By Bite of the Best regional correspondent, Stephanie Amsel
Greetings from Dallas! I told my 82 year-old neighbor that I felt like my neighbors here were as nice as my neighbors in Yorkville in NYC and she just about fainted, not realizing how nice New Yorkers can be and are. I find myself constantly using the New Yorker litmus test for everything – including kind, welcoming neighbors who used to bring me a Spanish potato tortilla, like a frittata, bruschetta with anchovies, smashed tomatoes and garlic, and wine in my building, and I mean everything – which brings me to the topic of food, something I once again use to compare New York with Dallas.
Dallas is known to be one of the biggest metropolitan areas with more restaurants per capita than the other cities within the top ten. Dallasites eat out an average of 3.2 times a week. That’s a lot, and I remember my neighbors on York Avenue probably kept up with that average with pizza and take-out Chinese, always with the coupon for free egg drop soup, or, my favorite, sesame noodles. Those sweet, slightly salty, drippy gooey, wet chewy bundles of joy I can’t seem to find outside of Manhattan.
So, with Restaurant Week happening in Dallas, we decided to reserve a table at the very best in town: the very best for $35 a person, wine $10 extra, and in my case, I’m the wine drinker, but I temper my usual desires when I’m indulging in fine French food. We had a 6:00 reservation at the French Room in the Adolphus Hotel, a historic luxury hotel built in 1912. The Adolphus is known in Dallas for entertaining dignitaries including Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, and politicos like Presidents Carter, Reagan, and of course the Bushes, but I was most intrigued by the mention that W. B. Yeats stayed there in April of 1920 after lecturing in San Antonio and Austin. It’s called the French Room for its opulent Versailles finishes and murals with Fragonard-like cherubs climbing the walls and dancing along the ceiling. It is the prettiest room I’ve seen in all of Dallas.
The service at the French Room is divine, comfortable, welcoming, and never obtrusive. They make you feel like you belong and the professional waiters and maitre d’ seem like old friends within minutes. They’re professional, unlike other waiters in Dallas. We started with a Texas Yellow Corn Soup, with sautéed crimini mushrooms and a delicate pot sticker. The pot sticker and mushrooms were piled high in the middle of the bowl, and then the creamy, buttery corn soup was poured around the mound like a moat, with a sinewy stream of paprika oil drizzled on top. I had the Dominion Farms Pork Belly — smothered with a syrupy, sticky five-spice glaze, topped with frisée and tiny tomato chunks, just enough to cut the sugary sweetness. The meat was perfectly cooked and tasted like the best little pork rib, sans bone, I had eaten. Oh, and the pork belly rested on top of a sprinkling of beluga lentils, from Spain, a first for me, named for the little pearls of lentils that looked like tiny green peppercorns and complimented the sweet salty pork belly ever so nicely.
We both had the same second course, which is a first for us; we always get something different because I want as many tastes as I can get in one sitting. We had the red snapper, seared beautifully on one side, double little filets side-by-side sitting on top of a bed of spinach risotto, with a “Romesco” sauce of tomato and cream. So you get the picture, filets atop a mound of bright green risotto, surrounded by a little ring of pinky, orangey tomato sauce. The fish was cooked to perfection, crisp on the outside, soft and firm on the inside and flavored slightly with white wine and butter. Alas, the only thing that marred the dish was the spinach risotto, it was not really a fully incorporated risotto, but more of a green sauce with specks of rice, too much liquid and unfortunately, way too salty for the delicate fish.
We moved onto dessert and the dinner moved into another arena altogether. I had the Grand Marnier Soufflé, crunchy on the outside, risen to a lovely height several inches above the dish. Whipped cream and crème anglaise was served on the side and the maitre d’ poked into the middle of the soufflé and plopped the two creams right into the center. I looked inside and saw them start to melt and meld together into creamy softness. It was heavenly, not too sweet, decidedly full of Grand Marnier, so the alcohol cut through the sweetness, producing spoonfuls of pillows of delight.
The other dessert we had was a Mocha Macchiato Sabayon Torte, with an almond shaped coffee ice cream on the side. Creamy chocolate mousse goodness with a crunchy torte bottom with pieces of chocolate brickle throughout. Each bite a combination of crackly, velvety, and cool chocolaty deliciousness.
We left feeling pampered and stuffed and gently carried our full, happy bellies home.
So, now, don’t you want to come to Dallas and join in on the food fun? Tell your friends about us and help keep Dallas on the foodie map.
1321 Commerce St, Dallas, TX 75202