In one of the crazier weeks in recent Dallas restaurant history, Fauna—the unabashedly fancy chef’s table formerly located inside lovely Flora Street Cafe—was dead one minute and alive the next. The soap opera began on January 2, when Fauna’s nationally renowned chef-owner Stephan Pyles closed both venues and announced his retirement from day-to-day restaurant operations. Within hours, Fauna’s executive chef Peter Barlow had received a surprise offer to stay in the game. The next day, Fauna added 2.0 to its name and moved across the street to a private dining room within Ellie’s in the new luxury Hall Arts Hotel. The next week it hopped to a different location, and another was in the works so that January and February’s reservations could be honored. After that the restaurant will close for a month and change its name. Meanwhile, Barlow will catch his breath and plan for the future. In the meantime, our visit in early December was a total extravaganza that should give you an idea of what to expect if you are crafty enough to finagle a spot on the waiting list (reservations required; prix fixe $150 without beverages; contact at phone below or [email protected]). Over three-plus pleasant, leisurely hours, we powered through a tasting menu of nine petite courses and at least four amuses and extras. The three top bites encompassed an amuse of a single baked oyster scattered with arugula and sorrel leaves, petite flowers, and a blanket of haloumi cheese—think a modern Rockefeller. Second top bite, also an amuse: the world’s most unusual surf and turf: a tidy square of smoky pulled brisket jacketed in crunchy seeds and cornmeal and topped with Oklahoma paddlefish caviar. Third top bite: fluffy, cloudlike Hokkaido milk bread with sides of truffled beef-tallow “butter” and a wee dish of frothy sheep’s milk fondue for dipping. But, perhaps inevitably with such a complex and experimental menu, some courses didn’t work. Least favorite bite: a wild boar chop that was just plain tough despite being cooked sous vide and roasted; the multipart creation was not helped by an incredibly bitter huitlacoche-infused sauce chasseur nor by a side of harsh pickled salsify. In the end, the evening was both exhilarating and exhausting, ending with a round of dazzling desserts. Best sweet: custard-like, vanilla-scented canelé “tarts” with a wee piece of fig and two chocolate-and-dulce-de-leche bonbons (kicked up a notch with Oaxaca’s famous edible flying ants). We hope Barlow keeps a version of it in his repertoire, wherever Fauna finally lands.
Cuisine: New American
Address: Call for information., Dallas, TX
Hours: D Fri & Sat.
Last updated: January 4, 2020