Two Dallas restaurants have made a new "best" list, and that includes a comfort-food spot opened by chef Stephan Pyles. On Esquire magazine's list of Best New Restaurants 2013 are Pyles' Stampede 66 and John Tesar's seafood spot Spoon.
There are 18 restaurants on the list, and food writer John Mariani covers a lot of ground, both philosophically and geographically. One notable thing about his lists versus others in national magazines is that he is not as coast-centric nor as dismissive of the flyover states. He thoroughly covers the South, hitting South Carolina, Nashville, Atlanta and New Orleans.
About Spoon, which comes in at No. 15, he says that chef John Tesar bucks a trend in which "hard-won mastery of cuisine is fading," calling it "the most exciting new seafood restaurant in America since New York's Marea opened four years ago."
Tesar's restraint shines in dishes like raw yellowtail sweetened by chunks of Texas ruby-red grapefruit and roasted beets, and Singapore-style chile lobster on Texas toast. His classic French training shows in the intensity of his red-wine reduction with a swordfish steak in a wild-mushroom crust. His recipe for potato gnocchi with jumbo lump crabmeat and black-truffle essence should be required reading at every culinary school.
He praises its "coalescence of great, innovative food and sophisticated, casual ambience," describing it as "a totem of fine dining in Texas right now."
For Stampede, ranked No. 16, he acknowledges chef Stephan Pyles' 30-year history, dating back to his pioneering restaurant Routh Street Cafe. Mariani praises Pyles' "sublimation of down-home cooking into great cuisine" and admires Stampede 66's nifty gewgaws:
Pyles has culled all he truly loves about the old and new traditions of his home state and brought them to vivid life in a hugely entertaining restaurant. Video screens project rodeo scenes and Texas wit (Molly Ivins: "Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention") alongside sculptures by western artists and a wondrous collection of longhorns.
Favorite dishes include fried chicken with buttermilk biscuits and mashed-potato tots; beef brisket with potato salad; and all of the desserts, from butterscotch pudding with salted caramel to sweet-corn icebox pie to chocolate custard to an ice cream float with real-sugar Dr Pepper. "Anyone who can't wrap his arms around this food is likely without a pulse," Mariani writes.