Category Archives: Dinner Review

Cook Hall Fall Menu Tasting

Cook Hall, located at the W’s Dallas-Victory hotel- has rolled out a new menu for the fall, and I was lucky enough to attend a tasting to see what they have in store for the season. In case you are unfamiliar, Cook Hall is an American gastropub, with a heavy emphasis on craft cocktails, craft beers (including some nice local offerings), and thoughtful wine selections. Their menu places a heavy emphasis on both small plates and family style dining options that encourage sharing and socializing.

I had the opportunity to try two of their craft cocktail offerings. Holy. Moly. Sooooo, so Good. It was really difficult to pick a favorite, but they really weren’t playing fair with their first offering, the Garden Smash (Nolet’s gin, cilantro, Fresno chili, and lime, $12). I’m pretty sure they must’ve known I was coming, because this drink was RIGHT up my alley. The Garden Smash was delightfully fresh tasting, and so interesting, with a bevy of strong, distinctive flavors playing off of each other in this zippy little cocktail. Apparently I do not stand alone in my enthusiasm for this drink, as I was informed the Garden Smash is their #1 seller.

Garden Smash

 

Next up was the Autumn Giant (Plymouth gin, Green Chartreuse, St. Germain, Lemon Juice, & Simple Syrup, $12). I really love gin drinks, so again, this was not a tough sell for me. The flavors in this cocktail were so unique, words don’t come easy to describe it. Sweet, but not too sweet, with an interesting kick. Totally refreshing, and would definitely order it again.

Autumn Giant

I was way sad our super-tasty cocktail hour was over, that is, until they began parading out our starters (“snacks,” per the Cook Hall menu). We sampled a small plate featuring Pecorino, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto and Pistachios ($9) which consisted of sourdough toasts accompanied by herbed goat cheese, Asian pears, and crushed pistachios; this tasty plate would be a great, light dish for sharing. Next was the Chicken Liver Mousse, and … my fellow diners thought this was great – I mean, they were really blown away by it … and moreover, I am apparently a 6 year old child at heart because I just can’t, y’all. I just can’t.

Moving on…to maybe one of my very favorite dishes I sampled all night … the Butternut Squash Soup with Oyster Mushrooms ($8). So-stinking-good, y’all. This soup was incredibly decadent and creamy, drizzled with a fresh pesto garnish, and chock full of delicate oyster mushrooms that added a seriously tasty element of surprise to this rich fall favorite. Basically, this soup alone is reason enough for me to come back.

Oktoberfest and Butternut Squash Soup

On to the entrees (“Plates”!). First, let me tell you about my very fav, the Crispy Sea Bass, served with roasted Brussels sprouts, heirloom carrots, and spiced apple jus (heh) ($28). This was one of those dishes that made me want to reenact the whole When Harry Met Sally Katz’s deli scene. My eyes rolled back in my head with every bite. Chef Nicholas Jimenez’s creative spin on this fish dish incorporates bold, surprising flavors, like horseradish and mint- which were perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the apple. I loved this unexpected dish.

 

Honorable mentions are rewarded to the ridiculously delicious Fresh Tagliatelle, with smoked bacon, tomato, jalapeño, and arugula ($19). I have to admit that I’m generally not a big bacon fan (I know, I’m barely human), but the smoky-spicy-bitter trifecta  (aka bacon-japs-arugula) really rang my bell. 10/10, would get again.

TagliatelleSeaBassScallopsShrimp

Also sampled:

  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich – served on a ciabatta roll (baked by the delicious  Empire Baking Company in Dallas) with spiced fig jam, goat cheese, and arugula ($13); the sweet fig spread and delicious, fresh bread made this sandwich just special.
  • Seared Shrimp – served atop warm lentils, with Linguica sausage ($24); holy crap, this was buttery and decadent. I PROMISE YOU, you have never had lentils this good.
  • Caramelized Beef Tenderloin – with a red wine miso glaze & potato gratin ($38); tender and flavorful tenderloin, with creamy, cheesy, potato-y goodness.
  • Seared Scallops – in a soy yuzu broth, served top spaghetti squash ($26); surprising ingredients in the broth (burnt popcorn and Thai chiles) gave this dish a uniquely interesting kick.

