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Restaurant Reviews DFW

Kent Rathbun Opens Imoto in Victory Park

While it may be crowded on game nights and during concerts, Victory Park is one of Dallas’s less-frequented neighborhoods. Although the district houses the American Airlines Center, a WFAA news station, and Happiest Hour bar, the action in Victory Park is relatively low compared to that of Dallas’s other neighborhoods. A few restaurant owners, including Kent Rathbun, owner of Imoto, are hoping to help boost the nightlife action over in Victory Park.

Imoto, a sushi and pan-Asian restaurant, was the first of several restaurants to open in Victory Park, over a year after a revamp of the neighborhood was proposed.

It is Imoto’s sixth day in business at the time of this interview, and so far, Rathbun feels that opening Imoto in Victory Park was a good investment made.

“The people revamping this entire Victory Park district approached us and asked if we’d want to open a restaurant down here,” Rathbun says.  “At first, we were a little bit reluctant about opening here, but the more we heard about what was happening and what was coming and seeing who was signing, we decided that this is where we want to be.”

Rathbun describes the first few days of operation as “eerily phenomenal.”

“I’m not even talking about the size of the crowds, or about the money we’ve pulled in,” Rathbun says, “I’m talking about the performance of our staff, the performance of our kitchen, and the response from our guests.”

Imoto serves top-notch Pan-Asian food (via Facebook)

Rathburn then emphasizes the importance of starting slow and gradually picking up the pace.

“Right now, it’s not about being packed to the brim, it’s not about bringing in a huge amount of revenue,” Rathbun says, “it’s about creating an environment that everyone likes and in which everyone feels comfortable. I don’t care how good of a restaurant you are; if you start off at 100 miles per hour, you’re going to fall on your face.”

This philosophy can also be tied back to the process of creating and opening the restaurant. It took Rathbun nearly two decades to achieve his desired aesthetic and atmosphere.

“When I first was researching concepts for another restaurant of mine, Abacus, back in 1998, I went to a restaurant called Buddha Bar in Paris, France,” Rathbun says. “It was a restaurant that featured sushi and pan-Asian food. The cool thing about this restaurant is that it had a vibe I would never forget. Ever since, I’ve been trying to recreate that vibe. Abacus came very close, but Abacus was more world cuisine.”

Rathbun, having worked exclusively in the hospitality industry since the young age of 14, can attest to this fact. Despite not having trained in a culinary arts program, he considers himself very to have learned under the mentors he worked with in the early beginnings of his career.

“I have no formal degree in culinary arts,” Rathbun says. “I am sort of just a product of working in really good restaurants with really good chefs. I don’t use the term ‘self-trained’ specifically because I’m not self-trained. I’ve been fortunate to work with fantastic chefs in fantastic restaurants and just pay attention.”

Peking Duck Spring Rolls from Imoto (Via Facebook)

Despite taking immense pride in his work, Rathbun still has his eyes set on the bigger picture.

“Obviously, we want to be successful, but the real bottom line is to be part of bringing this district back to life,” Rathbun says. “If that happens, everyone wins. We’re just a piece of the puzzle here. But if that piece of the puzzle fits and that puzzle eventually turns out to be one of the hottest districts in Dallas, which I think it will be, then we’ve done our job.”

Imoto is currently open for dinner in Victory Park. For information on menu items, hours, and specials, visit imotodallas.com

 

 

 

 

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Restaurant Reviews DFW

State & Allen Introduces New Spring Menu

Clandestine at the intersection of State and Allen streets in Uptown Dallas sits the eponymously named State & Allen.  As Dallas’s first ever Green Certified restaurant, State & Allen offers guests healthy alternatives to traditional bar food, along with a selection of fruit and vegetable based cocktails. Those wanting to kick back with a few friends in a sporty, casual environment, while enjoying a variety of delicious, more healthful food and drink options should most certainly consider paying a visit to State & Allen.

