Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, June 19, 2003
My Martini\r\nLemon grass pork loin $9\r\nMedallions of beef tenderloin \r\n with wild mushroom truffle \r\n ragout and fried onion $14\r\nSeared scallops with apple \r\n and baby greens $9\r\nBrady martini $6
Shaken, Not Stirred

Minor problems aside, My Martini is off to an auspicious start.


My Martini

859 NE Green Oaks Blvd, Arlington. 817-461-4424. Mon-Thurs 11am-10pm, bar 11am-midnight. Fri 11am-11pm, bar 11am-2am. Sat noon-11pm, bar noon-2am. Sun noon-10pm, bar noon-midnight. Credit cards: AE, MC, V.

My guest and I waited 10 minutes before a waiter came and took our drink orders, but when the drinks finally arrived, we were blown away — they were that good. We waited another 10 minutes before our waiter asked us for our appetizer order — but the food was incredible. My Martini’s ventilation system is barely able to absorb the smoke from the bar, the incense from who knows where, and the cooking grease. But My Martini is an instant classic, regardless of the problems that accompany instant popularity — a new staff, a kitchen striving for perfection (read: slow), and crowds of people (and critics) itching to try the newest dash-and-slash, multi-ethnic/urban-eclectic/tapas restaurant.

Complaining aside, I’d recommend the newest endeavor by the guys who created Piranha Killer Sushi (in the same North Arlington strip mall). Why? Top-notch sustenance of the solid and liquid kinds.

The drinks are inventive. We tried the Brady, a vodka martini garnished with a dill pickle spear. (I wondered if they intended to call it the Marcia Brady because I made a sour Marcia-esque face when I tried it.) One of the bar specialties is vodka infused with seasonings. While my companion raved about the Brady, I delightedly sucked down a martini glass of vodka infused with lemon grass.

The food could not have been more interesting (in a good way). Each item on my plate was fresh, appropriately spiced, and reeked of “trendy” (in a good way). Combinations like green apple and scallop, lime tenderloin, and shrimp tempura in cold tomato bisque are the kind of inventive dishes that define a restaurant.

Executive chef Johndavid Bartlett is no stranger to a kitchen, although he’s better known to most townies in these parts as a folk musician, an International Artist label artist in the 1960s. In Austin, he’s equally known for his way around a skillet. Bartlett’s other posts include a stint as executive chef at the University of Texas and a few years as associate artistic director and theater manager at Caravan of Dreams.

My Martini serves tapas — some are perfectly sized for lunch (many items come with starch and vegetable), and most are big enough to share. Tapas have become so popular that ordering a simple appetizer, entrée, and dessert seems, like, last century.

At lunch with Chow, Baby, I tried the sea scallops with green apple. Five large scallops were firm and perfectly grilled. The soft flavor was jazzed by the bitter taste of green apple. Fancy greens topped with vinaigrette rounded out the dish.

One of the best items on the menu is the chilled tomato bisque with shrimp tempura. Owner Kenzo Tran is no slouch in the innovation department, and the soup combines Bartlett’s flair for ingredients with Tran’s yin/yang sensibility. The combination of a perfect, nearly effervescent, cold tomato cream soup with a hot, tempura-battered shrimp is as seductive as it is delicious.

Many items I tried seemed to suggest that the menu description is a suggestion, not a blueprint. Vietnamese lime and red pepper tenderloin salad had more black pepper than red pepper and was served on a bed of greens with black sesame-scented vinegar. There was only a suggestion of citrus. The whole was topped with puffed rice noodles (like the Vietnamese equivalent of cheese puffs but without the cheese). It was excellent, even if it did veer from expectation.

Asian bouillabaisse with fruit couli could not have been less French. Shrimp, salmon, and mussels were suspended in a blonde curry with vegetables. If it had had more basil, it would have been a perfect, albeit mild, Thai curry. Again, it veered from the menu with delightful results.

The lemon grass pork loin was exactly as expected. Fat rounds of lemon grass-spiked pork surrounded a perfect mound of wilted spinach (flavored with a profoundly rich olive oil), topped by a crispy potato pancake.

The décor is luxurious/post-industrial. Sanded concrete walls support a dropped ceiling sculpted into soft waves. The bar and restaurant are separated by heavy velvet curtains, bound at the middle like sheaths of wheat. In addition to the problems mentioned at the beginning of this story (the smoke, the long waits, the crowds), the dining area also tends to get warm — all the air seems to circulate over the bar. All things considered, I’ll return to My Martini and send friends there, too.

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