Tenderloin

PSA: If you don’t save room for dessert at Cook Hall, you’re doing it wrong. My favorite offering of the evening was the Autumn Cheesecake, decked out in a Riesling gelee and a crown of poached figs ($8); decadent ricotta cheese and a moist, cinnamon graham cracker crust set this cheesecake apart from the ordinary, and, the Riesling gelee … I mean, really? Need I say more? Also delicious were the S’mores with Graham Cracker Ice Cream ($8); house-made marshmallows? Yes please. And finally, the Warm Spiced Pear Crumble, paired with cinnamon ice cream ($7), which is basically like autumn in your mouth. I also want to go ahead and say that they serve up an amazing cappuccino ($5).

Cheesecake

Cook Hall features a multitude of very nice happy hour specials and signature events. For your consideration:

  • Check out Cook Hall’s 5@5 menu, featuring 5 cocktails and 5 snacks available for $5, at, you guessed it, 5 PM.
  • Live music and $5 draft beers are featured from 9:00-12:00 on Thursday evenings. Check out the live music schedule, here
  • Cook Hall features a bi-monthly beer dinner; I can attest that October’s was amazing (and you’ll get to hear all about it, soon! Stay tuned…).Their next beer dinner is scheduled for early December. Check back here for more details, at a later date.
  • Pro tip: You know how parking is like, really, really expensive for Mavs games/Stars games/concerts at the AAC? All you have to do is purchase one (delicious!) entree, and Cook Hall will hook you up with FREE PARKING during events, friends. Don’t forget to have your ticket validated- and don’t forget to tip your valet 😉
  • Brunch is offered on Saturday and Sunday, from 11:00-3:00.

Additional Info:

Cook Hall Dallas at the W DALLAS – VICTORY
cookhalldallas.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
2440 Victory Park Lane, Dallas (Victory Park)
214.397.4111

Mon – Thurs. 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM
Fri/ Sat. 11:30 AM – 11:00 PM
Sun. 11:30 AM – 9:00 PM
Reservations available online at Cook Hall Dallas, or via Opentable

 

Pegaso Mexican Diner- Fort Worth

Last week I was privileged to attend a media dinner at a new Tex-Mex restaurant in Bluebonnet Circle, Pegaso Mexican Diner. The circle has made a huge turn around since the days of the Qui and Tiff and Andi’s. Now the circle is full of great restaurants and retail, and Pegaso is a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.

Pegaso is set up like Freebirds or Chipotle where you go through a line to build your plate. They also offer a few platters were everything is already chosen for you want a quick decision. The basics of the menu are: enchilada plates, burritos, burrito bowls, salad bowls, and street tacos. With almost everything, you pick your filling, sauce, and sides. My first experience was awesome because I was able to try a lot of the menu in small portions. I kept thinking about how good the food during the rest of my week that I went back a few days later for my weekend Mexican food fix. Going through the line for the first time was somewhat overwhelming with all of the choices. It was safe to say that I’m pretty sure I would not have been disappointed with anything I would have chosen. The simple things like the rice and refried beans are amazing. The food is such high quality (this is nothing like Taco Bell fast food).

Eventually they will be offering late night on weekends as well as breakfast.

I’ll admit it … I’m a queso fanatic. For that reason, I deem myself qualified to say that their queso blanco was amazing. My other top recommendations are the enchilada platter with chicken tinga, chipotle crema, vegan cilantro rice, and pinto refried beans. One of the best sides I have tried is the Spicy Mexican Elote (a corn dish with chipotle crema, mayonnaise, and queso fresco). This dish has a great mix of sweet and spicy flavors.

