You'll have to regard this as a sneak preview--a look at an unfinished artwork. The soup kitchen at the Dallas Museum of Art is completely gone, but the old Gallery restaurant is still in the awkward middle of its metamorphosis from ugly duckling to what will certainly be a swan. It's not pretty now. It will emerge full-grown and gorgeous in February or so, when the entire place has been redecorated by Paul Draper, who has designed some of the most beautiful dining rooms in the city--from Anzu to the Crescent Club.
Meanwhile, because the new a la carte menu is so astonishing, I had to mention it. The new executive chef is George W. Brown, who is supervised by Kent Rathbun (top chef for DANI catering, the catering concern with the DMA concession), most recently executive chef at the Landmark. Together, they've made remarkable changes in the Gallery's food and are on the way to creating another landmark dining room.
Generally, I'm leery of sandwiches in quotation marks--it usually means there's bread involved in some too-trendy hodgepodge the chef couldn't put together another way--but this Fauvist tower of ingredients (meaty, grilled Portobello mushroom, sweet yellow tomato, creamy avocado) stacked on top of startlingly magenta beet-basil bread (spread with bright yellow saffron mayonnaise) was good, if hardly a sandwich.
The same could be said of the so-called taco--crackling-hot fried catfish, crusted with masa, in a tortilla, with bright cilantro-spiked rice and gentle creamy corn; and the pasta--penne, rich with roasted peppers and Calamata olives in a tomato sauce sparked with hot pepper.
All the food was this beautiful and delicious. The Thai pork salad--daringly rare strips of pork, seasoned with fresh, wildly pungent Thai herbs and slivered vegetables--was served in a won-ton cup shaped like a Chihuly [?????-CE] flower. It's amazing anyone is turning out food like this in a museum.
Even more beautiful, this food is one of the best deals in the city; most of the entrees were well under 10 bucks--cheap for masterpieces.
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Food as fine as the art. OK, maybe better.
--Mary Brown Malouf
Gallery Restaurant, Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood, 922-1260. Open for lunch only Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Black Bean-Tecate Soup $3.00
Ranchero Queso-Chorizo Sausage Quesadilla $6.00
Thai Roast Pork Salad in a Won-ton Cup with Spicy Kaffir-Lime Dressing $8.00