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Komali

#1 User is online   Scott 

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 05:09 PM

Brenner reports the name of Abraham Salum's upcoming Mexican restaurant. With some of his descriptions (e.g., handmade tortillas, comida corrida, moles and pipians from scratch, and "trying to get away completely from Tex-Mex"), it's hard not to be optimistic.

Scott

PS Unrelated, but ExtraMSG just uploaded the following video of mesquite-grilled hot wings from a street vendor in DF. Bastard.


#2 User is online   Scott 

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 05:39 PM

In Googling "'komali' and 'salum'" I see that this news was actually broken by Steven Doyle a month and a half ago in a City of Ate profile on Abraham Salum. Nicely done, DallasDude.

Scott

#3 User is offline   smurfjuggler 

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Posted 06 October 2010 - 10:12 AM

Those wings look interesting. I wonder what all of the different things were that he put on them.

#4 User is online   Scott 

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Posted 06 October 2010 - 10:21 AM

smurfjuggler said:

Those wings look interesting. I wonder what all of the different things were that he put on them.

Vinegar, Hunt's BBQ Sauce, Maggi, chile con limon, and Valentina.

Scott

#5 User is offline   smurfjuggler 

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Posted 07 October 2010 - 02:01 PM

Well that was easy enough. Thanks, Scott.

#6 User is online   Scott 

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 11:14 AM

Faries briefly interviews Abraham Salum at Critic's Guide. Salum continues to emphasize the "comida casera" nature of Komali, which has me very interested. However, he does say, "Iím not going to present it like my motheró-plop it on a plate and 'here, eat it.'" I kind of wish he would. I was flipping through old photos from La Palapa Veracruzana and El Rincon de Zapata (RIP) a couple of weeks ago and thinking how much more appetizing those dishes appeared than most squeeze-bottled, superfluously garnished dishes out there.

Scott

#7 User is offline   primi_timpano 

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 03:46 PM

Apparently there is a great deal of demand for wings in Mexico. Wingstop recently announced a franchise deal there.

http://www.wingstop....er=1&news_id=86

#8 User is online   Scott 

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Posted 04 February 2011 - 03:31 PM

It's now open and Nancy Nichols has posted the menu. Looks very promising.

Scott

#9 User is online   Scott 

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Posted 11 February 2011 - 01:47 PM

Komali is open and very much as Abraham Salum had described it (i.e., refreshingly, unpretentiously Mexican). While I kind of wish he'd brought the price point down (by about a third), I've had few complaints with the menu, ingredients, or execution. I hope the market supports this place.

Scott

#10 User is offline   gavlist 

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Posted 11 February 2011 - 02:08 PM

View PostScott, on 11 February 2011 - 01:47 PM, said:

Komali is open and very much as Abraham Salum had described it (i.e., refreshingly, unpretentiously Mexican). While I kind of wish he'd brought the price point down (by about a third), I've had few complaints with the menu, ingredients, or execution. I hope the market supports this place.

Scott

what were your thoughts on the tortillas? I had mixed feelings. They were clearly hand-made and interestingly thick, but a bit on the dry side the night I ate there. The salsas and moles were excellent, and tamales were perfect - moist and delicate with just enough masa to cover the meat. The proteins didn't impress me so much... fish was slightly overcooked, and meatballs a bit dense - but it was opening night, so I can imagine that the last minute food prep will improve.

the price... yeah. $18 for a fillet of snapper - wasn't it something like $8 for the whole fish at la Palapa Veracruzana?

#11 User is online   Scott 

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Posted 11 February 2011 - 02:44 PM

View Postgavlist, on 11 February 2011 - 02:08 PM, said:

what were your thoughts on the tortillas?

Since they were only provided with one of the handful of entrees I've had, I think it's too early for me to say. Of course, that's true with any other thing I've ordered, since I haven't repeated any item in any visit. As with any good restaurant (and I do think this is a good restaurant), it usually takes me ten or fifteen visits to span the menu and get a feel for the strengths and weaknesses. (It doesn't take nearly as long to separate bad from good as it does to determine gradations of goodness, consistency, seasonal change, etc.)

I'm not too hung up on the prices. Yes, I can get a darned good plate of albondigas and rice on Jefferson for less than half the price Komali charges. But I'd pay only a little less than Komali's price for a meatball appetizer at Neighborhood Services Bar & Grill or Lucia. I can get a good chicken in mole on Maple (or could, until the place closed recently) for a little over half Komali's price. But I can pay twice as much for a chicken entree at any number of fine dining places in Dallas and, on average, with worse results than the one I had at Komali. For value purposes, I think it's a mistake to compare Komali to mom-and-pop joints (like La Palapa) that have lower overhead and often short lifespans, rather than restaurants (regardless of genre) with similar or higher price points. Still, if it were a little cheaper, I'd probably eat there more often, and I suspect others would also.

