It feels like it has been a long time since we've had such exciting news on the Dallas dining scene: Kirstyn Brewer, who has served as executive chef at Victor Tangos for nearly four years, will be heading the kitchen at a new modern Chinese-American restaurant on Lower Greenville from the company that owns Remedy and HG Sply Co.
There is some sad news attached: Remedy will close at the end of the year to make way for the new restaurant, whose name is yet to be determined. Remedy's imminent closure is unfortunate (and surprising) because it's such a cool space, and its executive chef, Danyele McPherson, is one of the city's most talented and thoughtful young chefs. McPherson has been promoted to culinary director for Elias Pope's 80/20 Hospitality, which owns Remedy.
So, what does Brewer mean by modern Chinese-American? "It's still super early," says the chef, whose last day at Victor Tangos was Nov. 21. The plan is for the new place to open in late spring or early summer – so she is just starting to play with ideas for the menu. "But I'm all about bringing classics back – like taking Chinese-American classics and maybe putting a creative spin on them." She might, for instance, use smoked pulled pork in place of minced pork in an updated version of classic Sichuan mapo tofu.
And, she says, "I know we want to play around with dim sum – maybe for brunch; that would be fun. Luckily, we're inheriting a wood-burning oven" (from Project Pie, whose space the restaurant will also incorporate). "So we could do barbecue pork in there and sticky ribs and stuff like that."
As for the dim sum, Brewer – a Southern California native – is thinking about sending it around on carts. But not just the dim sum: She's playing with the idea of presenting all kinds of dishes that way, a la State Bird Provisions in California. "I'm hoping we can go out there for R & D," she says (referring to research and development). And the dim sum would be modern and inventive, not straight-ahead classics. That's something to look forward to. While there's certainly good dim sum to be had in North Texas – at traditional Chinese restaurants such as Kirin Court, Maxim's and J.S. Chen's Dimsum and BBQ – there is very little, if anything, in the way of modern, inventive dim sum.
And what about riffing on something like Peking Duck? "I'm not sure," says Brewer. "I kind of had an idea about a Peking turkey leg, because the turkey leg was really popular when I was at Victor Tangos, so we'll see how it goes."
In fact, it's because of Brewer's compelling Asian-inflected dishes at Victor Tangos that the project is so promising - things like boiled peanuts with Chinese 5 spice and vinegar, or fried shrimp and grilled shishitos on kimchi sauce with Thai basil.
Here's another exciting piece of this: Brewer will be aided in the kitchen by sous chef Chih-Ming "Petey" Feng, a line cook at FT33 with a passion for Chinese cooking. "I'm really excited about it," says Brewer of the hire. Feng was recommended to her by Michael Sindoni, the opening chef at CBD Provisions, where Feng used to work. (Sindoni is now in charge of culinary operations for Raised Palate, which owns CBD Provisions.)
Could the closure of Remedy to make way for a modern Chinese-American place signal a turning away from the modern Southern cooking that has been dominating (smothering?) our dining scene, and toward an embrace of modern Asian cooking, which is starting to feel Sriracha-hot?
That, my hungry friends, would be a happy turn of events.