If you're wondering what the real soundtrack of a restaurant with "buzz" sounds like, drop in on an otherwise mundane Wednesday night at Dallas' Del Frisco's Grille. We are talking LOUD -- somewhere between the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and a Jay-Z show at American Airlines Center. But in a good way.
It's the sound of clinking wineglasses or bottles of beer, and folks nattering away into a cellphone. It's the cacophony of indecipherable conversations emanating from nearly every one of the 200 or so seats spread over the 9,500-square-foot social cauldron.
The 4-month-old Del Frisco's Grille is bursting at its brushed-metal seams with life.
A first cousin to DFW's esteemed steakhouse Del Frisco's, with its well-known thrones in Dallas and Fort Worth, Del Frisco's Grille first opened in New York last year before returning to its Dallas roots in November. And what a prominent spot the Grille has secured, smack on McKinney Avenue, aka the right ventricle of Dallas' uptown heart.
Designed by Wilson Associates (which also did the neighboring Private|Social), Del Frisco's Grille sparkles like a holiday bauble. It's full of sleek, if almost uniformly hard, surfaces of stained concrete, slate, teak, walnut and brass, all cocooning banquettes and booths done up in leather.
It's an indulgent playground where you might spot a Dallas Star or two walking through the glass doors to enjoy the generally stellar menu offerings from executive chef Aaron Henschen.
The senior Del Frisco's always showed us the beef, but the upstart Grille has no prejudice toward the other proteins. A dazzling starter of ahi tacos ($14) features tuna tartare is so fresh it glistens. It presents a tantalizing contrast of taste and texture, with the luxuriant raw tuna and smooth avocado cream sandwiched in a crackling taco envelope.
The fowl role is ably fulfilled by the Asian chicken dumplings ($10), each one improved immeasurably by a sesame seed-studded ponzu sauce full of fresh-ginger-powered sweet-and-sour notes.
While the selection of four steak cuts (from filet mignon to prime rib-eye) are exactly the same as at any main Del Frisco's, the prime Delmonico ($32) is a Grille specialty. Cooked to a perfect medium, with its rosy middle gently radiating pink to its outer edges, this 12-ounce slab of steak is a juicy wonder whose interior is only outdone by its exterior, blackened by a lusty spice rub and rendered even more moist by a swab of a barbecue butter.
Pork makes a bold cameo at the Grille. At first, the double-bone-in, 3-inch-thick, mesquite-smoked pork chop ($24) is an intimidating sight -- a Flintstonian hunk of meat lacquered in a glaze of bourbon-apple butter. Cut into it, and the pink interior sparkles with juiciness. This serious piece of pork could give any steak a real run for its tenderness money.
A vertical haystack of chicken-fried shrimp ($27) is expertly battered and greaselessly fried, but they are more marvels of execution than taste.
Since the Grille's sides -- like grits with Cajun lobster gravy ($8) and the Del Frisco's classic, spinach supreme ($10) -- are served family-style, a fair bit of an appetite can be sated with one order of the jalapeño bacon mac-and-cheese ($9), whose creamy pasta is shot through with three cheeses, smoked applewood bacon and the ever-reliable pepper.
Del Frisco's Grille wouldn't dare not offer its standard-bearer, the lemon Doberge cake ($10), but don't be a prisoner of tradition. Try the warm chocolate cake ($9). Its sinfully rich lava flow of chocolate, offset by its puckery raspberry sauce, is so seductive you might forget just how 1998 this dessert really is.
Though it's not quite as retro as the coconut cream pie ($9), which was overpowered by an overgrown forest of white chocolate shavings that, when finally cleared, did reveal a pleasingly intense coconut-cake interior.
With only about seven items on the menu overlapping with the original Del Frisco's, consider the Grille to be Del Frisco's 2.0: the brash, always boisterous, socially electric next generation of what had been your daddy's steakhouse.