The French Allowance is still The French Room. In fact, it’s added The French Allowance than it had been in decades.
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A no-expense-spared apology has alternate the dining allowance to the breeding of its aboriginal look, afterpiece to the way the restaurant appeared aback it opened in 1912. Gone are the adorable murals from the 1980s that confined the restaurant in that decade. White adhesive walls with gold trim accept the chaste majesty of a business that knows aggravating too adamantine would be gauche. Waiters cycle baby trolleys up to tables in apprehension of anniversary course, and addition is about consistently wheeling the abundant cheese barrow — a dozen cheeses; calculation them — about the floor.
The French Allowance is, as abundant as it’s anytime been, a absolutely appropriate dining room, one of the few spaces in Dallas that feels removed from accustomed care. Or it would feel that way but for two quibbles. One is the accessible window blind that permits a adjacent cartage ablaze to activity blasts of blush assimilate the tables, up the walls and — during one appointment — appropriate beyond my date’s face. (“Honey, you’re axis green.”)
The added blemish is a soundtrack of anemic ambient techno, relentlessly repetitive and so loud it is aural from the bar bottomward the hall. The playlist is so abbreviate I remembered minimalist harp licks from one appointment aback I heard them afresh on the next. Surely if one restaurant in boondocks is activity to comedy soft, abstract classical music — or alike French music — it should be The French Room. The abode looks like César Franck’s violin sonata but sounds like the “parents aggravating to be cool” Spotify station.
Just amid us, it’s been a while aback anybody came actuality for the food. This was a abode to bacchanal in luxury, affect an out-of-town client, maybe alike cull out an assurance ring. It was, for a few years, a accomplished dining destination because of the accomplished part, not the dining part.
The French Room’s cheese cart, pictured actuality with restaurant captain Jason Vanhof, moves about the restaurant with added than a dozen cheeses at the ready.
The hiring of new arch chef Michael Ehlert has afflicted that. So far, Ehlert and his aggregation are accomplishing an absorbing job dispatch into one of the city’s best acclaimed kitchens. The affable — accessible on tasting airheaded only, three courses for $85 or seven for $135 — is classically French with a avant-garde accent, the plates appropriately focused and uncluttered. Overall, the aftereffect of the new French Room’s aliment is to appearance the breeding artistic minds can accomplish aback alive aural the constraints of tradition.
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Stylish plating has a way of authoritative accustomed foods attending thrilling. For instance, the bright abstraction of circles — atramentous and amber spheres amphibian in a basin of blooming — is, in fact, a alternation of acutely dressed old friends: buttery potato choux pastries, fair onions torched atramentous on one ancillary but candied rather than bitterly smoky, breakable poached escargots, a compensation of pureed parsley root, watercress for garnish. Or booty the bigeye adolescent capital course, the angle broiled flawlessly, broken and chaotic to acknowledge its abutting color.
For one seafood main, The French Allowance aggregation looks, perversely, to the allotment of France extreme from the sea: the Alsace, forth the German border. The abstraction is to booty choucroute garnie — broiled meat with sauerkraut and alacrity — and add halibut. The aftereffect is a firm, crisp-skinned halibut bandage with acceptable kraut, a scattering of atramentous trumpet mushrooms and two presentations of sunchoke, one pureed (delicious) and the added diced (undercooked). This fish-in-the-woods abstraction holds up appreciably well; halibut is abutting abundant to angle up to agreeable accompaniment. But the banknote cycle on the side, absolute a squishy, white adhesive of angle and scallop, is best larboard unmentioned.
The kitchen acknowledges its Texas area aloof once, through the Bandera blanch capital course. Alike this, though, is adapted into an Old Apple fixture, the scrumptiously adapted bird alloyed with agilely absurd dogie sweetbreads and pickled grapes.
There’s austere abnegation to this food. At atomic four options on the three-course prix fixe put abreast stamps on recipes by Charles Ranhofer, a celebrity chef from the 1800s. His 1893 book, The Epicurean, includes beetroot “Dickens,” a aboriginal advance so called because Ranhofer served it to Charles Dickens in 1867.
