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Behind the Line: City fish
Joglekar brings Asian culinary experience to Dallas Fish Market
April 05, 2011
Texas is known as steak-and-potato country, but the state also has its share of seafood lovers. Mike Hoque was counting on their support when in 2007 he opened the Dallas Fish Market, a 125-seat fine-dining restaurant in the heart of downtown. The president of DRG Concepts, Hoque admits there was a sharp learning curve in those early days.
“Particularly trying to get seafood in Texas,” he says. “We bring in seafood from all over the world and everything is fresh — we don’t even have a freezer in our restaurant. When FedEx can’t deliver, it’s challenging.”
Fortunately, he has a resourceful chef. Chef Anupam “AJ” Joglekar has made it his mandate to seek out suppliers who can ensure their seafood consignments get to Dallas.
“We work with Fruge Seafood Co. [in Grand Prairie, Texas], and even when other suppliers can’t deliver because of the weather, they can get fish on the flights because of the volumes they do,” he says. He sources wild salmon from Scotland, yellowtail from Australia, sturgeon from the West Coast and monkfish, scallops and lobster from the East Coast. At any one time he features 11 species of seafood on the menu.
Joglekar was previously executive chef at Bengal Coast, and before then, at Boston’s Mantra restaurant. He brings a rich Asian culinary experience to Texas, having opened and led restaurant teams in several major cities in India.
His menu features an eclectic mix of cooking styles and culinary influences. There’s line-caught swordfish marinated in ginger, miso and white soy and served with basmati rice, cashews and green Madras curry sauce.
“I’m trying to make sure the main focal point of the dish is the fish, and everything else revolves around that,” he explains. “I don’t want to be defined by doing one particular type of cuisine.”
There are only a handful of seafood restaurants to be found in Dallas, which is somewhat of an advantage, he says. “Our competition tends to fry, broil or grill seafood with lemon butter sauce, but our menu is completely different. We try to complement and accent the fish by bringing out its natural flavor.”
Monkfish is the most popular dish on the menu, and Joglekar wraps it with black truffles and serves it with caramelized onion mashers, truffle butter and wild mushrooms. The pan-roasted striped bass, another popular dish, is served on saffron-braised fennel with onions, steamed mussels, seared shrimp and shallot rings.
Six days a week, the Dallas Fish Market receives delivery of Louisiana redfish, farmed in Texas. Joglekar serves it with Thai chili, pad Thai noodles, Asian vegetable stir fry and roasted peanuts.
Farmed fish such as redfish and yellowtail constitutes 30 percent of the menu. “We try and make sure we get farm-raised yellowtail from Australia, for example, because its fat content can be controlled,” he explains. The yellowtail is used in the sushi bar, where the texture of the fish is perfect. “Its fat content is between 16 and 18 percent, which is just right for sushi. It gives you the richness in flavor without tasting really fatty,” he says.
Joglekar is committed to sourcing sustainable species approved by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program.
Hoque says restaurant sales have increased by 15 to 20 percent annually since the restaurant opened. “We didn’t feel the recession,” he says. “The price of seafood went up during the Gulf spill, but had we opened Dallas Fish Market in 2005 or 2006, we would have felt the pinch much more than we actually did.”
Modest prices were a priority in his business plan from the get-go, with entrées ranging from $24 to $30 each. On Sundays, one of the slowest nights of the week at the restaurant, sushi is half-price all night long. “That gets the downtown residents of Dallas to come in,” he says. In summer, the restaurant offers a three-course dinner for $35.
In January 2010 DRG Concepts opened the Dallas Chop House. This year the company plans to launch Chop House Burger and a Latin American restaurant in the city as well. As corporate chef, Joglekar will be juggling seafood, steaks and burgers as he presides over the menus of these restaurants, too.
Contributing Editor Lauren Kramer lives in British Columbia