Abraham Salum wants to wean you off of cheese enchiladas, not that there is anything wrong with them. They’re simply not his passion. At his new Uptown restaurant Komali, Salum seeks to seduce Dallasites with the warm, soothing flavors of regional Mexican cooking. They’re a far cry from the typical Tex-Mex offerings that blanket Dallas like a layer of gooey, questionable neon-orange queso.
But if anyone can convert the Tex-Mex faithful, it’s chef Salum. He’s been charming Dallas diners since his early days at Uptown bistro Parigi and then as chef/owner of his namesake restaurant Salum. It’s there that the talented chef perfected his vision, blending chic yet never stuffy surroundings with classic fare such as rack of lamb and stuffed flounder. Salum is the kind of restaurant that feels familiar enough to encourage repeat visits yet special enough to remain memorable.
Chef Salum recreates this successful recipe at Komali, this time trading timeless American classics for Mexico City favorites. As it’s located next door to Salum, comparisons between the two restaurants are inevitable. The bright airy interior, with its ivory sea-grass-clad walls and contemporary hacienda appeal, was designed by Julio Quinones, the same local interior designer that did Salum. The decor is almost as handsome as the well-heeled crowd, a mix of the Park Cities/North Dallas elite and the city’s most lauded interior designers.
Happily, most of the food lives up to Komali’s stylish promise. The easiest transition from Tex-Mex to Mex-Mex is trading in a typical bowl of Velveeta-like queso for Komali’s queso fundido: melted Oaxaca cheese with your choice of chorizo, poblano rajas, or mushrooms. It’s mild, gooey goodness. The tamalitos of the day—a Peruvian version of traditional tamales—are bathed in a smoky mole coloradito and perfect for sharing.
Of the lunch entrées tried, chef Salum’s seafood creations proved most memorable. Vuelva a la vida —a Veracruz-style ceviche cocktail—featured plump bits of shrimp, oysters, octopus, and scallops in a brisk, slightly tart broth. Banana-leaf-wrapped salmon was rubbed with an achiote and bitter orange adobo. Chile relleno stuffed with jumbo lump crab meat was another favorite, though the pepper threatened to overwhelm the mild stuffing.
Meatier offerings included a bone-in chicken breast slathered in a decadent Oxacan black mole and an ancho chili and honey-glazed pork chop. Both satisfied. Alas, the homey pozole with chunks of braised pork was thin and one note. And the chicken enchiladas—yes, you can get enchiladas at Komali, Tex-Mex believers—suffered from dryness despite an abudance of tomatillo salsa.
Even with its missteps, Komali is still a refreshing respite from all those sizzling fajita platters that dominate the Dallas dining landscape. Chef Salum blends artistry with Mexican comfort food and the results are stylish, delicious, and—best of all—not cheesy, greasy, or questionably orange.
4152 Cole Ave., Dallas, 214-252-0200
The food: Casual European/Contemporary Mexican
The cost: Average lunch entrée price $12
Full bar: Yes
Who's there: George W. Bush and the North Dallas elite
The Power table: Tables 10 and 40 sit in the back corners of the main dining room, offering the best views of the restaurant.