Even David Chang isn't immune from committing crimes against atmosphere. The New York Times' Pete Wells docked Momofuku Nishi, Chang's latest culinary enterprise, for being "as loud as the opening face-off of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals." Dining at Chang's restaurants has always been a noisy experience, but the food has historically compensated for the excess decibels. Because really, who cares if it's loud when you're chowing down on the greatest pork buns known to man? Nishi's food was good, said Wells, but not good enough to ignore the deafening noise. Such was the case at Dos Jefes, uptown Dallas' most recent venture in douchey dining.
Dos Jefes is the work of restaurateur Joe Palladino of Nick & Sam's, Coal Vines and Biergarten. The aesthetic inspiration for the space seems to draw from a combination of neo-rap (e.g. I'm on a yacht) music videos and MAC Cosmetics counters. The former Nick & Sam's Grill space has been waxed and preened into a spectacle of ostentation. The lower level is divided into an open-concept interior dining space and the exterior patios that flank it. Everything is awash with hues straight from an Andy Warhol painting and is slicked in a youthful varnish, much like the adolescent waitstaff in their uniforms of canary yellow tank tops and cutoffs.
But the real magic happens upstairs, where two areas — designated by red velvet ropes — are reserved for people for whom bottle service is apparently a prerequisite for brunch. The upstairs is also where the DJ goes to work, his beats swelling and spilling out onto the street. Normally, this is the kind of music that one associates with raucous clubs full of undulating hips. Here, the sounds are met awkwardly by diners in a self-conscious volley toward having fun. A 20-something woman in flashy aviators half-halfheartedly bounces her shoulders up and down as she awaits her check while a couple stares blankly at their half-empty mimosa carafe. Orders are shouted at the waitresses and brunch is consumed with far less enthusiasm than the pulsating music would imply.
Not that the food was bad. Far from it, in fact. The menu, described as a globe-whipping amalgamation of Latin-Asian fusion served tapas-style, was crafted by Nick & Sam's chef Samir Dhurandhar. Tapas has become a trendy way for restaurants to tack higher prices onto smaller portions and to encourage over-ordering. That said, my companion and I each ordered one item from the menu and left feeling full. Diners on the hungrier side would be advised to order a third item to split.
An order of barbcoa y huevos tacos ($14) arrived four to an order and constituted about three bites each. The corn tortillas enveloped softly scrambled eggs, brisket and Oaxaca cheese. A side of red salsa punctuated the tacos with a smoky, sharp note. Overall, they were good and straightforward with the added bonus of making one feel like a giant.
The DJ upstairs and Dos Jefes' general club-like vibe did little to inspire confidence that here was a good place to eat smoked meat. But by God, the brisket in the falda y picadillo y huevos ($14) was actually quite succulent. Long shreds of tender, smoky beef arrived nested in a pocket fashioned from a banana leaf. The leaf seemed to be used less to perfume the dish and more as a justification for the Latin-Asian fusion concept. Also tucked into the pocket were some peppers and a couple of sunny-side eggs which melded nicely with bits of creamy avocado and rich Jack cheese to create satisfying, simple bites.
For those who would like to keep the sights and sounds of an evening out on the town rolling into brunch, Dos Jefes is perfect. For those who prefer to eat their eggs without vibing on dank beatz, it amounts to a gauntlet for the senses that overwhelms whatever pleasure there is to be found on the plate.
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Dos Jefes, 2816 Fairmount St. Brunch served 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday