By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
I don't know what it takes to create perfect dining atmospherics. Something homey, perhaps, with lots of rich wood, rough-hewn stone, a roaring fire, fresh flowers, gauzy window treatments, and tables with thick padding so your elbows don't get sore between courses.
I do know, however, what it takes to create the perfect rec room; the kind of space any self-respecting air hockey table would give its left blower to inhabit. And it's beautifully displayed in a far North Dallas strip mall at Midway and Trinity Mills, a retail linkage that includes La Mirabelle and Sweet Basil.
Toss aside the green awning out front and the patio dining area overlooking the scenic asphalt upon which herds of Chevy Suburbans, Toyota Camrys, and Jeep Cherokees gently drip their lubricants. The true beauty of Cozy's lies in its slick innards--it's a rec room-lover's dream. The clean, white walls are slapped with mahogany panel accents. Framed metal sculptures rendering musical doodads such as notes and piano keys add a bit of chicness. Tinted glass and subdued lighting shroud the space in perpetual clubby darkness--even at midday. There's even a stage for live jazz and R&B on the weekends.
Perhaps the best place to contemplate the Cozy's experience is in its cigar lounge, which, loudly announced with a bright neon sign above this small cove, contains leather chairs and sofas, a piano, a fireplace with a wooden mantel, and a couple of television sets. Just outside the lounge is a lighted wood-and-glass cigar closet displaying a variety of stogies for your smog-sucking pleasure. And in case you get careless with a smoldering Macanudo and perforate your duds with a 49-ring-gauge vent, that same case offers replacement silk ties for 25 bucks.
But the real mystery behind this crisp, cold haunt is how it got stuck with that name: The moniker pairs with the atmospherics about as well as George Bush does with a set of readable lips. "Once they ended up building it, the name really didn't fit," says chef Michael Kobelt, formerly of 8.0. "I don't want to say I'm kind of stuck with it, but I kind of am." Kobelt, who recently became a partner in Cozy's with owner Bill Page, a semi-retired contractor, says Cozy's was originally conceived as an upscale jazz bar. Now, he says he's trying to transform it into a neighborhood American grill.
Maybe he's stuck with the name. But let's hope he isn't stuck with the menu--unless it's hanging on by way of adhesive-strength ingredients. This menu is a wad of American grill standards--burgers, steaks, chicken breast, fish--with Italian, Mexican, Asian, and Cajun influences welded to every substance you can up-end with a fork.
But the welds aren't strong enough to hold most of the food together, at least in a culinary sense. The spicy lamb tostadas, a pile of arid ground lamb seasoned with ginger, mint, and cayenne set on a crisp tortilla, exploded into shards of brittle shell and little balls of meat with every attempted bite or cut, making it harder to swallow than a Marv Albert toupee-in-hand public apology. The accompanying goat cheese and pineapple salsa did little to smooth the frayed flavors, though it did inject a provocative tangy spice.
Stuck on like an ill-fitting zoot suit, the batter coating for the honey-dipped chicken lifted and separated from the breast meat with each cut. Worse, the batter was mushy, while the inner surface where it adhered to the flesh was as smooth and slick as if it had been treated with Armor All. A ladle of roasted jalapeno gravy--a grayish cream ooze that seemed inspired by school-lunch program specifications--had little flavor despite its racy title. In fact, the absence of an underlying flavor structure upon which to hang these diddle-dallying treatments sent the whisper of honey sweetness into an aimless float across the palate.
Armor All seemed a critical ingredient in the homemade fried zucchini too: large summer squash slices with a thick, golden brown coating. Heavy and oily with slick inner surfaces, this kitchen construction featured vegetable wedges that slid right out of the batter when you took a bite.
One offering that, on paper, had all the markings of success was the tortilla-crusted red snapper with tomatillo sauce and cilantro rice. Unfortunately, the only success was the side of rice: moist, supple, and accessorized with tomato, pepper, and onion. The main attraction made me squeamish; its thick blanket of tomatillo sauce mercilessly bludgeoned the delicate, sweet fish with bruising drop-kicks of spice and salt.
The grilled Black Angus ribeye could have used a couple of these swift kicks. Though cooked to near-perfection, the fatty, stringy meat just didn't have much flavor. Black Angus designations have turned up a lot of serious disappointments as of late. Is there some careless menu-labeling or quality dilution going on out there? The thing that really took the blandness crown, however, was the smoked baked potato enchiladas with black bean and corn relish. Not that the assemblage lacked flavor; after all, there was that smoke. It's just that the mealy textures created by the tortilla-potato kinship were so off-putting that you didn't really care what flavors the thing offered as long as someone was standing by to wash out your mouth with a garden hose.