By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
Myths and legends are scattered with hybrids. They're designed to frighten, fill with awe and serve as jobs programs for cinematic special effects artists. Freakish, these beasts. There's the centaur, with the lower body of a horse and torso of a man. The Minotaur, the bastard child of King Minos of Crete, had the body of a man and the head of a bull, and it feasted on human flesh: a twisted allegory on cowboys. Or is it steak houses?
Dallas is familiar with Pegasus, the winged stallion, although in this town it does little else but turn red and spin, or at least it's supposed to. And what beast could be more at home in Dallas than Medusa, a Gorgon with big hair that hisses? The basilisk, sprung from a yolkless egg laid by a 7-year-old rooster and hatched by a toad, was a snake with the heads of a human and cock. The Persian simurgh is a peacock with the head of a dog and the claws of a lion, while the Greek chimera is a beast with the head of a lion, the body of a she-goat and the tail of a dragon (sometimes it has multiple heads).
The dralion, a lion/dragon hybrid, seems tame compared with some of the above freaks from ancient myth. Yet that doesn't mean The Drálion Restaurant & Lounge, a sibling to Steel a couple of doors down, is housebroken. Dressed as a sexy sweat-inducer with hints of bloodlust iconography, The Drálion is decidedly male in disposition with a bar cluttered in leather-upholstered ottomans as big as elephant buns and a huge wrought iron chandelier contraption suspended by cables from a large vaulted ceiling in the dining room. It's a place where the hunter in you is toyed with.
The Drálion is stocked with all manner of target practice: wild boar, buffalo, duck, elk, venison, ostrich and quail. And it's priced for those who employ valets to load their slingshots. The average entrée price (sans appetizers and chasers) is roughly 40 bucks; back out the Kobe beef entrées and the average price still hovers at roughly $30.
Such steepness is not foreign with founder Khahn Dao's sibling restaurant Steel, where sushi can be roughly 40 percent higher and in some cases double what other haunts charge. Bitchin' sea urchin gonads don't grow on bonsai, after all.
So it might be advisable to get a home equity loan before you saddle up for dinner. Or like Jason, yoke a fire-breathing bull and pilfer a Golden Fleece from a dragon. Yet for all of this pricey regalia, The Drálion lists it all on a menu and wine list of plain laser-printer paper unceremoniously stapled together (cool font, though). At these prices they should have at least engraved it on Jason's fleece.
Despite the name, The Drálion doesn't serve anything feline, or draconic for that matter, unless you count alligator, which is kind of a dragon if you ignore the fact that it doesn't fly or shoot flames. Alligator can frighten with the intensity of a real dragon, though, which can be confirmed through a sampling of most of the 'gator offerings in town.
Not the case with The Drálion's alligator egg rolls (that's alligator egg roll, not alligator-egg roll). The kitchen staff had the good sense not to coat their 'gator in Cajun gunpowder and fry it into cowboy boot insoles. Instead, they snarl it up in a rat's nest of carrot and Napa cabbage, wrap it tight and fry it into cowboy boot insole. No, that's not fair. The flavors and textures are compelling yet balanced. There's little oil, and the meat is tender and juicy instead of bouncy or stringy.
Order your 'gator egg rolls with a couple of other appetizers and you get a family-style service platter for all of your selections delivered to your table. Jumbo Maine scallops marinated in "premium" sake and garlic were beautifully presented in decorative clamshells, but that's where the beauty ended. The scallops were sweet but spongy and soggy, and at 13 bucks for the pair, there is no slack to cut. Though it was well-seasoned, boar sausage was loose and flaccid, and at $9 for a handful of slices, the loose and flaccid part comes even more front and center.
Loose and flaccid also doesn't go well with steak, specifically a porterhouse, the cut Newt Gingrich used to gnaw on at Capital Grill before he lost his job as Bill Clinton's alter ego. At The Drálion, it's a 20-ounce slab that's smeared with paprika and pepper before it's slapped on the grill. The result is a loose, soggy, stringy and turgid cut with a richness level that wouldn't stir a group of round-steak enthusiasts. The kitchen might want to substitute paprika with Viagra.
Elk was more promising. Marinated in Asian spices and broiled, the meat was chewy, juicy, clean and surprisingly tender. Its center was pink and flavorful.
Though its roots are sunk in Africa and parts of Asia, ostrich is raised on hundreds of ranches scattered across the United States. Maybe the ostrich ranch phenomenon is an offshoot of the wind farm craze that blew over the savings-and-loan industry in the '80s. Despite the presence of these ranches, ostrich hasn't poked its beak onto many Dallas menus, especially since Bob Bablu's extortionate Enigma sputtered and turned into a sports bar.
The Drálion's ostrich is marinated in lemongrass, coriander, cumin, turmeric and fennel and slumped over mushrooms and sautéed leeks. It's juicy and tasty--a feat of sorts as this meat often comes off like extremely lean beef, but without the lustiness.
And Drálion has plenty of that. The room is dark and imposing with lots of metal, hardwood floors, heavy velvet draperies and elaborate candelabra--kind of a Phantom of the Opera motif if the Phantom fiddled with a drum machine instead of a pipe organ. Yes, you now can chew on buffalo to those slick techno thumps and electronically badgered female voices that everyone seems to want to hear when they're on the hunt. Parked near the long wood and marble bar is a quadrant for the DJ, who we trust isn't a pious and flatulent vegan like Moby. Where's Ted Nugent when you need him?
To go with all of this game and thump crud, The Drálion has what is titled "Petite Wine Book, Odyssey of Wines." It's a well-stocked global portfolio listing the grape varietal and winemaker for each wine and offering 45 wines by the glass. Wine service is stellar, too, with knowledgeable staff and Riedel glassware. Yet other than wine, service was a little haphazard with perpetually interchanging servers resulting in bottlenecked and delayed requests.
Pan-seared arctic char, 8 ounces of fish marinated in Thai basil, mint and other stuff and served with a coriander ginger sauce, was mushy and bland despite all the fiddling. Surprisingly, wok-sautéed eggplant, a side, wasn't mushy at all. Still, the well-seasoned and flavorful vegetable sheathed in a tender skin rang in at 12 bucks--pretty steep for an ovoid fruit bounced in a wok.
Crème brûlée was a boat filled with pasty custard topped with a weak, unsinged sugar lid, one that had presumably never been kissed by a flame. Where's the dragon when you need him? And what does he charge?
3102 Oak Lawn Ave., Suite 110, 214-219-6880. Open for dinner 5:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 5:30 p.m.-12 a.m. Thursday & Friday; 5:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Saturday. $$$-$$$$