Hudson House, 4600 Dexter Av, FW. 682-207-4220. 11am-9pm Sun-Wed, 11am-10pm Thu-Sat.
Hudson House opened a few weeks ago, and, apparently, nobody can get a reservation. At least that’s the story from the annoying reservation system –– while perusing it recently, I found it easier to reserve a table for a party of four than a party of two (three days’ wait versus five). Instead of dinner for two, my quartet ventured out for Saturday brunch. When we arrived, the place was busy but not overcrowded –– the large back room was less than half full –– which made me question the reservation system. Maybe management is being deliberately protective of their new employees. Maybe the decision to use mostly horseshoe-shaped booths, best for parties of four or six, is responsible for the weird reservation math.
However, once the Bleu and Gold martini showed up, I had no reservations about anything. Are these the coldest martinis in the world? Perhaps. Did I love the acerbic combo of frosty vodka, a splash of olive brine, the glorious dusting of blue cheese salt, and house-made blue cheese-stuffed olives? Absolutely. The salted rim was a revelation — deeply pungent kosher salt infused with blue cheese provided a surprisingly nutty, slightly briny pleasure.
Although there’s no dedicated brunch yet, the regular menu offers a boggling selection of sushi options (eight), four entrée salads, burgers and fish, and, oddly, “avocado dip.” So, “guacamole” is too … ethnic? Side note to the chain with four locations in Texas and one in California: All my Long Island relatives and everyone in your service areas know what guacamole is.
An appetizer of deviled eggs came out with the yellow centers piped to perfection –– the yolks rose majestically and slightly gravity-defying-ly above the whites. If you like celery in your deviled eggs, this is the treat for you. The strong flavor and crunch of celery has a place in many dishes but not here.
The Lupton roll, our second shared app, was detailed on the menu as a riceless roll with crab, tempura flake, avocado, Hamachi, salmon, and truffle. What came out tasted remarkably like the center of a crab cake, right down to the slightly crunchy tempura mimicking a crust. It was off-putting if you were expecting a beautifully composed roll with individual elements that harmonize beautifully, rather than what amounted to fancy crab dip in a roll.
Highlights of the rest of lunch included the Hudson salad, packing the punch of a club sandwich with bacon, tomato, avocado, and popcorn chicken on mixed greens along with cheese and a heavenly, savory Green Goddess dressing. The salad was a beautifully layered feast for the palate as well, with each bite delivering a nice amount of protein or creamy avocado. Skinny fries (perfectly crispy matchstick potatoes, lightly salted with truffle and Parmesan) were lovingly seasoned and presented with ketchup and house-made ranch dressing.
The palm-sized serving of pan-seared and allegedly flown-in-daily redfish, which is generally mild, tasted overly fishy. Blackened seasoning didn’t perk up the filet much, and the beurre blanc sauce was scant and thin. As the side, whole broccoli crowns (not cut into manageable bites) arrived al dente with good-sized chunks of parmesan cheese.
Steak frites may be the ultimate bistro staple, with French or Belgian origins depending on which story you read. The dish is ridiculously simple: Season the meat, cook to desired doneness, slap it on a plate with a little au jus or béarnaise — or horseradish cream sauce if you’re fancy — and throw down a healthy handful of fries. The fist-sized piece of meat looked like a hockey puck, well done instead of medium, with a slim portion of the skinny fries and, inexplicably, a mixed green salad that dwarfed the actual star. Wherever Anthony Bourdain might be, I picture him having a fit of apoplexy seeing this.
Hudson House claims that its cuisine has roots in “the rich culinary history of the Hudson Valley.” To that end, the oyster selection is firmly East Coast — on the day we visited, the bivalve specials included two varieties from Prince Edward Island on Canada’s east coast and one from Connecticut. I thought I felt a little déjà vu going on, and I was right. The corporation behind Hudson House also owned the defunct East Hampton Sandwich Company, which at one point maybe a decade ago was a prime spot for a lobstah roll.
The restaurant may be the new place for the Athleta-clad set to see and be seen, but bless their hearts, there are other places in town that do what Hudson House does better. Lobster roll and icy martini? Hit up Lucille’s, just up the street. Hankering for fresh oysters? Jon Bonnell’s Waters has you covered. Hudson House’s opening coincided with the very public closure of several locally owned restaurants, including La Onda just this week, and what we recently said about rock clubs after the recent closure of 16-year-old Lola’s is true for our food scene as well: “Municipalities are not liable for the survival of rock ’n’ roll clubs. The people who live in a city are.” Hudson House looks beautiful –– the corporation that owns it spent a fortune making it so — but other than the martini, fries, and salad (one of the world’s best lunches, a scandalous $48 here), there is very little to recommend the place, save for the facts that it’s new and we in the Fort will run to the next new restaurant — at least once.
Steak frites $49
Pan-seared redfish $31
Lupton roll $21
The Hudson salad $17
Skinny fries $7
Deviled eggs $9
Bleu and Gold martini $14