Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, October 31, 2002
Classic Café at Southlake
Grilled artichoke with clarified butterand boursin cream $9
Grilled and smoked apple-stuffed porkchop with a cider glaze $22.25
Horseradish- and panko-crusted
tilapia with cucumber crème fraîche $24
Double chocolate cheesecake $5.50
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Price is Wrong

The traditional American cuisine at Classic Café istop-notch but not worthtaking out a loan for.

By CHRISTOPHER WYNN

Classic Café at Southlake

621 E Southlake Blvd, Southlake. 817-410-9001. Mon-Fri 11am-2:30pm, Mon-Thu 5pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm. All major credit cards accepted.

If Texans have a tendency to want things bigger and better, then the Classic Café in upscale Southlake should leave them sufficiently awed. The café fills a space that formerly housed three — count ’em, three — restaurants. And while the overall experience, from the food to the ambience, will undoubtedly satisfy any large-livin’ Texan, the whole trip might make you feel as if you paid swanky Austin prices for a side-of-the-road snack.

Chris and Curtis Wells, brothers and owners of the original Classic Café at Roanoke, opened this much larger but similarly named operation in 1999. Recently, they promoted Charles Youts to executive chef over both locations. One of the chef’s first duties as head honcho: creating a fall menu.

My companion and I arrived early on a Saturday evening and found the atmosphere friendly but subdued. There is an upstairs lounge that draws a crowd at night and a ground-floor dining room for those craving a serious meal. We fell into the latter category and were quickly seated in a comfortable, horseshoe-shaped booth. The dining room is decorated with dark wood paneling and features “bookshelf” wallpaper (more on that later), which creates a sort of English study effect.

The wine list was straightforward, offering the traditional favorites and a few surprises. Bottle prices varied, but a glass of most any selection could be had for $5 to $6.

For appetizers, we tried the grilled artichoke with clarified butter and a boursin cream and the soup of the day, which was cream of tomato with basil. The grilled artichoke arrived perfectly halved, the hollow cupping the hot clarified butter. The trick here was to pull the buttery leaves apart, dip them gently into the boursin cream, and then sort of shuck the “meat” of the artichoke from the root. Not something you want to try on a first date. The flavor was wonderful, but parts of the artichoke were slightly undercooked, likely as a result of their having been only grilled. The soup was a nice blend of chunky and smooth textures, with the heavy cream flavor lingering just below the tomato base, pleasantly accented by the basil.

For the salads, the fall greens with apple slices, “oven-fried” almonds, and bleu cheese crumbles tossed in a sherry balsamic vinaigrette proved to be a winner. The apple slices were crisp, sweet, and looked and tasted freshly plucked. And a dish of seasonal greens with toasted pepitas in a raspberry vinaigrette was simple and flavorful.

Chef Youts’ new grilled and smoked apple-stuffed pork chop with a cider glaze was a delightful trick. Despite my puzzlement when what arrived looked an awful lot like pork loin, I forgot all about nit-picking after the first bite. The tender pork was a tantalizing juxtaposition of earthy mesquite and gently sweet cider. The sliced-apple “stuffing” was rich, and it delightfully soaked up the meat juices.

The tilapia, crusted with horseradish and panko (a type of coarse Japanese bread crumb) and served with a cool cucumber crème fraîche made for a sumptuous fish feast. The meat was soft and flaky beneath the crust. The tartness of the cucumbers and dill in the fraîche gave the dish a tangy accent.

All the evening’s entrées were accompanied by homestyle mashed potatoes and sugar snap peas. The potatoes were creamy, with hearty lumps and bits of skin, but we found them to be just a tad bland. I wanted to add more butter and a hint of garlic. The sugar snap peas were fresh, tender, and carried a nice sheen of butter.

At the end of the meal, and after much debate, my guest and I decided to forgo the trendy bourbon pecan pie and the vanilla bean crème brûlée for that old standby: double-chocolate cheesecake.

The first red flag went up when our server warned us that it was actually white chocolate and not the sort of fudgy indulgence we might be expecting. We should have listened, because the dessert turned out to be a complete dud. The cheesecake was overbaked, and the flavor of the white chocolate was barely discernible. The courtesy drizzling of dark chocolate sauce on top couldn’t salvage it. I’ve had better from the supermarket.

More disappointing than the dessert, however, was the final bill for the evening. My companion and I had a relatively straightforward meal with no drinks and a shared dessert and still dropped almost $100 with tip. Somehow, it just didn’t seem worth it.

The food was good overall and the service polite, but a certain “it” factor was absent, especially in this stratosphere. Like the faux-bookshelf wallpaper in the dining room, the Classic Café at Southlake suggests more of an experience than it delivers, and that may leave you longing for something more.



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