Tapas at Stephan Pyles

30 Nov

Ahh Stephan Pyles, voted Best New Restaurant by Texas Monthly magazine, rated 4 stars by Mobile Travel Guide, and home to Esquire Magazine’s 2006 Chef of the Year, Stephan Pyles.  The press features are endless and it’s a restaurant well known by any self-proclaimed Dallas foodie.  For budget-oriented foodies like me who seek the Stephan Pyles experience without the multi-course bill, the restaurant offers a tapas-ceviche bar menu with small plates of big “New Millenium Southwestern” flavors.

On this busy Friday evening, Stephan Pyles was in its element.  Everyone from the valet service to the bartender to the hostess were feverishly catering to the cashmere wrapped patrons.  We had reservations for a large group.  While we waited for the rest of the group to arrive, we played voyeurs to the patrons at the tapas bar with a couple of cocktails from the front bar.

Pina Diablo ($12) and Kafir Lime Martini ($12):


The kafir lime martini (right) was exquisitely light and frothy, with a kick of pungent lime flavor.  The pina diablo (left) was less memorable, a disarray of fruit flavors that reminded me of high school trashcan punch.

Once seated and settled (there was a minor mixup where we were presented the lunch menu intead of the dinner and tapas menu), we had the difficult task of choosing a few dishes from so many tempting options.  After some mulling over, we decided on the 3-ceviche sampler ($28), the pulled pork flatbread ($12), and the tamale tart ($14).

First up, an amuse bouche to whet our appetites.


A small square of fresh, soft mozzarrella with a stem of microgreen in a light, tomato-ey sauce.  Tiny, tender, and tangy.

Since we were with a large group ordering tapas-style, the dishes were presented as they were ready.  There was a bit of unevenness in the service time of the dishes, leaving some at the table with empty stomachs and eager tastebuds while others were running out of table space with dishes coming out right on top of each other.  The pulled pork with caramelized onions and balsamico flat bread was the first to make its way to my space on the table.


Tender shreds of pulled pork atop a perfectly crisp (yet somewhat soft), airy flatbread.  Entertaining and very filling, it was like a classic Italian dish with a BBQ twist.  I could have done with a slightly lower meat-to-flatbread ratio as I thought the strong flavors of the pork overpowered the delicateness of the flatbread.  But then again, I’ve always preferred carbs to proteins, so this is probably just personal preference speaking.

The ceviche sampler, in adorable modern martini glasses with individual ice bowls, followed quickly.


Clockwise from top left: halibut with avocados and tomatillos, hamachi with agave nectar and guanabana, Ecuadorian rock shrimp with orange zest, and popcorn to cleanse the palate between ceviche tastings.  Of the three, the hamachi was my favorite.  Guanabana, also known as the soursop, is a tropical fruit native to Central and South America.  The fruit has citrus flavors (almost like pineapple) with a smooth, creamy, coconut milk-like finish.  The hamachi ceviche, with low acidity factor, was not a traditional ceviche by any means.  But the creaminess of the marinade played a great companion to the delicate texture of the fish.  The other two ceviches had more conventional marinades, though completely different from each other.  Of these two, my personal preference compass pointed to the avocado-tomatillo marinade of the halibut ceviche with its well executed traditional flavors.

After some lingering (including a brief meet and greet with Chef Pyles, who seemed very much so in his element making the rounds and introducing himself to the various dinner patrons of the evening), the tamale tart finally made an appearance.  Half of the tart:


The tamale tart with roasted garlic custard and lump crab meat in a smoked tomato butter sauce has been one of Chef Pyles’ signature dishes for some twenty years.  The tart’s flavor profile is clearly old school Southwestern with richness upon richness (custard of egg and cream, tender crab meat, and an abundant topping of smoked tomato butter sauce).  I appreciated the opportunity to taste one of Chef Pyles’ classic dishes, but was also glad that the newer items on the menu have evolved to better suit today’s palate with cleaner, crisper flavors.  It was a nice nostalgic moment, but a considerably heavy note to finish dinner on (now, it is listed on the menu as an appetizer, so would be one of the first courses in a regular dinner situation).   

Three selections from the tapas/appetizer menu left us with no room for dessert.  However, a collection of truffles and chocolate candies made for an agreeable mignardise.


Other than the inconsistency of service (a combination of our large party doing a tapas style dinner and the overall crowd at the restaurant this particular evening), I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Stephan Pyles.  “New Millenium Southwestern” proved to be a wonderful combination of Latin, Mediterranean, and rustic frontier flavors.  The dining room at Stephan Pyles is also a varied assembly of trendy bar scene, festive communal tapas/ceviche bar, traditional dining tables, glass enclosed private dining room in a wine cellar, and a semi-private drape “enclosed” corner table in the main dining room.  Between the myriad of flavors and scenes, you won’t be bored for a second at Stephan Pyles.  Although, with the high expectations I had for this meal after all the press features, I was a little disappointed that none of the dishes I sampled completely blew me away.

Rating: 4 / 5

Stephan Pyles
1807 Ross Ave
Dallas, TX 75201

One Response to “Tapas at Stephan Pyles”

  1. foodczar 11/30/2007 at 4:51 pm #

    My friends, Miss D has mentioned the perfect method for enjoying Cadillac eats on a Camry budget: Tapas! Actually, appetizers, soup-and-salad, or even lunch will work just as well and will give you all of the restaurant’s taste experience at a fraction of the cost. I must admit I used to feel guilty like I was cheating myself out of something by not experiencing a full-on dinner, but I’ve recently come to view such logic as positively idiotic.

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