As soon as I arrived at my table and started to sit down inside the well-appointed dining room of Malai Kitchen (5289 Monahans Av, 682-707-3959), my chair buckled beneath me and collapsed like tumbling Jenga pieces. I imagined how hilarious the fall must have looked as I waited for Ashton Kutcher to come storming out of the kitchen to tell me that I’d been punk’d. No such luck. I took it as a sign that I am getting old (and apparently fat) when concern was the first reaction from my fellow diners and the waitstaff, not uproarious laughter.
Malai was the first stop on my Shops at Clearfork Clearance: My mission to finally try out every eatery in the ritzy confines of the still relatively new shopping center. I just want people to stop telling me I have to try this or that. Honestly, I try and stay away from the Shops for a few reasons: 1.) I’m not in the right tax bracket to be able to frequent any of the imported retailers or restaurants, 2.) I have only, like, three nice things to wear, and I’m tired of getting them dry-cleaned, and 3.) though it may be amenity-rich and fancy in the pantsy, the whole concept strikes me as crass anodyne luxury and that not one bit of that vast sprawl places it in Fort Worth. The shopping center could be picked up and plopped down in Ames, Iowa, or Sandusky, Ohio, and it wouldn’t have to change.
Still, because of my chosen profession, I felt professionally bound to at least sample everything there once. Before starting this great quest, there were only four Clearforkean eateries I hadn’t visited: Pinstripes (5001 Trailhead Bend Way, 682-352-0808), rise n°3 (5135 Monahans Av, 817-737-7473), Twigs Bistro & Martini Bar (5289 Marathon Av, 817-764-0025), and the aforementioned Malai. This fine rag has already reviewed all of these places, but I felt they needed the Chow, Baby treatment. If our food critics are the Jane Goodalls of the local culinary world, I’m the poop-flinging gorilla, mad about everything that isn’t the way I want it to be.
This will also be the last time I write about anything at Clearfork for a while, so I’m trying to cram it all in. Normally, I use this space to highlight some out-of-the-way local eateries, fire-off some half-cocked but well-meaning opinions on the local food landscape, or, occasionally break news, share a recipe, or do an interview. But this week, I’m selling out hard.
In the interest of space, I’ll give you the SportsCenter version of my experiences. The décor at three of the four eateries was generically nice, as though picked out of an upscale catalog based on the style of food – with the notable exception of Pinstripes. Because bowling. The service at each was professional, pleasant, attentive, and unobtrusive. Pinstripes was a little awkward, because bowling. Below are the highlights.
After my server at Malai brought me a new chair, she followed with the divinely flavorful, tender, and piquant red curry Georges Bank cod ($17), served with wok-seared veggies and curry-tinged jasmine rice.
For offering a soufflé-heavy menu, Rise presents a staggering variety of options. My cauliflower and brie version of the French classic ($20) tasted creamy, rich, and nutty. My fork sank into the majestic-looking pillowy-soft top with ease.
I know there were more representative things on the menu of Twigs, but I wanted a burger, damn it. And the kitchen serves up an excellent one. Try the Royal with Cheese ($12.99). Its two soft pretzel buns barely contained a perfect, ample, medium-cooked angus patty, American cheese, onions, pickles, housemade chile ketchup, and Blue Moon-infused mustard. Spring the extra $1 for the tater tots, because they were crunchy perfection.
I bowled an 86 and a 104 at Pinstripes. The food was passably bland, but at least I worked off some weight.