Nick and Sam's -- frequented by Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten -- has built a glitzy image as one of Dallas' most popular steakhouses. When it's corporate chef Samir Dhurandhar's turn to dole out compliments, he gives accolades to established Dallas institutions and sheds light on the quiet triumphs of lesser-known ones.
Below, his selections of the best dining Dallas has to offer.
For inventive Japanese cuisine -- Nobu
Born in Bombay, India, Dhurandhar's first experience with what he calls "true" Japanese food came after he moved to New York for culinary school; he was invited to a tasting at Nobu's flagship restaurant in Manhattan. "It just blew my mind away," he says. When Nobu opened its Dallas outpost in 2005, Dhurandhar was thrilled.
"It's my favorite place to go," he says. "[The] miso cod lettuce wraps [are] pretty amazing. They do foie gras and wagyu beef dumplings, which are very, very good too. [Sushi chef Mitsuhiro Eguchi] comes up with stuff that you would never, ever think of."
400 Crescent Ct., Dallas. noburestaurants.com/dallas.
For fiery fried chicken -- Rapscallion
In few words, Dhurandhar makes a case for the Lowest Greenville joint's grub: "Their fried chicken is to die for; some of the best I've ever had."
The bird he's talking about is Rapscallion's "The Long Walk to Nashville": a brined, rotisseried, fried chicken served with Szechuan mala sauce -- a blazing hot Chinese sauce made in part with dried chili pepper and chili powder. Dhurandhar attributes his love of the dish to his taste for ethnic flavors. Plus, he appreciates when a chef ups the ante of a relatively banal dish like fried chicken, he says
2023 Greenville Ave., Dallas. dallasrapscallion.com.
For great food and even better service -- Neighborhood Services
"Nick has always been a very, very talented chef," Dhurandhar gushes of Nick Badovinus, the chef at Neighborhood Services and the other half of the duo that founded Nick and Sam's. But Dhurandhar's kinship with Badovinus isn't the only reason he frequents the Lover's Lane restaurant. "The [staff] is incredible. There's a waiter named Will, and he always takes care of me. I've tried to hire him a couple of times ... he [offers] probably the best wait service I've ever had."
When it comes time to order, Dhurandhar always asks for the same thing: the veal shoulder schnitzel. "That's all I eat," he says.
5027 W. Lovers Ln., Dallas. nhstheoriginal.com.
If you want to rub elbows with Dhurandhar himself -- Caravelle Chinese and Vietnamese
This hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Richardson is Dhurandhar's favorite place to get Chinese food on the weekends. "I've been going there for years -- close to about 12 years now," he says.
If you and Dhurandhar happen to venture to Caravelle on the same night, don't be surprised if he walks up to you in search of entrée suggestions. "I've gone from table to table sometimes to ask people what they're eating so I can order it myself," he says.
400 N. Greenville Ave. #16, Richardson. caravellempls.com.
The place to try Chinese food for brunch -- Jeng Chi
A stone's throw from Caravelle is another one of Dhurandhar's favorite spots for Chinese food. Unlike at Caravelle, however, he knows what he'll order at Jeng Chi: dumplings.
"They make all their dumplings fresh," Dhurandhar says. "There's a bunch of ladies at the back of the kitchen and you can see them through the glass door -- all they're doing is folding dumplings. It's pretty neat."
Dhurandhar recommends heading to Jeng Chi on Sunday mornings to nosh on a selection of the restaurant's 15 different dumplings for a departure from typical Dallas brunch fare.
400 N. Greenville Ave. #11, Richardson. jengchirestaurant.com.
Because he told you to -- Suze
Dhurandhar lists Suze as a restaurant by which he is continually impressed. "I feel [executive chef/owner Gilbert Garza] should get a little more recognition for what he does," he insists. "He's had the same staff for a while, so it's very consistent [but] there's always something different to try when you go there."
After making his case to encourage hungry Dallasites to venture to Suze, Dhurandhar lists some of the restaurant's attractions: "very, very good food, seasonal flavors, and a great wine list." Nothing groundbreaking for a city saturated with upscale dining, but, at the end of the day, what more do you need than great food, great wine, and a chef's recommendation?
4345 W. Northwest Hwy., Dallas. suzedallas.com.
For food you (probably) won't make at home -- Secret Recipe Asian Bistro
Dhurandhar doesn't need to go to an Indian restaurant for a taste of his roots. The celebrated chef has a tandoori oven in his backyard, so he can chow down on Indian food at any time without ever having to leave the house.
What he will leave the house for is Secret Recipe, a restaurant specializing in Malaysian food, which Dhurandhar describes as a "cross between Thai and Indian food." One dish in the restaurant's vast menu stands out as his favorite: roti canai, an appetizer.
"[It's] basically a flatbread with a little chicken curry made with a little bit of coconut milk," he says. The dish calls back to the spices of Indian cuisine and the tanginess of Thai food.
1404 W. Hebron Pkwy., Carrollton. secretrecipebistro.com
Love to hear about chefs' favorite restaurants?
Check out the top picks from chef Stephan Pyles (Stephan Pyles, Stampede 66); Lisa Garza-Selcer (of Sissy's Southern Kitchen); Matt McCallister (of FT33 and Filament); and John Tesar (Knife, Oak, El Bolero and coming-soon restaurants The Royale and Gravy).