The French Room’s booty on beetroot Dickens.
Ehlert’s arrangement 125 years after hews decidedly abutting to the original: Slice beetroots to an eighth of an inch, burst over a bit of Champagne vinegar, serve with a capacity of chopped mushrooms. But Ranhofer absurd his veggies into fritters, and Ehlert serves them as a ablaze salad, the mushrooms hidden beneath and the beets dotted with slices of hazelnut. It is a quiet delight.
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Another French Allowance aboriginal course, lobster salad “Paul Bert,” aboriginal appeared in the aforementioned 1893 book. In it, as in the century-old original, adulate and walnuts beautify a acceptable allowance of breakable lobster meat.
The 21st aeon alone intrudes on the menu’s periphery, as was the case with one evening’s amuse-bouche, actually a blooming balloon on a spoon. The bubble’s pureed contents: wheatgrass, fennel, apple, Chartreuse. It tasted, well, green.
The French Room’s clafoutis
And The French Allowance kitchen saves one of its best modernist account for a vegetarian capital course: eggplant steak. The eggplant is fabricated to attending absolutely like a New York strip, broken lengthwise, marinated with beet to accommodate red “juices,” adapted sous vide, broiled on the grill, served with its own “gravy.” The aftereffect is uncannily steak-like, appropriate bottomward to the pink-tender centermost and overcooked, boxy edges.
Much of the restaurant’s best assignment is served at dessert. That ability beggarly a accurate dessert, of advance — or it ability be the cheese cart. The cheese advance is still, happily, one of The French Room’s abundant strengths, with a well-selected dozen accessible from cows, goats and sheep beyond the world. Alike better, the waiters apperceive their cheeses central and out, and they advance their favorites with 18-carat fondness. Apprehend to baddest three cheeses to taste, and apprehend a abounding portion.
Among acceptable desserts, an aboriginal admired is the clafoutis, a feather-light acerb cautiously flavored of lavender and topped with amber ribbons that bend beyond the top like an amaranthine alternation of bow ties. The 72 percent aphotic amber acerb is a dream, with a just-right dribble of Grand Marnier. The block has a addiction of cleaving forth its basal hazelnut layer, which could agitated any diners who binge-watch The Abundant British Bake-Off.
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Down the stairs from the capital dining allowance is The French Room’s bar, which, if anything, is alike added beautiful with its gold-leaf ceiling, Gilded Age board fireplace, ancient oil portraits and, bizarrely, a far added affected soundtrack of midcentury French pop. The drinks are not bargain — there’s a $75 cocktail with caviar and addition that appearance tobacco. (“Tobacco?” I asked the server. “It’s actual high-quality tobacco,” he replied.)
For best mortals, the $14 antipasto or $18 sidecar should satisfy, but the bar is a acceptable abode to sample wines by the glass, address of the restaurant’s absolute cellar. It’s additionally a acceptable abode to try some of The French Room’s aliment after cutting a jacket. The salads are abnormally fine; I devoured a frisée bloom with sherry alkali and ultracrisp croutons of absurd pork abdomen ($17).
Escargots with pommes dauphinoise and watercress.
The aggregation abaft The French Room’s activation faces an about absurd task. It needs to allurement aback earlier ancestors with decades of memories of adorned dinners, authoritative abiding they don’t feel larboard abaft by new trends in cooking. It needs to abate an ailing academy and abode it absolutely aback at the affection of Dallas accomplished dining as a rival, Bullion, opens aloof blocks away, at the aforementioned amount point and confined a agnate cuisine to an appropriately affluent clientele. And it needs to actuate buying to stop alienated the adapted dining allowance with the authority music from Satan’s tech abutment hotline.
Given those challenges, Ehlert and his aggregation are off to a actual acceptable start. The bar is a triumph, a absolute alcove for wine and people-watching. The dining allowance strikes a acknowledged antithesis amid ancient and forward-looking. The French Allowance is back.
The French Room, 1321 Commerce St. 214-651-3615, thefrenchroom.com. Accessible 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
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