With help from local design studio Swoon, the Adolphus Hotel downtown has gotten a bit of a face-lift in the last year, with renovations to hotel rooms, the lobby and its storied French Room restaurant, which is slated to reopen in the fall.
This week, the Adolphus unveiled a new restaurant at the hotel: City Hall Bistro, a Southern European-style bistro with an emphasis on shared plates. The sizable restaurant's build-out riffs on the same design touches you'll see at just about every new restaurant opening right now in Dallas: white subway tile, an open kitchen, metallic accents and a neutral color palate. The Adolphus is hoping that the new restaurant — open for breakfast, lunch and dinner — along with the small lobby bar and forthcoming reimagined French Room, will make the hotel a food and drink destination downtown.
The menu, broken down into categories like "garden," "land" and "sea," is centered on dishes meant for sharing. Seafood is a focus, and the menu includes marinated sardines ($12), whole branzino ($28) and a chef's-selection daily paella ($26).
The menu reads a bit like a riff on a trendy restaurant of the moment — snapper crudo, squid ink pasta, Spanish octopus, harissa vinaigrette, sea urchin and truffle risotto — with a couple of less-expected twists. The atayef ($15), a savory Lebanese pancake stuffed with duck confit, pear and black garlic aioli proved to be a just-decadent-enough shared dish. The sea urchin in the couscous risotto ($20) packed a super strong, fishy uni flavor that overwhelmed the rest of dish, and the final result was a bit off-putting.
The menu is small, but prices are pretty reasonable considering the lush surroundings of the Adolphus, and every component — from bread to the "chocolate program" to the tonic served on the cocktail menu — is made in-house.
Spanish churros with saffron gelato ($8), chocolate crema Catalana ($8) and a pine nut tart with sweet basil gelato round out the dessert menu, and the wine list does a nice job of highlighting European wines. Out in the lobby, a gorgeous renovated bar serves a small but thoughtful cocktail menu until around midnight.
There are still more renovations to come — the hotel is building a new entrance, and the French Room is still under construction — but the Adolphus is clearly spending big money trying to modernize the historic hotel and give it relevance among downtown's increasingly robust hotel bar and restaurant offerings. Hotels are throwing down serious cash right now to bring in revenue outside of standard hotel stays, which means there's increased competition and added pressure to hit the mark with hotel food and beverage programs.
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The Adolphus Hotel, 1321 Commerce St.