican scene, opened for lunch yesterday, doling out chips, salsa and pricey tamales to hungry downtowners.

I stopped in just as a light lunch crowd began to ebb. There were three of us at the cement bar, and a handful in the dining room surrounded by rough-hewn lumber with exposed nails and quirky art based on Mexican sugar skulls. Colorful beads draped from the ceiling played off the rustic wood seating.

Chips and salsa arrived gratis.The thin, fried tortillas glistened with oil and smacked of salt, ready to scoop up a wickedly tart tomatillo salsa.

Would you like a tamale? That will be twelve dollars please. The most I've ever paid for a cake made of corn. More than a Komali tamale (which is fun to say), chef Kelly Hightower's version is probably pushing the high-end tamale pricing envelope.

To be fair, my carnitas tamale was hefty, but "carnitas" seemed like a misnomer. The crusty, chewy bits I normally associate with the lard-fried pork steamed away inside the leaf-wrapped parcel. Any citrus notes were pummeled by a spicy guajillo sauce. It seemed more like braised pork pork than anything. Still, the tamale was light, not too laden with lard, and agreeable.

The black-bean cakes hide the chorizo's texture but not its garlicky, spicy flavor. The lightly mashed beans, formed into cakes and served with an arugula salad, make for a filling side-dish. In a jicama salad, the bulbous root vegetable was cut into matchsticks with mango, red pepper and shredded cabbage. A sweet dressing had a faint whisper of cumin that gave the crunchy jicama an earthy edge.

Wild Salsa has a polished look and food that shows promise. If you've checked it out, let us know what you think.

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