By Josue Alva, Contributor
“Mr. Alva, your car is ready.”
This was the call I received one brisk winter morning. As I walked outside, I was greeted by the Infiniti QX30 which is Infiniti’s first crossover vehicle. I was handed the keys to the Premium AWD version, which came with every bell you could want and a few whistles to boot. The exterior was appealing until you looked at the back.
The profile view was sleek with aerodynamic creases. The grille had a determined glare, and its bottom lip jutted out as if to tell the other cars on the road that it shouldn’t be messed with. But then when you look at the back, all the tough talk goes out the window. This isn’t a jab at the QX30 alone; all these crossovers suffer from a smooshed-looking rear end. It looks like the guy who goes to the gym and skips leg day, every week.
The interior was nice, punctuated by extremely soft Napa leather heated seats with various adjustments including the ever-necessary lumbar support (cause you know your back’s gonna hurt when you leave the office). The black steering wheel had white stitching — a nice detail — and the panoramic moon roof was a treat I knew I would enjoy in the evening. The vehicle felt cramped up front, initially, but I got used to the size, and it was comfortable. The backseat was another story. I don’t see how anyone would be comfortable back there; there’s no legroom.
The Bose audio system was loud and captured that low bass quite well (I tested it with DJ Laz, 2 Live Crew and Bee Gees – disco has some bass, y’all). The touchscreen infotainment system was easy to navigate, but the screen seemed too small.
The drive was the fun part. The turbocharged engine was powerful and controlled. I was able to go from zero to 60 in less than 8 seconds (don’t worry, I picked a street with like only seven to eight kids on it. Safety first!). Switching between drive modes was simple with sport-mode being my favorite for obvious reasons. Safety features included blind-spot warning, lane departure warning and moving-object detection (to name a few).
So, there I was, sitting comfortably in soft leather seats, my lumbar in full support and blaring “Stayin’ Alive,” but I was hungry. Time to pick up my wife so we could head to the new Dallas restaurant Urban South for dinner. But first, I switch the track to “More Than A Woman:” Now it’s a date.
We started our dinner with appetizers. I ordered the Tempura Shrimp Explosion (above): three crispy battered shrimp sitting on sweet chili and tom tum sauce. My wife ordered the Spanish Chilies made with blistered green Spanish shishito peppers and Himalayan sea salt. The chilies were nicely charred and complemented with aioli sauce. Next were the entrees.
Since I was impressed with the simplicity of the appetizers and how much flavor they packed, I had to wonder: What flavor karate kicks were in store for us? To answer this, I went with the Chef’s Inspirations, a rotating meal comprising regionally farmed or seasonally harvested products. I was presented with lightly charred but juicy heirloom chicken on a bed of vegetable ratatouille and topped with salty pork belly and a side of parmesan-crusted fingerling potatoes. My wife, who is gluten-free due to a severe allergy, ordered the Pan Seared Salmon (below) with lemon caper sauce and a side of crispy fingerling potatoes. The sauce was specially made gluten-free, but unlike most instances when a component loses flavor once converted to gluten-free, it was not runny and it was more buttery than tart or lemony. No added salt was needed for either of our dishes as both were seasoned to perfection.
In most instances, I wouldn’t order dessert because I’m not a huge fan of sweets but, for you, I opted to take on the sugars.
Of the four options for dessert at Urban South, three are gluten-free – those are great odds for someone ailing from gluten intolerance. My wife ordered the chocolate cake (below). It was a perfect blend of (not-so) rich chocolate and sweetness. A raspberry puree was spread across the plate and politely balanced the sweetness of the cake. Alas, the cake itself was a bit dry, despite the valiant efforts of the mousse to keep it moist. I had the Apple Empanada, which was warm and flaky. It was accompanied by ice cream, and that cold/warm combo was superb.
As for drinks, I had the Peruvian Bombshell (Solerno Blood Orange, Pisco Porton, fresh lime juice and Scrappy’s cardamom bitters. She had the CCR (Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, fresh lemon juice, agave nectar, celery and cilantro). She won.
Let me get this out of the way: My first impression of Urban South, housed within the recently revamped Westin Dallas Park Central, was that this place was not going to be all that good. The dining area is small, and the seating is mostly table-top and chairs with a few half-booths at each end of the restaurant. Plus this: The lighting was absolutely offensive. It’s extremely bright as opposed to warm and intimate. The good news is, it’s a problem the restaurant management is aware of and will, hopefully, adjust soon.
That’s really the only complaint I have about this place. The food was amazing! Each dish was vibrant and visually appealing, flavor-stout and filling but not heavy. Chef Burak Ozcan is really making magic happen at this hotel restaurant, and you should seriously consider dining here. Just bring your shades; you’ll thanks me later.
Once we left the restaurant, we jumped back in the QX30, slid open the moon roof and enjoyed the turbocharged engine as we drove home.
[Disclosure: Urban South provided The Dallas Diva with complimentary food and drinks, and Lexus provided The Dallas Diva with a media car rental. The opinions here are the writer’s own.]