SideDish Supper Club at Samar by Stephan Pyles: A Recap

Oh what a feeling!
Oh, what a feeling!

Our photographer, the incomparable Matthew Shelley, is putting the finishing touches on the pictures from last night’s SideDish Supper Club at Samar at Stephan Pyles, but Mr. Andrew Chalk has already written a recap of last night’s festivities.

I would like to thank Stephan Pyles, managing partner George Majdalani, and the versatile staff at Samar for putting on more than just a fabulous dinner—the evening was magical. The belly dancers swinging from the swanky chandeliers and the fire pit blazing in the foggy mist outside created an incredible party atmosphere around the exotic cuisine. (BTW, I thought belly dancers were supposed to have bellies.)

Ask for the Samar Car.
Ask for the Audi Samar Car.

Thanks again to Audi for my new white car (did you see it last night?), Ketel One for the free vodka (who doesn’t love that!), and the cultured folks at Cultured Cup for the exquisite tea. (I’m joking about the free car.)

I don’t get sappy too often, but I am so honored by how many of you who attended last night have been to all four of our SupperClub celebrations this year. I think we’ve started something really special . This club was developed as an outlet to share fine food with friends and I think we have exceeded any expectation I ever imagined. Thank you all from the bottom of my jiggling belly. Where next? The moon? Who knows? Thanks again. Here’s Andrew’s report. Let us hear from you!

There was not a spare seat at Samar last night as the SideDish Supper Club moved in. The group had the restaurant to themselves, as Sunday is a night when the restaurant is usually closed. Guests spilled from the main dining room into seats at the bar and tables set up in the bar area. There were belly dancers, a traditional Afghan tea ceremony, and Nancy Nichols dressed to make Leigh Bowery seem prosaic. The meal was supposed to be five courses but each course actually encompassed several tapas. As a result, if you counted individual dishes, there were seventeen menu items. I resolve not to eat until Wednesday.

Jump for the whole report.

I can’t cover every course in detail below (the full menu is here) and keep this report to a reasonable length so I will take a ‘greatest hits’ approach and let Dishers comment on the things I omit.

Even before the official start time for meal service at 7:00 p.m., the noise level had risen as guests were treated to the restaurant’s signature cocktail, the Samartini. The meal began with a selection of international appetizers. The Blistered Green Spanish Chiles with Hickory Smoked Sea Salt stood out as a model of economy. The dish seemed to be just chilies and salt but the smoked sea salt drew the flavor out of chilies, making them seem like exaggerated versions of themselves. Simple, yet effective.

appsA second dish worth mentioning in this course is Three Spreads with Naan. The first spread in particular was memorable. A Baba Ghanoush that had just an oh-so-subtle smoky flavor (from the roasted eggplant?) that was addictive. Despite knowing, and having acknowledged, that this was the first course in a long evening we nonetheless ate every single bit, mopping it up with naan.

After appetizers, the next three courses were Spanish, Eastern Mediterranean, and Indian cuisines. The dessert course was truly international and paired with a fabulous Afghan tea service created by the representatives from Cultured Cup.

tresThe Spanish course included Tres Vasos (three glasses). Tumblers filled with three strikingly different flavors. Foie Gras Brulée with Pedro Ximenez Figs and Crispy Jamon Serrano is an orgy of umami richness of pate leavened with the tart fruit of the figs. The Serrano ham pieces sprinkled on top add mainly a texture component although you can taste the saltiness. The Ruby Red Grapefruit with Feta Foam and Lemongrass-Ginger Gelee has ripe sweet grapefruit layered with creamy foam from the feta cheese. After a few minutes in the glass the foam naturally subsided, making the whole a cream and fruit mixture. It may sound utterly odd but it worked.

Finally in the trio, the Spiced Shrimp with Pumpkin Flan and Orange contrasted of sweet fruit (the pumpkin) with tartness (the orange). I have tasted the Tres Vasos many times but held my tongue while someone in our party, who had not previously been to Samar, tasted it. He was he said blown away, which I think is what I think of this dish as well.

