Restaurateur Mike Hoque may be from Bangladesh, but the lamb shank barbacoa he and chef Kelly Hightower are serving at the just-opened Wild Salsa, on Main Street in downtown Dallas, sure isn’t. It’s massive, meaty, and beautifully braised. There are hints of tequila, lots of red chiles, plenty of spice and a flavorful contrast to the equally delicious banana-leaf wrapped poblano tamale that accompanies it. If you think Mexican food consists of beans and cheese best ordered by combination plates, you’ll reconsider your bias after eating Wild Salsa’s take on osso bucco.
The menu isn’t strictly Mex-Mex or Tex-Mex or even New-Mex, but there’s hardly a misstep in the whole list. (ok, so I wasn’t a fan of the two soups–a fishy pozole and one made of roasted corn whose texture was off-putting–but it’s tough to criticize a kitchen on it’s first night of business). Many of the furnishings in the place were reclaimed from the demo of the nearby Statler Hilton Hotel. (The heavy wooden front doors, some of the chairs, an armoir and a stained glass panel or two…)
Wild Salsa is a welcome addition to the restaurant mix downtown and to the Element Building. Order a basket of chips with a trio of salsas (you choose from a list of 5 offerings, which includes a grilled pineapple pico de gallo, a habanero-spiked traditional salsa, and one made with ground poblanos, pecans and cilantro), a couple of street tacos (ranging from a citrus-y al pastor to tender braised lengua to flash-fried sweetbreads with peach pico) and a beer, sit by the windows that overlook the park (the windows roll up like garage doors) and watch the city pass you by.
I first told you about Wild Salsa here, last January, when the Hatch broke the news about Hoque’s plans. What’s next? Hoque says he’s already roughed out an adjoining area for his Asian concept, called Urban Wok. But first, look for Chop House Burger to open in a section of his Chop House that he will reconfigure as a casual burger joint.