Avner's Evolution

Let’s get something out of the way from the outset: Nosh Bistro — which opened last month in Preston Hollow in the space previously occupied by the now-shuttered Dish — is turning out some of the best food around right now. Not best for a new restaurant. Not even in Dallas. But rather, the best food around. It’s a stunner. But there are explanations for just why that’s so.

It helps to know a bit of local culinary history. In the summer of 2004, a restaurant named Aurora opened on Oak Lawn and immediately electrified the Dallas food scene with its sophistication and French-tinged recipes, as well as its hefty menu prices.

After about six years, Aurora gave way to Nosh a more down-scale version with a lighter vibe, lower prices and more accessible cuisine. Nosh continued for another four years or so until it closed for good.

So the sudden reappearance this summer — teased for months through cryptic social media posts — that the same chef was opening a concept called Nosh Bistro seemed like it would be a further evolution of the original cuisine: American dishes with Euro sensibilities, attainably priced and conceived. It would be open for lunch and dinner from the start. The word “bistro” alone conveys a casualness that the old Aurora intentionally eschewed.

The first time we entered, that still seemed possible. There’s a chalkboard near the entry with daily specials. The decor suggests Mid-Century Modern filtered through the colorful lens of the 1960s (a faux Peter Max painting dominates the main room), with tons of natural light, mossy, muted, autumnal pastels and arching walls that promise more just beyond each curve.

Then the first dish arrived. And the second. And third. After three visits, we knew this wasn’t some easy neighborhood drop-in …. Or rather, to the extent it is, the food is so elevated as to shake up our understanding of a bistro.

That shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The chef-owner, Avner Samuel, has a legit pedigree. He came up in the Dallas food culture alongside Stephan Pyles and Dean Fearing, eventually opening Avner’s, then Aurora. The latter was something of a game changer on the culinary horizon. It has a reputation for being expensive (it wasn’t cheap, but the quality was undeniable).

Olivia Bratcher