Despite several previous visits, I had never had the Mussels Escabeche with Pears, Sherry and Cream. The waitress poured what appeared to be a cream sauce around a mound of mussels in the center of a soup bowl. Not an uncommon service technique, however this sauce turned out to be ordinary cream sauce. It tasted like lobster bisque but with a piquant note that the chef revealed was jalapeno. The whole effect was subtle and complex and this dish now goes near the top of my Samar favorites.

This course also had my favorite wine of the evening. The 2007 Martina Pietro Verdejo from Rueda, Spain. The first notes are grassy and herbal, like a Sauvignon Blanc. However, after a few seconds more perfume-y aromas emerge that are like, dare I say it, Viognier. I haven’t had this wine before but it is worth searching for. Verdejos’ are rarely expensive and this will substitute for Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and probably dry Gewürztraminer when served with food.

The next course took us to the Eastern Mediterranean. The star here was the Endive-Orange Salad with Fennel, Pecan Labne and Sumac. Endive was used in its traditional role as a scoop for most of the other ingredients. The Pecan Labne was the second spread of the three in the appetizer course, but with the pecan added. It was creamy like a cream cheese dip punctuated with the texture of pecans and their distinctive flavor. Ladled with the endive juxtaposed the sensory impressions of bitter and creamy. The orange, however, was another story. It was sliced very thin (maybe barely a sixteenth of an inch) and then ‘candied’ (somehow). The result was a very thin layer of sweetness encasing a tart orange slice. The sweetness was so intense it was a heavenly flavor but odd in this dish. Quite frankly, I could put a slice of this on top of ice cream to create a special dessert in no time.

Next was the Indian course. Since executive chef Vijay Sadhu hails from India and has a track record devising innovative menus, I had high expectations here. In the past, he has most impressed me with his ability to get the flavors out of the ingredients he uses. Top billing goes to the South Indian Coconut Fish Curry for the clarity of the fish flavors and the sweetness of the coconut milk.

Then came dessert. Or, rather, five of them. Top marks go to the trio of ice creams: Pistachio, Rose and Gum Mastic Ice Cream, which were served in three cones fitted in a holder. It is a tough thing to make such flavors as rose water stand out in heavy butterfat but Samar did it commendably.

Kyle Stewart from Cultured Cup demonstrates the Afghan tea ceremony assisted by Fatima White.
Kyle Stewart from Cultured Cup demonstrates the Afghan tea ceremony assisted by Fatima White.

The dessert beverage was Afghan tea provided by The Cultured Cup. Owner, Kyle Stewart, demonstrated the traditional method of preparation. He may not be as easy on the eyes as the ubiquitous belly dancers, and he had to contend with highly elated audience, but his tea was good and the ceremony didn’t involve strapping any munitions to your body.

19 comments on “SideDish Supper Club at Samar by Stephan Pyles: A Recap

  1. that was an off-the-charts amazing event. Stephen Pyles is a genius. The Mussels Escabeche with Pears, Sherry and Cream? i might go on a crime spree simply to be incarcerated, sent to death row and request this as my final meal.

    and the vasos? oh the vasos. that was a sophistication rare in dallas, NYC or anywhere. perfect execution.

    how do you judge a restaraunt: creative (and appealing) execution and world-class execution. we went in with high expectations and samar (and D Mag) exceeded them.

    great food, great conversation and great drinks. thanks again.

  2. sorry, that meant to read:

    how do you judge a restaraunt: creative (and appealing) concept and world-class execution. we went in with high expectations and samar (and D Mag) exceeded them.

  3. Yes, Andrew, Baba Ghanoush does get that oh-so-subtle smoky flavor from the roasted eggplant. Duh?

    And, dare I say it, WTF is wrong with Viognier?