Scott

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 06:38 PM

Well-said, Scott. Nothing drives me batty more than comparing a taqueria to a mid-scale or upscale Mexican restaurant based on price alone. (Same holds true for most "ethnic" cuisines.) Other than some dishes, like the tostada de ceviche, which better come in threes or be enormous at that price, the prices seemed fair. Obviously the entry-point is high to keep the per seat sales up, but they also give you more food (quesadillas and the like for $8 or $10, but you get three of them, eg).

I'm intrigued by the thick tortillas. It annoys me to see thick hand-made tortillas and it's too often the norm even at higher end Mexican restaurants in the US, imo. I will say on the dryness issue, though, that some of the best tortillas are often a little dry in Mexico. I'm not sure if it has to do with the fresh masa or what. You'd think the opposite would occur. But it's very common. It's made up for in the texture of fresh masa, however.

Sure would be nice to see some pictures. Ehem.

#13 User is online   Scott 

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 09:50 AM

View PostExtraMSG, on 14 February 2011 - 06:38 PM, said:

Obviously the entry-point is high to keep the per seat sales up, but they also give you more food (quesadillas and the like for $8 or $10, but you get three of them, eg).

You get three quesadillas, but all together they're smaller than one (fried-style) quesadilla at La Hechizera or any number of other places not primarily serving gringos. But they're fried to order, attractively presented, served with two nice salsas and a salad of shredded romaine with guac. It's a good appetizer and a good value when compared with restaurants of similar price point.

Scott

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 10:39 AM

View PostExtraMSG, on 14 February 2011 - 06:38 PM, said:

Well-said, Scott. Nothing drives me batty more than comparing a taqueria to a mid-scale or upscale Mexican restaurant based on price alone. (Same holds true for most "ethnic" cuisines.) Other than some dishes, like the tostada de ceviche, which better come in threes or be enormous at that price, the prices seemed fair. Obviously the entry-point is high to keep the per seat sales up, but they also give you more food (quesadillas and the like for $8 or $10, but you get three of them, eg).

I'm intrigued by the thick tortillas. It annoys me to see thick hand-made tortillas and it's too often the norm even at higher end Mexican restaurants in the US, imo. I will say on the dryness issue, though, that some of the best tortillas are often a little dry in Mexico. I'm not sure if it has to do with the fresh masa or what. You'd think the opposite would occur. But it's very common. It's made up for in the texture of fresh masa, however.

Sure would be nice to see some pictures. Ehem.


my comparison to lower-end restaurants wasn't based solely price or the ethnicity of the cuisine. Here's the snapper dish in question (sorry about picture quality, but it makes the point):

Posted Image

It was good - I like Komali and I will be back... but how can I not compare this to the average plate of food at a lower-end Mexican restaurant? Meat, some sauce, and rice - it's a fairly uninspired plating, and a pretty traditional preparation, as I understand it. The sauce was way better than average (bolder flavors, yet more refined and balanced, smoother texture and nice weight - not too thick, nor too runny), and the quality of fish higher, so I can appreciate the higher cost. But why do you think it's not reasonable to compare this, for $18, to the whole snapper at La Palapa which cost $8 (and also came with rice)?

Same story with the albondigas... good but $18?? (meatball appetizers at Lucia and NS are about 1/2-2/3 that cost, but less food)
Posted Image

Also, in general I'm not sure why there should be two different scales for value. Obviously, there are several factors to weigh beyond the food - atmosphere and location, what's appropriate for the occasion, etc - but it seems that they all contribute to a perception of whether the dining experience is worth the cost.


a separate issue - the tortillas (sorry for the worse pictures):
Posted Image
Posted Image

we ate from two batches of tortillas - the first batch was noticeably dryer and cooler than the second. So my guess is that handmade tortillas are more time-sensitive.

#15 User is online   Scott 

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 03:14 PM

View Postgavlist, on 15 February 2011 - 10:39 AM, said:

Also, in general I'm not sure why there should be two different scales for value.

Because if value is absolute, rather than relative to market segments, we have to conclude that a great many consumers are horrible judges of value--that they're irrational. Why would anyone pay $32 for a few ounces of simply-plated braised short ribs at Craft (with no sides included), when they could get great short ribs for a third the price at a soul food place? Why would anyone pay $23 for a simply-plated schnitzel at Neighborhood Services, when they could get an excellent chicken-fried steak for less than half the price? There are people that think that way, but it seems reductionistic (and sometimes uncharitable).

