Beyond Turkey

Posted on 17 Nov 2011 at 6:31pm

There’s so much more than the ordinary to be thankful for from Dallas restaurants

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LITTLE LAMB | The earthy depth of lamb, mushroom risotto and a rich demi-glace conjure up autumn without cleaving to traditional ideas of the holidays. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Thanksgiving always conjures up thoughts of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, and while those staples are comforting, there is so much more to an autumnal menu than those familiar standbys. And Andre Natera, executive chef at Pyramid inside the Fairmont Hotel Downtown, has come up with some inventive ways to ring in fall without cleaving to the ordinary.

Mixing it up not just for the season, but for specific plated dinner offerings on the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, Natera’s theme exudes sophisticated comfort, starting with the butternut squash bisque (available now only on Turkey Day, but hopefully on the full menu soon). A dollop of oil and slight bite from chorizo turn a simple vegetable soup into a tremendous savory experience.

But you don’t need to be there on Thursday to fully appreciate the scope of the flavors, from a surprising heirloom carrot salad ($10) wrapped around goat cheese to a butter-poached lobster perched on a stone-grits-stuffed ravioli provides a whimsical — and wholly satisfying — variation on the Southern specialty of shrimp and grits.

The hearty, earthen flavors of roasted lamb ($33), served with mushroom risotto and crisp Brussels sprouts, are accented by a rich Zinfandel demi-glace and pitch-perfect preparation.

As always, desserts are a winner, especially the smartly conceived pineapple upside-down cake, which turns a ‘70s-era dinner party joke into a robust and tangy closer. With his current fare, Natera has devised probably his best menu since coming to Pyramid: Inventive, thematically unified, intensely seasonal and executed with all the warmth of a hearth on Christmas Eve. And he did so without relying on turkey or ham. That’s something to be thankful for.

Pyramid is open for brunch buffet and a plated dinner on Thanksgiving Day ($49.95), and offers “turkeys to go” as well.

TASTING NOTES: THANKSGIVING EDITION
Many Dallas restaurants will be open on Thanksgiving, offering those who don’t feel like cooking at home the chance to still enjoy a feast. Among the specials:

Craft — Prix fixe dinner including appetizers, desserts, a selection of side dishes and choice of turkey, prime rib, salmon and more for $85/adult, available 11 a.m.–8 p.m.

Nana — Both a four-course brunch and a select menu for dinner (including bottomless mimosas) are available, starting at $65/adult.
The Second Floor — Chef J Chastain has the kitchen at his Galleria restaurant going all day, with a three-course dinner from 11 a.m.–11 p.m. for $49 (add $20 for wine pairings).

Mignon — In Plano, enjoy a traditional buffet of butternut squash soup, roasted turkey, stuffing, dessert and more from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for $40/adult.
Some restaurants have pre-Thanksgiving takeout services. The Grape will prepare a smoked Amish turkey dinner or a maple-glazed ham with all the fixin’s from $165–$275 (serves up to 15). La Duni is offering its luscious cakes for pickup on Wednesday until 9 p.m. Pre-order online at LaDuni.com and get a 5 percent discount with the promo code CAKE.

The annual Beaujolais Festival, which for me has always symbolically kicked off Thanksgiving week, comes to a new locale (the new Omni Hotel) on Nov. 18, 7­–9:30 p.m. You can roam around the fancy new digs while swigging some good French (and even Texas!) wines, and tasting bites from local chefs. Tickets are $55. Visit FACCDallas.com for more information.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

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