By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
I asked our server what was in the salad I ordered, since the menu verbiage had long ago slipped from memory. He picked up the smudged butter knife from my bread plate and pointed out the ingredients. "Well, there's the meat," he said. "And there's the tortilla strips. A little tomato here and..." he lifted up some lettuce with the knife, "there's the jicama." There was a brown puddle of liquid at the bottom. "And what's that?" I asked. "Well, that must be the dressing they put on it," he said.
I thanked him for guided salad tour and thought how well this episode was in keeping with the theme of Antares: The restaurant planted on the 50th floor of the city's architectural shrine to urbanity has long been known as a tourist trap, a place where couples get engaged and locals bring out-of-town guests to twirl, twitch, and marvel at Dallas. And why not? This ball on stilts is a smirk at modernity: a 23,600-ton tower composed of four concrete columns supporting a geodesic dome covered with a web of aluminum triangles.
Above all else, Antares restaurant (named after a supergiant red binary star that is the brightest in the constellation Scorpio) is an attraction, an eatery that tugs mightily on tourists and conventioneers.
You see them everywhere. A sign near the host stand makes it clear that Antares prefers guests who are properly dressed, which means casual business attire, which means no cutoffs, T-shirts, or sandals. A jacket would be nice too. But this doesn't stop Antares guests. Little crowds of people spilled out of the elevators in T-shirts and frayed shorts strapped with bulging fanny packs.
Reunion Tower trivia is plastered on a placard inside the elevator. There you'll learn that it takes 55 minutes for the restaurant to complete one rotation and that the elevator takes 68 seconds to scale the 560-foot tower. The tower's stairwell has 867 steps and 61 landings leading up to the top. The geodesic dome has 260 lights linked by 14 miles of wire and 40 circuits. A computer in the lighting system can create an infinite number of patterns in the nighttime sky.
Completed in April 1978, Reunion Tower, plugged like a giant blazing ball-topped golf tee between Reunion Arena and the Hyatt Regency, represents the clean, youthful vigor of the city. And maybe much more.
In 1985, an actor clung to the top of the ball and fired a gun at a helicopter during the filming of a movie called Hostage Dallas. Maybe not as dramatic as a giant ape swiping at biplanes in Gotham, but daring nonetheless. In 1994, the dome was transformed into a huge soccer ball when the World Cup came to the city. In 1995, the lights became dancing Christmas trees.
On his first visit atop Reunion Tower, futurist Buckminster Fuller, who invented the geodesic dome, sat down for dinner and instead of marveling at the view, calculated the speed at which the revolving restaurant would have to spin to centrifugally splatter the food against its floor-to-ceiling windows. Not that this is indicative of the food served at Antares. It's actually better than what you would expect considering the creative limitations imposed by its clientele. "We're trying to keep the menu updated while working within the constraints of what our customer base is," says chef Cheryl Scantleberry. "Sometimes it doesn't sell because our customer base isn't that adventurous...but we have tried to give the food a little twist here and there."
Filling the slot vacated by lauded chef Doug Brown (Nana Grill) some 18 months ago, Scantleberry, who has been traipsing around Hyatt properties for the past nine years, comes to Dallas by way of the Hyatt hotel in Atlanta. She laments the fact that the No.1 seller on the menu is a grilled filet with garlic shrimp and mashed potatoes. But then she sounds a note of hope: Her char-grilled Muscovy duck breast with duck sausage has been a hit.
Despite whatever insipid paths customer tongues might dictate, she still finds room to flirt with her cuisine. She's cleverly tucked those here-and-there twists into the folds and under the leaves. Her cooking shows thoughtfulness.
Chili-marinated London broil salad ($10) is the kind of dish any burly-bellied conventioneer with trade-show tags on his lapel would love. It's tossed with red meat, yet it's a salad, so it has the veneer of health-conscious respectability. But if you peer closer, a level of culinary complexity peeks out of the assembly. Thick, chewy ribbons of beef (too thick, I would argue, as a more subtle carving would make this salad just about perfect) under a snarl of crisp tortilla bands rest on a bed of greens studded with bell pepper and bright, juicy tomato wedges. Under that bed are strips of jicama and chayote (an Aztec-Mayan gourd-like fruit) washed in rice-wine vinaigrette.