Let me start this off by saying, unlike Lexi, I HATE seafood. Growing up, I would literally hold my breath and nose and run when we were by the seafood section in the grocery store. Whenever my parents would cook fish for my family, my dad would have to cook chicken for me, and god forbid if he used the same utensil to touch my chicken as he did the shrimp. And if those shrimp came within an inch radius of my chicken, I wasn’t eating dinner because my meal was contaminated.
And then, just a few nights ago, I ate raw tuna. Raw scallops. Fried squid. Shrimp. Lobster. Red snapper. And I LOVED it, all thanks to the best meal I’ve had in a long time at San Salvaje by Stephan Pyles.
|Sweet corn humita tamale with lobster + avocado|
Living in Dallas, I had (of course) always heard of Chef Pyles but had never had the chance to make it into any of his restaurants. So, when Susie of Susie Drinks Dallas invited us to join her at Chef Pyles’ new restaurant, San Salvaje, in the arts district, we didn’t even contemplate it for two seconds. Normally, before I go to a restaurant, I’ll scope out the menu, but didn’t this time, and I’m glad I didn’t because I might have backed out on account of the seafood-heavy menu.
San Salvaje, which translates to wild saint, celebrates “the union of Pagan indigenous culture and hosts of revered Saints in Latin America,” according to the menu. The menu (cocktail + food) boasts dishes from Peru, Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, among other Latin American countries. The majority of the dishes are served tapas style, besides the “platos grandes,” so it’s a great opportunity to taste a little of everything.
|Peruvian welcome drinks|
When we arrived, we started off with Peruvian Welcome Drinks, recommended by the bar manager, Molly, who was delightful. The welcome drinks were pisco cocktails, topped with a passion fruit foam. Don’t know what pisco is? Yeah, neither did we. We recommend visiting San Salvaje and listening to Molly or our wonderful waiter, Tony, explain exactly what pisco is, but if you can’t visit, you can Google it.
|Pisco sour margarita (personal favorite)|
|Three cheese arepa with salsa verde|
Susie, Lexi, and I were so overwhelmed by the menu and wanted to be sure to make the right decision, so Tony graciously went through the whole menu with us and told us what a few of his personal favorites were. Based on his recommendations, we started with a sweet corn humita tamale with lobster and avocado, three cheese arepa with salsa verde, and causa limefia classico with spicy shrimp and quail egg (we described it as an interesting deviled egg). Y’all, I could’ve gone home happy then. Everything, and I mean everything, was perfect, including presentation, and it was all unlike anything I have ever had before. The three cheese arepa …. no words.
|Causa limefia classico with spicy shrimp + quail egg (so pretty + SO good)|
And then, when I didn’t think things could get any better, Chef Pyles came over to talk with us. And he took our picture. And Instagrammed it. And then we took a picture with him. And he told us about one time when his attorney had to send out a cease-and-desist letter. And then, the skies opened and the angels sang, and Chef Pyles ordered the rest of our meal for us.
I honestly cannot put into words how wonderful the rest of the evening was. We dined on fried squid tacos with preserved lemon, blue fin tuna ceviche served in a coconut, sea scallops tiradito (similar to sashimi), wild mushroom empanada, pork belly tacu tacu with fig compote (out-of-this-world good), and quinoa salad with puffed cherries and pine nuts. At that point, I thought the meal was coming to an end when Tony tells me to get my camera ready, and out comes a fried whole red snapper with pickled green beans. The presentation was beautiful, and the fish was delectable. Tony told us if we were feeling adventurous, to cut behind the fin to get the cheek (I was having Hannibal flashbacks), which is supposed to be the best part. Not only were we eating an entire red snapper, Chef Pyles also brought out an heirloom bean feijoada with braised pork cheek and house-made chicharonnes. Although the pork cheek was delicious, I think the heirloom bean feijoada stole the show.
|Blue fin tuna ceviche|
|Quinoa salad with puffed cherries + pine nuts|
|Pork belly tacu taco with fig compote (squid tacos in background)|
|Hello, whole fried red snapper|
Finally, we ended our amazing meal and evening with a trio of desserts and a flight of rum, as recommended by Molly. For dessert, we had picarones (doughnuts made of sweet potato) with guanabana ice cream, alfojone torte with dulce de leche, and lucuma suspiro with maracuya meringue. I didn’t think anything could be better than the dishes we had earlier, but the desserts were right on par with dinner. The picarones doughnuts were a personal favorite, but the lucuma suspiro (which is a Peruvian fruit) was delectable, as well.
|Delicious picarones + rum flight|
Lexi and I really cannot recommend San Salvaje enough to our Dallas friends. It’s a great and unique way to taste and experience different cultures. From the service to the food and the cocktails, it was all on point. We already can’t wait to go back (we gotta try the Ropa Vieja). San Salvaje is the perfect place to go whether you want to snack on some tapas and sip on unique cocktails, or have a dinner to remember. Check out Susie’s blog to read about the amazing cocktails we had!
Cheers to Chef Pyles getting me to enjoy seafood! Let us know if you go to San Salvaje and what you think!
Disclaimer: Chef Pyles and San Salvaje graciously paid for our food (but really, we would pay for it five times over it was so delicious).