  4. WOW! Kudos to you Nancy & everyone involved. That was one of the most fun and delicious evenings out in ages! Ditto on the Mussels and as a non-Baba-Ghanoush-lover I have to say that was the best iteration of it I have ever had.

    The belly dancers were incredible and Stephan checking in every so often just made everyone feel very welcome.

    I’ll be back.

  5. Sounds like an amazing event. So bummed I missed it – I’ve been to the other three and you’re right, Nancy, you created a very special club and it’s great to see how many people here love and appreciate great food and wine.

  6. These dinners just keep getting better, but it’s not the food because that has been spectacular everywhere the Sidedish Supper Club has taken us (not to take away from the amazing performance Stephan and his crew put on last night, and yes Jon the mussels were to die for). Beyond the passion we all share for great food the fun has been greatly enhanced by the collegial sense of community which has been developing among those who are attending. We’re getting to recognize familiar faces and know each other; the conversations are becoming more fluid. Nancy, take a bow and get started on the next one – I can’t wait!

  7. Nancy proved why she deserves a raise. What a great event!

    I had zero idea what I was eating most of the time despite the menu explanations. The muscles and those fish cake whatevers were the best. I am the anti-foodie chow hound who loved it all and believe me…it never stopped coming. I had lost 6 pounds and found a couple I had lost after that wild-assed ongoing food orgy! I mean, what was that…five desserts? I have lived in Turkey and spent time in Egypt and the flavors took me back. But then so did the constantly changing WINES following the (what pomegranate?) martini and then the champagne…God!

    Many thanks to Stephen Pyles who was a hands-on host as was the inimitable La Nancy (replete with her veil and wig in the Moroccan harem costume) with Jennifer Chinnis right-handing. That was a hell of a good party, beginning with an intelligent side-bar spontaneous conversation that I intend to chapter two at lunch!

  8. The entire experience was absolutely amazing. I’m so very glad I went. If Samar is anywhere near that fun on a regular evening, it’s going to quickly become a regular destination for me. Absolutely lovely. Thanks to Nancy and Stephan, and all the others who helped make the evening memorable.

  9. The evening was one to remember. If the weather was a bit better then the patio would have been an awesome end to a great night.

    The mussels (Mejillones en Escabeche) I believe were everyone’s favorite dish. That dish had the perfect balance of acidity from the Sherry vinegar, cream, broth and a perfect cooked mussel, a rarity in Dallas.

    The pistacio, rose and gum mastic ice cream cone was a complex work of flavors in a cone. It reminded me of Old Town Creamery in Plano with one of his “International” flavors.

    The Turkish coffee pot de creme was very well balanced. I am not a coffee drinker but I would order that particular dessert everytime.

    I really enjoyed Vijay’s Indian menu the best. The prawn over crispy julienned okra and pear chutney was very good and very inventive. That was only beaten by the Kerala style coconut curry fish. That piece of fish was moist and flaky with a subtle spiced sauce, well balanced and executed.

  10. Nancy! It was so nice to finally meet you. We had a fantastic time and it was so much fun!! Thanks for accomodating us with our meatless diet restriction. I also wrote an extensive piece/review of last night from the vegetarian standpoint. (select the link on my name)
    I hope we meet again at a future event!

  11. OMG! I’ll need a tummy tuck after last night’s food orgy.
    What a great, FUN, FUN evening! Everything was, SUPURB!
    I’m not sure what I enjoyed more. The food or the belly dancers. What great fun! I’m so happy to have attended this terrific event.
    Nancy, what a great event you put together. You’re, the best!

  12. Sadly missed the fun and revelry. You all owe me a cup of chorizo foam. And a belly dance. What was in the hookah, twin?

  13. Good to see Nancy has such a vibrant sense of humor. Just noticed the tags for this article: “youthful spontaneous restaurants, ethnic food and skinny bitches”. Smiling.