Tasting notes

Posted on 19 Sep 2014 at 5:35am

New flavors at Malai; Knife begins brunch

LITTLE?LAMB | The lamb at Malai Kitchen is one of the menu’s new highlights, and now is accented by house-brewed beers like the Thai-P-A and Jason Kosmas-designed cocktails. (Photo by Kevin Marple)

Malai Kitchen has been a fixture in the Uptown dining scene for four years, but the West Village restaurant known for its fusion of Thai and Vietnamese flavor profiles hasn’t stopped evolving. With craft brewing all the rage, Malai has added its own beers to the menu.

The Thai-P-A — a clever twist on the classic India Pale Ale — has a hoppy bitterness with a refreshing hint of kaffir lime for a citrusy undertone. The Thai 1 On Rotator combines Asian hops with saison yeast for a refreshing Belgium pilsner. And the new Bia Hoi, a light rice-barley blend, came about when the owners visited Vietnam in 2012 and discovered the fragrant lager (and, at $3 a bottle, a steal).

The beers are hand-crafted, so they aren’t always available, but when they are, brewpub fans should take note. And mixologist extraordinaire Jason Kosmas has devised a menu of rotating specialty cocktails for the lounge set.

It’s not just the beverage program that has received a makeover, however. Malai’s take on the lamb shank is surprisingly light, with melt-in-the-mouth, bone-in braised meat with an appropriately spiced ragout over rice. The Vietnamese spare ribs will also give their more famous Korean counterparts a run for their money.

But many of the standbys are still standouts. I’m never disappointed by Malai’s hot-pot curries: Served in a cast iron kettle and burbling with spicy aromatics and taste-bud-taming flavors. And the version of coconut cream pie (with an accent of mango) turns American comfort food into a South Asian star.

Knife, chef John Tesar’s hot new steakhouse in the newly rebranded hotel The Highland, will begin its promised lunch service starting this week. You can stop by for a burger or one of the luscious ribeyes beginning Sept. 23. Brunch will begin the following weekend, and will benefit Café Momentum, the program from former Parigi chef Chad Houser focused on teaching at-risk youth kitchen skills and providing career opportunities. (Read more about them at CafeMomentum.org.)

Tesar will also be on hand for his annual Burgers & Burgundy party, a fundraiser for DIFFA. It takes place Oct. 3 from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Other participating chefs include Blaine Staniford (Grace), Brian Zenner (Oak), Kent Rathbun (Abacus, Jasper’s) and Tre Wilcox. It takes place at 4637 Meadowood Road in Preston Hollow. Get tickets ($100; $150 for VIP butler service) at Eventbrite.com (search “burgers”).

Wilcox first shot to prominence working at Abacus, and will return to the kitchen on Sept. 27 to cook alongside Rathbun again (and fellow alum Omar Flores) to mark the 15th anniversary of the celebrated Uptown eatery. Reservations are accepted from 6–11 p.m., and the four-course dinner will cost $200/person. On Sept. 28, they restaurant will hold an anniversary party with craft cocktails, live music and food (cost is $100).

October is a busy month for foodies beyond burgers as well. First, it’s National Pizza Month, and you know, by law, you have to eat pizza every day. (Note: May not be an actual law.) Then on Oct. 26, gourmands will have to choose between attending the 22nd Caesar Salad Competition at the Westin Hotel or the Chefs for Farmers Oyster Bash at One Arts Plaza. Both run from 2–6 p.m., so you have to pick!

Monica Greene is back in North Texas — her Pegaso Diner is now open in Cowtown. And Cedar Springs Tap House is now pouring.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 19, 2014.

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