Had my first dinner at the Dallas branch of Charlie Palmer's Friday night. the short version is that I was very impressed. Excellent food, very attentive service, a very nice atmosphere, and a very good wine list that was very, very well priced. The restaurant's web site is here:
The restaurant is downtown, on Main. I understand that the hotel that it is to be part of is not yet open, but that the restaurant had it's soft opening in December. A very elegant dining room that seemed full, but not crowded when it was full; and didn't seem empty when it was nearly empty near the end of the evening. Very off beat, but interesting decor, like old airplane props in recessed circles in the ceiling. Not sure what they were for (ceiling fans), but they were interesting.
The menu, which is on line and more or less up to date, is interesting, but not too off beat.
Basic seasonal American cuisine. But every dish we had, with the possible exception of the ammuse, was perfectly prepared. And there was nothing wrong with the ammuse -- a mini shrimp and lobster corn dog with mustard and creame fraishe -- it just didn't quite seem to be up the quality of the other dishes. An appetizer of grilled shrimp with an eggplant/caponata salad was tasty and done to a turn. Duck and a truffled pheasant tagine entrees were very good. My girlfriend preferred her duck, but I preferred my pheasant, but neither of us could find any fault with either dish. The skin on the pheasant breast was incredibly crisp and just so. And the t ruffled jus with the pheasant was to die for.
The wine list was very good, too. An very good, but not great selection. But above and beyond the selection, the prices were amazingly reasonable. Among restaurants in Dallas, only Lola's prices are more reasonable. Apparently, Palmer's adds $25 to the retail price of a wine that is less than $100 and $35 to the price of a bottle over $100. The restaurant has the same eWinebook as Charlie Palmer's in Las Vegas. You can use it on line, too, although when I called to make the reservation, the girl answering the phone didn't know the list was online (rather inexcuseable). But it is:
I'm not sure that this is really the best way to access the list, but it is an intersting idea. I played with it on line for a half hour or so and got a feel for the list and what they had in the regions I was interested in. But when I got to the restaurant, I asked for the printed list and found it much easier to access. The restaurant has between 600 and 700 wines on their list. If they had a much bigger list, the electronic version might be more useful, but I'll take the print version at this size any day. The list has good selections from all price ranges. In the areas I looked at Burgundy, Bordeaux, Alsace and Rhone, there were a few nicely chosen wines at price points in the $40 - 70 range. Most of the list from these regions is in the $100 - 250 range, but when I glanced at the selections from California, very few of them were over $100. So it should be easy for folks in all price points to find a bottle to suit their budget. (Indeed, I hear the Domaine Leflaive 2004 Bienvinue Batard Montrachet calling my name as I type.)
The one dessert we shared was very good, too. A selection of three tarts -- banana (killer), pecan (very, very good) and chocolate espresso (good enough).
But I was very impressed by the restaurant in all respects. No complaints at all. I think we have another contender for one of the best five to seven restaurants in town. It's certainly going to gain a place in the rotation of the small hand full of restaurants that I frequent, especially as they have very nice wines at a reasonable mark up.