Perry’s imbues an unexpected Asian flair to the traditional steakhouse
It’s so hard to find a place to get steak in Dallas.
No, it really isn’t.
There are three foods Dallas does better than just about anyone: Tex-Mex, corndogs and beef. Honestly, the middle item is of questionable merit, though deep-fried anything has its place. And the best Tex-Mex comes in a wide variety or venues, from hole-in-the-wall taquerias to gourmet twists from the likes of Dean Fearing and Stephan Pyles.
But steak? That’s a specialty that always comes with style.
The traditional steakhouse oozes richness as much as a medium-rare ribeye doused in béarnaise. It’s supposed to — we’re Americans, who like our meat bloody. (We love our air-conditioning, but like everyone to think we just returned from the hunt.) Beef is expensive and luxurious, and the setting should project that.
That may make a restaurant like Perry’s Steakhouse — the high-end Houston-based restaurant across from the Ritz-Carlton in Uptown — feel intimidating. It’s vast and moodily lit, with dark woods and a wall of wine probably worth more than your car. But classy does not equate to out-of-reach.
Perry’s has always struck me as occupying a middle-ground on the snob scale: It’s fancy enough to impress without veering into a boisterous good-ol’-boy hang or a funereal, violin-soaked mausoleum. The space is roomy but cleverly laid-out, with a terraced dining area and cool-ass party room downstairs. It’s accessible — a statement as applicable to the food as to the atmosphere.
One aspect of Perry’s that sets it apart is its creative tweaking of the classic steakhouse menu. The kitchen leans toward Asian flavor profiles more than creams and heavy sauces. At least, that was my experience sampling a prix-fixe dinner with wine pairings. Dried fruits and aromatic spices replace butter and pepper thrown at every dish without detracting from its richness.
Sure, there’s red pepper coulis on their sea bass, but it merely gives structure to the Southeast Asian flavors. The fish is crisply seared, the inside cool and fleshy. The fish is oily and rich, which supports the spicy accents.
That profile soars with the duck confit, where the sweetness of dried orange rind, figs, apricots and other fruits meld with the fatty duck and lofty aromas of star anise, tumeric and cardamom for a heady preparation. (The dish came perfectly paired with a pinot noir that was the best wine of the night.)
New York strip has never been my first-choice in cut (it’s easy to overcook, its lack of fat coming off as dry), but the preparation here — aged, rubbed and tender, fanned against a crispy garlic polenta medallion and al dente roasted carrots — surprised me with its elegance. The staff wisely styled it with a house Meritage that’s worth a glass any time.
At a steakhouse, dessert is a given. While our crème brulee may seem predictable, it was the only thing on the menu that was.
Perry’s offers a five-course dinner throughout May ($95 per person with wine pairings, $65 without) for any size party. PerrysSteakhouse.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 4, 2012.