So awesome food, now what about the drinks? Yes, this is considered “fast casual”, but the margaritas are hand shaken using 100% agave Tequila (your choice of Silver, Reposado, or Anejo). I was a big fan of the skinny margarita on the rocks ($8.50). The cucumber margarita on the rocks ($10.00) was a refreshing twist on a traditional margarita and the cucumber mellowed out the sweetness.

Pegaso also offers a selection of domestic ($2.95), imported ($3.75), and local ($4.25) bottles. (I feel that I shouldn’t have to say that you can’t get the drinks to go … but I’ll err on the side of safety.)

All of the items at Pegaso are made with high quality ingredients and sustainable harvested produce when possible. They use healthy fats such as Canola oil in their fryer as well as accommodate any vegan request that is possible. This is a family-friendly restaurant with a very reasonably priced kids menu ($3.75).

PEGASO MEXICAN DINER
3516 Bluebonnet Circle
Fort Worth, Texas 76109
Website | Facebook

Hours:
Tuesday-Thursday: 11am- 9pm
Friday- Saturday: 11am- 11pm
Sunday: 11am- 9pm
CLOSED MONDAY

Happy Hour: Tuesday-Friday 4-6:30 ($1 off all alcoholic drinks)

*TCU students receive a 10% discount with ID.

Keeping it LOCL at NYLO Plano

Chances are, you may already be familiar with NYLO Hotels’ Southside  property; after all, the hotel is home to SODA Bar, NYLO’s trendy rooftop watering hole which boasts what is arguably one of the city’s best views of THE BEST SKYLINE IN THE WORLD (Nice try, Chicago. Better luck next time). Here is something you may not realize: The original NYLO hotel, which opened its doors in 2007, is located just up the road, in Plano. You may find yourself wondering: In the absence of the illustrious SODA Bar, what does Southside’s big bro to the north have to offer us suburbanites?  Let me assure, the answer to this question is a resounding, “Plenty!”

NYLO PlanoI was lucky enough to receive an invitation to sample the new menu at NYLO’s restaurant and lounge, LOCL. Before I get into the highlights of the evening (food and booze, duh), I would be remiss in not mentioning how hip and unique this NYLO property truly is. Upon entering the lobby, I forgot that I was in Plano after about two seconds. The decor is modern minimalist, with dim lighting and geometric shapes and colors that give the lobby an art deco feel (hello, suspended egg chair). LOCL is NYLO’s indoor restaurant and lounge area, where the minimalist vibe continues, as evidenced by polished concrete floors and exposed ducting. Polished silver antlers adorn the chandeliers, giving you a subtle reminder that you are, in fact, still in Texas. The LOCL menu tasting event took place outside, on NYLO’s amazing terrace. I’m not really sure what NYLO could have done to make their courtyard (read: event space) any more awesome. The courtyard features a good-sized gazebo with a bar area, and beyond that lies a sleek lap pool, flanked with a giant, kick-ass fireplace. Just beyond the terrace, a large event tent beckons you to partake in a night of clumsy, drunken dancing at a wedding or office Christmas party.

NYLO PlanoNow, onto LOCL. I had the opportunity to sample four of LOCL’s fresh and inventive cocktails during this event:

  • First, my personal favorite, the “Grapefruitini” (Deep Eddy Ruby Red vodka, Cointreau, grapefruit juice, sugar rim, $12); The grapefruit juice in this tart and tangy cocktail made all the difference in the world; it tasted very fresh, and really made this drink pop. Riiiight up my alley. Yum.
  • NYLO Tini
    NYLO Tini

    The signature “NYLO Tini” (Tito’s vodka, pomegranate liquer, triple sec, pineapple juice, presecco, $12); Pomegranate lovers, this one is for you. The pom this drink brings to the table is not subtle!

  • The “Basil Lemondrop” (Tito’s Vodka, Cointreau, fresh lemon juice, fresh basil, sugar rim, $12); fresh and lovely, sweet with a hint of basil.
  • The “Southern Lady” (Tito’s, creme de cassis, triple sec, fresh lime juice, cranberry juice, pineapple, juice, prosecco, $12); Pineapple lovers, apply here. Aptly named, this drink was sweet and bubbly.

