It’s pretty wacky that Dallas has so many new restaurants popping up this time of year, but there are. Here are what I think are two of the very best to open recently. I love to support restaurants where the people involved are as good as the food they make, and these two definitely fit the bill.
Loro is the love child of Uchi chef Tyson Cole and Franklin BBQ’s creator and Pitmaster, Aaron Franklin. The restaurant offers a combination of southeast Asian and Japanese flavors including lemongrass, curry, Thai chilis and miso, and the smoky, rich taste of Texas-style smoked meats. The result is a breathtakingly good menu built for experimenting and sharing.
The spacious restaurant on Haskell Avenue has a modern service style; guests choose their seats, scan the menu, and then order at the bar. I guess it’s a cross between Uchi, where guests are treated like royalty, and Franklin’s BBQ where you wait in line for hours for Texas’ best ‘cue. You return to your table with your drinks and visit stations positioned in the dining room to get your own water, utensils, and to-go containers. Food runners bring out the food as it is ready and offer a well-informed, comprehensive explanation of your dish and tips for maximizing flavor “be sure to squeeze the lime,” for example, over the Texas Sweet Corn to give a pop of acid to the slightly sweet side dish.
This is the perfect place to stretch your culinary repertoire. The menu is filled with proteins you’ll recognize such as salmon, beef, turkey, pork, and sauces you might also recognize – sriracha, hoisin, red onion jam, salsa verde, but they are combined in unexpected ways to create flavors that are contrasting but symbiotic. One dish that comes to mind is the Curried Brisket Rice which arrives in a traditional Asian take-out container, filled with sunny yellow curried rice punctuated with a spicy peanut crunch, sweet/tart currants, and chunks of crusty brisket. Mix it all up and inhale it.
The restaurant has a full bar and cool cocktails, literally. The Thai Watermelon Punch with gin, watermelon, lime, and chili was refreshing on a hot summer night. Loro also offers boozy slushees, a Tex-sian beer menu that offers a nice selection of local and imported beers, including False Idol from North Richland Hills and Japan’s Sapporo and wines by the glass (some on tap) and bottle.
It’s unusual for two spectacularly successful and award-winning chefs to collaborate in the way Cole and Franklin have with Loro, and we are all the beneficiaries of their friendship. Loro debuted in Austin and will open its third location in Houston later this year.
Roots Southern Table Celebrity Chef Tiffany Derry has opened her long-awaited full-service restaurant, Roots Southern Table, and it’s worth heading to Farmer’s Branch for it. Tiffany might be best-known for her recurring roles on Top Chef, Top Chef Junior, and Bar Rescue, but those who have followed her culinary career have been waiting for this restaurant to open since she closed her four-star restaurant Private/Social several years ago. In the meantime, she has been traveling to advocate for social justice and food access and lobbying for sustainable and healthy food policies. She also spent a few months in her hometown of Beaumont feeding thousands of folks after Hurricane Harvey. She’s an extremely talented chef and an even better person.
The name Roots Southern Table perfectly explains the concept. Tiffany’s roots in southeast Texas and Louisiana and the generations of families together at the table, eating meals created with love from generational recipes, some of which appear on the Roots Southern Table Menu.
You’ll recognize the names of southern dishes here: shrimp and grits, gumbo, cornbread, but these dishes are prepared just a bit differently. The shrimp and grits resemble a hushpuppy and are lightly fried, so fluffy and light. Tiffany’s “My Mother’s Gumbo” is just like my late father’s gumbo, the color of oxidized iron, not the black coffee-colored soup you get in Cajun restaurants. It’s filled with shrimp and sausage and is the best gumbo you can get in North Texas.
Still working with southern ingredients and flavors, these dishes were among my favorites and were refined and elevated: Texas Peaches with Steen’s vinegar, toasted pecans, prosciutto, crème fraiche and greens, sea scallops with Texas Corn Ravioli, halibut with lima beans, okra and roasted Ttomato and the vegetarian Grilled Hen of The Woods mushrooms with creamed corn, turnips, and basil.
The restaurant has a full bar with a very photogenic mixologist making very photogenic drinks and a fabulous wine list that includes my fave, a Chassagne-Montrachet, a white burgundy that would be the perfect accompaniment to most everything on the menu.
Roots Southern Table is in Farmer’s Branch, east of I-35 off at The Shops at Mustang Station, an up-and-coming redevelopment that includes a craft brewery. Reservations are highly suggested and Roots Southern Table is only open for dinner right now.
Restaurant Week officially starts Monday, August 9, though some restaurants are offering specials now. Go here to view the complete list of participating restaurants.
Hatch Chile season is here and you’ll see the full array of Hatch Chile items at Central Market and other restaurants across town. We would love to know what everyone’s favorite Hatch Chile item or recipe is, please share in the comments.