Frequent Foodie Miles
May 01, 2018 01:02PM
● By Ashley Madonna
Southlake's dining community is comprised of a variety of distinctive flavors that transport guests around the world. Whether diners want to tear into a fresh piece of naan bread or stick their fork into a ball of burrata mozzarella, there are plenty of nearby restaurants that allow locals to explore new culinary genres without leaving town. So put on your stretchy pants and leave your passport at home, because we are taking you on a tour of some of the world’s most exotic culinary cultures with some help from local restaurants.
Malai Kitchen | Thailand/Vietnam
As soon as guests walk past the rope screens separating the kitchen and the dining room and the coconut grater that makes the restaurant’s in-house coconut milk, they start to get a feel for that Malai vibe. The Thai and Vietnamese restaurant has an attention to detail in everything from the design elements to the dishes, helping transport guests to a specific state of mind while enjoying their night out.
“We created our menu to represent what we think is the best version of classic Thai and Vietnamese dishes, as well as some more unique dishes that have been inspired by a more modern approach to the cuisine,” chef and co-owner Braden Wages says. “Our menu has evolved over time, and it will continue to evolve as we discover new dishes and flavors on our yearly travels to Southeast Asia.”
Malai prepares everything, including the bases of their more elevated dishes, from scratch with the freshest of ingredients. So guests don’t just get any Sriracha Sauce: they get Malai’s unique blend of red jalapenos, vinegar, garlic and Thai chilies. And they don’t get just any drinks: Malai offers beverages like their fresh-squeezed sugar cane juice that’s made to order and mixed with ginger and lime. Another standout drink is their house-brewed beer, which is crafted to complement bold Southeast Asian flavors.
“Because of our unique ‘travel-inspired’ approach to the cuisine and from our scratch approach to everything we do, from coconut milk, curries, desserts and even house-brewed beer, our restaurant is unlike any other almost anywhere in the world,” Wages says.
Whether you want to try out their Vietnamese Meatballs, Spicy Crispy Samosas or Yellow Curry Bowl, the combination of spices and rich flavors is inviting to first-time diners and connoisseurs alike. And it doesn’t hurt that the fresh ingredients provide plenty of healthy options.
“We love being in Southlake because we feel like this community is globally aware and appreciates the quality and healthiness of what we are doing,” Wages says.
Om Indian Grill | India
After years of successful local catering, chef Laxmi Tukkem took the plunge and opened up her own restaurant to provide high-quality Indian food to Southlake. Tukkem knew she wanted to create fresh dishes from both North and South Indian cultures using premium ingredients.
“Everyday we are making things fresh,” Tukkem says. “We have a brightness in our dishes because I’m here making it all.”
While a few of her dishes, like her Mr. Tikka Masala, can be prepared to suit mild palates, those looking for a kick of heat will find plenty of spicy dishes at Om. Hungry locals can find a contemporary dish rooted in the Indian cuisine that will keep them coming back for more.
Starting out with the Hot and Sour soup and a side of naan bread will help set the pace for the rest of your meal. Entrees like the Butter Masala and Curry Land, which are both creamy and light at the same time, come in large serving sizes that are ideal for sharing with family and friends.
Tukkem strays away from the typical buffet style found at other Indian restaurants around town to guarantee each dish comes out looking and tasting its best. She also opts to grill her proteins instead of frying them, which provides a healthier but equally delicious spin on some of the culture’s classics.
“I’m just giving my customers my best,” Tukkem says. ”You don’t need unlimited food. You need quality, delicious food.”
As a child, Tukkem spent time in the kitchen with her family and learned how to prepare, cook and season these dishes. And even when she travels back to India, Tukkem still spends time with loved ones talking about food.
“Growing up, my mom was the best cook. Now, I am still in the kitchen cooking with her and trying out all of her creations.”
This continued time spent learning about Nawab and Moghul cooking techniques helps Tukkem keep her menu authentic, while combining new, fresh spices found in the country to keep her menu unique.
“My priority is providing a taste of real Indian food,” Tukkem says.
Luna Grill | Greece
Mediterranean food has a reputation for its health benefits and unexpected combinations of sweet and savory flavors – both of which you’ll experience at Luna Grill. With a clean interior and bright dishes coming out of the kitchen, a quick bite at Luna can make for a tasty lunch break or a fun family dinner.
Chief cuisine officer and co-founder Maria Pourteymour started the Mediterranean quick service restaurant with her husband because they wanted there to be wholesome, well-rounded food in her San Diego neighborhood. She used her personal history of cooking dishes from her Greek heritage and spending time in the kitchen with loved ones to open up her first shop in 2004. Luna Grill came to Southlake in November 2015 as the 20th location in the country and the third in the Metroplex. And the chain has not slowed down – they are about to open their 42nd restaurant. But despite their success, their purpose remains the same.
“I wanted to provide wholesome food that I’d want my own children to eat, so our menu is centered on food that is natural, healthy and delicious with no trans fats,” Pourteymour says.
Their gourmet salads and signature plates have that zesty tang that’s often found in traditional Greek food but also provides a sense of familiarity with its fresh and locally sourced available ingredients. Pourteymour says she leans into those recipes because of both her background and the family-style options that she knows locals will enjoy splitting with their loved ones.
