Beau's is like a temporarily rearranged living room, the kind you'd disassemble and neatly refit to absorb extras guests. Sure, its setting in a quarter of the Crescent Court lobby is elegant. The glass tables are thick, with an opaque appliqué on the bottom giving them a sandblasted look. There's a clear boxlike vase on each table holding a single stemless bud swaddled in a dribble of water. Chairs are nipped and tucked in fine fabric.
But Beau's edges fray.
Beau's is set in the rejuvenated Crescent Hotel. People strut through with rolling Pullman cases, cups of Starbucks and laptop bags on their way to meetings or rooms or ruinous shopping sprees in the courtyard, creating a high ogle factor. Next to our table four women in a lobby sitting area formed by couches and stuffed chairs ruminate over a swatch of ivory fabric, passing it around and stroking it. They giggle and ooh. They shift their attention to a sheaf of menus. They ask about appetizers and meat. How many? How much? One has a diamond the size of a stag beetle.
Shrimp crab claw cocktail $16
Caesar salad $10
75201 burger $13
Gorgonzola fries $12
Feta tomato salad $8
Chicken satay $10
Tuna burgers $12
Beau's was designed to reanimate remnants of Beau Nash, the New American restaurant whose Crescent Court space was surrendered to Nobu in the summer of 2005. There were signs that Nobu might surrender too. People were even helping wave the white flag. Nobu scuttled its lunch service last year, and rumors had it pulling out of Dallas.
"Nobu Dallas: 'We aren't closing,'" blared a Dallas Business Journal headline last month. In other words, Nobu was still relevant. The DBJ piece explained how the New York-based restaurant, founded by chef Nobu Matsuhisa with actor Robert De Niro as an investor, dropped prices in the face of declining sales. Nobu managing partner Richard Notar ribbed Dallas by proposing Nobu throw a "We aren't closing" party.
Enter Beau's, now offering the lunches that Nobu abandoned. So Beau Nash becomes Nobu, and Beau's resurrects Beau Nash within shouting distance of its former home. Maybe all this shuffling is where Beau's frayed edges come from, though sometimes those tatters are neatly arranged. After all, our waiter was polite, though he struggled with the wine-by-the-glass selections. He brought the red. He couldn't tell us what it was. He went back to get the bottle to present it. Caramel Road Pinot Noir. Is that OK?
My eyes locked on the 75201 burger. Menu poetry went a little like this: "Ten ounces of the best burger in this ZIP code." In the same ZIP code, though, Perry's offers a burger of shredded aged prime beef, so there's a ZIP code smackdown in the offing. Cheddar, Swiss or Gorgonzola could be melted over the top. Shoestring fries or a salad could be chosen on the side.
"Don't I get a choice of cheese?"
"Yes. We have cheddar cheese and American cheese," he says.
"American? Wasn't there Swiss and Gorgon..."
"I'm just the bus person. You want to wait for a waiter?"
An imperfect Crescent moment. The official waiter brings the burger with Swiss and it's fine, though nothing you'd want to stake a ZIP code on. The meat is a little dry, a little overcooked, though rich flavors still leak through. Beside the burger and the fries, on a separate plate, is a fluffy romaine leaf cupping a thick red onion hoop and thick slices of red and gold tomato, fine things considering the season. Slipping out from under the bun is a baby dill pickle, sliced into a delicate fan.
Crab and shrimp cocktail is as riveting as the Beau's ZIP code claims. Poached shrimp and crab claws are collected in a mango relish. Visually, it is gripping, with thick shrimp curls facing down menacing black-tipped claws over a bed of orange yellow. Shrimp are plump and juicy but a little shy on flavor. The claws are awful: tough, chewy and flavorless. These must have suffered tortuous freeze-thaw intervals, essentially rendering them inedible. But the Caesar salad is solid: fluffy romaine leaves in a smooth dressing ripe with garlic, lemon and anchovy, plus shreds and shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano and foccacia croutons that are crisply tender instead of petrified.
Our waiter, the official one, returned to our table, filling glasses, asking after the food, suggesting desserts and so on. The busboy returned too, though he didn't say much after his cheese stumble. Rank must have been pulled.
On the second visit, Beau's tatters were tangled and unruly. It was in the evening and there was no one in Beau's, though we could hear the clang of dishes coming from somewhere behind a screen. A waitress stopped by after several minutes. She delivered menus. We ordered wine. We never saw her again, or so it seemed.
The menu is essentially a tapas collection, tight little compositions ripe with Asian influences and some Southwestern vernacular. This is the Beau Nash nod.
The wine arrives warm (that same Caramel Road Pinot Noir—our stubborn Beau's habit). Then nothing. For 15 minutes. One wine glass is empty, and it stays that way for at least 10 more minutes. When she does come by, she asks after it, but not the menu. She returns with the bottle and pours.
Another imperfect Crescent moment. Service protocol in restaurants of the Crescent demands a fresh glass along with refills. After the pour we reiterate our food interests, worried she'll leave us to the bread basket. From the menu, we order five of the seven selections, physically pointing them out on the sheet after voicing the names proves too confusing.
We wait. And wait. We watch the valet outside the lobby park the Bentleys, Porsches, a Lotus and even a red Rolls Royce. We wait some more. We play slug bug with the Bentleys.
But the food arrives, finally: vanilla shrimp skewers, feta Roma tomato salad, black truffle chicken satay, Gorgonzola fries with bacon and balsamic reduction, and a pizza. Two of these things we didn't order.
"Tapas take longer than our regular orders," our waitress says. "They're so little, and they have to cut everything just right."
Well, sort of. The chicken satay is little rough bundles of dry breast meat bound to lemongrass stalks. Feta Roma tomato salad with pancetta balsamic vinaigrette is thick layered stacks of cheese and faded tomato interspersed with mint leaves: Stonehenge on a tiny platter.
But here's where it gets interesting. Vanilla shrimp skewers on pineapple jalapeño relish are a bloody skirmish. The shrimp rest at one end of the bowl with a vanilla bean, and the vanilla essence is gently embedded into the meat. Take a bite of the relish. The pineapple and vanilla kind of lull you with its harmonization with the marine sweetness. But then that jalapeño comes out from behind and rips your tongue out. You lean back stunned and invigorated, which is effective after watching the valet roll a red Rolls.
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Humdrum settles back in. The Gorgonzola fries (chips actually) with fried pancetta and crispy parsley are cool and a little flaccid. Salmon on cashew rice is cool too.
Mini tuna burgers are the finale. Tiny pieces of grilled tuna are wedged in a tiny bun. You can pinch these things with two fingers. They are delicious. The buns are moist. The tuna is exceptionally well-seasoned with little bites of pepper popping up all over the place. The center of the meat is red. There's a Japanese soup spoon off to the side with a dollop of aioli, but it's pointless. These tiny burgers stand tall on their own.
400 Crescent Court, 214-871-3200. Open 6:30 a.m.-11 a.m. Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 2 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday. $$