Restaurant Reviews

Culinary U.N.

It's hard to figure out exactly what Stratos is. The word sounds Greek, but it isn't a Greek restaurant. The menu is packed with sushi, but it isn't a Japanese restaurant. There's a dance floor, but it isn't exactly a club. The three televisions in the bar broadcast sports, but it isn't a sports bar.

The dessert menu serves as a metaphor for this conundrum. It lists four offerings: baklava, Key lime pie, cheesecake and tiramisu. That's Greek, Floridian and Italian. The menu is even more confusing. Appetizers include escargot, quesadillas, Buffalo wings and a thing called bomba black-bean dip. Main events range from gyros sandwiches to steaks to chicken picatta to pastas and sushi.

It might make sense if this restaurant-cum-dance club served only sushi. Rice with raw fish doesn't form weighty lard ordnance in the gullet, so it mixes well with primping and strutting. Then again, what does Stratos serve that you can dance to? During our Saturday-night foray the DJ was spinning an amalgam of aging tunes that included a 20-minute medley of live Journey followed by excerpts from Rush's 2112 concept album. Dancing to Rush is like necking while wearing a mouth guard. It's doable, but the risk of personal injury is high.

Stratos' décor is plush nightclub with padded banquettes, a large dance floor, booths that can be enclosed with curtains, a padded ceiling, lots of wrought iron outside and a DJ nook enclosed in glass blocks.

This is not the typical ambiance for escargot. Yet Stratos has it, and it isn't bad. The snail meat is firm and delicately flavored and is mingled with artichoke hearts, red bell pepper fragments and capers in a butter-lemon sauce.

Steer clear of the steaks, though. The Bachman New York strip (dry-aged prime, according to the menu) was tough, dry, gristly and brimming with an off, freezer-burned flavor. But it came with triangles of pita bread, so maybe it would have made a good gyros sandwich.

Sushi was OK. The best of the offerings, which were fairly numerous for a dance club, was the maguro (tuna) and the "heavenly hamachi" (yellow tail). But the seaweed salad that accompanied the hamachi tasted off, as if it were dressed with turning rice vinegar. Smelt roe was a bit flaccid, though the scallops were firm with an alluring sweetness. The spider roll (fried soft-shell crab) was soggy.

Stratos would be much better if it tightened its focus and didn't try so hard to be so many things to so many tastes. A simple "small plates" menu with sushi and a limited assortment of other finger foods would work well, because it's hard to dance after a tough steak. Especially to Rush.

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Mark Stuertz
Contact: Mark Stuertz

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