Urban Modesty

Jeroboam has it all

White onion soup mimicked this fall heartiness, but it embraced little provocative details as well. An assertive bitter-tangy bite spoke through the broth--which wasn't overwhelmed by saltiness--and countered the onion sweetness; all was tempered with a throw rug of gooey Gruyère.

To moderate this culinary tension is a service protocol that is casual, perceptive, and graciously attentive. If there is anything on which to pick, it is the servers' dress. They seemed incongruent to the cause here. Instead of smartly crisp uniforms, the servers flaunt short-sleeved shirts that seemed more fitting of a gas station attendant or a plumber. You half expect to see the names Ned or Tex sewn onto the breast pocket. Such Green Room-esque idiosyncrasies (where servers wear T-shirts) don't seem to work in this urban brasserie. On one visit, a server's shirt was wrinkled and soiled, and this was early in the shift, so it's hard to imagine that it was the result of trench warfare. Bow ties or vests might tighten it up a bit and would reflect the crisp, uncontrived decorum of the room.

Which is exactly what the menu reflects. It is crafted with resolute honesty--sometimes too much honesty. Breton cotriade, an ample mix of brilliantly lush shellfish wading in a clean broth with leeks, tomatoes, and thyme, was saddled with wedges of hard, near-raw potato.

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

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The pork could have used a bit of this undercooking. Though ordered medium, the tournedos of pork loin, seared and planted on a ragout of beluga black lentils swimming in a sauce of dried figs and pearl onions, was gray instead of pink, and the flesh was a little dry. Yet when taken in its totality, the confluence worked well, even if it didn't dazzle.

One thing that does dazzle at Jeroboam is the wine list, a crafty compilation of exclusively French wines from virtually every region. What sets this list apart from other skillfully assembled lists, which often resemble phone books, is that it is appended with 56 pages of colorful maps, regional descriptions, and tasting notes.

Yet while this list is no doubt a brilliant stroke, the wine enthusiasm seems to drop off precipitously from the edge of the pages. There are no color or regional suggestions or wine list cross-references of any kind incorporated into menu. Plus, there is little evidence of an aggressive wine education program in force here, and one server even admitted to us that he didn't particularly like the stuff. In addition, the bar seems utterly detached from the list, offering no tasting flights. Such a strategic move could broaden the utility of the list while introducing nascent wine aficionados to regions they may not be aware of. In defense, Meyers says he's proceeding incrementally with his wine program, seeking first to lay a solid foundation (among the most solid in the city) before he branches out into little wine-geek forays.

The hope is that this will soon come, because the menu offers lots of pairing opportunities, such as conventional red wine mates like beef tenderloin Madagascar. The flesh on this dish was moist, but the flavor was feeble, and the texture was a bit stringy and tough. Plus, the peppercorn demi application was stingy. But a side of cinnamon potatoes and butternut squash was replete with clean, nutty flavors laced with spice, adding zip to the smooth texture.

Trout with almonds, however, was about as perfect as food gets. This herb-stuffed fish swimming in a lusciously subtle almond beurre blanc was so flaky, dank, and sweet that it toiled around the tongue like a pad of butter, melting and carpeting the mouth with delicate decadence. There must be something to the way this kitchen handles freshwater fish, because the horseradish-crusted trout works with as much aplomb as its herb-stuffed sibling. A thin piece of skin-on flesh is breaded and deep-fried, and the result is a strip of greaseless crispness enveloping a core of pearly white sweetness. The smoothly clean béarnaise with healthy gusts of tarragon added a rich but aromatic vivaciousness to the dish, while a side of cold vinaigrette-laced egg noodles with roasted pepper and fresh parsley brilliantly punctuated the deep-fried centerpiece with cool, piquant zest.

Served in a basket, Jeroboam's pommes frites are perhaps the best bar/lounge food ever crafted. These potato chip-like strips freckled with kosher salt were crisp and delicately meaty, though in addition to ketchup an imaginative dipper or two would go miles.

Desserts come through too. Served in a martini glass, the strawberry sabayon, poached strawberries with Grand Marnier and cream, was delicious. And despite a singed sugar lid that was cool instead of warm, the crème brûlée was rich, firm, and fully flavored.

Jeroboam is the restaurant for which Dallas has been yearning (even if it doesn't know it) for years. It's clean, mysterious, and insightful without decorous pretension or annoying pedantry. It's suffused with a delicious level of urban grittiness and crooked architectural teeth. With a little time, this restaurant will settle into its historic duds and emerge as the Big D's crown jewel. Those old tarnished pennies are worth a hell of a lot more than the shiny ones anyway.

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