Once upon a time, the Pyramid Room at the Fairmont Hotel was the swankiest place to dine in Dallas. It was classy, expensive, and a treat. A gaucho-clad sommlier hovered overhead picking bottles of wine from high shelves. However, like other hotel restaurants, the Pyramid Room become JAHR (Just Another Hotel Restaurant). The Pyramid Room became the Pyramid Restaurant and Bar. The menu is simpler, the staff is smaller, and many of the small touches (oh, the ice swans!) have been banished. To me, it was sad to see such a proud old dowager so meekly give up the fight.
But wait! The fight toward fine dining is back. Jump for the details and food photos.
They’ve added an herb garden on the hotel roof. This was a serious investment in the locavore model of traceable food history. They also transfered Chef André Natera from within the Fairmont organization to take charge as Executive Chef of the Dallas Hotel.
SideDish was fortunate to attend a preview of his new menu and we can say that, insofar the resurrection of the Pyramid’s reputation depends on the chef, he is the man for the job. This was the third time that we have had his food in a month, and he crafts dishes with care and assembles them with precision. And he has an openness to new ideas that feeds into his creative engine. For example, at the AIWF Caesar Salad competition last month, he assembled not only the most authentic Caesar, but also Bánh mi, the classic Vietnamese baguette. He describes excitedly the time a co-worker introduced him to Peruvian cuisine. He had thought it was like Mexican, but discovered a much broader range of influences from Japan, China and Italy. “This was complex flavors,” he says. He and his wife, in one of the rare weeks when he is not working seven days, check out ethnic restaurants in his home area of Richardson/Plano. He likes Tacqueria El Fuego and Chito’s especially. Although an experimenter and creative type, he also cooks for his customer. When sweetbreads didn’t sell, he took them off the menu.
Our meal was paired with wines chosen by Pyramid Sommelier Hunter Hammett, who showed a polymath’s knowledge of wine types and region’s that included even a comparison tasting of Madeira from Texas and – Madeira! When at The Pyramid, check out his wine list. See especially the sections “Underrated Red Wines” and “Underrated White Wines” for a broad selection of unusual and less expensive bottles.
Without further delay, here is the Pyramid’s Fall and Winter Menu accompanied by pictures and interspersed with comments.
We started with an amuse bouche. First, Pumpkin Soup with Maple Syrup, Cayenne and Chorizo. The soup was rich and sweet with a bite from of chorizo settled in the bottom. Next Seared Scallop (wild arugula, frisée salad, green apples, pancetta, sherry vinaigrette). I need a food scientist to explain to me how it is that scallops seem to go with everything. They seem to be the perfect protein on which to hang almost any combination of ingredients a chef can conceive. They make tofu look socially awkward. In this recipe,
check out the enthralling contrast between the bitterness of the arugula and the sweetness of the flesh of the Pectinidae family representative. The other ingredients added complexity to the dish. Obviously, nobody left any!
Pressed Pork Belly (Braised Pork Belly with maple Glazed Apples and Apple Celery Root Puree) $9. Awesome symbiosis between the celery root puree and pork belly. Never has celery root tasted so distinct and sweet.
Wine: 2009 Dr. Von Bassermann-Jordan, Halbtrocken, Riesling, Pfalz. This Jordan is not related to Michael and did not play for the Chicago Bulls (just keeping the record straight). He does make good Riesling which can be the perfect quaffing wine during an NBA game. However, not my choice for a match with pork. Maybe a sparkling wine would go with this. I’m thinking of that Voga sparkling Pinot Grigio I had last week.
Tuna Crudo (Thinly sliced raw tuna with asian pear, sliced jalapeno, radish, green grapes and lemon olive oil) $9. Excitement from the acid of the lemon and grapes combines with the earthy meatiness of raw tuna. Crudo? In West Texas we call that sashimi.
Wine: 2006 Kiepersol Merlot.
Venison Terrine (terrine of venison, dried cherries and pistachio, wrapped in bacon, served with frisée salad, grainy mustard, Cumberland sauce) $9. This is an absolute winner in the meaty snack category. With several local chefs now making their own charcuterie/salumi it would be nice if The Pyramid staked out a corner as pâté provider of the moment. Note: Natera makes his Cumberland sauce with cherries rather than red currants.
Wine: 2007 Couly-Dutheil, La Baronnie, Chinon. This is 100% Cabernet Franc from the Loire region of France. This was my favorite wine of the night. Open fruit of cherries in the nose. Soft and forward in the mouth. A good match with the cherries in the sauce.
Pan Roasted Duck Breast (five spice pan roasted duck breast, orange ginger glaze, yam puree, soy glazed shallots) $27. A whole breast, rather than the usual slivers curled atop a starch. Orange hints in the yam puree st subtly echo the Duck à l’Orange of the Pyramid’s venerable past. Yam purée will be copied for Thanksgiving (Google reports only 155,000 hits on the term. I bet one is a recipe, even if I have to wade through hundreds of stories of yams holding up banks or winning the tour de france)!
Wine: 2006 Gruet Pinot Noir. Cuvée Gilbert Gruet, New Mexico. That’s Gilbert Gruet, not Gilbert Grape. A straightforward Pinot Noir from one of the best sparkling wine producers in America. Gruet is still finding their way with still wines but they continue to up their game.
Apple Tart Tatin (with fall spiced ice cream). Exotic and indulgent. Somehow, I still finished it.
Wine: NV Madeira. Rare Wine Company, Boston Bual, Special Reserve. Unctuously sweet but still high enough in acid not to be cloying. This was a perfect match with the Tarte Tarin. Hunter Hammett also opened Haak Madeira Jacquez, a Texas sweet dessert wine from near Galveston. It faired well against the native competition and is a recommended Thanksgiving dessert wine.
The bottom line: I think the Pyramid may be back. The chef and sommelier are in place. Corporate support is already evident with the rooftop garden to supply vegetables and herbs. Work starts on an extensive upgrade to the wine cellar physical facilities next month. Best of all, the staff on the ground are hungry to excell . Watch this place.