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Restaurant Openings and Closings

Mot Hai Ba’s Peja Krstic to Open a Modern American Bistro in the Old Boulevardier Space

The Bishop Arts District lost a beloved 12-year-old bistro. One of Dallas’ leading chefs hopes to build something equally long-lasting in its place.
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Boulevardier closed in April, and will be replaced with a new, more American-global bistro from chef Peja Krstic. Kevin Marple

When Boulevardier closed this April after a 12-year run of success in Bishop Arts, it left a gap in Oak Cliff’s bistro market. We mourned one of the neighborhood’s best date-night spots, a hub of the local community where you could often find other restaurants’ chefs on their nights off.

Good news, though: the former Boulevardier space will soon be a bistro again, led by one of the chef-customers who visited most. Peja Krstic has learned a thing or two about building a great neighborhood restaurant in his decade-plus at Mot Hai Ba in Lakewood. His Oak Cliff debut will be called Pillar, and it will be an American bistro that aspires to the same kind of long-term local importance that Boulevardier had.

“This is something that I think I know how to do well, a neighborhood restaurant,” Krstic says. “This is something that is near and dear to me. We’re going to call it a modern American bistro. We’re going to have some American things, but with a dose of more flavors to it.”

Krstic has always excelled at blending flavors and techniques, making untraditional twists, and finding unexpected parallels between different cultures. Even Mot Hai Ba, despite its name and origin, is not really traditional Vietnamese food anymore, in either his or most diners’ judgment. He points to an example: “My dish that represents Mot Hai Ba to me most is those foie gras and kimchi dumplings, with pear compote and raw Wagyu rib eye on top, cooked in a hot, spicy tallow. It encapsulates a lot of cuisines that sing well together.”

Pillar provides him with almost unlimited room to explore ideas like that. Almost anything can fit into the scope of a “modern American bistro.” This is a nation of immigrants, after all; Krstic is one.

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Peja Krstic in the dining room of his first neighborhood restaurant, Mot Hai Ba. Kevin Marple

“I don’t know how the menu is going to look right now because I have way too many ideas,” the chef admits. There will be a steak. For a while now, he’s thought about serving meatballs as a main course, not an appetizer, and in some way combining Italian and Scandinavian preparations. Logan Johnson, who worked at Mot Hai Ba for almost three years and recently moved back to Dallas, will serve as Pillar’s executive sous chef.

Boulevardier fans should know that not much will change. Once the city issues approval for renovations, construction should be quick and easy, Krstic says—maybe only a few months. He loves the current layout, with the bar in the entrance, similar to Mot Hai Ba’s design. His main goal during renovations will be to add a bit of artwork and vintage flair to the space. That’s not very ambitious, but permitting and city approval can be a huge headache for Dallas restaurateurs these days, so Pillar is targeting an opening this fall.

“My wife and I have been going to Boulevardier since the first day,” Krstic says. “We loved it. I’ve spent thousands of dollars over there. I called [Boulevardier co-owner] Brooks [Anderson], and said, ‘Hey, I heard you guys are closing, I’m sorry to be so direct. I’m sure someone has already taken it,’ and he said, ‘No. You want it?’”

As for the name, Krstic has been thinking about the word “Pillar” for a long time. If you play word association, it won’t be long before you think of the phrase “pillar of the community,” and the chef hopes that his bistro will serve that role for Oak Cliff—in the way that Mot Hai Ba does in East Dallas, and the way that Boulevardier did, too.

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.
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