I did not fully appreciate when I arrived at this event how badly I would want to put on my stretchy pants by the end of the evening. I was fortunate enough to sample a LARGE selection of fun and creative dishes from LOCL’s newly revamped menu.

photo 1 (14)General Manager Joe Massar (a most gracious host, I might add) explained that Chef Anthony “Tony” Knight set forth to “step outside the box,” regarding the marriage of flavors and textures in his menu additions. An excellent example of this would be my favorite of the four appetizers we sampled, the “Green Apple Guac“. This was pretty much exactly what it sounds like: your traditional guacamole recipe, blended with small bits of crisp green apple. This at-first surprising flavor combination lent itself to a marriage of zesty and sweet; crunchy and creamy. In addition to the expected side of traditional corn tortilla chips, the guac was served with an assortment of fresh veggie slices, and yes, crisp green apple slices. This appetizer seemed to be a crowd favorite. Other tasty starters, or “Big Boards,” if you will, included “Shrimp Summer Rolls” with cashew cucumber sauce, the fresh and tasty “Ode to Acapulco Shrimp Cocktail” with zesty tomato and avocado, and “The Big Cheese,” a beautiful cheeseboard, featuring 5 farmstead cheeses, local honeycomb, dried fruit, and nutty bread (all “Big Boards” are $12 and feed 3-4 people). 

photo 2 (11)We sampled three salads, including my personal preference, the gorgeous “Chop Chop,” which consisted of baby kale, mountains of crunchy vegetables, chopped egg, and a light, fresh vinegar based dressing. Fresh mint really popped in this salad. Also delicious were the “Toasted Haloumi Cheese” salad, featuring arugula, two kinds of tomatoes, generous chunks of cheese, and a hint of mint, and the “NYLO Caeser,“a deconstructed take on the traditional Caeser  featuring parmesan cheese, anchovy filets, and DEEP FRIED ARTICHOKE HEARTS…yes, you read that right (All salads are $9; salads are large enough to share).

Flank Steak
Flank Steak

Following the appetizer and salad courses, I felt my food coma coming on…and that’s when the entrees made their appearance. The stars of the show were the “Peppered Flank Steak,” ($12) featuring tender strips of marinated beef seared to a lovely medium temperature accompanied by some delicious mushrooms that were definitely not of this earth, and the “Dragon’s Breath Burger,” ($9) featuring melty white cheddar, hot horseradish, house mustard, and chopped onion; juicy and tender, this burger definitely lived up to its name…and, the hand-cut French fries ($6) that accompanied it may have brought a little tear of joy to my eye. Also sampled were the “Wicked Garlic-ky Chicken,” ($12)

Mahi Mahi
Mahi Mahi

served with feta tzatziki and warm pita, “Crab Fried Rice,” ($12) featuring jasmine rice, gulf crab, and basil, and the “Market White Fish,” ($12) which on this particular evening consisted of a lovely curried mahi mahi creation served atop steamed banana leaves with assorted spring vegetables. Additionally, we were treated to delicious “Texas Beer Battered Zucchini Sticks,” ($6) served with a spicy romesco dip, and our “Something Green” ($6) for the evening, crisp, garlicky broccoli rabe, which was perfectly prepared.

Finally, dessert. I felt like a real American Hero at this point in the evening, sacrificing my personal comfort and future good health in the name of food and beverage blogging. The “Blueberry Crisp,” and the “Chocolate Mousse”  (dessert prices and availability may vary) we sampled were a perfect, sweet ending to this immensely enjoyable event

In conclusion, I’m sold; NYLO Plano is a great spot for locals and visitors alike to sit back and enjoy a tasty cocktail and a delicious meal. Do yourself a favor and check out their new menu, soon.

