Cheap speed

Silks' reach for culinary respectability fades in the stretch

Some of the better items included a black-eyed pea salad with bits of olive and pepper in a cilantro-infused vinaigrette, and the sweet, succulent peel-and-eat shrimp done in a boil that gave it just the right touch of bay leaf and other spice flavors. A tawny seafood bisque, with firm, juicy pieces of crawfish and crab seasoned with tarragon and Cajun spices, was velvety and rich. There were also tender slices of smoked turkey--firm, moist, and full of rich flavor.

The buffet also included a picnic-like elbow macaroni salad with ham and peas in deviled-egg flavored cream goo, and a beef stew like your own mom made with chewy cubes of beef tip, cremino mushrooms, and Vidalia onions.

"It's kind of like baseball," Hershorn says. "We're trying to touch all of the bases." Unfortunately, the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none cliche works a little better than the baseball analogy. The sliced beef brisket was gristly, dry, and coarse, with a surface sheen of teal and magenta that resembled the color scheme on the back of a housefly. I suddenly wondered where old quarter horses spend their retirement years. The sliced pork tenderloin in an orange marmalade sauce with whole peppercorns was fatty and a little tough, while the sauce, with its forward, sweet flavors, seemed misapplied.

Sweet-and-sour shrimp--stir-fried with pineapple, green pepper, and other vegetables in rice wine--featured tiny shrimp marinated in sherry and cornstarch. The process produced tiny little ocean crustaceans coated with a chalky layer, and eating them was like munching on sweet-and-sour sauteed bathtub caulk.

Few of the vegetables even approached the complementary designation. A dismal dish of turnip greens sauteed with thin slices of pork in chicken stock and seasoned with clove and nutmeg was mushy, with a disturbing blush of sweetness. Sweet corn flecked with red pepper most certainly came from a can, and the fresh string beans with diced almonds were overcooked and soggy. Many of the liquids used to dress the salads began with Miracle Whip, which made for a Caesar salad that could easily inspire an Ides of March drama. This mix of romaine, waxy tomatoes, mushrooms, and cucumbers lumbered pathetically through a milky dribble. On a second visit, virtually the same assembly was mocked by a runny French dressing.

The service put another puncture in the attempt to transcend pari-mutuel fare. Our servers were far less attentive than the ones wandering around the floor collecting bets, and they never once mentioned the specials. And our lone attempt at ordering wine--from a list that had maybe five each in the sparkling, red, and white categories--inspired the most distinctive wine service ritual ever encountered. Several minutes after placing the order, our server tapped me on the shoulder, handed me a cork, and then disappeared. I was at a loss as to what I was supposed to do with it--perhaps take it to the betting window and place it on "It's the Roan Ranger" to show? A few minutes later, he came back with a single glass holding a splash of wine for me to taste, then disappeared yet again before returning after several minutes to ask if it was OK. Still more time passed before he showed up at our table holding a tray with glasses and a bottle. He set the glasses in front of us, poured the wine, and completed the ritual by presenting the label before setting the bottle on the table. I've had better wine service in Reno, and there they don't pretend they're doing anything more than fattening you up for another round of nickel slots and craps.

Of course, consideration must be given to the difficulty of maintaining food quality on a buffet table with uneven heat. But even with this taken into account, Silks is simply adequate as a restaurant, though it probably excels in refueling people engaged in the grueling act of losing hard-earned dollars on gorgeously svelte, swift animals with tremendously stupid names. With a side order of tip sheets, Silks is a culinary tour de force.

Take away those horses, though, and it's little more than the top end of an exacta that includes Luby's.

Silks. Club House Dining Level 4, Lone Star Park, on Belt Line Road just north of Interstate 30, Grand Prairie. (972) 263-7669. Open Thursday & Friday, 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, noon-4:30 p.m. through November 30.

Readers with comments may e-mail Mark Stuertz at markstz@juno.com.

Clubhouse dining entrance fee $5
Lone Star Nachos Grande $8.95
Daily Double Steak Sandwich $11.95
Silks Buffet $16.50

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