Chow, Baby is into trying new things, both at restaurants and in this column space. With that in mind, I present the first ever “choose your own adventure” column. Just follow the directions and move me like a chess piece in your very own vicarious foodie game.
I was recently strolling through the new downtown plaza when I got a little hungry and wanted to try one of the new places nearby. If you’d like me to go to Little Red Wasp (808 Main St.), then proceed to paragraph 3. If you’d like to me stay closer to the square and try out Bird Café (155 E. 4th St.), then skip to paragraph 7.
(3.) The Wasp is the brainchild of Adam Jones, the guy behind upscale steakhouse Grace, but has little in common with its sibling restaurant. On a recent evening, the spacious dining room was lively, though it was lit up like a tanning salon. (I assume the dimmer just hasn’t been installed yet in the five-month-old restaurant.) Our seat was near the bar, and my guest and I had to contend with the folks from the bar crowd leaning over our booth, practically on top of our dinner. The short menu is populated by (gulp) upscale comfort food, like dressed-up hot dogs and cheeseburgers and some classic Americana, like short ribs and a New York strip.
Instead of appetizers, the menu offers a choice of two dips. The Tillamook cheddar pimiento dip ($8), served with house-made tortilla chips, had a nice kick, and the chips were still warm from the fryer.
The short ribs ($26) were fork-tender and had an intense red wine and garlic flavor. They sat on a bed of creamy mashed Yukon gold potatoes the size of a throw pillow and were served with a lovely broccolini. The Arctic char ($26), by comparison, was a disaster. The salmon-looking fish was so overcooked it might have passed for a shoe fished out of a lake. Worse yet, the whole thing was drowned in enough butter to fill that lake. It was also served on a hillock of mashed potatoes and came with what could have been some nice baby squash were they not soaked in the char’s spillover butter. All in all, it was an uneven experience, but the place shows a lot of promise — if little imagination.
(7.) As a long-time Fort Worthian, it warmed my heart to see the Land Title Building that once housed The Flying Saucer being put to good use. The fact that the waitresses at the Bird Café don’t have to wear Catholic schoolgirl dresses was an added bonus.
The atmosphere is elegant but relaxed, with framed bird pictures on the walls and comfy red leather banquettes lining the dining room. The separate bar is impressive, with large glass doors that open to the patio on the Sundance Square Plaza.
I was giggly when I saw that the gastropub served half a dozen wild James River oysters on the half-shell ($15). The briny morsels were so creamy they didn’t need the accompanying mignonette sauce. My only complaint is that we were served five and not six, because, as our server pointed out, “They’re big.” It’s easy to forgive such faux pas when there’s also a steaming bowl of Prince Edward Island mussels on the table. We opted for the little mollusks to be prepared Belgian-style, with lemon, thyme, white wine, and butter. Though they were a tad undersized, each bite was plump and delicious.
Other highlights included the winter burrata salad ($12), with roasted winter squash and pickled shallots; and crispy duck wings ($10), with Fresno chile peppers, malt syrup, lime, carrot, celery, and a blue cheese dipping sauce. The only miss, besides our sixth oyster, was the overcooked Pig & Fig ($12) — the not-so-crispy pork belly slathered in a barbecue sauce might still be stuck to the roof of my mouth. All in all, the Bird is the word. It was one of the best restaurant experiences I’ve had in ages.
Who knows, maybe next week I’ll be joining up with the other Fort Worth Weekly columnists, Last Call, Hearsay, and Static, to solve mysteries. Stay tuned.
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