By Clare Myers
Connoisseur of Al Dente Wines
As we all know, it is nearly impossible to find good food in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. As a restaurant review columnist, this has been a constant source of frustration and irritation for me for months. Each week, I scour the city — not to mention the Internet — in search of something, anything that at least seems edible, yet each week I go home disappointed by yet another middling Mexican restaurant or so-so burger joint.
Part of the problem could be chalked up to DFW’s complete lack of diversity, a problem that is especially egregious in Irving. Another issue could be attributed to Texas’ stagnant economy; after all, people are leaving the state in droves, taking their food culture with them.
I had almost despaired of ever finding a decent meal and was on the verge of packing my bags and moving to Austin when I heard a strange rumor through the foodie grapevine.
Celebrity chef Jeremy Hall had recently opened a hot new bistro in Dallas and was serving up divine culinary delights to those in the know. The catch? The restaurant is speakeasy-style. Only those with a direct line to Hall can reserve the place’s only table, which is in an undisclosed location in — to my surprise — our very own city of Irving!
After using newspaper funds to grease the palms of dozens of high profile members of the Dallas food community, I finally snagged a reservation for four, the maximum amount the tiny restaurant can accommodate. On a recent Sunday night, three anonymous friends and I ventured to the gastronomic paradise known only as Bistro 2079.
We were met at the door by the chef himself, an unprecedented windfall. At first, I was a bit thrown off by the minimalist décor of the bistro. Although I was distracted by the concrete walls covered only with the flags of several countries and a single, quite lovely print of running horses, I could not take my eyes off the centerpiece of the table, a statuette of a rather proper-looking dog standing on its hind legs and dressed in the manner of an 18th-century British gentleman. I soon learned, however, that this was only an indication of Hall’s quirky personality. Anything lacking in the style of the restaurant was quickly eclipsed by a marvelous revelation: We were privileged not only to meet Hall, but also to be served by him — a startlingly personal touch that revealed the notoriously private chef’s approachability.
Hall first served us a 2012 Chateau Paradis, chilled to optimal temperature. The medium-bodied wine with hints of fruit and a marked, but not overbearing, dryness was ideal on a warm, early spring evening by an open window through which only occasional sounds of dogs barking or children screaming could be heard.
The meal itself was, in a word, perfection. Hall immaculately arranged golden, buttery garlic dill potatoes and fresh asparagus steamed to glorious tender-crispness on each plate, framing the masterpiece of an entrée: braised salmon with lemon-tarragon crème fraîche. The salmon — perfectly complemented, I might add, by the cool, crisp wine — was a luscious affair, positively oozing with citrusy flavor that was tempered by the earthiness of the herbs. Hall, however, did not allow this powerful combination to overpower the fish, but instead, through some kind of sorcery, expertly drew out the rich, succulent taste of the salmon itself. I repeat, perfection.
My unnamed friends were stunned into near-silence by the sheer deliciousness of the meal, although one may have been spotted licking his plate.
As if our dinner could have gotten any better, Hall brought out four ornately-decorated white ramekins of orange-infused crème brûlée. He then proceeded to torch them in front of us, creating a paper-thin layer of caramelized sugar as we watched in awe. The dessert somehow managed to be simultaneously sinfully decadent and blissfully light. The chef served it with a 2010 Chateau Cantegril, a pure, sweet dessert wine with notes of honey that lingered as long as we did in the bistro.
To top off an indescribably delightful experience, Hall himself joined us for an after-dinner drink of A. de Fussigny Sélection Cognac, a subtle balance of sweet and spicy with a strong, warm finish. It was the perfect ending to a perfect evening.
In general, I include directions to the restaurants I review, so that readers who want to try it for themselves can form their own opinions of Dallas’ culinary scene. But in this case, Bistro 2079 is a secret I want to keep all to myself.