Chow, Baby: Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Crabs for the Crabby

It was a dark and stormy night, a night made for Chow, Baby to cruise along FM 1709 (a.k.a. Keller Parkway and Southlake Boulevard) and bitch about its 12-mile lack of lighting and signage. The secondary goal this evening was to test a brand-new cost-benefit theory: Chow, Baby wanted a good steak and didn’t care how much it cost; everyone would benefit from Chow, Baby’s improved mood. Hence the trek to Truluck’s Seafood/Steak/Crab House somewhere in the wilds of Southlake Town Square.

What a lovely, classy restaurant — round red-leather booths, acoustics-friendly rich wood trim and panels, pretty jars of water plants, a piano bar, and the kind of warm, dim lighting that everybody looks good in. Service, in the person of smiling Sally, was top-notch. She knew both the menu and the wine list inside and out, no easy task when the restaurant offers more than 100 bottles of wine (all also available by the glass or, a nice touch, in a 2-oz. sampling size for a few measly bucks). Good thing we liked her so much, because she was all we got; for these prices, Chow, Baby wants a phalanx of busboys plus other waiters picking up cherry stems as they walk by. The very nice manager did stop by ... to apologize for Chow, Baby’s first overcooked, then replaced with nearly raw, finally replaced with “just give it to me, I’m starved” bone-in rib-eye (22 oz, $44.95), which, after all that, was pretty good but not $45 perfect. Chow, Baby thought it was kinda dry, actually. This could be a factor in what, on the long dark drive home after dinner, the beloved described as Chow, Baby’s “perhaps unreasonable” expectations based on “possibly faulty” memories of glorious rib-eyes past. Perhaps. Or it could have been not a premium-quality steak; the menu says, “Truluck’s proudly serves Certified and Aged Midwestern Beef,” which Chow, Baby does not believe is synonymous with “USDA Prime.” Or — and this is Chow, Baby’s vote — the kitchen is a little weak on steak because it’s focusing on those extraordinary seafood dishes.

Man, the seafood. Truluck’s, a small chain of eight restaurants in Texas and Florida, operates its own fleet of crabbing boats near Naples, so the stuff comes in fresh every day. No wonder Sally was pushing the crab; she even brought out a little show-off tray of Florida stone crab claws (in three sizes) and Alaskan king crab (one size: huge), stressing several times that they all come pre-cracked for eating ease. Yeah, but then there’s all that scooping. Lazy Chow, Baby went for the lightly sautéed super lump crabcake ($13.95), which was maybe 5 percent a delicate tartar-like sauce, 2 percent breadcrumb-y binding agent, and 93 percent pure delicious crabmeat. Incredible. Another appetizer, seafood-stuffed portabella ($12.95), at first seemed to have too many incongruent ingredients — shrimp, red onion, tons of melted cheese, a topping of pico de gallo, more crabcake — but it worked very nicely. Yet another wowzer was the jalapeño salmon ($26.95); the jalapeño-laced béarnaise added no heat but rather a bright, perky note to the hunk of fresh-tasting, perfectly grilled Scottish salmon. Every bite was fantastic.

Steak aside, Chow, Baby thinks these cooks know what they’re doing. Indeed, they’ve created a new problem: unreasonable expectations for seafood houses all over town, based on Chow, Baby’s fond — and not faulty — memories of Truluck’s.

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