When the W Dallas reopened its restaurant as Cook Hall, there wasn't much reason to get excited. Dry charcuterie, bland sliders, soggy shrimp and other dishes that seemed less than inspired made the closure of the hotel's old restaurant Craft, where even something as simple as roast chicken once seemed decadent, feel like an even bigger loss. Still, there were a few safe dishes at Cook Hall that might warrant a visit, especially if you found yourself looking to kill some time before an event at the nearby American Airlines Center.
Now a newly appointed chef might give you an excuse to take a second look. Douglas Wagenhauser has been anointed as the restaurant's chef de cuisine, and has been tasked with redesigning the bulk of the menu, which will officially be released tomorrow.
Last Friday, when asked about the new dishes, the chef seemed to have a lot on his mind. Texas and Oklahoma were about to turn the State Fair and half of Dallas into a giant sports bar. "Yeah, I have to seat about 150 people in a matter of 2 hours," Wagenhauser said. "Twice."
Despite the coming tide, he was happy to talk about the new menu. Wagenhauser came to Cook Hall after working at Townhouse Restaurant in the Galleria, which he left before it closed this summer, Saint Ann's and The Landmark Restaurant in The Melrose Hotel. A news release detailing his arrival said he "loved making people fat and happy," and he was excited to work on Cook Hall's gastropub menu.
Wagenhauser says that during his teenage years his father often took him to London where he was exposed to pub culture. You might hope that his travels inspired him to put a little English on the menu -- some great pub ales, fish and chips, some unexpected expected sandwiches -- but some of the menu isn't changing.
"The meatballs," says Wagenhauser, "they're not going anywhere." Neither are other core menu items like a kale Cesar salad that have been popular at Cook Hall. Wagenhauser's new menu is constrained by the successes of former chef Rick Graff. A complete overhaul was out of the question, which puts a significant drag on the new menu's potential.
Last week Wagenhauser did tell me about one dish that sounds interesting -- corn flake-fried chicken, with pepper and buttermilk mashed potatoes and buttermilk gravy. The chef even tosses the Frosted version in with the regular flakes to lend a restrained sweetness to the dish. It's not entirely English sounding... but possibly delicious.
Earlier this morning a spokesperson for the restaurant released the rest of the menu additions. You're definitely going to get fat.
Snacks Mussels Marnier Cornbread with smoked vanilla honey butter Fried Okra with housemade dipping sauce Roasted Butternut squash Toast w/ fried sage and spiced pumpkin seeds Green bean flatbread with cauliflower puree, caramelized onions, Maytag blue cheese and micro cilantro Cheese and charcuterie Country pate Charcuterie board Artisanal Cheese and Charcuterie Board
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Soups and Salads Butternut and barley soup w/ roasted water chestnuts Mixed green salad w/ cucumber, tomato, radish and lemon vinaigrette Ahi seared tuna salad Sandwiches / tacos BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders w/ house-made BBQ sauce
Plates Short rib Rigatoni Papperdelle pasta, fennel, seasoned breadcrumbs, manchego cheese, roasted tomatoes mustard caper sauce, maitake mushrooms Spicy paprika shrimp and grits with ettoufe Fillet, Yukon gold butter potatoes with chives, rainbow swiss chard, madeira demi sauce Trout with potato and corn succotash black pepper gastrique Scallop with bacon jam and endive Corn Flake fried chicken with black pepper and buttermilk mashers and house-made gravy Rib eye, crispy potatoes, tomatillo and aji Amarillo compote
Sides Maple, bacon collard greens, with duck fat and beer Artichokes, finger potatoes, Asiago cheese, sun chokes, salami 3 Cheese Mac n cheese with piquillo pepper French fries with garlic aioli and spicy ketchup Cornbread croutons, black-eyed peas, local goat cheese, crispy chicken skin Cook hall chips
Sweets Devils chocolate cake, brittle pumpkin seed, mascarpone Orange budino, sugar frosting, blueberry glaze and salted peanuts, toffee chip Pumpkin ice cream sundae w/ gingerbread croutons, house-made pumpkin ice cream, rehydrated cranberries and spiced whipped cream Pear sorbet with homemade gin shot