Israeli-born chef Chef Avner Samuel is a legend in the Dallas dining community. As part of Southwestern cuisine’s “gang of five” alongside chefs Dean Fearing, Stephan Pyles, Anne Lindsay Greer, and Robert Del Grande, Samuel made a name for himself as executive chef at The Mansion on Turtle Creek. This was followed by multiple executive chef positions in hotels around the world. His first return to Dallas was to open his dream restaurant, the five-star Aurora near Highland Park, which eventually transitioned into a more casual incarnation known as Nosh Euro Bistro.
Following the closure of Nosh, he journeyed to Israel, for several years filled with culinary opportunities. But Dallas (and the allure of time with family in Texas) eventually led Samuel back to town in 2018. And he’s opened a new, yet familiar, restaurant. Gone is the “Euro” from the name, but Nosh Bistro offers plenty of international influence for longtime fans of his cooking. The flavors he brings together combine Europe with the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Asia with a touch Southwestern flair.
His new restaurant is located at 8611 Hillcrest Rd. in the former Dish Preston Hollow space. Now, sometimes where a restaurant opens is as important as what’s on the menu. We’ve seen concepts come and go due to troublesome parcels of real estate that simply can’t attract the necessary crowds to pay the bills. One such space on Hillcrest Avenue and Northwest Highway has in recent years seen the demise of two well-loved neighborhood concepts: Soleo and Dish. From the street, it appears that there’s little to no parking in a strip center that’s also home to Equinox and a variety of businesses ranging from t-shirt printing to orthodontics practices. The reality, of course, is that plenty of parking can be found underneath in a garage. And there’s always valet or a ride share app.
Perceived lack of parking may not be the real culprit in this or any so-called cursed location, but it’s definitely one factor. The only sure thing that can break the here-today-gone-tomorrow cycle is the lure of a chef with a devoted fan base. At least this is the hope.
The newly decorated space maintains the layout of Dish but brings in cheerful pops of color and dramatic design details throughout. Above the chef’s table hangs a vibrant mural by Craig Grimston, which features a variety of cooking implements, along with both the restaurant and chef’s names in a groovy, 1960s-inspired kaleidoscope of pop culture graphic design that evokes The Beatles or The Brady Bunch.
Prepare for dinner, lunch, or brunch with a healthy side of showmanship. Thin slices of Iberico ham arrive at the table and surround a volcano-like cone illuminated from within by a beeswax candle. Tortilla soup is poured individually for each guest. And dessert might just show up in LED-lit vessels that Samuel, or a member of his staff, operate via remote control.
I was invited in with other food writers to sample a large chunk of the dinner menu offerings. If I had to choose the big winners from the menu, it would start with the “Avner Style Falafel” which has a green center thanks to a healthy dash of parsley. Midnight black hummus gets its deep color—and depth of flavor—from charred eggplant skins, while the handcrafted pita served alongside makes for a carb-lover’s dream. Other standouts include Moroccan spicy beef cigars and red-beet-cured salmon on potato latkes with a dollop of creamy lebni and a dash of American caviar.
Chef Jill Bates has put together a lively dessert menu. There are sumac doughnut holes with pop rocks and local honey, cardamom star anise flan, and a Nabulsi knafeh (a Middle Eastern dessert with a noodle-esque pastry and layers of cheese).
The grand finale came in the form of a chalice of Knickerbocker Glory, a sundae-style presentation of sorbets and/or ice creams, that comes with a pipette of 100-year-old Grand Marnier. You can squeeze the ball of liqueur directly on the frozen sweet orbs one bite at a time or squish the entire contents onto the tongue for a slightly more sophisticated booze shooter—one helluva fun way to end a night of dining.