Arthouse in Keller is a mixed-use living/shopping development anchored at one end by City Hall Restaurant. The restaurant’s floor-to-vaulted-ceiling glass walls and maple-toned floor give it a resort feel, as if the place should be looking out on a lake or the face of a mountain. Or maybe Puget Sound, as the smell of the cedar wood used to smoke the restaurant’s signature salmon dish reminded me (nostalgically) of restaurants in Seattle. The management strives for, and achieves, a sophisticated ambience that seems unusual, even in the Keller-Southlake area.
Unfortunately, the food is not as exceptional as the scenery, despite the superlatives on the menu, including “The Best Corn Bread in Texas.” The panko-crusted portobello “fries” seemed like they’d be a nice way to start the meal and came magnificently presented as a log cabin. However, the soy “catsup” that came with was a watery mess, and it didn’t help that the fries were oozing moisture all over the crunchy, lemony, flavorful panko crust. The server took away half the appetizer without asking if there might be anything wrong. The dish wasn’t bad enough to complain about or send back, but it wasn’t good enough to finish. The wedge salad came with some wonderfully tangy blue cheese dressing and additional crumbles, but the iceberg lettuce wasn’t particularly cold or fresh. The salad amounted to a sad hunk of lettuce with great fixin’s.
The entrées were somewhat better than the starters. The medallion of beef tenderloin was flawlessly cooked (medium as requested), and the buttery, green-peppercorn coating was exceptionally tasty. The entrée came with a twice-baked potato that was pleasant enough; perhaps substituting the sautéed spinach or sweet potato fries might have been a better decision. And, lured by the superlatives, we also tried the signature cedar-scented salmon. The server stated that the chef recommended it cooked medium. We agreed (because salmon can turn dry as the Sahara in a flash). What we got was fully cooked salmon on a piece of cedar wood. However, the fish was still tasty, with a delicate smoky flavor. The accompanying herbed orzo was cooked well but wasn’t that tasty and, again, was carted away without question. However, the grilled asparagus, served with blue cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, was both beautifully presented
City Hall’s menu boasts several interesting-looking desserts. Our server recommended the warm chocolate molten cake, which came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was a decadent, gooey, melted treat. Think: a slightly underdone brownie with extra chocolate sauce in the middle. The chocolate cake was a great way to finish off a meal of hits and misses.
On the restaurant’s website, City Hall touts itself for “originality, a chef-driven menu, excellent service, and a commitment to making your experience exceptional on every level.” It’s a locally owned restaurant in a suburb where that is a rarity, and the restaurant is connected to the Keller Farmer’s Market. It would be interesting to see which local sources the restaurant uses. Most places committed to farm fresh give the locals credit somewhere on the menu, but City Hall doesn’t. Aside from ignoring half-eaten dishes without asking what might be wrong, our server was efficient and pleasant. I just wish the food tasted as good as it looked.
City Hall Restaurant
201 Town Center Ln, Ste 1101, Keller.
817-741-2433. 10am-3pm Sun, 4pm-midnight Fri-Sat, 4-10pm Mon-Thu. All major credit cards accepted.
Panko-crusted portobello fries w/soy catsup $9
Wedge salad $6
Medallions of beef tenderloin $29
Cedar-scented herbed salmon w/orzo $19
Warm chocolate molten cake
w/Haagen Dazs ice cream $7