Here’s the scoop on NYLO’s happy hour: Drink specials and promotions rotate on a daily basis, and the schedule changes month to month. Friday evenings feature live musical entertainment. Be sure to check out their website for happy hour times/prices and entertainment schedule. Here is the scoop for October:

October 2014 Happy Hour/ Live Entertainment Schedule

NYLO PLANO AT LEGACY
972.624.6990
8201 Preston Rd, Plano, TX 75024
Website | Facebook

LOCL Restaurant & Lounge
Reservations are not required; walk-ins welcomed

Breakfast:
Monday-Friday | 6am-10:30am
Saturday & Sunday | 8am-12pm
Lunch/Dinner:
Monday-Thursday + Sunday | 10:30am-10pm
Saturday | 10:30am-12am
LOCL Bar:
Sunday-Thursday | 11am-12am
Friday & Saturday | 11am-1am

Breakfast Menu | Lunch/Dinner Menu

Eat Creative: An Evening at Roy’s Restaurant in Plano

20140730_183218
The Pacific Rim Cosmotini

 “So why Plano?” someone asked, almost incredulously, about this restaurant that has been in place for more than a decade.

On one hand, I get the attitude about Plano. (And truth be told, I still fight it myself sometimes.) On the other hand, it was a good reminder of the prevailing idea that these darn suburbs are just out to ruin everything creative and good. Despite not boasting a Dallas (proper) address, somehow the Roy’s brand has thrived out in the ‘burbs, and that’s why a group of us were invited to a special Eat Creative dinner to showcase its new drink and food options – some of which were designed by local Chef Scott Nakachi.

The event was food-intensive, but I jumped at the chance to try the Pacific Rim Cosmotini (vodka, ginger and passion fruit syrups, egg whites, blood orange liqueur). It had a good flavor and it didn’t take long to realize how quickly (and cheaply) one could blow through these – especially during their happy hour when drinks are only $6.

We also sampled some of the food items on the bar menu (which is also only $6 during happy hour – save one exception we’ll get to later) and it was pretty damn good. There was edamame and butterfish lettuce wraps, which were both well-prepared and are must-tries. I found myself eating the fish by itself, which I guess makes me a huge jerk … but it was that good. There were also delicious steamed pork buns and, the star of the show, a giant Wagyu burger the size of my face*. It was spicy and perfectly seasoned, and for $9 on the happy hour menu, it’s a solid meal choice to balance out the happy hour cocktails and walk out feeling full. It also came with massive onion rings which were heavily-breaded and thick.

Based on the conversation at the table, a few of us who were more into onion rings in general enjoyed them and the others seemed to think it was too much. (Who isn’t into onion rings? They must be communists.)  The fat kid in me loved them, but I had to maintain composure as an official SDD representative and not smoosh my face into the plate of them. Ebi rolls followed, which were also battered and tasted like one of the heavy rolls Americans love to eat while onlooking foreigners cringe. It was tasty, but there’s just too much fresh seafood on the menu to opt for a roll unless you’re really in the mood to ruin your dinner.

Alaea Salt Crusted Bone in Ribeye
Alaea Salt Crusted Bone in Ribeye

What we’d eaten to this point quickly became an afterthought when the main courses came out – especially the Maine lobster pot pie. The crust was flaky and delicious and the giant pieces of lobster were swimming in a curry sauce that was hot and delicious. It came in a giant tray that could easily feed three people (or even two going all out pig-style.) You need to eat this dish. I don’t mean to shortchange the other entrees that were all delicious (including an Alaea salt-crusted, bone-in ribeye first introduced by Plano’s Chef Scott), but this was the dish that inspired Susie to email me and say “I want to lick my screen to taste that lobster business!!!!” I have to make sure I capture the magic.

Roy's Restaurant - Signature Lobster Pie
Signature Lobster Pie

^^ Put this in your face ASAP. ^^

Finally, we finished with two delicious desert options: pineapple upside down cake and Roy’s signature molten lava cake. Both were devoured by the sharing table and, while chocolate never fails, the pineapple upside down cake was not too sweet and just different enough to stand out.

Melting Hot Chocolate Souffle
Melting Hot Chocolate Souffle

In summary, allow me to summarize this with a forgotten, but aptly named, SNL Digital Short – Roy Rules. If you need a happy hour spot in North Dallas or Plano, you really can’t beat the value offered here.

