The Dallas restaurant landscape is fomenting controlled chaos. It’s shedding its steak knives and grill bars for sous-vide bags, local dirt and ocean swells. You can trace the effects of this yearlong evolutionary trek through the kitchens of Oak, Driftwood, Boulevardier and Acme F&B.
And the hereditary dynamism keeps coming. Witness recent and imminent openings of FT33 by Matt McCallister, late of Stephan Pyles and Campo Modern Country Bistro, Spoon from former Mansion Restaurant chef John Tesar and Stephan Pyles’ own Stampede 66.
Dallas chefs, critics and kitchen groupies (toque sniffers) have long lamented Dallas’ arrested culinary development, where prime beef is generally served with a side of Jimmy Choo. At the same time, there’s this native tendency to go gaga for—and self-flagellate over the absence of—celebrity cooks and self-aware coastal trends. Food trucks and “local sustainable” mantras come to mind. Still…
Going to the Matt
“We’re always behind what’s going on nationally and internationally in things like technique and ingredients,” says McCallister. “Dallas always kind of catches on 10 years after something has been going on. Foams started on the scene internationally in the mid ’90s, and people are still using them here.”
McCallister’s new Design District project, dubbed FT33 (ft33dallas.com) after the chef’s call to lock and load the next course for a table, will swerve from run-of-the-mill Dallas fare, he says. How? It will push the boundaries of Dallas culinary craft, experimenting with elements such as texture, form and function. Ingredients drive this craft. He adapts technique and seasonings around each central element to bring out its natural essences.
For example, cauliflower with braised grapes and piquillo chili features cauliflower in a number of guises: grated raw, puréed, caramelized and fried into a chip. McCallister uses these different processes to wring out every last flavor and textural possibility locked in the floret. This allows him to unleash contrasts and harmonies from within the ingredient itself, instead of teasing it with disparate ingredients to generate the same effect.
He grows his own eggplant and infuses it with mushroom broth seasoned with marmite—a New Zealand spread made from yeast extract—to unleash the meatiness of the vegetable.
“I’m not going to do mac and cheese,” he insists. “I’m not going to do steak. Why would I want to compete with Pappas Bros.?”