At Nana the Scenery, Inside and Out, is Pretty Enough to Eat

Let's get one thing straight. Chewing the Scenery isn't about critiquing the farm freshness of the organic veggies at Bolsa, the authenticity of the Japanese noodles at Tei-An or the political incorrectness of the high-fat Stodg Burger at The Porch. No. It's about design. Whether it's a gimmicky new trend that falls flat (Dallas, please don't try those "interactive" touch screen menus), an amazing style of architecture, or simply a bad lighting choice, it'll all be put on the table. Today, it's all about Dallas' unexpected yet exquisite art gallery otherwise known as Nana.

Sure, the food at Nana is excellent--Chef Anthony Bombaci wouldn't have it any other way. From bite-sized portions paired with a wine flight to his perfectly cooked Kobe sliders with the truffle oil and parmesan fries to his full tasting menu, his ardent perfectionism doesn't go unnoticed by his devoted line of cooks (Hell's Kitchen, anyone?), and it definitely pays off.

Nana, on the 27th floor of the Hilton Anatole, has always been an innovator. Upon the original opening in 1983, the restaurant boasted Dallas' first exhibition kitchen, an open design allowing guests to view the chef's activity from the dining room. These days, it's transitioned to a traditional kitchen, but the restaurant now has a different point of interest: its collection of rare works from the Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art. Stepping off the elevator, guests are immediately greeted by nine jade horses, each commissioned for the hotel in 1978. Entering the sunken bar, you're welcomed by floor-to-ceiling windows that run the length of the entire eastern wall, then subtly curve to the south to present a view of the city.

Above the rows of scotches and cognacs is a portrait of Nana, the restaurant's namesake, naked as the day is long. Painted in 1878 by Russian-Polish artist Gospodin Marcel Gavriel Suchorowsky, she's the talk of the bar. Late at night, when the liquor starts to flow, rumors circulate that the Russian government is vying to buy her back. Diners say that staring at the painting long enough reveals some hidden elements the artist included in the painting's dark corners.

Some guests sit at the granite-topped bar, while others guzzle glasses of wine in any one of the plush seats that line the windows, which complement the contemporary neutral-toned schema. More than a decade ago, the bar area was designed like a heavy-curtained crimson-colored opium den, balancing clouds of cigar smoke against the smoldering notes of a live jazz band. Arcane and unpretentious, guests could really let loose. But the bar got a facelift in 2001, a few years after Wyndham began to manage the hotel (before that, it was a Loews managed property). Now, the high-end design radiates a highly sophisticated air, letting bar-goers know that if they start to get buck wild, they may notice Nana watching them shamefully.

Across from the bar sits the temperature-controlled wine room, housing esteemed vintages under lock and key. Next door in the dining room, four white marble heads of Quan Yin, a Buddhist deity, peer at guests as they arrive. Three Cloisonné vases, two bronze Buddha statues and an unparalleled collection of original oils and watercolors fill the dining space. The clean-lined design is an ideal pairing to Bombaci's plating. Large white bowls and plates create plenty of white space around each artfully arranged course.

All of the chef's creations have a strong presence on the plate, just as each piece of art commands attention. And even with the priceless artwork surrounding them, guests may be too enthralled with the view to regard it for long. The panorama here is stunning--a perfect view of the entire downtown skyline. 

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Nicole M. Holland