In the summer of 2022, after 15 restaurants in Miami and Orlando earned idolized Michelin stars for the first time, our food reporter Claire Ballor asked a question that has been on the minds of many chefs and foodies: Could Texas restaurants finally deserve Michelin stars?
While it’s not yet conclusive that the mysterious Michelin Guide is actually coming to Texas, there’s reason to believe it’s likely, and soon.
As indicated in Ballor’s report, the key players in forging agreements with the Guide to publish its recommendations are tourist boards. The President of the City of Dallas, Visit Dallas, told Ballor, “Recognition from such a respected entity would be an incredible opportunity to showcase our dining scene on a global scale and encourage people from around the world to visit our city.” But President Craig Davis said he was “unable to speak about Michelin’s trial” or the possibility of his presence in Dallas.
Still, rumours, rumors and speculation remain.
I’ve thought about this question a lot while in Washington DC recently, mostly out of the joy of putting this summer’s incessant 100+ degree days behind me. I considered D magazine Restaurant critic Brian Reinhart’s claim that if Michelin arrived in our great state, we’d get fewer stars than we’d like.
So I went to three Michelin-starred restaurants and I asked, are these restaurants doing something we’re not doing?
I freely admit that three restaurants may not be strong enough to draw conclusions. But apart from the subjective taste of the dishes, there seem to be similarities that go beyond the rating criteria specified by the Michelin inspectors.
I’ve spotted six common traits across my dinners at Albi, The Dabney and Rose’s Luxury, traits that restaurants looking to earn a star might consider – if Michelin comes along. No one knows for sure except Michelin and those who submitted the money to get them here. But frankly, even if there are no stars on the horizon for the Lone Star State, incorporating these elements would only make our restaurants better.
Tasting menus are all the rage these days and don’t have to be extravagant. A recently New York Times article, headline The new generation of tasting menus won’t test your patience (or your wallet).cites the pandemic as a motivating factor for the tasting menu movement as chefs have been pressured like diamonds to adapt.
Admittedly, the tasting menu at The Dabney was pricey – $170 for six elaborately presented courses. But Rose’s Luxury has a $95 “Choose your Adventure” tasting built into the menu. Albis tasting menu, called sofa, Arabic for “a table set,” was a bit more expensive at $125, but I have no regrets as each course transported me to Levantine paradise. After all, I was on vacation.
Cooking live fire
The kitchens of all three restaurants contained live fire cooking what Good Appetite was named Technology of the Year in 2015. More than spectacle, food prepared over the wood grill or in the wood-fired oven simply tastes better. At The Dabney, the live fire grill is the heart and heart of the restaurant. At Albi, an open kitchen showcased both an oven and a grill.
I’m already a big advocate of Orange Wine. And I might be struggling for a spot in a cabernet-loving town that refuses to follow trends, but every single Michelin-starred restaurant I’ve visited in DC had an orange wine section on the wine list. Sometimes it was paired with rosés, but when it was, the rubric said ‘rosé and orange wine’.
Gifts to take away
Exaggerated? Maybe. But every restaurant provided diners with something to remember the next day. For Albi and The Dabney, it was a simple, artistic postcard. While I was eating at Rose’s Luxury, guests were given a Cacio e Pepe kit to take away. Like a wedding or a beautiful birthday party, small touches that guests can take home belong to the next common component I’ve found: extreme hospitality.
What constitutes hospitality and competent service can be difficult to define. In the wake of the pandemic, when service workers have been laid off without notice and then asked to return to work at risk to their own health for low wages — often with no health benefits — “service” is a touchy word, I’ll admit. However, in every restaurant I felt comfortable and in professional hands. I wasn’t worried that anything could go wrong.
At Rose’s Luxury, the bartender asked my name, shook my hand, and by the end of the night she got all the Solo guests chatting — without feeling forced. Each waiter spoke confidently and informed about the restaurant’s food. They looked me in the eye. I really felt welcome.
In addition, each restaurant offered something on the house – an hors d’oeuvre, an extra small course or a glass of wine. everyone loves this
Key benefit packages for employees
To attract these high-profile professionals, all restaurants offer company-paid health care.
In addition to health insurance, The Dabney offers commuter benefits that include transportation costs at a pre-tax rate. Albi offers paid leave, parental leave and soon to have 401(k) status. They also refund sommelier certifications. Rose’s Luxury offers comprehensive medical and dental coverage, paid time off, a 401(k), free gym membership and anonymous mental health support. No-tip positions (including dishwashers) start at $20 per hour.