New and Noteworthy
Fig Tree, San Antonio and Abacus, Dallas.
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San Antonio The recession has had many negative side effects, one being that notable new restaurants are not rolling off the assembly line with the regularity they used to. A positive side effect of the production slowdown is that we get a chance to recognize an old friend that has fallen on good times. Over the years, the Fig Tree has had its ups and downs, but at the moment it’s soaring with a French-based global cuisine that has just enough warmth and wit to give it wings. A recent evening’s delights: effervescent Bing cherry soup; bouillabaisse with fennel and eight kinds of seafood, each perfectly cooked; and tender pâté-stuffed quail. Those who know—and now you’re one—ask for table 531, perched like an opera box over a river bend, with its intimate seclusion, wrought-iron fence, and, if you’re lucky, a visiting yellow-crowned night heron. Bar. 515 Villita (210-224-1976). Dinner Sun–Fri 6–10, Sat 6–10:30. Reservations recommended. $$$$ W+ Street level.
Dallas Abacus wasn’t really desperate for a makeover, but the old look was a bit elaborate and heavy. The remodel, while still quite the design statement, does have a contemporary feel and more open space. Even so, our attention was quickly diverted to our appetizer: king salmon cured in 10 Cane Rum, artistically crisscrossed with horseradish crème fraîche and sprinkled with microgreens. The sumptuous fish was so good we decided to order more, this time grilled and draped across tasty chipotle-ramp spoon bread and plated with asparagus and verjus butter. When we return, we intend to time our visit to take advantage of a daily deal like Margin Monday, with half-price bottles of wine. Bar. 4511 McKinney Ave (214-559-3111). Dinner Mon–Thur 6–10, Fri & Sat 6–11. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. $$$$ W+