By Dillon Garcia
As someone who has spent their entire career in the restaurant industry, I know that what we’re really selling is not just food or drinks … but an experience. There’s a reason we’re willing to pay so much more to dine in a restaurant rather than at home, and it’s not just so we don’t have to do dishes. I’m even the type of person that cringes at the idea of spending $50 on new clothes but you tell me about a fun new restaurant and I turn in to Philip J. Fry screaming “Shut up and take my money” faster than Farnsworth’s dark matter engine.
So when I was making plans with a friend in Dallas to meet up with them while I was in town, and they told me Salt Bae had just opened a new restaurant downtown, I knew I had to get in on that. Nusr-et Steakhouse, named after the Turkish butcher turned internet sensation, Nusret Gökçe (aka “Salt Bae”) is probably known more for its exorbitant prices more than anything else. With steaks costing upwards of $2,200 for a 24k gold wrapped Tomahawk, and a wine list starting at $115 for the cheapest bottle and going higher than most people’s car, it’s completely fair to call it excessive. But none the less my interest was piqued and my heart was set on trying it out.
After a quick check of the online menu to make sure there was at least something I could afford with the stash of cash back rewards I’ve been stockpiling, I called the restaurant to make a reservation. I could feel the host’s desire to laugh at me like I was making a reservation at Dorsia, but she remained professional and politely informed they were pretty booked since they literally just opened. Bummer. But anyone who knows me knows that I don’t give up that easily, and I still had a trick up my sleeve. While I’d never used it before, I thought I would try calling my credit cards concierge service as I’ve heard that sometimes that is the only way to get in at certain high demand restaurants. Well, after giving the concierge my information and availability, he said he’d see what he could do and would call me back either way in 48 hours. Not 20 minutes later, he called back with a confirmation and I was in shock but excited for the opportunity to enjoy the experience none the less.
Fast forward a few days and it’s dinner time and I’m pulling up at the restaurant. It’s prime location in downtown Dallas, catty-cornered to Klyde Warren Park, was easy to find and they had valets waiting out front. When I got out of the car, the valet asked for my phone number and said they’d text me my ticket and to reply back when I’m ready to leave. So right off the bat I’m impressed with how easy they’ve made it to enjoy yourself.
Once inside, you’re met with an exciting, high energy atmosphere and a greeted by a friendly host. We were seated immediately and guided past the busy bar and glass cases of marbled beef so big they look like something from The Flintstones. We were seated at a cozy table in the back of the restaurant which was encased in glass walls overlooking the intersection with a great view of the park across the street. The first question asked as we were seated was whether we wanted sparkling or still water, and we’re a house divided in that department so it was one of each. Bottles of Aqua Panna and San Pellegrino were promptly delivered. We ordered a couple of cocktails to start and I must warn you, they are on the sweeter side, so be prepared for that, and all but one cocktail on the menu is $25. The outlier rang in at a whopping $300. The server warned me when I ordered the old fashioned that it was going to be sweeter and gave me the option to tone it down a bit in which I happily accepted, and even then it was still pretty sweet. But then food service began and it was such a treat, as so much of the menu is prepared and served table side.
We started with a beef carpaccio and Nusr-et special salad. The salad was served first in a large bowl that was tossed and split between our plates by the server that delivered it. I am not the biggest fan of salads with fruit and nuts, but I was here to have fun and that meant avoiding the basic Caesar or wedge salad. The pomegranate dressing was slightly sweet and a little tangy, and the greens to toppings ratio was spot on where it actually felt like I was eating a salad and not trail mix. Right after the salad was served, one of the managers came with the beef carpaccio. The round plate was lined with the thinly sliced beef and a bed of arugula and Parmesan crisps in the center. The manager spread out the toppings into a straight line and then rolled it up in the beef topping it with mustard, balsamic, pepper, and of course a signature sprinkle of salt before slicing and serving it to us. At the same time as the manager is doing this for us, I see Bae walking through the restaurant like a total bad ass. Sunglasses on, chin held high and a confident swag in his walk with a posse of staff trailing behind with anything he might need. Not wanting to take away from the service being done at my table, I discretely pointed with my eyes to my dining partner to look to his side and see the show being performed a couple tables over as a golden steak was being salted. We were definitely hoping we would see him while we were there but not sure if he was still in town or if he’d even be at the restaurant on a Monday night. But there he was doing his thing and loving every second of it. The energy he has for what he does is contagious and it spreads all across the restaurant every time he walks across the floor.
Naturally, we ordered a steak, albeit one of the “cheaper” options that was still the most expensive steak I’ve ever ordered. The pace of the meal was good, giving us a moment to rest between starters and the main course without feeling like we were waiting. When our sides and steak came to the table, we were informed that someone would be by in a moment to cut it for us. Then a moment later a manager came by and told us to get our cameras ready cause Mr. Nusret was coming to cut our steak. I was thankful for the heads up as I was able to rest my phone against the wall and let it record while I kept my attention on the star of the show.
As I mentioned before, Bae was followed around with his entourage of staff and they are well trained in exactly what he needs to “do his thing.” As soon as he walked up to the table, his knife and sharpening steel were presented to him, a couple swipes of the blade and he got to chopping. His style was definitely unique as he went back and forth between slow precise movements to rapid actions. And when he was done cutting, he tossed his knife in the air and as he caught it a bowl of what was practically rock salt appeared out of seemingly nowhere and then came his viral move. I can’t say I’ve ever been particularly excited for the garnish of my dinner to be bouncing off a chef’s elbow onto my food, but something about the entire ordeal was just plain fun and exciting.
As for the steak? It was really good! Then again, when you’re starting with a medium rare Waygu Tomahawk, you’d expect nothing less. You did get a couple bursts of salt here and there from stray chunks, but it was extremely enjoyable none the less. I paired my steak with a glass of Cab and also enjoyed a couple sides including the creamed spinach and onion flower, both of which tasted great. We opted to skip dessert as we were stuffed and typically save dessert for another place with a night cap, but they only had two options. One of which was baklava, the other was 24k gold wrapped baklava, $25 & $75 respectively.
At the end of the day, the food was good and the drinks were good, but the service was impeccable and the experience was truly unique. Our dinner for two with 2 drinks a piece came out to a whopping $541 before gratuity. Would I say it was worth it? For the food on it’s own, absolutely not. For the experience as a whole, yes. But one of those one and done kind of experiences. It just goes to show how important the experience is when it comes to dining out, and what people are willing to pay for said experience. The fact the Nusr-Et has several more restaurants set to open soon can attest to that.