Sitting down to lunch at Central 214 located in Hotel Palomar, I knew I was in for a real treat. Executive Chef Graham Dodds, formerly of Bolsa, took the reigns on the already well-known restaurant and has begun to transform the menu and space.
Chef Dodds briefly mentioned a complete renovation of the restaurant set to debut later this summer with a new name in tow. Setting his sights on showing Dallas a cultivated menu of locally sourced produce and inspiration from his travels and epicurean duties abroad, Dodds favors a community aspect to his dining experience that will definitely set him apart.
So let’s get to the food. On this particular afternoon, we were treated to a selection of items off his breakfast and lunch menus that gave us a glimpse of his preference to ‘farmer friends’. Windy Meadows, Tom Spicer and Texas Honeybee Guild to name a few.
We started with Triple Cooked Fries or “5 hour fries”. Seasoned, soaked, seasoned, soaked…you get the gist. The end result? Heavenly, mashed potato like filled spuds with malt vinegar served alongside. Yum. The Thai inspired hangar steak salad (with a spicy red chili vin kick, and feta) and the shaved celery root (honey crisp apple and pine nuts) were large enough for a meal by themselves and had some of the most thoughtful presentation I’ve seen lately. That same “plate prettiness” seemed to be strong theme throughout the meal. A Chef who cares about cuisine taste and looks? Kudos, Chef Dodds.
Don’t you dare leave without ordering the Oxtail Ragout. Think you won’t like it? Get it. Don’t eat meat? Get it. With a 45-minute pesto that Dodds learned to make in Switzerland while working in a small restaurant, this dish made the table swoon and smile with every whiff and bite. Get it. The crisp gnocchi served with it, done in the Chefs Pate à Choux method of flaky pastry, lends a perfect doughy balance to the savory beef. The BBQ chicken sandwich with horsey pickles proved to be really juicy, shredded chicken perfection. Stacked high with coleslaw on soft bread, it’s a classic done local style.
Of course, I always save room for dessert. Two words Poudine Chomeur. Chef Dodds’ tribute to the traditional French Canadian inspired ‘poor mans pudding’ is serving boiling hot to the table and smells of fresh made caramel and sweets before you dig (yes we certainly dug) into the cake like center…whoa. Maple, hot caramel and sweet warm vanilla spiced cake. Tears could be shed. But before your eyes bawl happy streams, order house made churros with cajeta and crisp fugi apple.
Though Graham Dodds may be new to the Palomar, he’s no stranger to using fresh, locally grown ingredients in dishes that make you “want to stay here forever”, in his own words.