For more than a year and a half, since the Adolphus Hotel announced it would close the French Room for an extensive renovation and reinvention, Dallas' culinary class has waited for the announcement. Who would be in charge of the legendary landmark dining room, set to reopen this year?
The answer is executive chef Michael Ehlert, a 35-year-old Virginia native who came to Dallas six years ago via New York, where he worked for renowned French chef Daniel Boulud. His cooking at Front Room Tavern in the Hotel Lumen helped earn that restaurant four stars in a 2014 review.
When the French Room reopens later this year (the management hopes that will be during the spring), Ehlert's modern French menu will be offered five nights per week in what is arguably Dallas' most beloved dining room. And yes, the luxurious Italian white tablecloths will make a return as well.
While Ehlert's vision for the cooking style is contemporary, he'll be reaching back to French classics for inspiration.
Which begs the question: What about soufflés – the dessert the French Room was famous for? Will the puffy sweets still be on the menu?
Perhaps. But, says, Ehlert, not because they used to be. "That's not a reason to do anything. But if we decide that's where the food is going, that's the way the room feels; if we feel the soufflé will fit into our lineup, we'll do a soufflé – and the best one we can do. It's such a classic dessert, it is likely we'll wind up doing one."
Anthony Cournia, the Adolphus' new general manager in charge of food and beverage operations, has an impressive resume, including positions at Per Se in New York and the Girl and the Goat and L20, both in Chicago. L20 earned 3 stars from the Michelin Guide in 2010. More recently, Cournia was managing director of the Joule Hotel.
But the style of service will see some changes, according to Ehlert. "We don't want it to feel imposing; we don't want it to feel stuffy. A genuine sense of warmth and welcome is absolutely essential."
"Fine French dining as it proliferates in American culture is one of my fascinations," he says. "In a lot of ways, I think the cuisine at the French Room is the cuisine I've been trying to do since I got a sous chef job; certainly since I've been in Dallas."