Sometimes I can’t help myself. There I was at Beik Mediterannean Grill (2747 S Hulen St, 817-924-2749), watching my server struggle to open the bottle of wine I ordered. He said it was the first time he’d ever done the whole wine presentation at a table. I could see him tense up. After all, this was not a drill. And having two people stare at you while you do anything for the first time is nerve-racking.
Maybe I’m just a nice person, a narcissist, a meddler, or all of the above, but I had to jump in and give the poor young guy an unsolicited Wine Opening 101 class (much to the chagrin of my guest). In my fine-dining server days, I opened 405,340 bottles of vino. I can still do it in my sleep. I can do it while changing a diaper or a tire. I can do it just using a rubber-soled shoe (seriously!). For the record, he was genuinely grateful. And after my dining companion emerged from hiding under the table, we shared a surprisingly great dinner.
Why was I surprised? A couple of reasons. For one, the menu at the newly opened health-conscious eatery is vast.And that’s usually a bad sign. Restaurants with menus the size of the Magna Carta are usually masters of nothing. Happily, this was not the case at Beik. Secondly, the eatery’s space nestled beside The Tavern has housed a couple of shuttered decent-not-great pizza joints (Brix and Inzo Italian Kitchen), and the stench of failure is a foul perfume. While past tenants are hardly the current occupant’s fault, the décor and layout of Beik doesn’t do anything to distance itself from those places.
Our dinner didn’t exactly get off to a spectacular start, either. The spinach pocket ($5.49), a mélange of the leafy green, onion, sumac, and lemon juice baked in housemade dough was tangy and tart but limp and soggy. Luckily, the baba ghanoush ($6.49) with accompanying warm, pillowy pita bread saved the first course. Beik’s version of the tahini-laced eggplant puree was a garlicy, lemony pop of flavor that relied on the freshness of the ingredients and straight-ahead preparation.
The one morsel that stood out the most – the flavor I haven’t stopped thinking about – is the buttery-tasting garlic sauce (though our server insisted it was not made with butter) that accompanied the tender, flavorful, generously portioned chicken shawarma ($13.99). Slabs of rotisserie-roasted chicken covered a hubcap-sized plate. On its own, the fowl was tender and well seasoned. But that airy, tangy sauce, with its velvety, horseradish consistency, propelled the dish to crave-worthy. I’ve been looking for something to fill the chicken-sized whole in my heart ever since Hedary’s Mediterranean Restaurant closed its Camp Bowie location, and Beik’s bird might just make me forget all about Hedary’s version.
Not to be outshone, the Norwegian grilled salmon ($15.39) served on a bed of local organic greens and veggies got better with every bite. Though the edges were a little overcooked, the rest of the fish was flaky and dissolved on the tongue like meringue. Like the shawarma, the salmon was upstaged by the semi-sweet, creamy house dressing. That kitchen really knows its sauces.
I rarely write more than a sentence or two about the service or the staff (unless something goes terribly wrong), but I feel compelled in this case. Everyone working on the night of my visit emitted genuine warmth and charm. I usually prefer cold, quiet indifference from my server. But I guess the teacher-student bond was too strong for even my jaded, stick-up-the-ass standards.
Just call me sensei, baby.