Belly & Trumpet

Best_new_Restaurants_Belly_Trumpet_2 (1) Monkfish

Brian Zenner is the culinary artist in the kitchen at Belly & Trumpet. His “soulful global” menu is an eclectic assortment of small and large plates. Don’t confuse the concept with tapas—sharing a variety of Zenner’s creations is more like creating an inexpensive tasting menu. Many of the dishes that change continually could command higher prices in high-end restaurants.

The setting is edgy yet elegant. The rose-colored walls hold stunning images of gothic fairies and pixies by English graphic artist Ruben Ireland. Dark curtains cover the side windows; oriental rugs are scattered across the hardwood floors. The vibrant room puts you in the mood to experiment. 

On one trip, I fell hard for Zenner’s antelope heart tartare: finely diced heart and foie gras torchon blended with Calabrese peppers, parsley, chives, shallots, and a touch of egg yolk. When I returned, the tartare was gone, so I took comfort in a bowl of Portuguese green soup scented with garlic and onion, and filled with kale, potatoes, and chorizo. I thought about the soup for months. One email to Zenner, and the recipe was mine. 

Best_new_Restaurants_Belly_trumpet_1 Coho gravlax salad

Zenner’s Asian-inspired creations include a plate of steamed buns filled with elongated slivers of beef tongue spiced with star anise, garlic, and sweet soy, hoisin, and Sriracha sauces.
Crunchy cucumbers and pickled turnips add texture. It’s a whimsical nod to modern food.  

Belly & Trumpet is not stuffy; it’s user-friendly. The wraparound porch in front makes a perfect post-work perch to people-watch. The cocktail offerings are just as creative as the food in the dining room. Go if only to try the scorched belly made with Rittenhouse Rye, Dolin Blanc vermouth, and Aperol, garnished with a slice of scorched lemon. You can thank me later. 

Pakpao

Best_new_Restaurants_PakPao_1 Eddy Thretiphuangsin

Chef Eddy Thretiphuangsin was born and raised in Thailand and is tired of timid Americanized versions of Thailand’s cuisine. Owners Tiffanee and Richard Ellman (Oak, Belly & Trumpet) hired him to create a Thai menu like no other in Dallas. At Pakpao, he presents a cross section of Thai dining experiences. The menu is filled with everything from street food to some of the fine-dining dishes he cooked for the Thai royal family. 

If you order short-rib massaman curry or red curry with catfish, be sure you have a bottle of Lucky Buddha beer nearby. Thretiphuangsin doesn’t hold back: the hot peppers will clear your sinuses and make your eyes pop out. Rich duck noodle soup and pad thai will satiate faint-hearted wimps. The dishes may not be spicy, but both are intensely flavorful.

The dining room seats only 45, and it’s usually full. Waiting for a table is fun. Thretiphuangsin and his cooks scoot back and forth across the open kitchen in the back, which is fronted by shelves stocked with Thai grocery products. Chula and Pakpao kites hang from the ceiling, and the bar is a fine place to perch with a beer. The windows fog on cool evenings, and, until you overhear a woman order a “drah-ink” with a loud Texas twang, it’s easy to pretend you’re in Bangkok. 

Best_new_Restaurants_PakPao_4 Mou pa lorw (braised pork belly)

If the weather is nice, take a seat on the patio and order an array of appetizers. It’s easy to spend an afternoon discovering the wonders of fried cashews mixed with green onions and bird’s-eye chiles; deep-fried hard-boiled eggs; chicken meatballs laced with lemongrass; or thick slices of pickled daikon topped with Niman Ranch pork belly sauced in a reduction of garlic, soy, and five-spice blend. Make sure you pay attention to the asterisks on the menu.