Urban Modesty

Jeroboam has it all

Whit Meyers says the last thing he wanted was a shiny new penny, and he didn't get it. Jeroboam, the new dining spot he and his partners in the Entertainment Collaborative developed in the Kirby Building, is a little clumsy, a bold portrayal of frays. Yet this is perhaps the most appealing thing about this restaurant, spawned from the collective minds that rooted Trees and the Green Room. Because for all of its stately manner, Jeroboam is a thumb in the eye of Dallas posturing. It's riddled with flaws and age spots, mostly on the floor. Look just beyond your loafer tassles or your pump points, and you'll see a disjointed hardwood or marble floor pocked with pits, gouges, and patch marks covering what look to be holes from uprooted wall posts. But this is the beauty of Jeroboam, named for a 3-liter wine bottle. It is an august dining room that elegantly flaunts its blemishes; it makes no effort to mask them in architectural silicone, Propecia, or age-spot bleach.

Instead, it tightly dresses them with baubles, belts, and fine grooming. Tables draped in white tablecloths are surrounded by perforated chairs with beige leather seats or butted against banquettes upholstered in the same hue. The entire room is cleanly and spaciously demarcated. A raised section near the kitchen and opposite the front door is a "communal table," a place where the chef's feast is laid out. But it seems to function more as a staging area.

"In Dallas, they like to feel they're in the middle of something," Meyers says. "It's the city where people drive pretty cars and wear pretty clothes, and I think they like being center stage."

Something old, something new, something borrowed--Jeroboam has it all.
Stephen P. Karlisch
Something old, something new, something borrowed--Jeroboam has it all.

Details

Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Friday; 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m. Saturday; and 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday $$-$$$ (214) 748-7226

Petite Tasting: $22
Arugula and Parmesan: $7
Caramelized Onion Soup: $5.50
Tournedos of Pork Loin: $17.75
Beef Tenderloin Madagascar: $24
Trout with Almonds: $18
Breton Cotriade: $25
Sabayon: $6
Crme Brlée: $6
Cauliflower: $5
Horseradish-crusted Trout: $9
Pommes Frites: $3

Closed Location

The amazing thing is that Jeroboam creates a comfort zone for prettiness, even though it is something of an urban mutt. The lounge area off to the side of the dining room is little more than a huge space filled with chairs and a pair of sofas--another little staging area for posturing. Beyond that is the bar, a long rectangular strip that reaches back into a narrow passage so that you can hide out from the crowds and still view the action. As the bar with its blotchy zinc top (commandeered from the Rusty Buffalo in Deep Ellum) reaches out into the lounge, it pops out with a curvaceous bulge whose base is covered in scalloped granite lifted from the Wilson building. It's a space that's set for scene setting and posing, without throwing the dynamic in your face with cheesy decorative touches.

Though Jeroboam doesn't mask its atmospheric blemishes, it still indulges in a little plastic surgery. Mirrors silk-screened with provocative images are planted in strategic locations (one is of a nude inserted into a jeroboam). But the majority of its cosmetics are strictly hand-me-downs. Most of the room facings are taken from other Dallas buildings: The woodwork and bathroom stalls were fashioned from old office doors from the circa-1913 Kirby building; the glass around the banquettes and the back bar came from the old power station in Deep Ellum; a series of octagon chandeliers in the dining room used to hang in the Sanger building (now El Centro College). Jeroboam is an urban Frankenstein.

Fortunately, the food isn't a patched monstrosity, though it does contain a few surmountable flaws and only dazzles here and there. Jeroboam's menu is a simple collection of dishes that are decidedly French. Virtually without exception, what is most striking at Jeroboam is the seafood. To flaunt this vitality, there are seafood grab bags known as supper tastings in both grand and petite versions. The petite tasting--pairs of blue crab claws, Jonah crab claws, and three different oyster varieties plus pickled rock shrimp, smoked salmon, tuna tartare, and clusters of snails and cockles (not a hint of grittiness)--was fresh, clean, and sweet. There were no muddled flavors or parched flesh, and the oysters were so cool and immaculate that it was easy to discern the variances in sweetness and brininess in each shell. Plus, the tartare, sown with dill and crowned with crème fraîche, was a provocative tug of war with the strength of the tuna flesh pestering the smokiness of the salmon.

After the tasting platter is exhausted, servers deliver little plates of steamed towels with lemon wedges for cleanup. Unfortunately, the towels are polyester instead of terrycloth, so rather than absorbing they smear the ocean detritus over your fingers and hands, creating an uncomfortable prelude to the next course.

Which can often be compelling. The arugula, spinach, and Parmesan salad, served with roasted sweet peppers and a generous littering of plump dry-cured olives, was exquisitely dressed and robust. Both soups were vigorous nail-head hitters as well. Curried cauliflower soup is a honey-mustard-hued puddle of sheer brilliance. The smooth, velvety fluid subtly and cleanly mingles the bulbous earthiness of cauliflower with the exotic scent and lithe sensuality of the curry. This choreographed equipoise is punctured with delicious viciousness by a scattering of smoky bacon fragments. This is the thinking diner's coziness, for those with lots more than comfort on their minds.

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