Have you ever experienced one of those nights where you and your spouse or friends wanted to go out but you simply could not decide where to go? It is not a common occurrence with my husband and I but it does happen from time to time. It was Friday night and we wanted to go out to dinner but neither of us had a clear idea of where we wanted to dine. Should we head south into downtown Dallas to enjoy a meal? Should we stay local and grab a bite? Should we head slightly north to find something new in a neighboring suburb? We threw out ideas, googles various suggestions and after 45 minutes neither of us felt “moved” by anything we had discussed. My husband said get in the car and he just drove. We ended up at a familiar shopping center not too far away. On one side of the main road were several familiar restaurants where we had eaten in the past; but across the street were a few restaurants we had never tried. When my husband pulled up in front of Crudo Taverna I immediately noticed a few open parking spaces, this is rare at 7:30 on a Friday night in the Dallas metroplex. He turned to me and said, “Wanna give this place a try?” I said sure so we parked and went inside Crudo Taverna.
We were greeted by a friendly gentleman who walked us to the back of the restaurant near the kitchen to sit us near our table. It was a nice table as we had a good view of all that was happening in the restaurant. Immediately upon being seated our server, Chris, met us at the table asking if he could get us something to drink. My husband told Chris we needed a few minutes because we were going to order some wine. Chris immediately started talking us through the wine list. He was sharing with us some of the highlights of the list along with review type descriptors that included fermentation and barrel aging notes. I was speechless. As Chris spoke, I was reviewing the wine list that included wines from California, Washington, Oregon as well as Argentina, Chile, Spain, Italy, France, and South Africa. Dallas restaurants often have extensive and eclectic wine lists, but a suburban restaurant…no way! Since I have been enjoying so much Italian wine lately my eyes were drawn to the 2 Barberas, Bardonlino and Nero D’Avola. I was not familiar with the wineries but I was interested in enjoying a lovely Italian wine. I began asking Chris more detailed questions about these wines and to my further surprise he said he had told me all he knew (which was much more than I would have expected) and to make sure we had the wine we wanted he was going to call over the Sommelier. The Who? In a small suburban Dallas restaurant there is a sommelier? This place was blowing my mind. Noah, the somm, comes to the table and with knowledge and enthusiasm meets my questions with one of my favorite all time answers: a wine not on listed on the menu. He begins describing this wine and it sounds lovely so I ask what type of wine is it: Ripasso! Yes, I adore Ripasso. Then my husband follows with the responsible questions, “how much is it?” $75 – SOLD!
Tony Sasa 2011 Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso: This wine was crafted of 40% Corvinone, 30% Corvina and 30% Rondinella. It poured a deep, sultry purple into the glass. As it opened it met the nose with rich aromas of dark cherry, ripe berries and spice. On the palate this complex Ripasso pleased with flavors of ripe red cherries, blackberry compote, baking spices with a cinnamon accent, black pepper and rich toasted cedar notes on the back of the palate. This was a big, bold Ripasso that was very well balanced with round acidity and refined tannins that softened the longer it was open. It contained 14% alcohol, was medium in body yet long in finish. It was a delicious wine and we enjoyed every drop! Click here to locate this wine on Wine Searcher but also Google this wine because it is available in smaller retailers throughout the US. Only 150 cases produced.
The menu at Crudo was lengthy with many delicious options to choose. However, I was drinking Ripasso so my meal must pair with Ripasso. We began with a delicious appetizer of tuna tartar served with olive tapenade, pickled onions and cucumbers. It was outstanding! The tuna had a black pepper crust that blended beautifully with the Ripasso. It was a beautiful start to our dinner. For our entry we decided to enjoy two of Crudo’s evening special to pair with our wine; my husband ate the Chilean Sea Bass over a bed of vegetable risotto and I chose the grilled Veal with a light Cabernet Sauvignon glaze over asparagus and roasted fingerling potatoes. The food was outstanding and paired beautifully with the Ripasso. All of our senses were satisfied by the delicious meal and wine!
Throughout the evening the staff at Crudo was gratiously hospitable. Chris shared stories with us of his life’s journeys and talents throughout the evening. He told me the best way to take care of my new lemon tree and how to grow Heirloom tomatoes in a pot on my patio, as well as share with us the time he spent working in vineyards in Mendoza and Torrontes, Argentina. He also gave each of us a complimentary shot of his lemon celo, it is served at the restaurant but made by him from his own lemon tree. Noah checked on us multiple times to see how the wine was opening up and pairing with the food. We talked of other wine and food pairings and how impressive the menu/wine list was at this small suburban restaurant. He made us a complimentary shot of a pumpkin pie cocktail that tasted like a milkshake! YUM! Then he wrote our names on a special bottle of Burgundy and put it in the cellar for our next visit! HOLA! Next, Chris introduced us to the executive chef of Crudo and the outstanding menu became clear. The chef had retired from running some of the most well respected kitchens in Dallas over the past 3 decades. He is friends with the owners of Crudo and they talked him out of retirement with the promise that he could craft the menu anyway he chose; and he did! After meeting the chef the general manager, GianCarlo, visited with us for a while. He was friendly and very serious about Crudo being an outstanding dining experience. Finally, we met Pedro, who is a classically trained French pastry chef. Crudo does not offer soufflé on their menu but Pedro made us two complimentary souffles, chocolate and raspberry, and they were amazing!!!
It was an incredible evening that began with us not knowing where to go for dinner and ending as a magical journey of food, wine, cocktails, dessert and grappa! We arrived at 7:45 and left at 11:15! One of the interesting take aways for us from that evening was each member of the staff at Crudo we talked to said they were so happy we were there because we “got” what they were trying to do. If you live in the Dallas metroplex a trek north to Frisco to dine at Crudo is worth your time. And if you are a music lover like me, Crudo offers live music on Tuesday evenings (Jazz and Big Band), Wednesday evenings (acoustic covers of classic hits) and Thursday evenings (Spanish guitar performers walks the floor serenading guests). Furthermore, Crudo will accommodate special occasions as well as special menu requests with advanced notice. I promise my husband and I will now be dining at Crudo for years to come!
Lessons from this evening:
- Try new restaurants that you do not know anything about; you never know the awesome dining experience that is waiting for you
- Do not be apprehensive to discuss food and wine pairings with the staff at a restaurant
- Do not be afraid to talk to a sommelier and tell them what you are looking for and trust them to do their jobs
- Be intentional about your food and wine pairings, especially when drinking wine that is crafted for the purpose of being paired with food
- Step outside your comfort zone with both food and wine, you will be amazed at what the world has to offer
My Song Selection: The song I have chosen to pair with this incredible evening at Crudo Taverna is Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles. It was an outstanding and unexpected journey. At times I felt like I was back in Valpolicella because the food and drinks kept coming and the hospitality of everyone at Crudo was amazing. It was an evening of the “table culture” that Italians live by. How great would it be if all dining experiences were like this one at Crudo. I felt like I was on a Magical Mystery Tour….a gastronomical tour that is!
Go to Crudo (or a unique restaurant by your house) and order a fantastic bottle of wine (a Ripasso if you are lucky) and let me know what song you would pair with it. Cheers!