Scratch ‘n Sniff: Summer Menu at Central 214
It may be the best midtown Dallas restaurant that nobody talks about. Too bad. They have no idea what they’re missing.
Since chef Graham Dodds took over the kitchen at Central 214 in the Hotel Palomar a few months ago, the menu has crept steadily toward F2T with an attitude. Almost every Dallas restaurant worth an Platinum Card offers a steak on its menu. Dodds has one too. A tenderloin. From a goat. He serves it with crowder peas and sunburst squash and it’s as interesting and colorful as it sounds.
There’s prime beef on Central 214’s menu, too. A “bavette” shoulder cut thats ‘s deeply flavored and rosy red as a hanger steak. But Dodds’s version is even more tender. He serves it sliced in medallions alongside local purple hull peas and three crispy orb fritters made of Shiner Bock and bleu cheese.
While I can’t tell you everything I tried on a hosted visit last week was best in class (a red snapper filet was overzealously cooked), I can tell you without reservation that Dodds serves one of the city’s best Berkshire pork chops. It’s seared on the edges till they’re charred and sweetened, pink on the inside so that the juices run onto the plate and mix with creamy cheese grits. Dodds tops the pork with grilled fresh figs and spoonfuls of fig-basil preserves. Have this once and you’ll be hooked.
Dodds seems to have a bent for produce this summer. And why not, when he’s sourcing corn, watermelon, Meyer lemons, toybox tomatoes, radishes, eggplant, squash, mushrooms and peas as good as his. It’s easy to eat vegan here. Or at least meatless.
Dodds tosses oyster mushrooms in olive oil, spreads them out on a sheet pan, presses them down weights, then pops them in a slow oven till the ‘shrooms are wafer thin and crispy. They come out as umami bombs. Dodds calls the resulting chips oyster “bacon,” which he scatters across a soft scrambled goose egg on brioche.
He’s making his own charcuterie, too, including a goat’s ham mocetta that he uses in a dish of raclette cheese and red lasato potatoes (yes, raclette is both a cheese and a dish).
Summer salads are a strong suit. I particularly liked the panzanella with tomatoes, olives, radishes and Dallas Mozzerella, but I wouldn’t quibble with another made with roasted beets, crispy shards of duck confit, greek yogurt and herbs. My favorite, though: galia melon tossed with purslane, shaved chorizo, Manchego cheese and quince vinaigrette.
The “bacon” and a trio of salads is reason enough to visit this summer, but that Berkshire pork is the reason you’ll come back.
And that restaurant renovation that was slated to begin last May? It’s now supposed to start in November.