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Lucia is booked... most "Lucia-like" in spirit?

For a very special anniversary, I was really hoping for Lucia... but they're booked!

What should my second choice be?

I do not at all necessarily mean some place that's Italian, or in Bishop Arts District, etc., etc., but rather, some place that is special, "nice" but not ridiculously pricy, ideally small, intimate, romantic, amazing food obviously, bearing the imprint of an individual creative chef -- that sort of thing. Really any cuisine would be fine.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. I would look to Nonna in Highland Park. Small, yes. But not necessarily "intimate & romantic" due to it's closeness and noise level. But you can check off all the other things that must meet your criteria.
    Especially the excellent food by a very creative young chef. IMHO, the closest you'll find in "spirit" to Lucia.

    And yes, you will need to reserve with time in mind. Nonna is very popular.

    You might also consider Adelmo's Ristorante on Cole off Knox Street. Smaller and more "romantic" with excellent food.

    One other place that might meet ALL your criteria would be Amici Signature in Carrollton.
    Small, dark, intimate, quiet, and romantic with excellent food prepared by a great chef.

    1. Tei-An might be a possibility. Not sure how romantic Lucia actually is? It's brightly lit, tables close together ...

      FT33 where I sat I didn't perceive the way you're describing, but we did end up staying quite a while and having a wonderful conversation. So perhaps there's something ...

      So many chef-driven restaurants I've been to seem to be really loud and energetic ... which I think is perhaps the opposite of what you're looking for.

      1. You could also call and ask them to call you if they have an opening. I did this when relatives were in town and got the call just before we were heading to another restaurant.

        1. Tei An is an good suggestion. I also agree with foiegras that Lucia isn't particularly 'romantic' - I don't think it's that brightly lit (I have a tough time getting decent pictures), but the tables are fairly close together and it can get a little loud and bustling.

          My suggestion would be Driftwood. It has excellent chef-driven food, and has always seemed a little more calm than some of the other places that have been mentioned (FT33 and Nonna - both of which are also great restaurants). If it happens to be a cool evening the patio is even more relaxed.

          Belly & Trumpet might also be a good choice. Or Bijoux.

          Other ideas to throw out there... none of which seem perfect for various reasons:

          The Grape - more intimate, and the food is good... but not mind blowing.

          Oak - slightly more upscale interior... but I'm not sure how the food is with the latest chef (I haven't heard, one way or the other)

          Spoon - can be a bit on the pricey side

          1 Reply
          1. re: gavlist

            Spoon was really loud when I was there ... like the idea of Belly & Trumpet. Everything's meant to be shared, so that's a plus.

          2. After giving the OP's needs some more thought, I think Nova could work real well for them. An excellent chef making delicious gastro pub food. A way cool vibe. Dark and semi-intimate, and not terribly expensive. I love the place!

            1. I think my first choice would be Nonna. Food is very seasonal and chef driven. It's also quite good. Very nice and well chosen wine list. A bit loud, but tolerable. Service has always been very good.

              Bijoux is an excellent choice, too. Much more quiet and the food is extraordinarily good. Last meal I had there, however, the room was very thinly populated. May have just been an off night. I certainly hope it doesn't portend anything for the future.

              Adelmo's isn't quite in the same category as those two, in my view.

              I like both Driftwood and Spoon. Food is a bit more ambitious at Spoon. Room is a bit more upscale and the wine list is definitely better. Atmosphere at Driftwood is quite a bit more casual. Overall, I'd think Spoon would be the better of the two for a special occasion, especially if you are into wine.

              I think Tei-An is overrated, but I recognize that I am in a minority on that one. The Grape is an oldie but a goodie. Better food than you would expect given the quaint romantic bistro atmosphere. But it's very crowded from table to table and can be noisy. Wine list is only so-so.

              10 Replies
              1. re: Mike C. Miller

                +1 on Tei-An being overrated. I've had good food there but it's not earth shattering. Plus, the soba only gets high marks because of Dallas' glaring lack of Japanese noodles.

                1. re: demigodh

                  You're not unfamiliar with Japanese food... so forgive me if I'm missing something here... but I think that you're making a mistake by shrugging off the soba noodles as simply the best of a bad lot. They are as well made from the perspective of texture and flavor as the better soba that I've eaten in Japan (granted - I didn't sample extensively, and I'm no expert). And even if you can find comparable (or better) soba elsewhere in the US, I'd argue that those places are few and far between.

                  I'd also say that the soba tea, served after dinner, and the soba ice cream with black honey and kinako are really delicious and quite unusual. The house made pickles are ridiculous. The miso braised brisket is awesome. You routinely see fish there that don't appear at any other restaurant in the area and the quality is outstanding. I've seen uni with lardo draped on top, for crying out loud (literally crying... I only saw a picture and didn't get to try any). And on top of that, there are "homey" japanese dishes like a simple but delicious roasted sweet potato, or the onsen egg in dashi and shoyu. Chawanmushi, the last time I ate it with fresh matsutake. Where else have you seen yamaimo? I think that Tei An has a ton of really authentic and delicious food to offer.

