Nick & Sam’s chef adds some culinary creativity to cool summer pool club
Dallas is the largest landlocked city in America not on a major waterway, and you never feel it more than during our summers. Sure, we avoid the devastating humidity of Houston, but we also miss out on the temperate predictability of SoCal — we don’t all have infinity pools in our backyards, so keeping cool depends on a rotation of weekend getaways, rednecky public wave pools, generous neighbors with an in-ground … or just indoor activities paired with tanning beds.
Revive seeks a middle ground in the quest for outdoorsy elegance, and it comes pretty close.
Located on the edge of Uptown, atop the swanky weekend-only nightclub Glass, it combines a South Beachy look (a dozen cabanas encircle the small wading pool) with dance music pumped by a DJ (groove and chill beats alternate with the rhythms of alcohol consumption) and a hint of Dallas fabulousness. But, as with Vegas, there’s a downside: The sweltering Texas heat. Within weeks of opening, owners had added misting fans to make the deck tolerable … and it’s not even the hub of summer here yet.
How to reconcile the desire to tan and show off those new trunks with the sensibility of staying inside? The appeal is in the food.
With a menu conceived by Nick & Sam’s Estrada, Revive elevates what could be mere pub grub to near gourmet levels. Sure, there are some routine, even uninspired, standards on the menu: edamame ($8), bland ceviche rolls ($10), the obligatory shrimp cocktail (at $5, though, not a bad deal). But the limited menu has some gems as well.
The secret ingredient that unifies and completes several dishes is the creamy ponzu sauce, served in a shot-glass to dress sandwiches (and good for dipping fries) and as a plate garnish on the fried wontons ($10). The wontons themselves are flavorful, crispy pockets of dough that are neither gummy nor delicate, nestling balls of seasoned pork inside.
A clever creation is the lobster “burger” (at $16, the priciest item on the menu). Pounded flat like a scallopini crab cake, it draws salty-smoky notes from the crisp strips of bacon while fresh arugula rounds it out — and, again, there’s the ponzu. It’s there, too, for the half-pound burger (well-cooked and satisfying), accompanied by the so-called “damn good fries” — seasoned, crunchy curls of potato. You can get a mini version of the burger on the trio of sliders ($14), which also comes with pygmy iterations of pulled pork (juicy) and ahi tuna (slightly dry).
Other than the lobster, the stars of the menu are the Greek flatbread ($11) and the fried chicken ($14). The flatbreads are distinguished by a cracker-like crust: Firm enough to withstand the thick layer of pungent artichokes, black olives and Feta, but not so that it shatters on first bite. The chicken, fried deeply but not greasy, is sweetened by a honey glaze and dusting of diced pears. If they could call it finger-lickin’ without triggering a lawsuit, they should.
Of course, the drinks are probably as much a draw as the atmosphere and food are. Alcohol filled Popsicles don’t come in flavors so much as colors: purple, neon green, red and blue; some contain vodka, some rum, but all pack the kick of a mule deer. Strong drinks aren’t the problem; complex ones are. Unlike the citrusy ponzu, the drinks tend toward over-sweet; the mojito lacks the bite of lime and the banana-strawberry slushie so fruity, it could be Carmen Miranda at a party with Rock Hudson.
The cocojito, though, balances coconut and Cruzan rum for a refreshing island taste. It — along with the sausagefest of man-tans cruising the pool on a recent visit — also serves as a good reminder for what’s really important about summer: The need to work on my beach body before I go back.
Revive, 1899 McKinney Ave. Open Thursdays– Sundays. Dallas Gay Happy Hour with DJ Paul Kraft takes place at Revive on June 1, 5–8 p.m.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 1, 2012.