When the temperature shoots up -- you know, like now -- there's nothing better than eating light and eating cool, and there's no more delicious way to do that than with a great salad. Happily, this summer, Dallas has turned into something of a salad wonderland. Whether Asian or Italian, good old-fashioned American, Modern Texan or Asian, there's a fabulous toss to fit your mood.
Yes, I know -- I said "Asian" twice.
That's because half of the 10 salads I've swooned over lately have been at three Asian restaurants -- one Vietnamese, one Japanese, one Thai.
The first (shown above) is Modern Texan: Richard Blankenship’s smoked fish salad at CBD Provisions in the Joule Hotel. Share it as a starter with friends at dinner, or guard it jealously for yourself at lunch. Break up the egg and toss it in -- so rich and good. Pickled mustard seeds and pickled carrot add zing and crunch. Not in the mood for smoked fish? I'd try any of the salads on Blankenship's menu, which follows the seasons; they helped the restaurant earn four stars in a recent review.
One of the most memorable of our 10 is the blue crab salad at Mot Hai Ba. Chef Peja Krstic tosses sweet crab meat with cucumber, fennel and celery; Thai basil and chiles add perfume and heat. But what makes it so brilliant is the lime supremes -- a daring number of them. Pretty incredible. Four stars recently for this restaurant, too.
Another killer salad at Mot Hai Ba, a banana flower salad with shredded chicken, peanuts and cilantro, has been on the menu since the restaurant open. It's probably the salad that I crave most often -- and most desperately.
Simple yet elegant, chef Cody Sharp's butter lettuce salad at the Standard Pour puts the spotlight on fresh herbs, like tarragon and parsley and chervil. Pickled shallots add verve. Benton's bacon adds -- you know, bacon! It's tossed in a perfect Dijon vinaigrette. Read the June review.
OK, this one's a right now salad -- you have to order it pronto!
Lately it has been offered on the daily specials menu at Uchi Dallas -- the hotter-than-hot Dallas outpost of Tyson Cole's Austin original, which opened in early June. It stars incredible, bursting-with-flavor tomatoes from Comeback Creek Farm in Pittsburg, along with wedges of plum and thin slices of umeboshi -- pickled plum -- that chef de cuisine Nilton "Junior" Borges makes in-house. Oh, and those luscious-looking white slices flopping over the tomatoes? They're slabs of lardo (cured backfat) from super-recherché A5 Japanese Wagyu beef. By the way, if you love gorgeous produce photos, you might want to check out Comeback Creek's Instagram feed @comebackcreekfarm -- it's one of my favorites.
The Italian chopped salad at the new Patrizio in Uptown rocks it old-school, for sure: Chopped romaine, cubes of provolone, salami and smoked ham, pepperoncini, cherry tomatoes, garbanzo beans and more, tossed in a red wine vinaigrette. It's gigantic. And just the thing when you're in the mood. Read the recent review.
Fragrant with herbs (lemongrass, mint and cilantro) and zingy with lime and red onion, the young bamboo shoot salad at Bambu Thai-Asian Cuisine in Richardson is deliciously exotic. The restaurant was included in July in a Best in DFW story starring 13 places for "Nice Dinners that Don't Break the Bank." Several other restaurants whose salads are featured here are in the list as well.
Here's another one from Bambu: a grilled eggplant salad. Chef Bounmee Nanthaphak recently put it on her menu.
If you're in a southern mood, you can't do much better than Grandma's layered salad at Sissy's Southern Kitchen and Bar. A generous dose of bacon, mayo and grated cheese is perk for those who normally consider eating a salad to be a punishment.
Finally, here's a salad for adventurers; you'll find it, like a couple of the others, at Mot Hai Ba. Skewered and grilled duck hearts (they're better than they sound!) are where the action is; slide them into a cool green papaya salad redolent of herbs, piquant with Thai chile and vibrant with lime. Mix it all up. Delightful.
Mot Hai Ba is open for lunch -- prime salad time (though it's closed on Monday). Bambu, Sissy's, CBD Provisions and Patrizio are lunch (and dinner) spots, while Uchi and the Standard Pour are dinner only.
Follow Leslie Brenner on Twitter @lesbren and on Instagram @lesliebrenner.