What a difference a decade makes. When I first moved to Fort Worth in 2000, there were only a handful of truly gourmet restaurants in town, and unexpected or exotic ingredients were rarely found on menus.
But beginning in the middle 2000s, with sophisticated, chef-driven spots like Ellerbe Fine Foods, and adventurous ethnic restaurants like Salsa Fuego and Shinjuko Station, the scene began to change radically.
These days, if a new restaurant doesn’t have something out-of-the-box sounding on its menu – charred octopus, say, or French fries drizzled with truffle oil – Fort Worth diners are apt to overlook it altogether.
These were my thoughts as I settled in for a recent lunch at the newly opened Bite City Grill, located in Montgomery Plaza, just west of downtown, in the space previously occupied by Deluxe Bar & Grille. Having been described by chef Eddy Thretipthuangisin as “modern American with a global influence,” the menu at Bite City Grill features all sorts of enticing-sounding combinations: clams served in a lemongrass coconut broth with chorizo; a “lamb pop” served with curried onion relish.
Ten years ago, Bite City Grill might have seemed like an alien visitor from San Francisco; these days, it fits into the Fort Worth dining scene beautifully.
During our lunch, we tried a mix of small and large plates: We were big fans of the charred octopus, which is served with tangy-sweet peppadew peppers and salad greens dressed with a ginger aioli. The octopus was perfectly prepared, lightly crispy on the outside, but tender when you bite through; the ginger – which can sometimes become overpowering in fish dishes -- offered just the right additional punch of flavor.
Another winner was the short rib sandwich. The beef -- braised and juicy, but not in the least bit fatty in the manner of many short ribs – is topped with wilted broccoli rabe and melted gruyere cheese and served on pillowy ciabatta bread; the result is a remarkable blend of savory, bitter and creamy. All of the lunch sandwiches are served with choice of salad or truffle fries – though I strongly urge you to bust your diet and go for the fries. They are crispy, nicely seasoned and redolent of mushroomy earthiness.
Perhaps our favorite dish, meanwhile, was the shrimp risotto. Indeed, even if you find risotto boring or commonplace, this version – infused with lemongrass, topped with slivers of Parmesan Reggiano, and featuring plump, fresh-from-the-sea-tasting shrimp – deserves your attention. .
The one thing about Bite City Grill that isn’t extravagantly gourmet? The prices. Most small plates and salads are in the $8 to $12 range; the most expensive dishes at dinner top out at $24. There is also a selection of flatbreads, perfect for happy hour sharing, at $12 to $14. (There's also an inventive list of specialty cocktails, inspired by the signs of the Zodiac.) The main dining room, in brown and neutral colors, with burnished wood tables and floors, looks superb – making Bite City Grill the kind of place where you want to linger and keep ordering more of its gourmet wonders.