In a way, it’s a comeback story. Chef Bruno Davaillon, beloved across Dallas and renowned across Texas for his expert French cooking, has a menu of his own available to the public for the first time since January 2020. Chef Josh Sutcliff, who spent the last three years running pop-ups and living in Denver, is back in charge of a Dallas kitchen. And restaurateur Stephan Courseau has updated and modernized his bistro, Up on Knox, in an overhaul so big, they ordered new signage and changed the name to Knox Bistro.
Yes, we could look at Knox Bistro as a comeback. But there is a better analogy: basketball. Like LeBron James and his buddies moving to Miami to win games together, or like Kevin Durant joining the Warriors, some of Dallas’ biggest French food talents have converged on Knox Street. It’s a superteam.
The superteam has reinvented Knox Bistro as a nice-casual spot with tight, top quality French cooking. It’s the kind of restaurant where you can comfortably dress up or down, depending on whether you want to celebrate a special occasion, have a nice date, or just sit at the bar and devour a lunchtime quiche. But for all that approachability, Knox Bistro revives a number of Davaillon’s signature dishes from his previous restaurant, the spectacular high-end destination Bullion.
(The basketball analogy continues inside these parentheses. If you don’t watch basketball, skip ahead to the next paragraph. Davaillon is Kevin Durant and Bullion is the Oklahoma City Thunder. After Davaillon left Bullion, in circumstances that are still gossiped about without much reported fact, the restaurant limped forward a few more months, got hit by the pandemic, and still hasn’t reopened. The Thunder, too, are rebuilding. Word is that both team and restaurant plan to attract our attention again at some point in 2023.)
Back from Bullion is the concept of nightly specials, including some of the same dishes, like a stew of lamb and spring vegetables. Knox Bistro, however, boasts a strong focus on seafood: trout rillettes, oysters, crudos with French twists, mussels, and a dinner of skate dressed with lemon, butter, and capers.
Knox Bistro opened at the beginning of May and I stopped in for a first taste this week. (We’ll have a fuller report later. Dining critics give restaurants a grace period before writing a full review, so we will return this summer, right after the NBA draft.)
The space is as welcoming as ever; it closely resembles a Parisian bistro except for the newer build and higher ceilings. Underneath the vintage-looking neon sign, diners can push their way in through an enormous wooden revolving door, or walk around the corner for a normal entry.
Given the new focus, my party chose seafood, ordering gratinated mussels, seared scallops, and that lemon butter skate, plus a side of grilled asparagus. Unsurprisingly, it was all wonderful: meltingly tender mussels tossed with spinach in an assertive saffron sauce, scallops plated with oyster mushrooms and crispy potatoes, and asparagus given a savory, earthy note from the smoke off the grill. The skate’s lemon and capers are so assertively acidic, the taste is electric. I happen to like that lemon-bomb feeling.
This sort of unsurprising excellence leaves me excited to come back for the daily specials and for the lunch menu, a totally different, more casual collection of sandwiches, quiches, omelets, and even chicken cordon bleu.
A few words of advice. There is a free basket of bread at the beginning of the meal. If you’re not too hungry, skip the butter and save the bread to soak up sauces, especially the saffron sauce from the mussels. And I’d like to see the wine list move in a more Parisian direction as the restaurant develops, toward less famous, more food-friendly French varietals of the sorts you spot at Boulevardier or Gemma. Until then, the best deals are Loire Valley whites and Oregon pinots.
Knox Bistro is just the first move for the Courseau-Davaillon-Sutcliff superteam. They’re hiring another executive chef soon to create a “French-Asian” restaurant that Davaillon will help create. They’re also planning a more casual cafe and a bakery, according to an interview Courseau gave to D CEO. And Courseau’s original spot, the more old-school Le Bilboquet, will have its kitchen redone, at which point Davaillon will consult on that menu, too. It’s all going to be in the same neighborhood, and it’s all coming in the next few years. Soon we may be looking at a French culinary dynasty. Never bet against a superteam this talented.
(Unless it’s the Brooklyn Nets.)
Knox Bistro, 3230 Knox St., Ste. 130