If you want to see glorious perfectionism in action, it doesn’t get much better than the Joule Hotel in downtown Dallas. Set in a vintage 1920s building on Main Street, this luxury boutique hotel has been open only since 2008, yet has already undergone a renovation. Under the discriminating direction of owner Tim Headington, it saw an airy expansion of the lobby, new boutiques, a bookstore and chic Weekend Coffee.
It also saw a change-up in restaurants. Celebrity chef Charlie Palmer departed, to be replaced by an American-cuisine restaurant called CBD Provisions (for “central business district,” the term for the inner core of downtown Dallas).
CBD is from Consilient, the Tristan Simon-led company that also owns The Porch, Hibiscus, Victor Tango, Fireside Pies and AF+B, the soon-to-open restaurant in Fort Worth. In Consilient, Headington has found a worthy partner. CBD observes a finicky attention to detail, sense of largesse and dedication to hospitality. It’s also local; Simon has a loyal following, and that goes a long way toward helping a hotel restaurant thrive.
As a hotel restaurant, CBD Provisions serves all three meals. At breakfast, it fulfills guests’ needs with eggs, pancakes, oatmeal and fruit. But it becomes a destination at lunch and dinner, when it unrolls a menu that’s familiar yet ambitious.
That means charcuterie, pickling and pork — lots and lots of pork. There are pork rinds, pig tails, an 18-hour pork shoulder and a pig’s head. Chef Michael Sindoni, who worked at Charlie Palmer before it closed, has been a charcuterie aficionado since before it turned trendy; he takes it to new, slightly-overwrought places we haven’t yet been.
The talker is Berkshire pig head carnitas ($43), a “family style” dish to be shared. It featured a profile slice of a pig’s head, its surface scored, with crispy skin covering a layer of tender, moist meat beneath. Accompanied by tortillas, paper-thin radishes and tomatillo salsa, it formed an instant make-your-own taco party.
There are more “I dare you” dishes such as braised tripe, to mollify the foodie adventurers; and then there are sandwiches, salads and flatbreads to feed the lunch crowd. Like other restaurants in the Consilient family, CBD has a robust, earthy, mildly decadent quality that’s very Texan — one enhanced by the use of local ingredients such as Gulf seafood and Texas grass-fed beef.
Sandwiches were appealing, with a rustic wholesomeness and straightforward charm. They included a crisply fried redfish sandwich ($16) on a baguette, like an upscale po’boy; and trendy grilled cheese ($13), pressed flat to provide an irresistible crunch against the melting goo of Texas cheddar. The Cuban ($14), another pressed sandwich, had a world of flavors: the sweet tang of thinly sliced ham, nutty Gruyere cheese, diced sweet pickles and a thrilling mustard spiked with jalapeño.
Breads are made in-house by pastry chef Ruben Torano, and they give the sandwiches a real bump, with their craggy holes and texture. There’s also a quintet of flatbread-style toasts ($8-$14), topped with delicacies like chicken liver mousse, Gulf crab or wild mushroom, drizzled with olive oil, thinly sliced pickled celery and an unkempt tangle of greens.
Entrees such as roast chicken ($22) showed how special care can elevate familiar ingredients. An airline breast with its skin still on was slow-cooked and pressed flat so the flesh seemed almost creamy. Its mélange of root vegetables and butternut squash added weight, gravity and an acknowledgment of the season.
Sides are essential, whether it’s crisp french fries served in a tall narrow cup, sautéed okra in a wee ironstone pan, macaroni and cheese, or kabocha squash, drizzled with sorghum, blue cheese and toasted pecans. Desserts offer unexpected twists such as the bread pudding ($8) that was smooth not chunky. Corn cake ($7) was a nifty novelty: like a tres leches cake, but made with a cornbread-style cake that offset the sweetness of the milky syrup sauce.
There are designer cocktails and a state-of-the-art beer and wine selection that draws heavily from Texas, including well-regarded Duchman tempranillo, one of many wines available by the glass; and beer from prized brewers such as Austin’s Jester King.
Service combines efficiency and warmth, and the atmosphere is stunning. The bar in the center creates a crackling vitality. The open kitchen spills drama. Pickled foods in large bottles dot the walls. Flatware gleams. Snacks are delivered on slabs of polished wood. White subway tile communicates urban polish. Cocktail napkins boast a CBD monogram, perfectly centered. No stone unturned.