Bon Appetit put San Antonio's Hot Joy in the spotlight three years ago when the magazine named it one of the country's 10 best new restaurants; the following year a splashy New York Times Magazine cooking story sealed chef-owner Quealy Watson's cachet.
Now we Dallasites have our own Hot Joy, just opened in Uptown for a two-year run. The vibe is irresistible: retro-pop Shanghai-Western, with tiki drinks, intimate wooden booths and colorful paper dragons blazing across the ceiling. Just out of the gate, the food and drink, refreshingly affordable, have their ups and downs.
Yay: crispy, succulent crab-fat-caramel chicken wings; chilled crab-and-shrimp noodles in a cool coconut-and-lemongrass-happy broth; weirdly good fried cheeseburger spring roll brightened with kimchi.
Not-so-yay: stir-fried green beans with minced chicken and crispy fried onion (too oily); combo fried rice (too blah); sticky tamarind pork ribs (too sour).
Nay: the Frozen Zombie, with terrifying blasts of grenadine and cinnamon.