Who knew Dallas' reigning Queen of Fried Chicken has a thing for Asian food?
Lisa Garza-Selcer, a former Food Network star and owner of Sissy's Southern Kitchen and Bar, has done just about everything she can to make the perfect fried chicken. (Harper's Bazaar thinks so, too). Now, the culinary artist is moving on to her next masterpiece: Shelby Hall, a Delta restaurant inspired by Mississippi cooking and Garza-Selcer's grandmother's house in Iowa.
After long days spent preparing for the restaurant to open in the downtown Hilton Garden this fall, Garza-Selcer prefers not to take her work home with her. Instead, she chows down on one of these eight D-FW restaurants.
The weekly necessity: Vietnam Restaurant
For Garza-Selcer, dining at Vietnam isn't an occasional treat; it's a weekly occurrence. She regularly orders the Vietnamese egg roll and wraps it in lettuce with herbs and carrot, then dunks the whole roll in fish sauce.
"[I love] the balance of the acid with the fried, with the sweet, with the fresh lettuce," she says. "I'm completely obsessed...your palate never gets overwhelmed." Another palate-pleaser? Lemongrass with tofu, one of Garza-Selcer's favorites.
- 4301 Bryan St., Dallas. vietnambarandgrill.com.
Sky-high duck for dinner: Five Sixty
Garza-Selcer's face lights up when she talks about Five Sixty's Peking duck, which is listed as "Lacquered Chinese Duckling" on the Reunion Tower restaurant's menu.
"Call ahead to reserve it, because they may not have it if you [just] come in," she recommends. Wash it down with the Ball & Chain, an off-the-menu cocktail comprised of bourbon, amaretto, lemon juice and orgeat syrup (a sweetened almond syrup).
As indulgent as it sounds, Garza-Selcer says this meal shouldn't be saved for special occasions. Shoo formality and make any date night all the more breathtaking as you gaze at the Dallas skyline.
- 300 Reunion Blvd., Dallas. wolfgangpuck.com.
Japanese cuisine, mastered: Tei Tei Robata Bar
Garza-Selcer can't help but gush about the well-established robata bar -- that is, a bar that specializes in Japanese grilling techniques.
"My child, who is 18 [years old], has been eating there his entire life," she says. "That's where he learned about Japanese food, Japanese tradition, [and] how to eat sushi and what quality level it should be."
Garza-Selcer, who says she's not a fan of Asian fusion food, hails Tei Tei as a restaurant that has "master[ed] the classics" -- something she believes is no longer respected.
- 2609 N. Henderson, Dallas. teiteirobata.com.
Best new Italian restaurant in Dallas: Americano
Here, Garza-Selcer "had one of the best pasta dishes I've had in Dallas in probably 10 years," she says.
She ordered Americano's vegetarian lasagna and says it was so phenomenal, it reminded her of long-gone beloved Dallas restaurant the Riviera, which closed in 2003. Though Americano isn't meant to be a revival of the Italian eatery, Garza-Selcer marks its opening as the first glimpse of authentic Italian cuisine in Dallas since the Riviera closed.
- 1530 Main St., Dallas. americanodallas.com.
For street cred: Koryo Kalbi Korean BBQ
Restaurant designer Hatsumi Kuzuu turned Garza-Selcer on to this hole-in-the-wall gem, which is located in the middle of an unassuming strip mall. Garza-Selcer says she and Kuzuu choose to dine at Koryo Kalbi instead of more popular Korean restaurants because the quality of the food stands out as "amazing."
Unless you're fluent in Korean, the menu can get a bit confusing, so Garza-Selcer has a suggestion: Order the seafood pancake. "Oh my gosh. Octopus, calamari, and shrimp [are] chopped up and cooked into this pancake. I could eat the whole thing by myself," she says. "I have to order it every time I go there."
- 2560 Royal Ln., Dallas. koryobbq.com.
Best south-of-the-border flavor: El Bolero
Garza-Selcer sums up the food at El Bolero in one word: authentic. She appreciates how the Design District restaurant serves fresh, bona fide Mexican cuisine as opposed to the Tex-Mex found at Mi Cocina. According to the Fried Chicken Queen, the proof is in the people who dine there.
"When you go to an ethnic restaurant, you want to see people of that ethnicity. If they're not there, don't go," she says. In order to achieve authenticity, she insists the chefs must "have a personal reference to what they're producing."
"It's not any different from me saying I'm so touched when people from the deep south come into my restaurant and say 'This is real.' That's validating."
- 1201 Oak Lawn Ave. #160, Dallas. elboleromexican.com.
For soup dumpling delicacies: Monkey King Noodle Company
When she needs an Asian food fix on the go, Garza-Selcer heads to Monkey King Noodle Company. The soup dumplings are "to die for," she says.
For Garza-Selcer, the fact that the tiny Deep Ellum eatery serves housemade soup dumplings is a big deal, especially because she has trouble finding them in D-FW. She lauds the glorified food stand as "one of the best things that's happened to Deep Ellum."
- 3014 Main St., Dallas. monkeykingnoodlecompany.com.
Simple food done right: Taqueria La Ventana
After a recent visit to New York, Garza-Selcer's first meal back in Dallas was the chicken bowl at Taqueria La Ventana.
"Their beans and rice are frickin' amazing," she says. "Their rice is steamed with onion -- you don't even know it's in there, it just adds this layer [of flavor]. And then they top it with their shredded chicken that's got like a chili rub on it."
Head to the taqueria on a Sunday for a chance to see Garza-Selcer spending some quality time with family over a freshly prepared chicken bowl. Then walk to the counter and say, "I'll have what she's having."
- 1611 McKinney Ave., Dallas. taquerialaventana.com.
Love to hear about chefs' favorite restaurants?
Check out the top picks from chef Stephan Pyles (Stephan Pyles, Stampede 66); Matt McCallister (of FT33 and Filament); John Tesar (Knife, Oak, El Bolero and coming-soon restaurants The Royale and Gravy); and Samir Dhurandhar (Nick & Sam's).