Mansour Gorji isn’t really one for borders. To him, they’re lines; nothing more, really. While some may take them as guardians of tradition, heritage and defined culture, he often tends to view them as boundaries for advancement – hindrances to imagination and barriers for achievement.
In Mansour Gorji’s lifetime, he’s crossed more than a few borders in making his way from Tehran to Dallas. With his cuisine, he makes them disappear. It’s his version of New Mediterranean, and instead of defining his cuisine by nationality, he’s using the broad palate of the Mediterranean to develop new creations that grace his customers’ tables every night.
“Take escargot – the most French dish you can think of – say I put it with a little pomodoro sauce, a little gorgonzola, some mushrooms and make it a little spicy. What is it now? Is it Italian? French? I believe that if nobody ever experimented and everybody always stuck strictly to authenticity, we’d still be eating things that today we’ve come to think of as inedible,” he says before adding with a chuckle, “We would all still be having garum every night!”
Gorji’s efforts to build upon the established culinary traditions throughout the Mediterranean can be found at Canary by Gorji, his intimate, 10-table restaurant in Addison. For 10 years he has been serving his creations to customers both loyal and new, shopping for his own groceries every day and cooking in the kitchen every night. The dishes vary with the seasons, with current dishes such as Texas Quail Breasts (served on a bed of kale with honey, barberry and white wine) and Sauteed Arctic Char with white wine, broccoli, cauliflower, capers and red bell peppers gracing the menu. Even steak, Colorado lamb T-bones and wild Texas boar make the menu.
“Turkish, French, Lebanese, Israeli – I’ll take the techniques and apply my twist on it,” he says. “If this is good with this, then I’m going to put these two things together and then match it with this. I’ll fit them all together,” he observes. “It’s about having the right balance of flavors.”
And about the right atmosphere.
Located on a corner of Addison’s Village on the Parkway, Canary’s unassuming strip-mall location belies its refined interior. Candle-lit tables and simple decor accent the white tablecloths, while a window into the kitchen can provide a quick peek of the action. Shying away from the overbearing or ostentatious, the restaurant makes a greater effort to be comfortable and inviting.
“I just want people to come in and enjoy the experience for the evening. It is all about their experience. So we don’t have a TV, and it also means that we don’t seat young children,” he observes. “I just try to provide everyone with the best fine-dining experience that I can.”
The experience Gorji seeks to provide is partly reliant on his wine list, as well, and just as his food is representative of the Mediterranean region, his wine list sports representatives from all over, as well. France and Italy do, of course, have their place, but selections from Crete, Greece, Lebanon, and other lesser-known wine regions are available. As most wines are by the glass, it provides an opportunity to sample wine from regions that may seem less obvious alternatives to the traditional wine powerhouses.
“The same philosophy that I have with the food also applies to the wine,” he says. “It’s all from small, boutique distributors, and I’ll take wines from all over, but all in a ratio: I’m not going to have 10 Italian wines – it will be more like three. I want to provide something that you can’t just go down the street to another restaurant to get.”
However, Gorji does provide at least some of his food outside of Canary – about three years after opening, he had received so many requests for his sauces that he decided to bottle them and sell them retail. The result: Jimmy’s Bolsa Mercado, Whole Foods and other markets around Dallas now carry the sauces made in his kitchen. Pomodoro, Puttanesca, Pomegranate Vinaigrette and a Dipping Oil are all available. And if you want to know how to use them, he’s coming out with a cookbook, too.
“I would stop making a sauce and people would still be asking for it, so I said, ‘Okay! Now you can go buy it! Let me make something else!”‘ he says with a laugh. “And it’s the same thing with the cookbook; those are recipes I don’t make anymore, but people keep asking for them. So I wrote a book to tell them how to do it!”
Even when they’re not in his restaurant, Gorji makes an effort to ensure his customers are enjoying his food as much as possible. It’s food they won’t find anywhere else, he notes, and that’s what he loves. The sauces can be found in neighborhoods like Oak Cliff and Plano, or ordered online (Artizone has them, too), while the book can surely be used anywhere there’s a kitchen.
But, if you want to see what Gorji has at its best, well, you’ll have to travel to the restaurant. And yes, you’ll have to cross the Addison border to get there.