We Try the New Restaurant Mister Charles, Dallas Dining At Its Budget-Busting Best | Dallas Observer

First Look: Mister Charles Is Dallas Dining At Its Budget-Busting Best

With a recent quick first look, Mister Charles is, as expected, stellar. But just how much are Dallas diners willing to fork over on Monday night dinner?
We scored a seat at Mister Charles, which is the hardest reservation to come by in Dallas.
We scored a seat at Mister Charles, which is the hardest reservation to come by in Dallas. Chris Wolfgang
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Mister Charles opened on July 18 and is already the hottest reservation in town. If you've missed it, Mister Charles is the fifth restaurant from Duro Hospitality, the group behind The Charles, Cafe Duro, Sister and El Carlos Elegante. On Monday night, a round of reservations opened up on Resy for that evening, and we snagged a solo spot at the bar for a first look.

Mister Charles occupies the space of the old Highland Park Soda Fountain, the 106-year-old favorite that served humble milkshakes and grilled cheese sandwiches but fell to the booming rents in the area and closed in 2018. Last year, Duro announced it would put a restaurant in the space, near a Restoration Hardware (with its own cafe upstairs) and a Weir's Furniture.

click to enlarge bar at Mister Charles
The bar at Mister Charles, where the ceilings are soaring and so are the prices.
Chris Wolfgang
The menu promises "an irreverent play on the classics," so we hoped for more nods to the space's roots. Take one look inside at the glamorous interior with its marble checkerboard floors, nearly 40-foot-high ceilings and epic chandeliers and those hopes will go right out the window. (The dessert menu offers a throwback sundae for $15.)

As day bleeds into the evening, the bar side of the restaurant is wrapped in a soft, warm glow from the sconces and chandeliers. Luxurious touches abound such as plates and glassware that bear Mister Charles monograms. It's easy to get lost in all the details of the dining space, but lest we forget, Mister Charles also serves food, and much of it is quite good.

We opened with gem Caesar salad dressed with an anchovy vinaigrette ($18). The salad is a healthy portion of romaine, an entire head's worth quartered and plated and sprinkled with bread crumbs soaked in the dressing. It's light and refreshing, but we wished for more of the dressing on the lettuce itself, which is served nearly dry. Spooning the bread crumbs onto the salad remediates the issue.

click to enlarge gem Ceasar salad at Mister Charles
Gem Caesar salad.
Chris Wolfgang
Mister Charles offers steak and fish entrees, and the prices are eye-popping. The cheapest beef cut is an 8-ounce filet for $79, which makes the $55 filet at Brass Ram look like a bargain. Fish dishes start with a humble striped bass for $56 and jump to a whole Dover sole, filleted table-side, for $110. We didn't ask if there's a discount if you cut the fish yourself.

Instead, we opted for one of Mister Charles' pastas, an uni butter carbonara for $32. Take a firm grasp of your fork for your first bite, because the explosion of rich flavors might cause you to drop your utensil. The pasta shells are firm but tender, there are generous chunks of salty pancetta, and the uni butter adds a unique twist to traditional carbonara. It's a stellar offering, and portioned perfectly for one. Side note: Sister also has a delicious pancetta carbonara on its menu, and while it doesn't have uni butter, it doesn't have a 25% price premium either.

click to enlarge Uni carbonara with pancetta at Mister Charles
Uni carbonara with pancetta.
Chris Wolfgang
We had room for some dessert and took our bartender's recommendation of the coconut cream cake ($15). Served with toasted almonds and coconut, it's exquisitely airy and delicate, and the scoop of yogurt lemon sorbet accompanying it possessed a near magical quality of not melting while you eat it.

Service is typical Duro that we've become accustomed to, which is to say sharp. Dishes were explained as they arrived, although the pacing felt a touch on the slow side. That feels like a minor nit to pick, and perhaps the staff is still ironing out a few kinks in the first week of service.

click to enlarge coconut cream cake at Mister Charles
Coconut cream cake with a lemon yogurt sorbet is an exquisite ending to a meal.
Chris Wolfgang
At the end of the night, $65 procured us a salad, a pasta and a dessert, but no cocktails to quench our thirst. And such seems to be the path of Duro, which has opened yet another spectacular restaurant with yet more spectacular prices. We had a few unique bites, but most of the menu works on a classic continental theme that breaks no new culinary ground. Mister Charles serves up a fantastic visual experience and top-notch service, but at the cost of traditional menu options with 1 percenter pricing.

And on our Monday night visit, Dallasites were soaking it up with passion. Mister Charles isn't bad by any stretch but feels like a probing effort to find out just how much our city's residents will pay to be in the presence of luxury while enjoying a meal. Much like gazing at the skylights 40 feet over our heads, it's hard to say where the ceiling lies.

Mister Charles, 3219 Knox St., No. 170. Sunday – Thursday, 5–10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 5–11 p.m.
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