The Lombardi family name has been synonymous with quality Italian and French cuisine in Dallas for decades. Lombardi Family Concepts, founded by Alberto Lombardi in 1977, is behind some of the city’s top dining destinations, including Taverna, Toulouse, and the eponymous Lombardi Cucina Italiana. But in recent years, the company has explored avenues within Asian cuisine. 2018 Lombardi opened Kai, an extravagant sushi lounge in Plano’s Legacy West dining district. Three years later, he opened Joi Asian Bistro, an Asian-fusion restaurant in Austin’s Domain neighborhood.
At the helm of each of Lombardi’s concepts are carefully selected chefs, chose by Alberto, with the knowledge that the team at each restaurant is curating a menu true to the regions from which it takes inspiration. His latest, Maison Chinoise, which specializes in contemporary Chinese cuisine on Knox-Henderson, is no different.
Lombardi recruited Ivan Yuen as the restaurant’s executive chef for Maison Chinoise. He curated the menu with the company’s corporate chef, Massimo Esposito.
Both Yuen and Esposito have backgrounds in Asian dining. Yuen has previously held executive chef roles at Red 8 inside Boston’s Encore Casino and sous chef and chef de cuisine roles in the Chicago-based Peninsula Hotels. Esposito previously worked as a corporate chef for Princess Cruises and worked as a chef in China for seven years. He even won MasterChef China in 2017.
“I’m very grateful to mama China,” says Esposito, “because China gave me the opportunity to become who I am today.”
Alberto first met Yuen in Mexico, where Yuen was opening up restaurants inside two hotels. After spending a day in Cancun, the two men quickly hit it off.
When asked about what Maison Chinoise defines as “contemporary Chinese cuisine,” Yuen explains that “40 percent of the menu is based on [the Chinese dishes] you already know, but the other 60 percent are things you need to discover.”
Esposito added that when designing the menu and overall concept of Maison Chinoise, he and Yuen “went deeply into specific regions of China and took the best of the area in terms of dishes, and recreated original taste profile here in the U.S.” to create a “traditional Chinese restaurant” in a new setting, which he says is “a little bit more elevated.”
Alberto notes that the menu is entirely in the hands of Yuen and Esposito, and suggests that there will not be any influences of Italian or French cuisine. “I don’t like to do the same thing all the time,” says Alberto.
On Maison Chinoise’s menu, guests will find traditional Chinese dishes, including crab wontons, pork soup dumplings, and kung pao chicken. But they’ll also find dishes seen in high-end restaurants in China that aren’t often found in American Chinese restaurants. That includes wok-baked green mussels which come plated with fermented black beans, aged orange peels, and Hunan pepper coulis.
“When Chinese people immigrated to the U.S., they recreated dishes from China using Chinese techniques, but with [American] flavor profiles,” says Eposito. “That’s why you have, today, sweet and sour chicken, and you have all these things that you don’t [necessarily] find in China, because they’re made over here, and that’s what people they know about Chinese food…That’s why we want to be out of the box. We want to give them, of course, some of the dishes that they recognize and that everybody is familiar with. But also, we want to be a little bit more genuine and authentic.”
Guests can also enjoy a variety of dumplings served in a dim sum format. Other notable items include prawn toast, wagyu beef, truffle fried rice, and sauteed tiger prawn.
Maison Chinoise also offers tableside tea service, in which guests can order teas like classic green tea and lapsang souchong.
Though many of these items and services aren’t necessarily new, Maison Chinoise aims to present the dishes in a modern way, using art-influenced flatware with simple, minimalistic designs.
“I think this concept will be an interesting way for people to try different styles of Chinese food,” says Yuen.
Maison Chinoise is open now at 4152 Cole Ave., #106. Reservations are available on Open Table.