                  And that's just (mostly) off the menu. Omakase can yield even more exciting results.

                  I know that you're a fan of Sushi Robata, and they also hit a lot of these notes - that place was also really good the one time I ate there. But on that visit, I didn't see as much creativity, or as many high-end ingredients, or frankly the nice atmosphere that Tei An has.

                  1. re: gavlist

                    All very fair points, and I don't want to say that Tei An is bad, because it isn't. I believe it is overrated because of a lack of good Japanese food in Dallas. My basis for comparison in this case is NYC where I knew of many places for soba of comparable quality. I don't think Tei An's soba would be special there, though certainly not bad either, just on par.

                    I am a fan of Robata for being a great value. Tei An is clearly superior if price is not a consideration. Lately, I've been loving Mr. Max. They have all sorts of interesting and authentic japanese dishes (natto, for example) that are all great and fairly priced.

                    BUT, I've only been once. Might be time to visit again as it's generally unfair to judge a place on one trip and only having tried 5 or 6 items.

                    Also, I'd pay a fortune for uni draped with lardo. That sounds amazing.

                    1. re: demigodh

                      Robata also has natto....on the appetizer list they had squid with natto. When I went this past Saturday at 6:30 I was unaware that the place would be packed, mostly with Japanese patrons. The squid was excellent and very sweet and missing the usual coat of slime in your mouth after you take a bite. The natto was really good and very stinky/sticky and smelled up the whole place. I loved it as it remineds me of washed rind cheeses, of which I am a fan.

                      Our total bill for 4 kushi yaki skewers, grilled salmon collar, steamed snapper head, and squid and natto with tip came to $30.

                      1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                        Now that is how you eat well, cheaply, at an expensive restaurant. I had natto for the first, and only, time at Mr. Max. Can't say I loved it but I could see it growing on me. What did you think of the steamed snapper head, especially keeping in mind it's only $5.75?

                        1. re: demigodh

                          I thought it was excellent but needed a touch of salt or even soy. I would pay an extra dollar if they steamed it with some Geikkikan sake....not that that stuff is worth much more than that.

                          I didn't cafe for the tofu that was on the plate it was steamed and I get why it was added but it needs flavor. I am a firm believer if it is on the plate it should have some itneresting aspect be it flavor, texture or utility. This tofu did not meet any of those apects.

                          I will say that desipte the nitpicky reasons I didn't like the dish I did find the actual snapper head and the value to be superb.

                          1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                            I agree that the tofu in that dish is tasteless but if I'm making it my whole meal then I appreciate the substance. Did they not give you the soy based dipping sauce for the fish?

                            1. re: demigodh

                              Yes but compared to a tofu that is steamed/steeped in soy it is just not the same.

                    2. re: gavlist

                      One of my favorite things at Tei-An is the braised tongue. I challenge anyone to have that dish and then tell me they haven't had something special. I also find the prices to be moderate.

                      I primarily recommended Tei-An for the ambience. When I was at Spoon it was screaming loud ... I really don't mind noise if I'm going for a foodie experience, but it would be off-putting to say the least if I were shooting for romantic.

                      Tei-An is quiet, soothing, elegant, and very Japanese.

                      Rise might be another option ...

                      1. re: gavlist

                        Im probably a poor one to ask as I'm not terribly fond of most of the food that I had in my three weeks in Japan nor in Japanese restaurants here. But for what little it's worth, I've generally preferred Tei Tei Robata Bar to Tei-An. And preferred the omakase at Nobu Dallas to either of the local joints.

                  2. How about Salum? I've never been there, but it seems like it may be similar to Lucia.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Webra1

                      Good choice! Salum is nothing like Lucia but I think it's a wonderful suggestion for the OP. The food is better then excellent and certainly not overpriced. And, the restaurant itself is beautiful and very comfortable. I live just around the corner from Salum but I always forget just how good it is.

                    2. Wow! Thank you all so much for sharing your expertise. I have a lot of great choices.

                      I said "romantic," but I realize what I meant was not the candles/tablecloth/low-light kind of stereotype, but rather the romanticism of a unique, character-full, authentic, local, high-quality place -- even if noisy and bright.

                      [I've never actually been to Lucia yet, just looked in the window... damn those scarce reservations!]

                      Appreciate the feedback.

                      1. Salum is certainly friendlier than Lucia, IMO. Service and food will be very good. Driftwood and Tei An are good recommendations. Not sure about Nonna because, as others mentioned, it's quite noisy and crowded.