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Return to The Tasting Room


Restaurants & Bars 5

Return to The Tasting Room

Doc from New Orleans | Apr 18, 2005 03:20 PM

A couple of years ago I solicited this board's restaurant recommendation for a novel that was to be set partly in the Dallas restaurant scene. That novel (PRIME) is now out, and during the last stop on my tour for it, I was fortunate enough to be invited to eat at Lola's The Tasting Room with Kirk, his lovely wife Anne, and several other Dallas-area Chowhounds. Here's my writeup. (The entire tour is covered in my blog, link below, for anyone who may be interested.)


This is a tough one, but I believe I still have to give the nod to The Tasting Room at Lola. Lola actually contains two restaurants -- Lola, where you order from the menu, and The Tasting Room, where you have a set menu of between ten and fourteen tiny, exquisite courses (I always want to type "exquisite corpses") with optional wine pairings. David Uygur, formerly in charge of just The Tasting Room, is now the chef of both restaurants. I thought this might be a temporary arrangement, since Lola's chef apparently quit without much warning, but when I spoke to David, he said he liked handling both sides because his food will reach more people. My selfish and gluttonous heart is not sure it approves. The food was still excellent, but whereas his talented hands previously touched every single course that came out of the Tasting Room kitchen, he's now (necessarily) delegating more authority to his sous chefs and other cooks, and I did not see quite the insane attention to detail and gorgeous knifework that I'd observed during my previous two meals there. Of course this is all conjecture, since I wasn't standing in the kitchen watching them make the food, but Chris has headed two kitchens at once before and I know it's almost impossible to micromanage them on the level a chef as meticulous as David must want to. There's also the fact that we were a party of two on our other visits, and this time I was one of nine Dallas chowhounds; that's 126 plates for one table, plus a few extras he sent out. At any rate, The Tasting Room is still a great restaurant and owner Van Roberts is still a gracious host and Chef David is still sweet and brilliant and hot as hell. Here's what we ate, complete with wine pairings (which I actually had, since well-known wine writer Diane Teitelbaum was seated next to me, and while I still didn't like them as well as my usual Kickin' Chicken, I think I learned a thing or two):

L'Hereu de Raventos i Blanc, Cava Brut Sparkling, Spain N.V.

Bagadeuce oyster with horseradish mignonette

Crudo of hamachi with lemon and arugula (my favorite course -- possibly the most delicious two square inches of fish I've ever tasted)

Celery salad with egg, anchovy, and lovage

Inama, Soave Classico Superiore "Vigneti di Foscarino," Veneto, Italy 2002

Mussels with ginger-curry cream (The course on the menu here was supposed to be a seared Maine diver scallop with pea puree and oyster mushrooms, but they ran out of the scallops. I'm not a big mussel fan, and while these were lovely, plump, sweet ones, I just don't think mussels of any sort are an acceptable substitute for diver scallops. However, David more than made up for it with the extra mushroom course he sent out later.)

Slow-cooked Scottish salmon with watercress puree and potatoes (I find salmon boring and seldom eat it, except for the wild Tasmanian salmon at Marisol, which has the highest fat content of any fish on earth and is as lush and unctuous as foie gras. This was almost as rich and just as good.)

Jerusalem artichoke soup with chive cream

Squid ink risotto

Bruno Clair Gevery Chambertin 2001 (the wine on the menu was Au Bon Climat, Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara 2003, but Van upgraded us)

Sauteed duck breast with lentils (crisp, savory, and wonderful -- the bacon of duck, if that makes any sense)

Parchment-cooked mushrooms (a Special People Bonus Course -- fresh porcinis, black trumpets, and black and white morels. I'd never even heard of a white morel before, and they are totally different from the black -- lighter in flavor, almost tangy. Most chefs make morels taste like toes anyway; Pete at Marisol and David are the only ones who've ever been able to make me see their appeal.)

Veal strip loin with braised escarole, polenta, and shallots

Dry-aged New York strip with fava beans and anchovy butter (One member of our party thought the anchovy butter distracted from the deep, livery flavor of the aged steak. I thought it enhanced it beautifully.)

Seared Sonoma foie gras with glazed turnips

Joseph, "La Magia" Botrytis Riesling-Traminer, Australia 2002

Mandarin orange sherbet

Three artisanal cheeses with fruit (Tonteray, a Vermont cow's-milk; Blydell Farm Camembert from Vermont; Minuet, a California goat's-milk)

Buttermilk panna cotta with rhubarb

Observant readers (and other fans of The Tasting Room) will notice some similarities between David's menus and the tasting meal Cooper Stark prepares for Rickey in Chapter 11 of PRIME. While it's true that PRIME would be a very different book if I'd never eaten David's food, no other similarities should be assumed; David is a nice man, much younger, cuter, and less dissipated than Coop.


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