Mini-Review: Ari’s Wine Bistro

Last night I had a secret meeting at Ari’s Wine Bistro in the old Il Sole space on Travis. I wasn’t really there to case the joint, I was actually trying to get some work done, but of course, we couldn’t help making a few notes. Here they are:

The room is deep burgundy–like my bathroom in the ’80s. It’s also very dark–perhaps the velvet curtains were drawn to reflect the late-afternoon sun, but it was so dark that my female business partner told me I looked good. Nice.

The food was surprisingly good. I don’t know why I said surprisingly other than the fact that I was unaware the place had such an extensive menu: besides loads of wine, they have some fancy people in the kitchen: a grillardin (Manuel Tun), a sous chef (Ernesto Estrella), and a garde manager (Rafeal Chab). Locavores, look for the new trend–garde mangers.

We put the garde manager to work and he satisfied us with a warm crustini topped with cute little marinated grape tomatoes tossed with arugula, Parmigiano, and a balsamic reduction (left). We also tried the “grilled cheese” which is nothing like the one at Highland Park Pharmacy around the corner–this version was two thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes filled with mozzarella and warmed until the cheese melted (top left). Delicious.

The wine list is hard to read. The selection of reds by-the-glass is more inspired than the whites. Bottle prices are very reasonable–Veuve-Clicquot, the perfect antidote to the summer heat, is $70 a bottle. I’d go back if only to look good again.

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