Drinks

The Coconut Blackberry Mojito is a cocktail which consists of Captain Morgan, coconut, lime juice, simple syrup, muddled mint, and blackberries. It is topped with soda, which gives it a carbonated kick. The Coconut Blackberry Mojito is heavy on fruit flavor. It has a sweet, milky taste, and the consistency of a cold-pressed juice. The mint makes for a beautiful garnish for the cocktail, which, overall is spectacular.

Coconut Blackberry Mojito from State & Allen (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Equally as good is the Green Prickly Pear Margarita, which consists of Texas Hill Prickly Pear Moonshine, Wright’s Green Salsa, prickly pear juice, agave, and lime juice. The idea of salsa in a margarita might sound peculiar, but this is Texas, therefore there are very few things that can’t be improved with touches of salsa. The Green Prickly Pear Margarita has a hot, spicy kick to it, and has the thickness and consistency of a bloody margarita. It’s unlike any margarita around, but it makes for a unique, signature item.

Green Prickly Pear Margarita from State & Allen (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Starters

For those not too thrilled about the idea of healthy bar options, there are plenty of filling, meat-based items that one would never guess are health conscious. The Pork Belly Tostadas are the perfect alternative to regular greasy, oily nachos. Each tostada is topped with southwestern kimchi, peach chipotle jam, crema, and a small cut of pork belly. The pork belly is cooked very well, with a brown, crispy exterior. It is spiced to perfection, and easy to bite and chew.

Pork Belly Tostadas from State & Allen (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Not big on red meat? State & Allen also offers Ahi Tuna Poké, which is a spectacular fish salad with fresh vegetable surroundings. These vegetables consist of radish, avocado, and gyoza crisps.

Ahi Tuna Poké from State & Allen (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

 

Another honorable starter mention is the Heirloom Tomato & Pasta Salad. This pasta salad is a six cheese pasta sacchettini blended with blue cheese, walnuts, capicola, grilled corn, and topped with a chervil-peppercorn vinaigrette. This salad is so hearty, it could probably take the place of an entree.

Heirloom Tomato & Pasta Salad from State & Allen (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

 

Entrees

Perhaps the must-try option at State & Allen is the Skillet Pork Chop. The Skillet Pork Chop is about the size of a steak. It is juicy, thick, and served atop a delightfully tangy bourbon gastrique. The Skillet Pork Chop comes served with kimchi arugula salad and confit fingerling potatoes. Many people aren’t crazy about arugula, as it has a bitter taste, however, the sweetness of the kimchi cancels out the bitterness of the arugula.

Skillet Pork Chop from State & Allen (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

The Grilled Jerk Redfish makes for a healthier alternative to State & Allen’s meat-heavy dishes. The fish comes garnished with thinly cut sweet potatoes and sauteed broccolini and sits on a bed of grapefruit salsa verde. The salsa verde is to die for! It tastes like a very fine vinaigrette, but spicy, and not as oily.

Grilled Jerk Redfish from State & Allen (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Overall, State & Allen is the perfect bar for Dallasites who want the sports bar experience, minus the deleterious bar food and cocktails and the overall rowdiness of Uptown nightlife.

State & Allen is open every day, with happy hour beginning at 3:00 p.m. For more information on State & Allen’s hours, menu items, and location, be sure to visit their website.

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Restaurant Reviews DFW

And Cut: DIFF Wraps Up 12th Annual Film Showcase + List of Winners

After a successful eight-day run in Dallas’s West Village, The 12th annual Dallas International Film Festival has come to a close.

This year’s DIFF showcased hotly anticipated films, including Fred Rogers documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” the Rob Reiner-directed “Shock and Awe,” and the Chloë Grace Moretz-led “Miseducation of Cameron Post.”

Following his first year as the Executive Director of the film festival, Johnathan Brownlee is highly content with the turnout.

“The key is what your attendees and festival-goers are saying,” Brownlee says. ” You look at the smiles on their faces, the parties where they’re having fun, and seeing the same faces come back to enjoy more films. To me, I think that really says that these folks have had a great time.”

Although some slight changes were made to this year’s festival format, Brownlee believes they were for the better.

“I think the shorter format really worked out for us,” Brownlee says. “Plus, operating in West Village proved very well, logistically, and the family films at Studio Movie Grill made for a great addition.”