“I learned how to cook from my grandmother and mother,” Pourteymour says. “[They] are from a small village called Kapsia outside the city of Tripoli.”
Whether you dine in or carry out of this family-style restaurant, rest assured that each of their dishes is cooked fresh and made with healthy ingredients.
“We cook with love and care, like we feed our family,” Pourteymour says.
Il Calabrese Ristorante | Italy
Chef Luciano Salvadore started cooking at age 13 in his hometown of Vicenza, Italy, attended The Recoaro Terme Culinary School in the country and moved over to the states soon after, all to follow his passion of creating great Italian good. So it’s safe to say the il Calabrese Ristorante partner knows a thing or two about creating an authentic experience for his diners.
And thanks to the time he puts into finding the right vendors and sampling products, il Calabrese serves dishes with regional ingredients that aren’t available at some other local Italian restaurants. This sourcing helps elevate their menu’s modern and traditional Italian dishes to create a new culinary experience.
“We make our pasta. We use produce you can’t find here in the area,” Salvadore explains. “We want to transport that over here.”
A majority of his dishes are full of flavors native to Southern Italy, which prides itself on lighter alternatives and fish entrees thanks to its proximity to the sea. But you’ll still find those Italian classics, just with a modern twist – like their lasagna, which is a family recipe, or ravioli made with Atlantic salmon. Don’t miss the zucchini and taglierini – served with a half Maine lobster out of the shell.
“We try to stay away from those heavier options,” Salvadore says. “Our Italian food is the kind of food you can eat every day and still feel good about it.”
Salvadore is a hands-on chef, overseeing everything from growing the herbs in the back to choosing each exotic ingredient used on his menu. While he loves being out on the floor and seeing people enjoy his food, Salvadore says he spends a majority of his time in the back to ensure the quality of his dishes are maintained.
“I’m always running back in the kitchen to make sure that everything is coming out right and stays authentic,” Salvadore says. “I mean it’s an Italian restaurant, and I’m an Italian chef, so it’s an authentic experience.”
The Londoner | England
Take a jump across the pond without the jet lag by stopping at The Londoner. The Colleyville neighborhood pub offers a wide variety of British favorites all in a warm environment.
“People should expect a cozy, friendly environment,” Charlotte Tate, The Londoner’s business manager says. “We have a lot of regular customers that are treated like family, which is the appeal of pubs back home.”
Whether you stop by for a pint while playing darts or sit down to a hot plate of classic Fish and Chips or Shepherd’s Pie, you’re sure to leave with a smile.
“People tend to think of British food as bland, and at The Londoner, our guests are pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food,” Tate says. “We have traditional British dishes including Scotch Eggs, Fish and Chips and Sticky toffee pudding…”
After you pull up a stool to the bar, ask your server about their rotating brews to see if they have something new on tap. Then sit back to enjoy a night out with friends or catch a football (soccer) or rugby match with other local fans. With all the excitement that comes with their watch parties, it feels like these games are happening just down the street instead of on the other side of the globe.
Boi Na Braza | Brazil
For a bit of Brazilian flare, head down to the local churrascaria for an exciting day of spirited energy, delicious drinks and a whole lot of food. Boi Na Braza opened up in Grapevine at the start of the millennium and has been serving up steak, chicken, lamb and pork tableside ever since.
“Boi Na Braza means ‘steer over the embers,’ representing the Gaucho tradition of cooking the meat,” according to their website. “We are proud to carry these traditions and heritage of the gauchos with you today.”
Guests can whet their appetites at the lavish salad and appetizer bar before diving into the main event. And with options like picanha, prime cut of top sirloin and the most popular cut from Southern Brazil, beef tenderloin, ribeye, pork loin and lamb chops, it’s hard to stop yourself from trying them all.
If – somehow – there’s room for dessert, the Brazilian flan, made with condensed milk, is a lighter alternative on their sweet menu. Its delicate and creamy flavors won’t weigh you down and its airy texture is sure to put a skip in your step as you close out your meal. It’s perfect for people looking for something daintier after testing your limits of meat consumption in one sitting.
Trio New American Cuisine | American
To try a menu full of global influences from the most sustainable ingredients, head over to Trio New American Cuisine. Their seasonal menus tap into the boldest flavors from all kinds of cuisines and cultures, but their spring menu in particular is one of the most unique spreads of globally inspired dishes. Co-owner and chef Jason Harper knows that this time of year is particularly exciting for new dishes.
“Spring is most chefs’ favorite time because a lot of produce really starts to blossom,” Harper says.
Harper knows it’s important to seek out these diverse inspirations to really create a unique dining experience.
“Whenever you have a dish, there are different influences from all over that are in there,” Harper says.
Harper uses distinctive ingredients like morel mushrooms – which are not available at most other local restaurants – and green garlic to elevate the proteins and add a cultural influence to a dish. Whether he is creating a Thai green garlic curry to pair with their Gochujang Ocean Trout or adding a bold side to the already bold Niman Ranch Beef Cheek Pappardelle, the combination of high-quality ingredients and exploratory blends into what makes Trio the melting pot of the area. And why, you may ask, does Harper draw these influences from all over the world?
“It’s what I like to eat,” Harper says.