Tis the season to open a restaurant in Trinity Groves. If you have not checked out the growing number of restaurants that have recently opened in Trinity Groves, you are missing out on a new treasure in Dallas. The most recent to join that list of openings is Amberjax. Located on the northside of the main building, Amberjax is both a seafood market and restaurant combined into one. Amberjax is owned and operated by Larry Williams and Karen Simmons-Williams. Larry was formerly running the kitchen at Rex’s Seafood Market, and jumped ship to open his own restaurant. Originally he planned to stake claim directly across the street from Rex’s, but that plan was scrubbed and he partnered with Phil Romano and Trinity Groves.
The restaurant opened this past Saturday to a large reception. The room is long and airy with a genteel southern feel. The interior is bright and inviting, and not overly pretentious much like Larry himself. Amberjax is no doubt occupies the largest space in Trinity Groves so far (sans 3015 the cheffy entertainment venue across the parking lot), and also has the largest and most interesting kitchen which is decked out with every appliance known to chefs.
Williams explained that you will discover the taste of his past, which appears to be more “les Acadians” with a healthy slice of joie de vivre. One of the dishes we sampled included a spot on crazy good gumbo that had a rich broth, darkened by a complex roux. This particular gumbo was not seafood, but chicken and sausage. Expect to find a variety of gumbos offered each day, including seafood. On the side of the bowl you will find a tasty slice of cornbread, half of a boiled egg and a dollop of potato salad. Williams explained that you were to add the potato salad to the gumbo for a kicked up flavor. Unusual if you are from New Orleans perhaps, but not in other parts of Louisiana.
The menu reads like a culinary encyclopedia, with a great amount of choices to please most anyone. All selections are not seafood, but as the theme implies, it is best you enjoy critters from the sea. Starters include a spicy tuna tartare, peel and eat shrimp and oysters Rockefeller. All classic dishes prepared to a subtle perfection.
For lunch service you may enjoy a variety of fish dishes, but also on the menu are enjoyable po boys such as the hearty smoked tenderloin that is spread with plenty of horseradish. There is even a BBQ shrimp po boy. This is not the grilled and sauced shrimp you might be accustomed to in Texas, but instead the sautéed shrimp in Worcestershire-spiked butter sauce. Insanely good.
Lets chat about mac and cheese for a moment. In the past week I have been served several amazing renditions of mac and cheese. I had formerly sworn off the dish as trite, but then I am amazed by offerings such as the Amberjax version that is power packed with giant shards of lobster. Looking at the dish, I saw chunks of lobster screaming to be devoured. I nabbed one of the pieces with my fingers only to pull out an entire piece of claw meat. The sauce was subtle and savory and is served with a side of tomato creole. This is one good mac and cheese that is meant to be an entree and makes me rethink my prior stance.
Another dish you simply must try is Larry’s down home boudin sausage. I am pretty positive that some of you have not tried a good boudin. Boudin is a fresh sausage made of pork and rice dressing. Amberjax plated the boudin on a bed of yellow rice and slices of home made bread and butter pickles. This is certainly meant to be shared with table mates and makes for a delicious appetizer.
Shrimp and grits is another dish that tends to be overdone in Dallas. I have recanted my thoughts on this as well. I would order this on a return trip, and most likely will this week. Creamy but with a bit of bite, the grits hold well under the pressure of the massive shrimp and delicate sauce. This is definitely a creole classic.
Then we have the desserts. They are all made in house, and the thing to order here is pie. The pies are made fresh throughout the day. Look to the chalkboard for availability, but my favorite was the pecan. You can buy these pies whole to take home, and you really should
Amberjax fish market is open Monday through Saturday from 10 AM to 6 PM, closed Sundays. Lunch is served from 11 AM to 3 PM, Monday through Saturday, closed Sundays. Dinner and expanded hours coming January 2014.