It was Restaurant Week in Dallas in mid August. My plane touched down at Midnight Friday morning and after I recovered from the 100 degree heat and 100% humidity after departing the terminal, I caught a taxi to my hotel.
Normally, when I fly into a big city, I try to stay in boutique or luxury hotels, not the typical commercial brands. But this time, my business in Dallas necessitated a stay in one of the city’s mega hotels – in this case, The Hyatt Regency Grand at Reunion. To say the least, I was exceptionally impressed with the hotel, the level of service and the exceptional hospitality provided from the very moment I arrived.
My room was well appointed, with a big comfortable chair and ottoman, an amazingly soft and relaxing bed, a well sized partner’s desk and a large entertainment center/dresser. The bathroom was beautiful, with great amenities and a shower to die for. The 19th floor view of the Downtown section was superb, literally standing over Dealey Plaza and the Texas Schoolbook Depository.
On my first day in town, I was able to see much of Dallas, just from the view of my Executive level room, even beyond Downtown, the view stretched out for miles, facing northeast. When my friends Deneen and Miles arrived, we drove throughout the area, checking out the new Victory Park development, which still has a couple of years to go before it becomes the Rodeo Drive of Dallas. We looked at West Village, a hip, trendy section that bustles with a young, sexy crowd day and night. And of course, Dallas’ Uptown district, with its lively restaurants and shops.
Later in the day, after a much needed rest, my friends joined me at the hotel once more for dinner. We were scheduled to dine in the hotel, which quite frankly is why I don’t usually stay at commercial hotels. Almost without fail, the restaurants in the name brand hotels leave me flat. Hotel food is usually bland, boring and lacking in creativity.
This was not the case at Antares, the hotel’s amazing restaurant located in the Reunion Tower. That tower, some 50 stories high, is topped with a large sphere wrapped in a steel net sparkling with lights that flicker and change. The restaurant itself revolves, affording visitors a 360 degree view stretching some 40 miles. Moving quite slowly… almost unnoticeably, you are able to see the different areas of Dallas and environs from a bird’s eye view.
Now about that food: it was hearty, delicious, well-executed and generally, superb. Rawn Wilson, from the hotel’s Sales Dept. joined us for dinner. We each ordered the Chef’s special. That started with a chicken tamale (a tad dry for my tastes, but rich in flavor) served with a mound of mixed spring greens as our appetizer. The main course was as big as Texas. A nine-ounce filet, cooked perfectly to order sat along side a crabmeat stuffed half lobster that was butter soft, not tough at all and simply glorious. Green beans, zucchini and baby carrots were accompanied by roasted garlic mashed potatoes that were creamy and moist.
As if that wasn’t enough to fill even the biggest Texas appetite, dessert arrived soon after. A white chocolate box filled with mocha mousse and fresh berries, with more berries, ice cream and mousse on the side made for a perfect ending to a glorious meal with an outstanding view. The experience alone is worth the price of a meal, though the prices were not terribly high, even if the restaurant is. The elevator ride up to the restaurant and down is not for the faint of heart. Descending rapidly from the restaurant to the lower level of Reunion Tower can make even the most courageous humble. But what fun it is!
Not only was this an extraordinary meal, but the presence of Rawn Wilson made it a wonderful evening. His grace and hospitality was simply perfect and worthy of a European aristocrat. He was the quintessential representation of the world of hospitality and a great asset to Hyatt. It was not only a pleasure to meet him, but to sit and chat with him until nearly 2am was a treat. In one evening he managed to create three new friends and fans.
One of the prime reasons for my trip to Dallas was Restaurant Week. It’s said Dallas has surpassed NYC in the number of restaurants and I wanted to see it for myself. I had rather expected to visit many of Dallas’ best eateries during my four day stay. The CVB was only too helpful in trying to arrange for me to dine out in many illustrious eateries.
Alas, it was not to be. Most of the PR people for the restaurants were, I’m sorry to say, much more snobbish that even a New Yorker could be on a bad hair day.
Dean Fearing had just opened a new property in the brand new Ritz-Carlton, but the hotel’s press representative said “We can’t offer any interviews or reservations for any ‘online media’ now.” The emphasis on “online media” is what struck me. It’s always nice to know that a company with standards as high as Ritz-Carlton has become so elitist that websites don’t matter. Sorry Dean, but it’s time to do your own PR.
Another firm did make an attempt to book me in with their clients, but the result was a call during my first day in Dallas saying “Sorry, we couldn’t arrange anything”. Other restaurateurs claimed they couldn’t spare the time because they would be so packed. Naturally, I made it my business to check these places out and let me honestly say… if that was packed, they need collective eye examination. Perhaps they expected it to be crowded, but alas, with more restaurants than New York, the market was just a bit too big to fill any one to the rafters, even during a well-publicized Restaurant Week event.
I did have an opportunity to try Ferre, Cru and Mi Cocina in West Village during my stay, as well as Luna de Noche in Victory Park.
Ferre was an enticing, delightful experience with creative and flavorful northern Italian cuisine. Cru, a wine-bar next door had an extensive selection of wines by the glass and though wine was more the focus there than the food, the latter was a wonderful experience. Mi Cocina was so trendy and hip that I felt a bit out of place. I always tend to feel intimidated when the staff clearly looks so much better than I do, but at my age, I need to get used to it. The food is Mexican and the cocktails enticing. All located in West Village at the intersection of Lemmon and McKinney, this area is truly the most vibrant place to be and best to be seen in.
Luna de Noche was a bit of a disappointment, but I can’t really blame them. This satellite location in Victory Park has yet to mature, as does the development, so there’s a very small population visiting and utilizing the restaurant. Our brief stroll from the car to the restaurant and back saw absolutely not one soul on the street, despite beautiful shops, elegant restaurants and what should be a lively scene. I’m confident it will be, but it may take some time to accomplish.
Overall, Dallas is not exactly a place to go for fun and excitement like New York, Vegas or Beverly Hills. But it has many, wonderful attractions and there’s a very lively arts and culture scene in the city worthy of comparison to those places. When you do, do yourself a favor and book a room at the Hyatt Regency. You’ll really enjoy the views both inside and out, particularly the elevators that look onto the 18 story high atrium with its fountains, river, waterfall and pools, tree studded bar lounge, and comfortable restaurants. You’re bound to enjoy it.