Chef Graham Dodds is largely credited with helping the farm-to-table mantra find a foothold in Dallas, and his obsession with keeping things local and seasonal means the menu at perennial Henderson Avenue hot spot Hibiscus is constantly in flux. Amongst the constantly rotating lineup of locally sourced proteins and unusual produce, one dish has remained steadfast for several months: the rabbit agnolotti.
Dodds estimates the kitchen puts up around 30 orders of the tiny stuffed pasta purses on a typically busy Friday or Saturday night, but it's not just the dish's popularity that has kept it on the menu; it's also due to the close relationship the restaurant has with its rabbit supplier. "We have this really awesome couple that raises the rabbits for us at Frontier Farms out in Corsicana, so I always want to utilize the rabbit the best we can," Dodds explains. "We've done entrees and appetizers and salads and other things with the rabbits, too, but as far as the money you get out of it and the utilization of the rabbit, it's pretty ideal."
All the pasta-making duties at Hibiscus are handled by a hard-working, deft-fingered guy named Mahmoud Banko, who came to Dallas as part of the Syrian refugee program. Dodds estimates that Banko has made at least 20,000 individual rabbit agnolotti since they began serving the dish; he assembled 1,000 for the recent James Beard House dinner in New York alone.
Dodds feels it's essential for his staff to have an understanding of where the products they're using come from — and how they literally get from the farm to the fork, right down to taking his staff on farm trips and even having a farmer give a rabbit slaughter and butcher demonstration. "I want the staff to not just hear me drone on about the story behind the products, but I want them to meet these people face to face," he says. "For them to actually go out to the farm and spend a day seeing the cows and the pigs and the chickens is really special."
"I'm super proud of this dish," the chef says. "It's super simple, but I think what I really love about it is that with the rabbit lonzino shaved on top it also highlights our charcuterie program too, and then just utilizing all the local stuff we can."