Princess for a day

Don your rhinestone tiara: The Pyramid's prix-fixe dinner is the best deal in town

It's a time of year when princesses and witches are on the mind of a daughter's mother. Last year, we received a memo from my daughter's school to please stay away from witch costumes on Halloween--to please look for "more positive role models." I discussed this piece of absurdity with another mother whose response was, "I've always worried a lot more about Jane thinking she was a 'princess' than a 'witch.'"

The princess syndrome is certainly something we have to watch for at my house: Anna's owned a tiara since she was three. But, heck, every girl wants to feel like a princess some time. I don't have too much lust for luxury--I don't have a tiara, diamonds are not my best friend (we've never even been introduced), and I don't eat caviar and champagne for breakfast (often enough).

Still, when I do feel a craving for a crown, I can have dinner at the Pyramid Room for 24 bucks and feel like Grace Kelly. The Pyramid's prix-fixe dinner is the best deal in town for low-budget princesses.

Location Info

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The Pyramid Restaurant and Bar

1717 N. Akard St.
Dallas, TX 75201

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Downtown & Deep Ellum

In the old days, the Pyramid was one of those places where only the men were given the menus with the prices--yeah, yeah, I know, very sexist. Very nice. Women weren't even supposed to let thoughts of dollars enter their pretty little heads. Last week, my menu had every price listed, both a la carte and table d'hote. Ever the pragmatist, my companion added up the cost of prix-fixe menu items off the a la carte menu and found the tab more than doubled. The table d'hote dinner for $24 is a full, five-course meal--$43 if you add wine. Show me another deal like this. I don't doubt that the Pyramid's kitchen has done its math and is making its money, but this is undoubtedly a win-win situation.

The Pyramid's gorgeous decor plays the Egyptian theme to the hilt, with gilded lions, sphinxes, and Tutankhamen golden stripes; it seemed appropriate to explore the archaeology of the place while we dined. The Fairmont Hotel and Pyramid Room celebrated their 25th anniversary last year--that's a considerable history for a restaurant. If you drew a family tree of Dallas restaurants and chefs, you'd have to put the Fairmont at the root of every branch. Avner Samuel, Guy Calluaud, Alberto Lombardi, Dean Fearing, Dieter Paul, Jean Claude Prevot--just to name a few--all came to Dallas through the Fairmont kitchens. This was Dallas' conduit to fine dining. The Fairmont funneled in talented people who got to know the market, left the hotel, and opened their own businesses. The Pyramid literally seeded Dallas with good restaurants. You have to wonder what we'd be eating if this hotel hadn't opened.

Everyone has a favorite memory from the glory days--the baskets of souffle potatoes, the ice sculptures, the opera-singing sommelier. The Pyramid lost its cachet for a while when its "children" grew up. But a $2 million (there's that word again) remodeling job in 1989 restored the golden glow. Last year, it was inducted into Nation's Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame, and Wine Spectator recognized the Pyramid's wine list with its "Best of" Award of Excellence (it's won every year since 1991). Recently, it again received the 1995 DiReNA (Distinguished Restaurants of North America) award.

But enough history. The Pyramid Room today is not as grand and showy as in the past. Its scale is more intimate; the rooms are quiet, more subtle than splashy. (Well, even the original pyramids are only grandiose from the outside--inside they're divided into the ultimate personal spaces.) The light is dappled and golden, the elegance is discreet. It's more a meticulous attention to style and quality which weaves the spell that makes you believe in magic for an evening.

And what is even better, this is magic for the masses. For $14.50 you can have a one-hour weekday lunch at the Pyramid. On Sundays, they serve brunch with champagne for $24. This is the power of the Pyramid--true, affordable luxury.

No cutting corners, either. The chairs are cushy, the linens are thick, there's a gold-shaded candle, and a single freesia on the table. We started with dry sherry--one ice cube, please--cold champagne, colder martinis. We nibbled on lahvosh and raisin bread while my companion did his math and reveled, not just in the bubbles, but in the great deal we were getting, and I pretended that it was Cary Grant doing the tallying.

The current chef, John Edwards, seems as talented as his predecessors. One of us ate a la carte, the rest of us prix fixe, two with wine, one without. The choice of appetizers was lump-crab and shrimp cocktail with grated tomato and fresh horseradish or mushroom ravioli with a duck confit crouton. We (the royal we) chose both. Chilled, sweet shellfish, just barely seasoned with tart tomato and a little heat; two broad bands of fresh green pasta, criss-crossed over a mound of portabello, morel, and shiitake mushrooms; sprinkled with pepper and onion confetti; the Villeroy and Boch plate dusted with cheese and garnished with a tiny croustade rich with shreds of duck. Our server, making sure we saw the label, poured a Bonny Doon "Pacific Rim" Riesling, California, 1993 with the ravioli; Llano Estacado's "Signature White" Sauvignon Blanc, 1994 with the seafood.

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