Chef Sage, the newly retooled Colleyville restaurant (formerly TriBeCa) run by its namesake, Sage Sakiri, takes diners on a bit of a nostalgia trip.
The time-warp begins when you pass through heavy, iron doors that could easily shutter a Loire-Valley chateau. Then you climb a winding staircase to the formal dining area on the second floor and Old Hollywood glam shots of everyone from Grace Kelly and Rita Hayworth, to Jack Nicholson and ole blue eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, line the walls. (The photos are from Sakiris private collection.)
The tables and high-backed booths are set with hefty flatware, starched white tablecloths, burgundy napkins, and lighting that perfectly mimics flickering candles. On this particular evening, a jazz pianist and vocalist fill the room with old school torch songs like A Time for Love by Johnny Mandel.
The menu also reflects the French- and Swiss-trained Sakiris love of the classics, albeit with a few off-kilter riffs.
I started with the oysters three ways ($16), a gateway to the rest of the meal, and this dish hit on two of three cylinders. The oysters fire-roasted version managed to be simultaneously smoky and briny. The Rockefeller treatment was all spinach and fennel-infused cream-sauced goodness. But the fresh-shucked oyster was drab tasting and slightly chewy.
I had no quibbles with the prime filet mignon carpaccio ($12), whose razor-thin slices of roseate-bright filet mignon practically melted on my fork and whose taste was accentuated by nicely dressed greens and the salty twang of pecorino cheese shavings.
The lighter offerings continued with four different pizzetes or mini-pizzas, fresh out of Sages pride and joy: an Italian-made oven that hits temperatures of 950 degrees without breaking a sweat.
My Margherita version ($12) successfully balanced a burnished, crackling thin-crust the brittle scaffolding for plenty of runny tomato sauce, long strands of melting buffalo mozzarella, and flecks of freshly snipped basil.
A nicely portioned Texas peach and vine ripe tomato salad ($8) cooled down my pizza-fired palate. Though the peaches were a bit under-ripe, all the salads other players rose to the occasion, especially the switchblade-sharp blue cheese crumbles.
From the sea-centric list of 14 entrees, I chose the familiar marriage of lobster with ravioli. But Sages open lobster-filled ravioli ($28) is a deconstructionist curve ball: open-faced sheets of ravioli pasta proudly display their cache of lobster chunks as they float in an opulent cream pool. Sugary ripe grape rounds reinforce the implicit sweetness of the lobster.
Moving back on land, the seared rack of lamb ($35) made me think of Spencer Tracys immortal line about his great love, Katharine Hepburn, uttered in the movie, Pat and Mike: Theres not much meat on her, but what there is is cherce. And so it went for Chef Sages two cherce lamb chop clusters, provoking me to gnaw like the knuckle-dragging diner I occasionally become.
But the serious meat-eating was reserved for the 2-inch-thick Kobe beef burger ($25). This juicy, vertical burger arrived under a butter-glossed, brioche bun and it came with its own entourage of foie gras, mingling with a swaggering gang of black truffle shavings. This burgers brooding, deep range of flavors (not to mention its hefty price tag) had my personal decadence meter red-lining.
For dessert, Sage doesnt offer a lot of choices (essentially four), but it more than compensates for that with unassailable execution. Crème brule ($8) had a perfect sugar roof, cracking open to reveal a luxuriant, custardy center. Meanwhile, the chocolate mousse ($8) tasted of a slight tart bitterness that could only mean superb, semi-sweet bakers chocolate was used.
Though the cooking at Chef Sage is high caliber it recently catered a V.I.P. party celebrating the opening of the George W. Bush presidential library in Dallas it never flaunts itself as the ultimate, elitist altar for classical cooking. On the contrary: One moment its kitchen sticks a slice of foie gras on your burger, the next, its serving up an all-you-can-eat prime rib Sunday-night dinner.
Thats Chef Sage in a nutshell: Catering to presidents and pedestrians alike.