Strolling Illusions

Angels in the Park blesses with ambience rather than food

Still, I half-expected crowds of cherubim, seraphim, and archangels to drop from the black sky perforated with twinkling lights and dart among the trees and shrubs and maybe bless the food or dance to the kinetic tunes throbbing from the speakers. Or maybe they could turn the wine list -- a thing dominated almost exclusively by modest Chardonnays, Cabernets, and Merlots -- into something more interesting.

There was not only twinkling at Angels. There was tinkling. A majestic three-level fountain wedged into a wall encrusted with mirrors trickled soothingly throughout the dining room. But fountain dribbles splashed and splattered all over those mirrors, creating a filmy water spot smudge. This instantly shattered the illusion that Angels is more spacious than its actual dimensions, which is what mirrors are supposed to convey, I suppose.

But other decorative touches invigorated the somewhat forced park theme. Walls done in limestone slabs crawled with fake vines. A gazebo with a transparent pyramid lid flickered weakly with luminescent flashes. It's hard to tell if this bit of illusory glimmer was an underachieving lightning bolt or an overachieving star twinkle.

Faux trees, faux vines, faux grass -- Angels in the Park has everything but faux winos sleeping on benches.
Jon Lagow
Faux trees, faux vines, faux grass -- Angels in the Park has everything but faux winos sleeping on benches.

Details

(214) 219-1375.

Tuesday-Thursday
11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Friday & Saturday
11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Sunday brunch
11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Sunday dinner
5-10 p.m.

$$-$$$

4006 Cedar Springs

Then there's the partition separating the dining room from the bar. It looks like an exterior wall pilfered from a quaint little Montana country house Ted Kaczynski might have lived in if he had spent more time reading Martha Stewart instead of The Anarchist Cookbook. The house fragment was complete with siding, paned windows, and aluminum gutters with wide downspouts. Who ever heard of a park with a house in it that wasn't a public restroom?

But this was no wee wee bungalow. On the other side of that wall is Angels' bar, an elegantly handsome space with hardwood floors, rich circular wood tables, and thick, roughly stuccoed walls resembling the frosting on a layered carrot cake. Along one wall is an extraordinarily long sofa, a thing that could sleep the entire Dallas City Council and still have room for the mayor and his golf clubs if it were a hide-a-bed.

Which is maybe where you'd want to turn in after dinner in the park, because the entrées lull you into listlessness. Grilled chicken penne pasta in sun-dried tomato thyme cream sauce had lots of juicy, bland pieces of chicken, but the dish was strangely stingy with pasta tubes, which were plugged in a veggie medley of zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, and green bell pepper. My companion enjoyed the subdued, smooth nuttiness of the sauce, but I was wishing for a more pronounced sun-dried tomato zing.

Pan-roasted center-cut pork tenderloin -- golden brown patches of meat curled from a long, harsh stay on the stove -- was a chore to chew. The thin disks of meat generously rimmed in fat required the gnawing force one might deploy on sackcloth. This is too bad, because the surrounding dishes yearned for worthy loins to frame. Spicy apple chutney with golden raisins was tender and tangy with a subtle gust of cinnamon. A smooth dollop of horseradish-whipped potatoes was heartily elegant with a light breeze of piquancy.

Varnished in a floral mango-apricot glaze, the rotisserie-roasted half-chicken was delicious save for the slight dryness of the meat. A side of garlic-roasted potatoes was moist and hearty.

Cowboy-cut bone-in rib eye, a thin patch of meat, came resoundingly gray instead of the medium rare requested. The beef was arid and shy on richness. Steamed veggies -- zucchini, yellow squash, and red bell pepper -- were perfectly prepared, striking the right balance between firmness and tenderness. Baked potato came with a ramekin of sour cream topped with shavings of yellow cheese and fresh bacon debris.

A dessert of four-berry pie seemed carelessly expulsed from a microwave. Scaldingly hot filling spilled from the edges of the pie while the crust, striped with icing, was soft, mushy, and blurred into the berry mess. Coffee kicked butt though.

So did the service. From the hosts to the servers to the bus boys everyone here was uniformly gracious and attentive, and they expended every effort to make you feel sincerely welcome. Sometimes it's easy to excuse lapses in menu execution when service is this good. But as happens too often at venues concerned with creating an environment unrelated to dining, the food seems to take a back seat to the concept. And instead of the energy being focused on the food on the plate, it seems directed into the bark on the trees.

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