by Andrew Chalk
Two months after a devastating kitchen fire, Dallas Chop House reopens at 5pm on Monday 3rd November (today) for dinner service. Far from crying over spilt milk, executive chef Chad Starling and corporate chef A.J. Joglekar have spent the downtime strategizing about how they could improve the menu. At a media dinner last week they showed us the results – a whole flight of new recipes.
The unquestioned flagship is the tersely titled ‘Steak Flight’ ($98). It is 4oz each of Akaushi Wagyu NY Strip, 28 and 160-day dry aged rib eye (if you feel special ask for the off menu 523-day aged version), herb roasted bone marrow, bacon-onion jam, parsley-pickled shallot salad, cilantro chimichurri and Himalayan salt.
The esoteric steak components are sold separately as well. The Akaushi Wagyu NY strip from Heartland Farms is $62 (16oz.) and the dry-aged ribeye is $50 (21 days) and $55 (30 days) for an 18oz. cut.
Of course, there is conventional steak too. The all USDA Prime menu runs the gamut from the filet mignon (8oz. $42, 10oz $48), bone-in NY strip (18oz., $48) porterhouse ($54, 24oz.), bone-in ribeye (24oz, $52).
Meat lovers who don’t fancy a steak can dig into a Niman Ranch pork chop ($14oz., $34), half a roasted Vital Farms chicken ($27) and Wagyu short ribs ($34). There is no game here, reflecting the puzzling inability of this category to get restaurant traction in a state where hunting is so popular.
The seafood section is mainstream (no pun intended) with diver scallops ($33), Arctic char ($29), and various-sized helpings of shrimp and oysters.
Sides show moderate inventiveness. Crawfish Maque Choux is cropping up around town (including here) as it migrates, Nutria-like, out of its Louisiana heartland. Mushrooms are a selection of wild variants (had hon shimeji recently?). Old favorites, like a stuffed baked potato, are there too.
Among starters, check out the nefariously addictive ‘Bacon & Eggs’. The so-called bacon is actually grilled Berkshire pork belly braised so tender as to seduce grown men to their knees, then tweaked with a maple pink peppercorn gastrique that both seduces (sweet) and tantalizes (vinegar). Plate that on smoked egg emulsion taken straight from the pages of your favorite modernist cookbook and you have a certifiable dish-of-the-year. Personally, I would plonk a sunny side up quail egg on top of the whole assemblage, but that might be called over-egging the pudding (sorry).
Scallop dishes are costly when you use diver-caught scallops. Diving for scallops is the aquatic equivalent of mowing your lawn with a pair of scissors. The results defy the imagination but the cost defies modern medicine’s ability to fix a broken back. Diver scallops have to taste better or one might as well revert to more conventional harvesting techniques (a magnet?). Once captured, they merit some thought beyond the conventional sauté in butter. Chad Starling makes a curried purée of sweet potato (only gently charged with cumin) and accompanies it with dainty slices of heart of palm (a most underused ingredient) and steamed bok choy. The latter shows the kind of out-of-the-bok thinking typical of DCH. A sprinkle of chile-pineapple salsa on top and you have a worthy presentation of everyone’s favorite sea mollusc. It is listed under main courses but is actually light enough to work as an appetizer or be the main for a small appetite.
Salads get forethought here too. The roasted baby beet salad includes Caprino Royale Texas goat cheese, a pistachio brittle for crunchy texture and sweetness (a change from the usual sprinkle of plain nuts), blood orange (which I did not find) and a sherry-caraway vinaigrette. That is in addition to several pure, wonderful baby beets with that characteristic beet taste that can’t be confused with any other food. Unbeetable.
One day, I will come back with a vegetarian/vegan friend with the objective of discovering “how can a vegan survive in a Dallas steak house?”
Finally we were offered short ribs. No prizes for originality with this protein, just good old-fashioned execution. DCH braises their Wagyu in red wine, plates them on vanilla-parsnip purée (so far, so good) and then dresses the dish with a photogenic flourish of smoked tomato-horseradish vinaigrette. That vinaigrette and the tomatoes were the clever touch — they kept the mouthfeel lively in a dish that can often be a monotonous bog of carb and protein.
Dessert of brioche bread pudding, golden raisins, Frangelico caramel, hazelnuts and brown butter ice cream was scarfed down, implements be damned, by the two-inch waisted mommy bloggers, but I was full, so I scraped off the Henry’s ice cream and left the rest.
A copy of the drinks list (wine, cocktails and beers) did not arrive by press time.
What is it like to eat at DCH? The padded room feel, making for low decibels, combined with ample table spacing mean that you can discuss business here. The new chairs are even more sumptuous than the ones that existed prior to the fire (but were ‘on the waves’ from their manufacturer before the fire, so the change had some pre-meditation). There are also sumptuous high-backed booths. It all makes for a luxurious ambience. Service is by an established, experienced waitstaff who rise to what is expected in the A-list steak houses around town.
A lively bar is next door and extends out to the patio. Happy hour (4-7pm) is a scene.
The bottom line is that DCH is a first-tier destination steak house for downtown or Uptown diners. The $7 valet parking at dinner time is not comped but under-building self-parking on Elm and St. Paul is (call for details). A marketing faux pas in my opinion. It adds to the standard steak house menu a selection of some of the leading edge-case steak interpretations around, plus non-steak recipes that succeed on their own merits. Well worth checking out.