DIFF is set to return next year with a new set of films. Many of the films showcased at this year’s festival are set for wide release in the third and fourth quarters of 2018. Release dates will be shared via Best of Guide as they are announced.

In the meantime, check out the list of this year’s winners below!

Short  Films:

  • Special  Mention Short  (Comedy) – Allen  Anders – Live  at the Comedy Castle (circa  1987) directed  by Laura Moss
  • Special  Mention Short  (Late Night) –  Mobius  directed  by Sam Kuhn
  • Special  Mention Short  (Texas) – Uncertain  Future directed  by Chelsea  Hernandez and  Iliana Sosa
  • Animated  Short – Aqua  Vita directed  by Alex Lim  Haas
  • Documentary  Short – Adversary  directed  by Scott Cummings   
  • Narrative  Short – Krista  directed  by Danny Madden

Feature  Films:

  • Special  Mention Feature  (Narrative) – Madeline’s  Madeline  directed  by Josephine  Decker/starring  Helena Howard and  Miranda July
  • Special  Mention Feature  (Texas) – The  Iron Orchard directed  by Ty Roberts
  • Grand  Jury Prize  (Texas) – 1985 directed  by Yen Tan
  • Grand  Jury Prize  (Documentary)  – The  Blessing directed  by Jordan Fein  and Hunter Robert  Baker
  • Grand  Jury Prize  (Narrative) – Dead  Pigs  directed  by Cathy Yan

Audience  Awards:

  • Documentary  Short – tomnoddy  directed  by Charles  Poekel
  • Narrative  Short – Caroline directed  by Celine  Held and Logan  George
  • Narrative  Feature – Tejano directed  by David Garcia   
  • Documentary  Feature – Loud  Krazy Love  directed  by Scott Mayo  and Trey Hill
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Restaurant Reviews DFW

Johnathan Brownlee Prepares for Dallas International Film Festival

Days ahead of the Dallas International Film Festival, Johnathan Brownlee and I sit down in his Design District office. Everyone in the office sits at their cubicles, anxiously typing away, preparing their final game plans for the festival. Brownlee, who is serving as the Executive Director of this year’s festival, is excited to showcase a variety of works by creatives from various parts of the world.

Throughout the course of his decades working in entertainment, Brownlee has shot and produced in different parts of the world, however, he has grown a great affinity for Dallas.

“Dallas really has all the urban and rural environments one needs to create a film project,” Brownlee says. “Plus, there are a lot of people here who want opportunities to grow within the industry.”

In 2016, Brownlee produced a feature-length film called “Three Days in August,” in which a young woman who was given up for adoption embarks on a journey to find her birth parents.

“We shot the whole thing in and around Dallas,” Brownlee says of his directorial debut film. “I worked with this amazing woman, Shannon Kincaid, to develop the project and ultimately shoot here and have it release at Studio Movie Grill locations nationwide. Everyone who worked on the film stayed together around the same area, so we all got to know each other very well. The camaraderie on set was very special.”

Although many people wanting to break into the industry work part-time jobs in different industries, Brownlee has been lucky enough to work within the entertainment industry from the beginning of his career.

“I’ve never had to wait tables, or work retail, or anything like that,” Brownlee says. “While I was studying to be an actor, I worked in the university’s scenic shop. I built sets, rigged, gripped; those types of things. I also made money renovating flipping homes, which led to the development of my series, ‘Johnathan Brownlee’s, atHome,’ based in Canada.”

This is Brownlee’s first year serving as Executive Director of the Dallas International Film Festival, and it is evident that he has a great vision for this year’s film showcase.

“I’m the new guy, and the new guy, oftentimes, gets to ask for forgiveness rather than permission,” Brownlee says. “I love this film festival. I’ve had four films show in the festival, so I kind of feel a responsibility to take the festival to another level.”

Perhaps the biggest change Brownlee will be making to the festival is the location and time. The festival will be taking place across the span of eight days, and all of the major programming will be screening at Magnolia Theater in Dallas’s West Village with family programming at Studio Movie Grill (Spring Valley).

