Fauna is the newest addition to Stephan Pyles Flora Street Cafe in the Dallas Arts District. It only seats 16 in the smaller dining room off to the side. The setting is dressier and quieter than the larger front room, with nice sized tables draped in lovely linens and appointed with comfy padded chairs. The tables are slightly close but it is a small room and there is adequate space between them. They have purse stools, music in the background, art on the wall, a tall candle on each table, dark curtains on the windows and TV screens above the serving window with scenes of fire and water. It has the southwestern touches, that Pyles is known for, like antlers above the monitors and branches in the ceiling fixture. The room is completely enclosed when the meal starts and serves only the same tasting menu of about 12 courses to everyone there. Pacing is a little slow but portion control is good. The doors nicely shut out the hum of the front part of the place. They do pass out a printed menu for you to take home at the end of the meal. The pass through window to the kitchen is below the monitors and everyone is served at the same time. Plan to spend a couple hours. When we went they had only been open 3 weeks, so I’m sure some changes have been made to the set up.
Our tasting started with a chilled green garlic soup with crispy potatoes and dandelion greens. The smooth soup held some chunks of potato and thin crisps. Some greens were piled next to the crisps. It was cool with good seasoning and a nice start.
New Mexico snails that were raised on a diet of kale and salsify were plated with shallots, cream, a salsify log and fiddlehead ferns. Some salsify was poached in citrus and apple and stuffed with salsify and green garlic cream. These were really tasty. The snails were not as chewy as many I’ve had before and were quite small and tender. They dish was packed with strong flavors and some fun textures. It was really good.
Next was Chef’s take on Caesar salad. This one had egg jam, chicken and finger lime. It was in 2 bites. the right one was a crispy chicken skin topped with pan roasted chicken and anchovy. The dressing was on the left. Not sure this one worked. My dressing crumbled as it was powder that had been packed together. The right piece was tasty but the flavor had no intensity. They gave everyone a towel to wipe up afterwards.
Sea urchin was a combination of uni, chanterelle and beans. Some Kafir lime was mixed with star anise and chanterelle in a custard that was underneath. It was topped with Santa Barbara uni and fava beans, peas, lima beans and black eyed peas. The vegetables were deliciously fresh and young. This one was good.
Tuna Atun was Blue Fin tuna with tomato, ogo and dashi. A leather of prickly pear was with the tuna in a dashi sauce. Some jelly of the pear was also in it and it was mild. Mostly mild flavors here but the seeds gave it a good crunch however you needed a spoon you didn’t have to get them. Overall this one was okay, not the best.
Paloma was a cocktail of grapefruit, lime and topo chico. It came out frozen in a bowl of liquid nitrogen and cut grapefruit, lime and oranges. It was one frozen bite on top of some leaves.
Chocolomo was squab, oaxaca cheese and radish. As you grilled the skewers of squab on your burner you also received a plate with with a squab ball covered with toasted blue corn and some avocado mousse. Underneath that was another bowl with radish, lettuce, and squab hearts. Some of the radishes were braised and others steamed. A bit of spice was in the avocado mousse and that went well with the braised meat ball. The hearts were just okay and the other squab was roasted on rosemary stems that continued to smoke long after the dish was done.
Pibil was a combination of kumquat, plantain and aloe. Candied kumquat slices were plated with some pickled shallots and creamy plantain. Then some pork jowl was placed on top of the kumquats. The shallots were quite tart but the jowl was amazing. It was so good, tender and juicy and mixed well with the other wonderful flavors and textures. This was a fun one.
Next was a Texas fare dish with beef cheeks, ramps and Fritos. The Fritos came out first and then a ravioli filled with beef cheek meat and covered with a sour cream sauce. It was nice and felt like a throwback to long ago when you ate your chili in the bag of Fritos.
Wagyu beef was plated with Maitake mushroom, liver mousse and apricot. The chicken liver mousse was mixed with foie gras and then placed in a fried donut. It was nice and strongly flavored. The beef was nicely juicy and tender and the mushroom strongly flavored. Last on the plate was a small sauteed sweetbread. It was excellent.
Fresca was made with hibiscus, watermelon and lime flavors. They were combined into a popsicle like treat that would be reminiscent of something served to workers in the field. Cool and refreshing.
Rhubarb was mixed with blood orange, yogurt and pistachio for the dessert. A cake was made with pistachio and yogurt and and stuffed with blood orange and rhubarb. Rhubarb was the dominant flavor here.
Lastly was a box from Dude Sweet Chocolates where you picked your flavors. They offered mole, coconut honey crisp, peach, peanut butter hazelnut and peach and milk chocolate. They were a fine finish.