by Andrew Chalk
I just read a restaurant review by a famous critic whose prose makes mine sound like a garbage truck being shoved into reverse. He argued that great meals are made not by the food, or the beverages, but by the ‘whole milieu’ in which one enjoys it. The location, the company, the sense of accomplishment from endeavors earlier in the day. From kind remarks one heard. Maybe it was a combination of those things that made tonight’s tequila dinner at Lazaranda in Addison so enjoyable. According to famous critic, I could have replaced the food with a TV dinner, the Don Julio 100% blue Weber agave tequila with battery acid, and the evening would have been just as adorable.
I’m not buying it. I think the other factors helped, but the tequila and especially Lazaranda’s food were key. Like Anastacia Quiñones at Komali, or Nico Sanchez at Meso Maya, or Olga Reyes at Mesa, chef Antonio Marquez is doing high-end Mexican food with a imprimatur that would elicit praise south of the border. Yet his style is unique. I had trouble placing it at first, but I think it is that, unlike the other three chefs, he is an outsider, working three locations in Mexico on top of the Dallas outpost. It makes some of his dish designs appear brilliantly naive. For example, a black bean soup with ‘fideo’ (pasta shaped like spaghetti) and fried cilantro topped with a dollop of goat cheese and served in a bowl of scarlet tortilla was light and liquid due to some of the cooking liquid for the beans remaining in the soup. The Book of Dallas Pretention (New Testament) would declare black beans too prosaic to be out there as the sentinel ingredient of a dish, but Marquez hasn’t read that book and does it, drawing rave reviews from the attendees.
Grilled Chilean Sea Bass with creamy potato and pasilla purée with a lobster and vanilla sauce assertively emanated lobster flavors from the sauce making me scramble for a teaspoon to scrape up every last drop. Hopefully the practise of licking ones plate will come back into fashion soon (I have middle-aged male friends who are trailblazers in this respect). Oddly, the plating here looked bungled compared with the clever tortilla bowl of the last course.
The rest of the meal is best described with the pictures but I must mention the dessert. That Rienzo Piano-esque wafer was impossible light, melting unapologetically in the mouth. It may not have been the advertised chocolate Napoleon but I am sure it was better, and maybe driven by a late seasonal discovery.
Now the bad news. And it is bad. None of these dishes are on the regular menu. We now know how innovatively and seductively Antonio Marquez cooks, only for it all to be pulled away. The regular menu does have many of the pieces and I urge management to see about putting the soup and the sea bass on.
They do have Don Julio tequila however. We had the Blanco (unaged), Reposado (oak aged for four months) and Añejo (oak aged 30 months), plus a margarita made with the Blanco. The Blanco, being made of a generous succulent, also contributed to the lobster sauce with the sea bass. Marquez considers tequila to have rich possibilities for flavoring dishes. What we did not have, but you can, by the glass at Lazaranda, is the special distillations like Don Julio ‘Real’, bottled with a replica of the agave ‘pina’ on the lid and caressed with agave leaves around the base of the bottle. Or ‘1942’, not the vintage, but the year of founding. This special was distilled to celebrate Don Julio’s 60th anniversary and its production involved 4 years ageing in American oak.
This was Lazaranda’s second tequila dinner. Watch their Facebook page and web site for the date of the next one. You can buy Don Julio at most liquor stores around town.