To call Belly and Trumpet’s chef Zenner precisianistic might be an understatement, but his over-the-top eye for detail doesn’t end in the pass through at the tiny Uptown restaurant, it carries strong with the entire staff. There is a sense of understanding each dish, from the plating to exact ingredients with the entire staff. This pragmatic joie de vivre gives pleasure as the guests peruse the menu free of angst, or order envy. There simply are no wrong choices on the menu. You are free to roam the small sampling of dishes without fear, knowing each item is the correct choice. This is the same strong detail that runs rampant with all three of the restaurants owned by Tiffanee and Richard Ellman. Near perfection is never an accident.
It is always a pleasure to see a new menu with the change of seasons, so I was especially delighted to learn that Belly and Trumpet made some fresh alterations recently. A recent visit netted some terrific and beautiful plates, packed with flavors that might be difficult to find with other area restaurants. First understand that I enjoy the trend of shared plates. This is my preferred method of dining with friends, where everyone tastes and discusses each ingredient. Call it camaraderie dining, if you will.
Wagyu beef tongue steam buns
With the new menu we found some pretty terrific crab beingnets that were packed with fresh blue crab and served with Pernod aioli. Again, perfect for the table, and plenty to go around. Other starters our table enjoyed were the steam buns. I am seeing more of the buns on menus across town, typically filled with pork belly. These buns are kicked up a few notches with crisped Wagyu beef tongue and pickles turnips and cucumbers.
You will soon find me at the Belly and Trumpet bar sipping one of their signature cocktails, but only as an excuse to order the foie terrine. The smooth, rich and buttery foie is encased in a thin layer of duck fat, waiting to be slathered onto the accompanied bits of toast and an Armangnac prune jam. Again, a large portion with plenty to share, but one could make a case not to.
Pimento cheese and short rib pastrami
Moving down the menu a bit you will definitely enjoy the Coho Gravlax, which are served with what the menu calls “snow fungus”, but you will recognize the ingredient as white seaweed. This is the same beautiful stuff found on the Tei An menu, but served much differently with leeks, dill, capers, and thin slices of salmon. When the plate arrives you will be bowled over with the fresh scent it gives off.
One of my favorite new dishes is the Apple Eggplant which is laden with chunks of chevre, maitake mushrooms, a bounty of the tiny eggplant, and a haunting black garlic puree. You will want to take home a jar of the black garlic and spread it on everything in your kitchen.
Choosing a large plate seems like such a commitment, but the menu has a small handful that entice. My table chose the whole Branzino, another item that seems currently popular in Dallas. I had several of these recently, but none more beautiful and simply prepared. A choice sprinkling of salt and pepper before fried to a crispy perfection. Although a large plate on the menu, this is a perfect dish to share. We found ourselves looking for nooks of the sweet and delicate meat, laughingly fighting for choice pieces.
Does Zenner do pastry well? I wouldn’t know as we never made it that far down the menu. It all sounded superb, but that will have to wait for another evening.