The local foodie buzz around Clay Pigeon, the newest everything-made-from-scratch, only-in-season restaurant, is nothing short of ecstatic. In fact, the buzz started before the doors really opened. The restaurant occupies the space that formerly housed the late, lamented Lambert’s Steak, Seafood & Whiskey. Clay Pigeon chef Marcus Paslay and company completely demolished the funky elevated stage that took up one whole wall of the dining room. It its place is a wine room that makes much better use of that space.
My table of three had high hopes –– and a 7:30 p.m. reservation. The reservation seemed prudent, given the destination’s happenin’ reputation and the fact that it was a date night. At 8 p.m., we were still waiting at the bar. And the bartender told us that his Shiner tap, maybe the one thing that might have helped with the wait, wasn’t functioning properly. And the hostess couldn’t tell us when we might claim our table. Once we were finally seated, a little after 8, things moved a little more smoothly.
The menu changes monthly, but so far it’s been consistently divided into three sections: tapas-like small plates, some flatbread sandwiches, and entrée-style large plates.
The chicken liver patè was served in a little mason jar with a topping of onion marmalade, some inventive pickled veggies, a side of whole-grain mustard, and, unfortunately, nearly burnt sourdough toast points. The appetizer was the fanciest version of chicken liver I’ve ever eaten –– impeccably smooth and creamy –– although the charred toast did not improve the flavor.
The seared scallop appetizer was the perfect size for three people to share. The difference between a well-cooked scallop and one that’s the consistency of rubber is a matter of milliseconds on a grill. Two of the three ping-pong ball-sized scallops were perfectly done, just a little translucent in the center. The third one was sushi-raw. The two edible scallops were complemented by a wonderfully delicate, salty, caper-spiked sauce.
The large plates consist of a protein plus a starch and/or veggie. The steak du jour turned out to be a gloriously rich and marbled rib-eye. We ordered it medium, and it came out medium with areas of cool pink. That was actually fine –– it’s better to have a steak a little less done than overdone. The meat was almost fork-tender, with the barest hint of grill spice. The chef paired the beef with tasty, creamy mashed potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts, which were actually a pleasure to eat. Even the sprout hater at the table enjoyed the quirky vegetable.
The pork shoulder was absolutely perfectly done. It was falling-off-the-bone tender, with a deliciously simple, salty-spicy gravy, all on a bed of what had to be the world’s best polenta.
The only downer in our large-plate experience was the herb-crusted lamb chops. The crust was delightfully savory, but the two tiny chops were difficult to wrangle. The lemony couscous and chopped squash that accompanied the lamb weren’t as yummy as either the polenta or the mashed potatoes.
There were three desserts on the night of our visit: a goat cheese panna cotta, a chocolate pot du crème, and an apple cobbler. We tried all three. The panna cotta (like pudding but a little more solid) was a subtle, happy surprise and not at all redolent of goat cheese. The dark chocolate flan-like dessert that translates to “pot of cream” was equally stellar. Both portion sizes were dainty –– but a little of the richness went a long way. In comparison, the tasty, chunky apple cobbler, accompanied by homemade vanilla ice cream, seemed plain.
In a recent review, Chow, Baby expressed the hope that diners who love the West 7th Street corridor will veer slightly away from the hustle and bustle to visit Clay Pigeon. My hope is that Chef Paslay and company will fulfill the potential and possibilities here. It’s the small inconsistencies –– not seating people close to their reservation times, serving burnt toast –– that can ultimately break a restaurant. Hopefully, things will tighten up. Because there’s good stuff in this here Clay.
Clay Pigeon Food and Drink
2731 White Settlement Rd, FW. 817-882-8065. Tue-Sat 4:30pm-10pm. All major credit cards accepted.
Seared scallops ………………….. $13
Chicken liver patè ………………… $ 8
Pork shank ………………………….. $20
Chef’s special rib-eye …………… $34
Herb-crusted lamb chop ……….. $35
Apple cobbler, goat cheese panna cotta, or chocolate pot du crème …. $8 each