When it comes to dining in Dallas, we tend to be a cynical bunch. But throw the word “wine” in the name of your restaurant and we’re guaranteed to try it at least once. So when we saw the opening of Ari’s Wine Bistro on Travis, we immediately popped on their website and downloaded the menu.
Everything sounded great, but the diverse menu left us scratching our heads (with the one free hand not holding a glass of Pinot Grigio). From club sandwiches to hand cut steaks, with chicken and noodles and corn bread thrown in for good measure, we thought the scope was too broad.
Visions of Cheesecake Factory menu-pause swirled around us.
So in order to test our theory, we ordered like it was our last meal before walking the Green Mile with a little of everything.
For starters, after Crème Fraiche Crab Cakes and Tuna Tataki Salad, the clear winner was the Almost Classic Caesar made with butter smoked romaine. The delicate balance of flavors and textures expertly played off the slightly charred smokiness of the lettuce.
A cheese board offers some great varieties, even if slightly skimpy for the $14 price tag, and it’s a great selection for a tiny nosh while lingering with a bottle of wine before or in place of a full dinner.
The entrées were tempting for a variety of reasons. We couldn’t bring ourselves to order the Club Sandwich, and opted instead for a Petit Filet coated with a delightful bleu cheese crust and a house-made steak sauce on the side for dipping each velvety bite of beef.
To put the chef to the true test, we ordered the most mundane sounding item on the menu: Roasted Chicken. We were quickly put in our place with the moistest, most flavorful breast we’ve eaten in some time. It’s usually a shame to order chicken at a nice restaurant, but this is a poultry boob worth rolling around your palate.
The sides are hit-and-miss, but mostly hit. Grilled Asparagus and Chive Mashed Potatoes are textbook classics, but the Macaroni in Purple Haze Béchamel that should’ve wowed was relatively flavorless and anything this rich should taste heavenly. Hopefully it was an off-night.
But believe it or not, the favorite dish among all of us at the table was the Cast Iron Cornbread, served up in a large wedge aside each entrée ordered. Buttery and slightly moist without losing its cornbreadiness, it was decadent enough to replace dessert and we couldn’t get enough. Next time, we’ll order the appetizer portion that comes with pickled jalapeño and honey.
On our visit, the kitchen was out of the 5 Sense Cheesecake, which made us sad. We were desperate to try any dessert that combines Dallas cheese maven Paula Lambert’s Mascarpone cheese and Strawberry Pop Rocks. But maybe next time.
Ari’s truly offers something for every taste and every budget, with bottles of wine starting at just $22 up to $390, but most fall in the $30-$60 range, making for an affordable night out. Especially if all you eat is cornbread.
Ari’s Wine Bistro
4514 Travis Street (upstairs from Chateau Wine Market)