ROY’S PLANO
2840 Dallas Parkway, Plano, TX 75093
(972) 473-6263
WebsiteFacebook

Happy Hour Specials: Every Day, 4:30pm-7pm
$6 specialty cocktails, wines
$6 – $9 appetizers

*my face is a normal size for a man my age. Just FYI.

An Unforgettable Experience: Asador’s Harvest Dinner with Cocktail Pairings

Last Friday I was lucky enough to have a seat at Asador’s 3rd Harvest Dinner. If you take anything away from this review, understand that you MUST dine here. I was quite honestly blown away with every dish and every cocktail. I was also impressed how friendly and obviously talented the executive chef and mixologist were. Asador did one of the very best executions of farm to table high-end dining I’ve experienced. With the current craft cocktails trend being craft cocktails with “everything but the kitchen sink” muddle in (where some bartenders sacrifice taste for shock value), I was happy to discover that Asador’s cocktails were inventive, but with a real purpose behind every ingredient.

Let’s dive in, shall we? The Harvest Dinner took place in the new ballroom and rooftop terrace at the Renaissance hotel, which boasts great views of the Dallas skyline. It was a perfect summer night, and I enjoyed taking in the beautiful sunset while enjoying Asador’s amuse course, which was a Bay Scallop Ceviche and the Classic Rum-Brandy Punch, with nutmeg sprinkled on top.

The full menu can be found here, but in efforts not to write a novel, I’ll just cover my personal highlights of the evening.

photo 2 (11)The second course was Octopus Carpaccio, comprised of paper-thin slices of octopus paired with pickled plums and jicama. It was a light and refreshing summer dish, but the octopus made it a bit more substantial and very flavorful. The paired cocktail was called the Air Mail, which was a crowd favorite (lime juice, honey syrup and Prosecco). It brought out the sweetness of the pickled plums and tempered the acidity of the octopus.

The fourth course was Mesquite Roasted Texas Rib Eye with corn pudding, charred corn succotash and grilled baby jewel lettuce. This was truly one of the best pieces of beef I’ve ever had–it was cooked perfectly rare and melted in my mouth. (I’m sure there’s a pun here, but I’ll skip it.) The cocktail pairing was the Bourbon Thyme Smash. I stay away from bourbon drinks normally because I’m a ‘fraidy cat (to Susie’s everlasting disappointment), but this cocktail was tangy and refreshing thanks to the clove and honey syrup and fresh lemon. I’d come back just for a cocktail.

Last but not least … dessert! I audibly gasped as I tasted the fruity yet savory dessert, Texas Grapefruit Curd, topped with toasted coconut, a shortbread cookie and just the best whipped cream I’ve ever tasted. They paired the dessert with a simple Aperitif Cocktail of Amaro Nonino. This was the perfect ending to an absolutely flawless meal.

The executive chef explained that he had created the courses keeping in mind that it was just a bit warm outside (good joke), so he made sure every course was light and refreshing. #nofoodcoma

Everyone I interacted with at the Asador was genuinely friendly and hospitable. This would be a great place to take parents or to go for a romantic dinner because you can be assured that both the service and the experience will be impeccable. Even if you just have time to stop by for a cocktail, you are in for an absolute treat. And don’t forget that it’s restaurant week, so this is a perfect opportunity to try Asador out for the first time or for a refresher evening.

Thank you to Asador for the spectacular evening!

 

ASADOR
A Modern Texas Farm to Fire Cuisine located in the Renaissance Hotel
2222 Stemmons Freeway, Dallas TX 75207
(214)267-4815
www.asadorrestaurant.com
Facebook | Twitter & Instagram: ‪@Asador_Dallas

HAPPY HOUR SPECIALS
Monday-Friday | 4pm – 7pm

  • $4 Draft Beer & $6 House Wine
  • $6 Select Specialty Cocktails
  • $1 Appetizers