If you think Fort Worth chefs can’t see past steaks and baked potatoes, restaurant critic LESLIE BRENNER has a few words for you
photographs by JUSTIN CLEMONS
How does lamb tartare with smoked egg purée sound? Or spectacular sea urchin from Santa Barbara? Or fabulous handmade tortillas enfolding huitlacoche — the corn fungus that is a delicacy in Mexico?For these, and many other treats, gastronomes in the know are heading to Fort Worth. Fort Worth — as in Cowtown? That’s right. For the first time in years, the Fort Worth dining scene has become so charged with creative energy that it seems half the restaurants on my must-get-to list are there.
A few of them, I’ve been to already — such as AF+B, in the fashionable West 7th Street district. Since the place opened in early January, the rustically handsome tavern has been the place for smart cocktails (like a smoky, vermouthy aperitif called Old Hickory), deviled Gulf blue crabs, venison sausage and majestic cuts of wood-grilled lamb or beef. Lunchtime at AF+B means smoked trout salad with grapefruit supremes and cotija cheese, or duck potpie. Chef Jeff Harris helped earn four-star reviews at Bolsa and the erstwhile Craft Dallas, once upon a time in a county more easterly.
A few blocks away, stylish Revolver Taco Lounge has been drawing plenty of buzz. Where else can you savor tacos filled with tongue or huitlacoche in a chic, white-tablecloth dining room? Throw in mescal on the spirits list, homey dishes such as enmoladas (mole with handmade tortillas) and birria de chivo (roasted goat) and you’ve got quite the alluring destination.
From the folks behind Grace, the elegant dining room off Sundance Square that has lately been better than ever, we now have the more-casual Little Red Wasp Kitchen + Bar, which tops my shortlist of places to check out. Maybe Sunday brunch (chilaquiles, short rib Benedict) on the way to a show at the Kimbell?
Meanwhile, if you haven’t yet gotten to Little Lilly Sushi, which earned four stars in my Dallas Morning News review last summer, there is no time like the present. Its location in a nondescript strip mall might be the antithesis of fashion, but chef Jesus Garcia turns out some of the best sushi in North Texas: crisply wrapped hand rolls tangy with umeboshi (pickled plum paste) and fragrant with shiso; stunningly fresh mirugai (geoduck clam); and swoon-inducing uni (sea urchin).
OK, that’s it. I’m hungry. I’m heading west.