Cafe Reviewed: wednesday, August 22, 2002
Kalamatas
White anchovies with raspberry oil $3
Duck sausage pizza $10
Duck breast and duck confit $21
Drunken goat cheese cheesecake $6
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
That’s-a French-Italian!

Mediterranean accents color Kalamatas’ menu a deep shade of nearly everything.

By NANCY SCHAADT

Kalamatas

200 Main St, FW. 817-882-1719. Daily, 6am-2pm; 5pm-10pm. Full menu available at bar, open daily from 6am-10pm. AE, D, DC, MC, V.

alamatas, in the Renaissance Worthington Hotel, offers Mediterranean cuisine with a French accent. I have an acquaintance who would read that sentence and say, “I don’t get it, but OK!” It’s his way of saying that he may not understand the concept but is willing to accept it on faith.

I may not understand why Kalamatas is called a Mediterranean restaurant — but OK! On two visits, the food was wonderful. The kitchen uses ingredients found in any good Italian market and employs classical French preparation methods on every dish. The items we tried were kick-ass bold and obviously prepared by a chef with a strong hand.

The 10 items on the tapas menu beg the diner to experiment. The figs wrapped in prosciutto and the deep-fried, blue-cheese-stuffed olives were excellent, but what really grabbed my attention were the white anchovies with raspberry oil. They were so outrageous they whopped me upside the head with flavor. The anchovy filets were creamy white and had a crunchy spine. They tasted like fish — not salt — unlike the dark anchovies that most Americans love to hate. Spiked with insanely tart raspberry oil and fat drops of honey-thick balsamic vinegar, the tiny filets vanished from my plate with a speed born of desire, not hunger.

The duck sausage pizza was another delicious surprise. Chef Summer Jones (who likes to work the dining room between kitchen duties) makes the sausage in house. It was full-bodied and packed with sweet and savory flavors reminiscent of Chinese sausage. The pizza was thin-crust, a good size for lunch or to split as a starter. Along with sausage, the pizza had all the essential elements: mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil, and a surprise sprinkling of goat cheese.

About 30 long minutes after my guest and I finished our pizza, the entrées finally arrived. It was the first service stumble in what had been a blemish-free evening.

In fairness to the staff, we did request a leisurely meal. But, if the kitchen or wait staff had not mis-timed the meals, the pasta my guest and I ordered would not have hardened under the warming lights while the duck we also ordered was being prepared.

The lobster ravioli was one of the more unusual uses of pasta we’ve seen. Imagine an oversized ravioli with unsealed edges which resembles an edible version of a ring-bearer’s pillow (without the white lace). A 4-inch square sheet of saffron-tinged pasta lined the plate. It was topped with lobster filling and finished with a final layer of green pasta. The entrée looked tired and unappealing. The bottom layer of pasta stuck to the plate, the lobster was dry, and the top layer of pasta was rubbery and curled at the edges. Sometimes sending something back is the best way to judge a restaurant. The pasta was removed without hesitation, and the dish was remade without fuss.

The second serving of lobster ravioli was pleasant but still puzzling. The top sheet of pasta was still rubbery and slightly undercooked but edible. The dish met our expectations when we sank our teeth into the lavish, two-bite chunks of lobster in a reduction of lobster stock with fennel and butter with garlic.

Our second entrée was a bold statement of purpose. With it, Jones took his French training south to Italy and applied it to a gigantic duck breast and duck confit roasted in balsamic vinegar. (Confit is a preserving process that predates refrigeration. Meat — in this case duck — is salted and slowly cooked in fat. Pieces of the cooked duck are then placed in a storage container, called a “pot,” and covered with cooking fat, a process called “potting.” The resulting meat has more flavor than you’d get by grilling or roasting it because it has picked up moisture and flavor from the potted fat.) Although this meat was so greasy that I dropped my fork twice, it had a profound duck flavor. Eating it with roasted duck breast was like a culinary lesson in preparation: The roasted duck was fresh and gamey while the potted leg was dense and oily. I paid attention to the lesson and thus savored the result of each method of cooking.

The only dessert we could muster the energy for was the drunken goat-cheese cheesecake. We didn’t quite understand the “drunken” part but thoroughly enjoyed the cheesecake, shaped like an egg roll and jauntily perched atop a fritter. The confection was wrapped in a delicate pastry sheet and finished with a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar.

Balsamic vinegar figures so prominently in Kalamatas’ cuisine that it’s logical to wonder if the restaurant should be named after vinegar instead of a kind of olive. Balsamic vinegar is made in Italy from fermented grape juice. Most of the varieties found in the United States have the consistency of water. The balsamic Kalamatas uses, on the other hand, has the consistency of syrup, and the flavor difference is just as notable. Syrupy balsamic has a stronger, less acidic (or vinegary) flavor. The thinner variety found on supermarket shelves tastes more like apple-cider vinegar.

I like this restaurant. The service stumbles were handled with grace. The décor was bright and festive, with arches tiled in lapis blue and yellow walls all around. It was homey in spite of the high ceilings and elegant in spite of the homey baskets of fake fruits and vegetables on decorative tables.



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