I think ExtraMSG's comment also displays some sensitivity to the fact that there's often a racial component to people's willingness to collapse everything into a single value scale. (I don't mean to imply that's what you're doing. Just saying that it is often done.) Rarely does anyone complain that they could get as good a steak for half the price at Outback, even though it's often true. But as soon as an "ethnic" cuisine (Mexican, Indian, Thai, etc.) breaks out of its market ghetto, people often start complaining--as if a mole or curry should, as a rule, be dirt cheap. That's one of the reasons restaurateurs who do try to offer these cuisines a higher price point often feel obligated to unmoor the food from tradition in order to show "added value" to justify the prices. (Salum's resistance to that temptation is one of the things I find most attractive about Komali.)

The average appetizer at Komali is priced about the same as those at Mi Cocina. Both Komali and Mi Cocina have only three entrees over $20. $18 at Komali buys you the snapper dish you described, which is just a buck more than a farm-raised tilapia dish at Mi Cocina. $16.50 gets you a crab chile relleno at Komali, which is fifty cents less than some sauteed shrimp in store-bought tortillas at Mi Cocina. Queso (loosely interpreted) at Mi Cocina is $8--the same price as queso Oaxaca fundido at Komali. To me, it makes more sense to compare Komali to Mi Cocina (than to La Palapa) because, in addition to greater similarity of price point, their customer base has a lot more in common. (And, like I said, when comparing Komali to restaurants of similar and higher price point, I think the place fares pretty well.)

Scott

PS If you go back through my Twitter feed, ExtraMSG, you'll see some photos.

#16 User is offline   ExtraMSG 

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 02:09 AM

I'm in town and hit Komali tonight.

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Started with the queso de cabra, a pretty hefty portion of goat cheese blended with morita (essentially chipotle) chile and topped with a sweet, but complex, almost rum-like in character, piloncillo sauce. Grilled bread came around it. The cheese was really delicious. The spicy and the sweet blended well with the tart cheese. They could probably get away with just having a few of the slices of bread pre-spread with cheese and maybe garnished if they wanted. There's a lot of cheese here. Not that I'm complaining. The bread itself was meh. Some weren't grilled very carefully and honestly it'd probably be better without being grilled anyway. And the bread is typical Mexican white bread, ie, too soft and flavorless.

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Also got the huatape verde de mariscos, a tomate verde based soup with shrimp, mussels, and bay scallops. The mussels were nicely cooked, tender with a fresh flavor, though I did get a couple bites with grit. The bay scallops were also nice, fresh and tender. The shrimp were less good. Could have been a little more tender mainly. The broth was very enjoyable and balanced. The tomates gave it a pleasant underlying tanginess which seemed to be softened with butter. There might have even been some wine in the soup. It had that kind of complexity. I might have liked it a little more assertive with the mariscos, but that's a quibble.

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The filete tampiquena was tender, juicy, and well-seasoned -- good, especially for a $20 steak. Two grilled cebollitas came with the beef. I also enjoyed the beans and the enchilada, highlighted by the mole negro, that accompanied the plate. They season things well here -- maybe too aggressively for some, but I like it.

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I enjoyed the albondigas even more. It's the comfort food, the guisados, that speaks to me more than the meats in Mexico. I thought these were nice. I think they'd be better if more delicately constructed and using more filler (the filler here appeared to be rice). They had a simple tastiness on their own, but it was the pasilla salsa, not as dark or complex as the mole negro, but every bit as balanced and hearty, that made the dish. The cilantro rice was good as well. Each grain was separated from the rest and buttery.

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I thought the tortillas were good. I've had better, for sure, even from Maseca, as these appeared to be, but they weren't especially thick and one appeared to have even properly puffed when it was made.

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Finished with the chocoflan. Moist cake below, not as chocolatey as it appears, but a good base for the custard. The flan could be lighter and creamier, but it had a nice vanilla-caramel flavor. A goat-milk caramel spilled over the whole thing, sweetening it, while some very light and crisp pecans countered that sweetness with a little nutty bitterness. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that pecans in Texas are better than pecans in Oregon.

Good meal. I actually thought the prices were very fair. For midscale Mexican in Portland, which tends to be a more value-conscious city than Dallas, the prices would be similar. We'd probably get bigger portions on mains and smaller portions on appetizers and dessert. Quality and authenticity level would be about the same. All I had eaten today was a half pound of hazelnuts and by the end of this meal (I only ate half of it, btw), I was bloated. I have the continued belches to prove it. ;)

#17 User is online   Scott 

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Posted 23 June 2011 - 09:06 AM

Nichols gets it.

Scott

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