I have to admit that I've been very lucky this year in many ways. My nonblogging writing activities have picked up steam considerably, plus I've gone to many top-notch restaurants in quest of the transcendent experience that is food at its best. Fortunately, I've not sought the Holy Grail alone, my lovely wife and partner-in-crime The Rock Star has accompanied me on all these journeys. When I consider this past year, the quality of truly superb restaurants has been staggering, and I look forward to many such endeavors in the New Year. So, again without furthur ado, here are the Food Czar Top Ten Restaurants of 2009.
MON AMI GABI, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA (Jan):
At Mon Ami Gabi, the steaks are quite thin, but the sauces are quite rich. The Steak Roquefort and the Steak Bearnaise are classic examples of French saucery, and I wish more Dallas restaurants served wafer-thin frites like Gabis. The late-nite dining hours are a bonus as well.
AL BIERNAT'S (Feb)
Our Valentine's repast continued our recent brunch tradition. If destinations are too crowded and expensive at night, how about a nice, relaxing brunch? My wife's giant Lobster and Scrambled Egg Burrito was absolutely stuffed with fresh seafood and crispy bacon, while my Sliced Filet with Crab and Asparagus boasted a swarthy bite of smoked tomato hollandaise. The tender medium-rare beef reflected the endless hours Al spent toiling away at The Palm before opening his own place.
More fabulous French beef, with classic Prime Filet au Poivre prepared perfectly rare, and New York strip medium-rare with blue cheese and sherry reduction. After the main course, we were very wise indeed to save room for chocolate ganache cake.
CAFE ISTANBUL (June)
Turkish cuisine makes good use of the grill, and Terbiyeli Sis Kebap sported charbroiled lamb marinated in hot sauce and spice, guaranteed to appeal to peppery Texas palates. Kayisi Tatlisi, dried apricots filled with cream and served with walnuts, proved that light desserts can be very satisfying after a hearty meal.
"Let the flavors speak for themselves," is an oft-heard, much-misunderstood cliche in the restaurant business. Chefs Tom Colicchio and Anthony Zappola truly understand this concept, with a brunchtime feast of medium-rare Craft Burger with white cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon and exquisite New York Strip Steak and Eggs. The wine list is very well chosen, and we spent as much time talking about the establishment's unique architecture as we did devouring our food.
STEVEN PYLES (Aug)
Steven Pyles is the once and future master of Southwestern cuisine, so why not enjoy a repast that showcased said mastery? Scallop and pork belly carnitas and red snapper in Thai red curry masa proved the evolving, adaptable nature of this cuisine to modern palates. Artisan breads such as blue cheese scone and potato foccacia are highlights, while desserts nearly stole the show with Mexican chocolate fondant and Deep Ellum goat's cheesecake. Himself was also onhand to meet and greet while making sure the food held up to his exacting standards.
PAPPAS BROS STEAKHOUSE (Aug)
Pappas Bros is often touted as the best steakhouse in Dallas. When former Dallas Morning News food writer Bill Addison was given a farewell party by his adoring colleagues, where do you think they dined? Perhaps they enjoyed the sensuous lobster bisque, the swarthy, char-broiled flatiron steak with triple peppercorn sauce or the dry-aged, prime New York strip that was both beefy and buttery in nature. Possibly they ended their feast with the tart lemon sorbet or the decadent chocolate peanut butter cake with chocolate ganache. If so, they truly dined as well as we on this hot August night.
My lovely wife and I were invited to this Ritzy hotspot as a part of the Go Texan celebration. For our efforts, we were rewarded with course after course of sheer bliss. Poblano shooters. "Million Dollar" Chicken Tortilla Soup. Barbecued Shrimp Taco. Peach BBQ Glazed Bobwhite Quail. Dublin Dr Pepper Braised Beef Short Ribs. English cut NilGai Antelope. Cheese courses. Matching wines and port. Finally, Fearings excellent coffee. One of the best meals we've had in 2009. Period.
COAST GLOBAL SEAFOOD (Sept)
Coast's Daily Excursion is a three-course delight offered during weekdays, and ours featured splendid Roasted Halibut and Julia Child favorite Atlantic Lemon Sole Meuniere. Desserts were a highlight, and the stunning view of the Bellagio-style fountain is always a special treat at night.
NAVAJO GRILL, FREDERICKSBURG, TEXAS (Dec)
The restored private house is a charmingly rambling setting for rustic fine dining, and the nutty, buttery trout and perfectly prepared filet made for a memorable celebration indeed. Corn soup was a sinfully rich concoction, made thoroughly Texan with pepper jack cheese and tortilla strips.
2009 Honorable Mention Worthy of Mention:
-Yolo's Mexican Grill, Las Vegas, Nevada (Jan)
Thus, I must stick a fork in 2009 and call it done. Possibly my finest year of dining bliss ever. Hopefully, 2010 will be equally well disposed. Discover your own dining bliss soon, and remember:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!