Another big change to the festival includes a music component.

“Our Artistic Director, James Faust has programmed some wonderful films about music this year,” Brownlee says. “And some of the actual groups will be here to perform following the screenings.”

While organizing an 8-day long festival can be rather strenuous, Brownlee is thankful that working in Dallas doesn’t require getting through as much red tape as it would in other major entertainment cities.

“It’s easy to get things done here [in Dallas,]” Brownlee says. “we have great support from the City and it probably costs about a third less to put on a film festival here than what it would cost to put on a film festival in L.A. or New York.”

The Dallas International Film Festival kicks off on Thursday, May 3, and goes until May 10. Festivities will take place throughout West Village in Uptown Dallas. Passes can be purchased here.

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Restaurant Reviews DFW

How Pazzo Encompasses Everything Dallasites Love About Uptown

When Dallasites head out for a night in Uptown, they are seeking delicious food, good drinks, and/or fun music. Cedar Springs’s newest opening, Pazzo, has managed to combine these three elements to create an Italian dining and lounging experience. Pazzo is the brainchild of Luke Zeutzius, whose mission is to bring an evolving menu designed for the American Italian fusion enthusiast.

Upon arriving at Pazzo’s media and influencer event, I am greeted with smiles from two casually dressed young ladies, who quickly seat me in the proper section. I am first offered water, and once the server returns with a cold glass, I am then asked for my drink order.

To kick things off, I order the Walk of Shame, which consists of Zephyr gin, lemon, and Angostura bitters. It is a tangy, fruity, sour drink, which tastes like lemonade with a hard kick.

The Walk of Shame (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

I follow the Walk of Shame up with the Straight Skinny, which consists of Código, agave, and lime. It is Pazzo’s version of the margarita and it has a light taste. The agave makes it sweet, but not to the point where it overpowers the tequila and lime. Most house margaritas taste like Slurpees, however, Pazzo’s tastes like a delicious, healthy juice that one could pick up at a Pilates studio; theirs just happens to be kicked up a hard notch.

The Straight Skinny (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

After drinks, the servers bring out a variety of appetizers, including the White Truffle Garlic Bread, Crispy Polenta Cakes, and Crispy Eggplant. Although all of the appetizers are phenomenal, my personal favorite would have to be the Crispy Polenta Cakes. As a Texan, I love my pork, and Pazzo’s polenta cakes come topped with a sweet, shredded, savory pork shoulder. It is the perfect merging of Italian and Texan culture.

Crispy Polenta Cakes (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Before the main entree, the servers bring out what’s called The Vinegary One, which is Pazzo’s house salad. The signature dressing nicely complements the greens and vegetables, giving it a salty, lemony taste.

Pazzo’s house salad: “The Vinegary One” (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

For my main course, I order The Cripsy Piece of the Lasagna, which is a lasagna dish layered with spinach noodles, bolognese sauce, and a combination of fresh and aged cheeses. As its name suggests, the noodles are rather crisp. The bolognese sauce is hot, hearty, and packed with spice and flavor.

The Crispy Piece of the Lasagna (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

To wrap things up, I pick the Chocolate Chip Cookie Panwaffle “Smore” as my dessert. A fun fact about this is that Pazzo’s owner Luke Zeutzius invented and patented the Panwaffle pan, as a result of him and his younger brother arguing about what to eat for breakfast. The Panwaffle Smore is topped with strawberries, chocolate, graham crackers, ice cream, and burnt marshmallow fluff. It is a dessert experience unlike any other, and a must-try for first-time visitors.

The Panwaffle S’more (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

After dinner, we are taken to a lounge, in which the walls are lined up with couches. We toast with champagne to celebrate Pazzo’s prosperous future.

I leave Pazzo highly impressed with what I’ve experienced. Pazzo manages to encompass everything Dallasites love about Uptown, from fun, upbeat music, good drinks, and delicious (not to mention, relatively inexpensive) food.

Pazzo will begin serving items from their brunch, lunch, and dinner menus beginning February 2. They will also host a grand opening celebration on February 23.