A cozy banquette at Âme in Dallas' Bishop Arts District.
Aloo Tikki with purple potato and goat cheese at Âme in Bishop Arts.
Anari chicken with pomegranate seeds, yogurt, and ginger at Âme.
Kessaku's plush dining room in downtown Dallas.
Tuna tartare at Kessaku.
Banish all preconceptions of a French restaurant — that pompous maître d’, those Toulouse Lautrec prints — when you enter Âme, the new French-Indian restaurant in the Bishop Arts neighborhood. Here, a deep-green wall with a simple bar welcomes you for a drink before you adjourn to the main dining room, an intimate space where artwork of anthropomorphic parrots mimic what might be a Goya canvas of aristocracy. The mosaic floor tile and host stand pay homage to the building’s roots and its former occupant, Hattie’s. Romance-inducing alcoves are lined with Christian LaCroix’s festive Maison de Jeu wallpaper, as well as antique mirrors positioned for clandestine people-watching.
Âme (“soul” in French) is the creation of mother-daughter duo Afifa and Sabrina Nayeb. Trained at Le Cordon Bleu, chef Afifa combines French technique with traditional Indian recipes to create dishes that are almost indescribable. We asked her how she devised the menu and she responded, “For me, it was a labor of love. We went through many iterations. Of course, this is a chef-driven concept, so some spices and garnishing may day to day depending on the local produce availability and season. I wanted to create a menu that Dallas hasn’t seen before, but that is beautiful not just in presentation but flavor as well.”
The starring role on a recent visit went to the Tandoori fish curry. A delicate cut of sea bass, unlike any we’ve tasted in quite some time, rested atop a sauce blended from green peas, lemongrass, leek purée, and dill — an exquisite layering of taste and texture. All items are à la carte, so place an order for naan puffs to soak up any remaining sauce on the plate. The emerald pilaf — rice cooked with spinach, kale, cilantro, parsley, and Serrano, garnished with delicately fried crispy onions — is no ordinary side. In fact, it could be the main course for any vegans in your party. End your evening below the oversized chandelier at the Elephant Bar, an elevated champagne and cocktail space tucked behind romantic floor-to-ceiling emerald velvet curtains.
If you’ve never had sushi with a view, take a ride to the 50th floor of The National downtown (which also houses the Thompson Dallas hotel) for your reservation at Kessaku. It’s the creation of chefs Hari Chan and Danny Grant (the youngest culinary genius to ever receive a Michelin star, who is also behind the Maple & Ash restaurants in Chicago and Scottsdale, as well as the Monarch restaurant, one floor below). The menu is packed with elegant sushi rolls, from the familiar (spicy tuna roll) to the sublime: Try the miyazaki nigiri, comprised of Wagyu beef and salmon and flavored with soy and lime. Topped with a dollop of caviar, it’s at the higher end of prices for a roll, but well worth the indulgence. Also stellar is the king crab roll — use your chopsticks to dip it into the saucer of drawn butter.
Globally sourced fish and warm artisanal rice might be the main attraction here, but Kessaku’s cocktail and spirits menu also intrigues. The Fromage Noir is fashioned from Bombay Sapphire Gin, goat cheese, spiced pear, lemon, and angostura. It’s definitely on the sweeter side — perfect après meal. For a date night, opt for 50 Shades, concocted from Early Gray-infused Grey Goose, spiced strawberry, coconut water, and lemon. Or, if you’d rather stay in the purist lane, here you’ll find one of the best selections of sake in Dallas.