You deserve a steak today

Posted on 12 Oct 2009 at 5:11pm
By ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

Bailey’s Prime Plus defies the economy to offer a tony steakhouse with a surprisingly soft style


OVERALL RATING
4 our of 5 Stars
Bailey’s Prime Plus, 8160 Park Lane. Open daily at 11 a.m. 214-750-8100.
Flamboyant to the point of kitsch, this feminized version of the traditional
steakhouse specializes in deftly executed beef dishes made with Allen Brothers
prime steaks. A carnivore’s delight.

Food: 4 out of 5 Stars
Atmosphere: 4 out of 5 Stars
Service: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Price:Expensive

There is both a reckless arrogance and a casual safeness in opening one of three types of restaurants in Dallas: a taqueria, a corn dog stand and a steakhouse. Texans know from each of these cuisines — it’s almost chemical. Chinese and Italian? You can get away with a lot of mistakes and who’s to know? But we can tell a good taco from a bad’n. And beef? Well, there’s a reason they say Texas is full of steers and queers.


FILET WITH SOUL | A lobe of foie gras tops the thick, perfectly seasoned and expertly grilled filet mignon at Bailey’s Prime Plus.

So the opening of Bailey’s Prime Plus in the new Park Lane development across the expressway from NorthPark Center is both a risk and an easy bet. Dallas is flush with steakhouses … though none along the Central corridor. Beef is popular, but its audience also discerning — especially when a single entrée can run $36 to $50 in this economy. No one who can afford it will put up with "just good."

But Bailey’s Prime Plus — with a name that sounds more like a cable TV bundle or bank loan package than a restaurant — doesn’t scrimp.

That might come as a surprise when you know owner Ed Bailey made his fortune running McDonald’s franchises. That fact alone could feed countless jokes about McFineDining. So Bailey cuts them off by delivering unassailable food in a lush setting.

There’s a definite Vegas vibe to the décor, a feminizing of the traditional testosterone-fueled stereotype of a steakhouse. Gone are the heavy curtains, the black and red velvets, the imposing oak surfaces and Gothic lighting. Instead, the front wall is a mass of windows that let light stream in. Ceilings are vaulted and spacious, and the artwork is abstract and colorful.

Even the deep chocolate banquettes are splashed with gold accents and open up the main dining room, bisected by a colonnade of live trees planted in a stream. It’s oversized, bold to within a hair’s breadth of kitsch. But it’s definitely not stodgy while being more inviting and less clubby than most meat-and-potato bastions.
That gentility is not reflected so much in the food, however, which, in true steakhouse fashion, exudes carnivorous ardor. There are the usual suspects: crab cake and shrimp cocktail appetizers; bacon-wrapped everything; bulky, prime steaks (the largest clocks in at 34 oz. and should arrive with a defibrillator). You can order a bowl of sautéed mushrooms and creamed spinach if you crave your dad’s idea of dinner.

But what sets Bailey’s apart is the deftness with which some of the items are modified. A deep-fried lobster-stuffed avocado ($15) sounds like overkill — richness for its own sake — but the execution is bouncy. The flesh of the fruit was firm, not mushy, with the batter closer to tempura than the typical chicken-fried steak. A side of cherry pico de gallo with horseradish sauce gave the mild flavors of the lobster and avocado a quick bite.

Another appetizer, the almond-crusted brie ($11), plays with sweet-bitter effects with a strawberry balsamic jam and Marsala jelly. Even the familiar crab cake ($15) is plentifully stocked with crabmeat without being dense. The signature salad, called simply "that" salad ($9) shows the kitchen knows its way around vegetables as well, with candied pistachios and brandied cherries coddling baby greens and pungent blue cheese dressing in a textured, fresh palate cleanser. Even the asparagus stalks, dusted with Romano cheese, showed personality.

Eventually, though, you’ll want to make your way to the center ring: the steaks. Purchased from Chicago’s Allen Brothers, at the cuts here are prime (which the restaurant claims makes it’s the only all-prime steakhouse in Dallas), and the quality oozes out like jus from the filet. And the filet ($36) is worth your attention.

Thick and squat, its depth of flavor comes from ideal seasoning and extremely high-heat cooking that chars the outside while leaving the meat inside tender and pink.

We tried it both Oscar style — which here means 10 oz. of lobster on top, not just a small crown of crab ($9), and with the foie gras ($19). Both were exceptional, with the foie gras like some heavenly sandwich: an admixture of wild mushrooms as a based, topped by a silky lobe of goose liver. Desperately indulgent, yes, but exceptional, too.

The other cuts of meat — we tried the pepper-crusted strip as well as a fish — delivered style and taste as well.  Then came the desserts (each $9): Mousse cake, a lemon tart, a spin on the reliable sundae to put any confectioner to shame. Any one course could make Bailey’s a destination; altogether, they upend and revitalize what a steakhouse means.   

Tasting notes | Dish opens at ilume; Beaujolais Fest goes north; Jones invades Cowtown


GRAPE EXPECTATIONS | Veteran cook Robbie Lewis recently joined The Grape as its sous chef.

If you want a sign the economy is improving, look no further than Cedar Springs. The ilume multi-use residential-commercial facility is open and its first retailer, the restaurant Dish, is serving up food.

Sala owner Douglas Brown served as the consulting concept chef helping to design the menu, but it’s executive chef Brian Sommers, formerly with Abacus, who will run the million-dollar kitchen day-to-day. The front of the house will be run by Shawn Horn, who was lured away from his G.M. role at Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck.

Brown’s business partner Tim McEneny created Dish; he previously developed obar, Lift and Dragonfly. Brown’s other ilume entry, the casual-diner and catering company Beyond the Box, will roll out in December.

A few streets down, neighboring culinary icon the Mansion on Turtle Creek boasts a new executive chef. Bruno Davaillon joins the restaurant from Alain Ducasse’s Mix in Las Vegas, where he received a Michelin star.

The Grape owner Bryan Luscher has named gay chef Robbie Lewis — formerly with Salum and recently at Fuse — as the new sous chef at the esteemed Lower Greenville bistro.

Screen Door owner and concept creator Scott Jones has taken his ideas a bit farther west than usual. He’ll open Cowboy Diner in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square in January. An updating of the vintage diner, it will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving updated takes on classic comfort-food dishes. Meanwhile, Jones’ flagship restaurant, Café Italia, will close its Lovers Lane location at the end of the year to make room for another concept. Its swan song will be New Year’s Eve.

The annual Beaujolais Festival, conveniently timed to occur right before Thanksgiving, is getting a few tweaks this year. In addition to the famed Beaujolais nouveau grapes typically uncorked in late November, the festival this year will include bigger, bolder wines from the Bordeaux region of southwest France.

And you’ll have to drive further for the privilege of tasting of the vine. The event moves from the World Trade Center up to the Hotel InterContinental in Addison for the Nov. 20 release. Tickets are available at FACCDallas.com.

The second annual Taste at Lee Park takes place at Arlington Hall on Nov. 13, featuring music, art and of course, food and booze. Red Mango, Campisi’s, Geisha House and Grimaldi’s will be among those serving up dishes. Tickets are $40 in advance and $50 at the door, which opens at 5:30 p.m.

Oxygen’s The Naughty Kitchen wraps up its first season Tuesday. Set at Central 214 in the Hotel Palomar, it follows chef Blythe Beck’s gastronomic adventures.

WeHo’s Pinkberry finally opens in Dallas this week. We’re off to check it out now, so read Instant Tea for the update.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 13, 2009.

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