Meda Kessler 2017-08-29 07:45:06
Globe Trotters A love of Asian food (and their work) takes Braden and Yasmin Wages to exotic places. What they eat may even find its way onto a Malai Kitchen menu. Photos by Ron Jenkins restaurateurs Braden and Yasmin Wages juggle three restaurants — he’s also the executive chef — a growing family and commuting among Dallas, Fort Worth and Southlake. We are impressed that they have any time to travel. But it is their trips to Asia — Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma — that provide them with the culinary inspirations needed to tweak a dish or create a new special. The couple even takes staff on trips as a loyalty reward if they stay for a certain number of years. “It’s a great way for them to see and taste where the food comes from,” says Braden. It’s a passion that started when he was in college. He fell in love with Asian food during a three-month trip to Southeast Asia after graduating from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, which is where he met Yasmin. Both worked on the management side of restaurants, and in 2011, they opened their first Malai Kitchen in Dallas. The Southlake location opened in 2016, and this month, following on the heels of having their second child, they open in Fort Worth’s Shops at Clearfork. As with the other restaurants, you can expect only the freshest of ingredients, as Braden is a poster child for “house made.” At Malai, which specializes in Thai and Vietnamese food with a modern twist, they brew their own beer and make their own coconut milk. They make a rice crispy treat for the mango sticky rice and a lemongrass infusion for cocktails. The Sriracha sauce is made from scratch and is available for purchase. All the dishes are plated beautifully. This clearly is not a chef who takes shortcuts. “It’s all part of the dining experience,” says Braden. “When people love your food, people come back to your restaurant.” Yasmin — who was born in East Africa but eventually ended up in Fort Worth — glides around the Southlake dining room even though she’s weeks away from having her second child. And, yes, there’s that whole pesky new restaurant thing again. She laughs. “We make it work because we love what we do. We’re always wondering how to make things better, and with Fort Worth, we get a chance to do that.” While the Southlake location is rather cramped due to its L-shaped configuration, Fort Worth will be more of an open dining room, with more booths than tables. The kitchen will be in the middle. “You’ll get to see the beer tanks,” says Braden. Malai’s beer program is small, but that’s what makes it special. Braden was inspired by the beer he had in Vietnam. “It’s hot there, so the light session beers were perfect for quenching your thirst, plus they pair with the food so well.” In the States, a home brewer friend guided them toward small-batch beers such as their Thai-P-A and Bia Hoi, a Vietnamese-style lager. With small tanks, they make only about 150 gallons a week. “With Fort Worth opening, that will go up to about 200.” Available by the glass or by the flight, these beers are the perfect accompaniment to new dishes, including an Alaskan halibut and a panang curry duck breast, that the couple plans to roll out for their Fort Worth guests. Destination Dining Nervous. Excited. Hungry. You better have an appetite, as Fort Worth is about to experience a major restaurant explosion. We’re nervous because we wonder if everyone will make it. But we’re excited because we like to try new things. And it’s nice to see Dallas success stories Malai Kitchen (there’s also a Southlake location) and Rise open locations in Fort Worth. These two will be the first freestanding restaurants to welcome diners to The Shops at Clearfork in the Edwards Ranch development off the Chisholm Trail Parkway this month. Malai’s co-owner Yasmin Wages attended high school at Trinity Valley in Fort Worth, and she still has family here. Rise occupies a prominent spot in the shopping center, and those who have sampled its savory souffles are ready to welcome them to Cowtown with a friendly “bonjour” (the sweet souffles are pretty amazing, too). In the coming months, the spots in the open-air shopping center fill in. Houstonbased B&B Butchers & Restaurant brings upscale steakhouse dining to a new level, serving Texas and Japanese wagyu along with beef they dry age themselves. B&B did a test run earlier this year at Clearfork resident Neiman Marcus, and the results were impressive. Other offerings range from casual fare to Southern cooking. Learn more at clearfork1848.com. The Shops at Clearfork There is much buzz about Mesero, because people love Tex-Mex. Serving elevated cuisine at three locations in Dallas, Mesero delivers in taste and style. Austin’s Fixe brings Southern cooking to Fort Worth with lunch and dinner. We’re jazzed over the menu: pickled and cooked beets with sunchokes and mushrooms, crispy catfish with smoked uni tartare, nori and kimchi collards, lobster and crawfish pie. In June, the center announced four more restaurants: Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen is a health-conscious eatery out of Chicago with scratch cooking and a bar. Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar makes its debut in Texas with the Clearfork location. Think casual dining with something for everyone — salads, substantial sandwiches, pizzas with small plates at the bar. City Works Eatery and Pour House is a sports bar that touts both food and beverage menus. Look for flatbreads, burgers, comfortfood entrees. CRÚ Food & Wine Bar might emphasize wine, but the brunch and dinner from this Dallas transplant are nothing to sneeze at. Whether they choose shareables such as goat cheese beignets or stone-fired pizzas or prefer substantial entrees such as grilled hangar steak and seared sea scallops, wine lovers will not go hungry. Photos courtesy of Joy Macarons Just three years ago, Fort Worth native and TCU grad Liz Lanier turned her baking passion into a success story, opening her first Joy Macarons in Dallas’ historic Bishop Arts district, near her Oak Cliff home. Why the focus on the French delicacy? “Personally, I like the size. You can fulfill a craving with a couple of bites instead of the commitment of a cupcake.” Having opened a Lower Greenville store a year ago, the baker now turns her attention to old stomping grounds, choosing The Shops at Clearfork as the site of her third location. Opening this month near Kendra Scott and Mesero, JOY offers the sort of flavor options that made Lanier a fan of the concept long before it went viral. Look for varieties like lemon fleur de sel, rose-lychee with white chocolate ganache, violetblack currant and honey-lavender. JOY’s sweet lineup also includes ice cream sandwich versions of macarons, with a snickerdoodle-chocolate chip-double chocolate cookie dough among changing flavors. Custom creations include towers and macarons bearing corporate logos or gold leaf decoration. Opening daily with later hours on weekends and the possible addition of wine and beer.
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