Glamorous, ambitious and sophisticated: That's my quick take on Flora Street Cafe, Stephan Pyles' new flagship restaurant.
To be accurate, the full name of the establishment, which debuted in the Dallas Arts District on May 31, is Stephan Pyles Flora Street Cafe at Hall Arts.
The expansive, elegant dining room feels like a glassed-in jewel box; trees along Flora Street create a lovely backdrop. A silk curtain by artist Tim Harding shimmers aqua, gold and crimson behind coyly intimate tables draped in ecru linen. Focused chefs man their sauté pans and work their tweezers in an open kitchen that's very much a part of the dining room; near the bar, a filmy chandelier drops from the ceiling and flutters on its way back up, the dance of a jellyfish.
Dinner here is as formal as it gets in Dallas, from gorgeous amuse (slip of smoked sable, curl of cucumber, slice of blueberry) to mignardises (gelée, macaron, bonbon).
In between, the highly composed plates, created by Pyles and chef de cuisine Peter Barlow, are playful and sophisticated - elegant, luxurious iterations of modern Texas cuisine. Upended radishes, carrots and turnips mingle with baby beet leaves and aged goat cheese chicharrón on poblano-lime butter, with tiny orbs of goat cheese crema and a flurry of shaved foie gras. Breast of squab and morita-agave barbecued squab confit commune with smoked potato, dots of morita barbecue sauce and asparagus - spears, shaved and even trompe l'oeil (looks just like a spear of white asparagus, but it's made of apricot panna cotta!). A ballotine of pheasant cozies up to a squash-blossom quesadilla, blackberries, pea tendrils, baby turnips and more.
Dinner here is as formal as it gets in Dallas.
Executive pastry chef Ricardo Sanchez's desserts are no less elaborate: A sablé raft carrying a quenelle of hibiscus sorbet, dots of cassis meringue, berry-glazed jicama batons and flower petals approaches a passion-fruit pond.
Not surprisingly, with luxury comes expense: First courses range from $18 to $28, and they're not designed to share. Main courses are $36 to $65. A seven-course tasting menu (plus chef's surprises) is offered at $115 per person. Surrendering your car to the valet will set you back $10.
The good news, for food-lovers who jump on the occasion, is that Flora Street does not have a liquor license yet (it is expected on June 23), so for the time being, you can bring your own wine; the staff is happy to open and serve your bottle with no corkage fee, or offer you and your guests a complimentary glass of sparkling wine, chardonnay or cabernet. Have you been waiting for the right occasion to open a special bottle? This could be the moment.