By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
There's also a bit of brutal dry humor in the thing. The PV burger is served with a huge wooden spike driven through the top of the bun and plunged deep into the meat. Impaled on the spike is an assortment of condiments: pickles, a pepper, caper berries and cherry tomatoes. In shadow of this Roman decadence, the pomme frites are almost too inconsequential to notice.
Why not include the Pont-Neuf potatoes that come with the pork diable with the PV? These thick rectangular stipes, pan fried in butter, resemble blunted railroad spikes. They're stacked on the plate, Lincoln-log-like, in the shape of a box. These are french fries with meaning, or at least with Architectural Digest spread possibilities. The pork chop they came with was a marvel: thick with a crisp veneer, pink, juicy and, with a smear of mustard over the top, tasty in a dog off the grill sort of way.
Named after a plaza in Paris, Paris Vendôme is the newest blip to come out of Mico Rodriguez's Restaurant Life, a corporate cocoon that includes The Mercury, Mercury Grill and Citizen. Chef Chris Ward (his book Restaurant Life is strategically stacked in the dining room) developed the menu, and it is executed by chef de cuisine James Johnson.
Belgian endive salad: $7
Mussels mariniŤre: $7
Steak tartare: $11
Crisped duck confit: $9
Pork diable: $16
Coq au vin: $14
PV burger: $16
Grilled sterling salmon: $15
Apple tart: $6
Johnson was most recently Platinum Club chef at American Airlines Center, and before that he was senior sous chef at The Mansion on Turtle Creek. Out of an open kitchen clad in white and glimmering metal, Johnson and his crew work to fill tables with grub that is as crisp and sparkling as the room.
One example is the crisped duck confit, a leg-thigh ensemble shrouded in fatty crisped skin resting on a berm of pureed potatoes that wades in a puddle of smooth demi-glace. In front of the crisped duck limbs is a salad of watercress and grape tomatoes with shredded cold duck meat. The duck was rich and savory--no livery taste. The salad was tasty, too, a good fat foil, just as it was to the tartare.
Another French bird classic, coq au vin, was rich and powerful--a little too rich and powerful. It lingered for days. And it struck me that I was eating this hearty dish in Dallas' pre-summer orgy of spring steam. Yet this chicken seemed more tuned to cool weather and other huddled comforts. Keeping company with a cluster of vegetables--baby carrots, haricots vert, asparagus--the chicken is soaked in a fiercely concentrated sauce rendered from red wine, mirepoix veggies and chicken drippings. Floating in this sauce the color of redwood stain is a crowd of spaetzle. You feel so naked eating this without the benefit of a virgin wool sweater and a pair of Sorels. Yet beyond the stifling, pungent richness of the sauce, everything worked. The chicken was moist and chewy. The spaetzle was firm and chewy but not doughy. The sauce was texturally smooth. And the whole thing didn't hit you in the head--er, belly--until hours later. So there was time to marvel.
Perhaps the best dish on the menu is also the most unassuming. Grilled sterling salmon is just a tiny cube of meat perched in a large bowl surrounded by savoy cabbage, spinach and chanterelle mushrooms in a buttery puddle of warm vichyssoise sauce. The outside of the salmon is delicately crisp and salty while the inside flakes promiscuously and is moist, firm and pink. This is deeply rich flavor that is cleanly delivered.
The touch didn't stop at dessert. Apple tart galette with caramel ice cream was a marvel of the oft attempted but rarely perfected dish. Here the pastry is delicate, light but supple. It was also resilient. It didn't get bogged down in apple, ice cream or even caramel sauce. And the caramel sauce was among the smoothest, richest and most satisfying we've tasted.
It's hard sometimes to take the excessive preening and conspicuous lease payments that parade in and around Paris Vendôme. But if you loosen up and enjoy the ride, you'll find yourself working up an appetite (not that kind), and there's plenty of utility grub to steady those pangs. For instance, Vendôme offers macaroni and cheese, and most of this scene could use a good dose of that.