Andrew Chalk is an eager beaver. Yesterday he toured to the Houston-based Perry’s Steakhouse and Grille in Uptown. Which prompts two questions: Are beavers really eager? I find them to be timid. How long before Perry’s isn’t the newest steakhouse in town? Go, Andrew.
Popup Restaurant, Guerilla Restaurant – All Passé. I Visit an Unconstructed Restaurant!
The current dress code is hardhat and overalls at Perry’s Steakhouse and Grille since the restaurant does not open until April 26th. However, the work is sufficiently far along that they opened for a facilities tour, presentation of their private label wines, and a quick tasting of a few of their specialties. Even with workmen outnumbering the “civies,” the shape of the space is emerging. At the front of the main room is a large circular bar area surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows that open to McKinney Avenue. This will be named Bar 79 (after the year of Perry’s founding, 1979). Behind, is the main dining room, marked on one side by wine racks that accomodate over 3,000 bottles. The top is so high that only NBA stars should apply for sommelier positions. At the back of the main room the floor splits into two levels. Go up and you have an elevated seating area suitable for people-watching the masses below. Go down, and you are in the cellar, a cozy subterranean chamber with a wall of wine barrels facing the tables.
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Along one side of the main room are a series of private dining areas. One is a circular room occupied by a single circular onyx and alabaster table large enough to hold a victorious hockey or soccer team. Another is a long, thin room with a long banquet table. At one end is a sophisticated A/V system that makes the room ready for its likely primary use: corporate presentations. This could be just the place to pitch investors on your hot plan for a new vegan restaurant in north Dallas.
Throughout, the décor is refined but not clubby. An interior designer friend’s stricture that lighting details can make-or-break a space seems to have been taken seriously. The fixtures in the main room are delicate and elegant. That circular private room has a large central fitting but it appears to mummify the bulb inside, creating soft, indirect illumination. Manager Howard Cortes says that subtle downlighting will be fitted in some walls in the next few days. Surfaces are partly leather which will presumably deaden some of the audio reflection leaving resonance without the tinnitus-inducing noise so prevalent in new restaurants a few years ago.
Great space: but how will it be used? The Dallas menu was not posted at the time of going to press but will resemble those in Austin and Houston. That means (bad pun coming) steaks form the backbone of the menu. They are all Prime, grain-fed and dry-aged. Also look for lobster, shrimp, snapper, and chicken. And Perry’s does not have a pork chop but rather “Perry’s Famous Pork Chop”. I must confess my ignorance. I was asleep that day in school and missed the reference to it. It gets over 53,000 hits on Google so it must be fairly famous. However, “Tiger Woods” and “Fire Hydrant” get twice as many, so it is not super famous. The web site informs us that it is “Hand selected in the Midwest…” and “cured, roasted, slow-smoked, and caramelized…”. From the picture on the web site it appears to be about 1,500 ft. high but I plan on ordering one if a pass the physical to lift it.
Another specialty we did try: Polish sausage. Perry’s makes it themselves in a central commissary. If you like sausage (and I say thank God the trend is for more sausage, charcuterie, etc. in fine restaurants) then give this a try. The pork is lean and the salt about right to accentuate the meat’s taste without smothering it.
As well as 400 wines on the list (including two pages of ‘Rare and Unique’ selections) Perry’s has their own wine label! Corporate sommelier Susi Zivanovic says that this is not a ‘house wine’ in the traditional sense of being the least expensive wine on the list but a fighting mid-pack contender in its own right. The 2008 Perry’s Chardonnay ($52 btl./$13 glass) is from the Carneros region of California that straddles Napa and Sonoma. That area has been an epicenter for good quality medium-priced Chardonnay in recent years. This wine was in the mainstream of California Chardonnay styles having an aroma containing tropical fruit and flavors of Chardonnay fruit and oak. Both were only medium-intense. If you want more concentrated fruit look at the other Carneros or Russian River Valley Chardonnays on the list.
The 2005 Perry’s Meritage ($76 btl./$19 glass) is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot. The Cabernet fruit comes from mountain vineyards (on Spring Mountain) and most of the rest from the valley floor. It is aged for 18 months in new French oak. This wine is quite complex with an aroma of blackcurrants and other dark fruit and a chewy texture of soft tannins in the mouth and flavors of chocolate and cabernet fruit. The one detraction is that, despite being categorized as a dry wine, it is too sweet.
The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($72 btl./$18 glass) was very different from the Meritage reflecting, I suspect, the vintage difference. Although still fruity, it is comparatively lean. The tannins are harder although not harsh. This is the wine to have with steak as the fat in the meat will ameliorate the tannins in the wine, leaving the fruit to complement the taste of the steak.
That bar space at the front is used daily for “social hour.” That is what we used to call Happy Hour before the recession made us all sad. From 4pm-6:30pm wines by the glass, some martinis and bar snacks (including the Polish sausage) are half-price, making people social indeed. I predict that Bar 79 will quickly become a destination place given its selection, décor, and location. Cougartown?
How will Perry’s fare in a town that has been zoned ‘steakhouse’ and other out-of-towners (Smith and Wollensky, Flemings) have already been sent packing? That depends on a lot of things but is largely in Perry’s own hands. They have seven other locations in Texas so they know their market.
Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille
2000 McKinney Ave., Suite 100
Dallas, Texas 75201