First Look

First Look: Stepchild, Chef Misti Norris' French Cajun Concept at The Exchange

Deux:A Bar H Ranch Tri Tip: smoked yolk herb butter, charred egg white cream, $25
Deux:A Bar H Ranch Tri Tip: smoked yolk herb butter, charred egg white cream, $25 Hank Vaughn
Back in the day, the general public would be hard-pressed to name a famous chef other than Julia Child, or “that galloping dude” for those of us who are a bit older. What a time to be alive today, then, if you are a talented chef: They’re almost like rock stars or baseball players. Perhaps chef trading cards are on the horizon, with maybe a bay leaf instead of a stick of bubble gum included in the packaging?

One such star chef is Misti Norris, whose Petra and the Beast brought her to the attention of Food and Wine magazine, which named her one of the best new chefs of 2019. Her new project is Stepchild, which is the first entry into Attalie, The Exchange’s rotating chef concept, bringing her fresh spin on French Cajun cuisine. Originally scheduled to be in the space for about six weeks, the server and hostess both told us that Stepchild has been extended at least through the end of the year.
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Stepchild overlooks the ATT Discovery District
Hank Vaughn
The space is on the second floor of the Exchange Hall and offers great views of the AT&T Discovery District to go along with the wonderful food. The staff are all eager to help spread the Misti Norris love, asking us on more than one occasion if we were fans. They were almost afraid to tell us that she was not on site that evening, but at Petra instead. We were content to get to know her through her food instead.

The menu, being Acadian French, is broken down into un, deux, ajouter, trois and boissons and we ordered from each, starting with a couple of nice boissons (drinks): the déjà vu and a frozen framboise 75.
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Boissons: déjà vu and a frozen framboise 75, $15
Hank Vaughn
The déjà vu consisted of vodka, espresso, blackberry agave, fortified wine and bitters. It arrived with a nice foamy head and was delicious. The frozen framboise was a glass of smooth icy raspberry with vibrant color and flavor. We sipped while we watched families cavorting on the grassy lawns in the AT&T commons.
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Un: Duck boudin: crispy duck leg boudin, pickled celery, duck heart ham, mustard gravy, $17
Hank Vaughn
Next, we had two uns (appetizers), because who can decide? The duck boudin came with four little fried balls to an order and sat upon a rich mustard sauce and topped with pickled celery and what the description calls “duck heart ham,” which were thinly sliced pieces of cured duck heart. This was a hit even with those in our party who do not normally enjoy mustard, duck or organ meat. That’s saying something.
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Un: roasted crab shell butter, sherry vinegar gelee, whole blue crab meat, baguete, $18
Hank Vaughn
The second un was the crab butter, which has become one of the standouts of this place in the short time it’s been here. This comes with some richly flavored roasted crab shell butter that includes chunks of blue crab and is served with gelatinized sherry vinegar and a sliced baguette. The server explained that one spreads a bit of the sherry vinegar and then the crab butter, in varying proportions depending on how much you wanted to cut the buttery taste. We tried every combo, and the mélange of sweet and acid created was heavenly. This un earns its highly touted reputation.
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Deux: Trumpet mushroom, butter seared, morel ragout, $25
Hank Vaughn
Our two deux (entrees) included the trumpet mushroom and A Bar H Ranch tri-tip. The trumpet mushroom was butter seared and served on morel ragout and included oyster and shiitake mushrooms. Full of umami richness and flavor whose leftovers made a fantastic omelet the next day. The tri-tip was cooked slightly above medium rare and was served on charred egg white cream and topped with herb butter. It was tender and flavorful, perfectly charred outside and cooked to perfection inside.
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Ajouter: pork confit potatoes, goat cheese whip, smoked trout roe, herbs, $15
Hank Vaughn
For our ajouter (side) we had the pork confit potatoes, which come with goat cheese whip, herbs and smoked trout roe. It was a smaller bowl than we’d imagined, but it was so rich and had such pronounced flavors that it was just enough.
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Trois: peach tart, charred peach, pickled peaches, lemon chantilly feuilletine, $12
Hank Vaughn
Finally, the trois (dessert): a peach tart consisting of charred peach, pickled peaches and lemon feuilletine. The crispy crêpe pieces provided a nice contrast to the peach slices and tart body.

For those who are fans of Norris but have had trouble getting into Petra and the Beast, Stepchild is a welcome alternative with fantastic food in a great urban setting, and they validate parking at a nearby garage to boot. What’s not to love, and cheers to Attalie for extending her stay for a few more months.

Perhaps this will give us all time to try her five-day aged koji chicken, which must be ordered 72 hours in advance and serves 4-6 people for $200. Take that, Southern Roots Table.

Step Child, 211 South Akard (The Exchange Food Hall at ATT Discovery District), 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. Thursday - Sunday.
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Hank Vaughn is a freelance writer who enjoys sharing and overthinking his food and drink experiences, both good and bad, from his culinary journeys with his wife across North Texas and beyond.
Contact: Hank Vaughn