By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
This winks from the menu, too. Sliced duck breast comes with a couscous high-rise, right there in the center of the plate. It rests with mint, tomato and scallions. Rosy breast slices, shaped like petals ripped from a lily bud, ring the green studded grains. The ends of the slices are tapered to a point, creating a meat orb by implication. Couscous is chilled, separate and aromatic. Meat is delicate, rich and tender--like mesh.
There must be steak, this being Dallas. No au poivre or other Gallic words here, though. This version is a simple tenderloin in Portuguese red wine sauce. It's tasty, perfectly prepared, a little stringy--not enough to deploy the menu corner, which is good, because the server snatched it promptly, perhaps figuring I could swipe it and frame it, flaunting its backside without forking over the $45 toll.
Service is odd this way. First time it's polite and accommodating; second time it's snarling and accommodating with a little aloofness tossed in for sweetness. The waiter seems impatient, and he flexes earnest expressions of annoyance. He compresses his eyebrows, curls his lip, stabs pen tip to paper and blurts, "You ready yet?" Very French.
Not sure how French crab lasagna is, but that doesn't matter, because it's good. The sauce crackles with tang, foiling the crab, which is uncommonly sweet. Pasta sheets are perfectly cooked, supple.
That lasagna makes a fine dessert prelude. Poached pears in port are dense, delicious fruit half-moons stained mahogany and piqued with cinnamon. House-made sorbets are potent pingpong balls sweating raspberry, lemon, honey, pistachio and mango, delivered through smoothly textured ice. Inexplicably they were soaking in berry sauce, something these balls had no use for.
So where does this leave Watel's? Peeters says he plans to execute a light overhaul of the menu, easing away from French into a realm he dubs Euro-Tex. With this, Peeters will exploit Texas' (mostly Germanic) European roots--sausage, cured and smoked meats--rather than the salsas, peppers and tortillas that frequently stamp the state's homegrown grub. In this vein Peeters offers a potato soup garnished in Hill Country jerky instead of bacon, and his cassoulet is packed with black-eyed peas instead of traditional white beans. He plans to substitute walnuts with Texas pecans, and his steak will be lapped in Shiner Bock sauce.
Question: Will the organ motif now embrace Texas calf fries? 2207 Allen St., 214-720-0323. Open for brunch/lunch 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sunday & Tuesday-Friday. Open for dinner 6-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. $$-$$$