"Wow -- this is hot."
So proclaimed my 18-year old son when we ventured into Filament on Saturday night. And right he was: Five days after its long-awaited (and much-delayed) debut, Matt McCallister's new modern Southern restaurant in Deep Ellum feels very much like the place to be. The sprawling, 135-seat place, in an industrial-chic former machine shop, buzzes with great energy. Considerably more ambitious than any other restaurant in Deep Ellum, it also feels like a game-changer for the neighborhood.
Appealing cocktails, such as Brooklyn's Finest -- rye and cognac with Cardamaro and Velvet Falernum -- are part of the fun, though you might want to sip one of the outstanding whiskeys featured. Need help choosing? Ask the whiskey sommelier! It's not Seth Brammer's official title (that would be beverage director), but the ex-Second Floor barman and assistant manager is a thoughtful guide.
Then turn your attention to the menu. Chef Cody Sharp, who comes to Filament via the Standard Pour, knows how to engage on the page; just about every dish seems to cry "order me!" Will it surprise you to hear that everything's designed to share? Didn't think so. There are dippy-spreadable-shareable things, like deviled shrimp and crab served in a jar, topped with black-butter bread crumbs, enlivened with slices of green apple and sprigs of dill and served with house-made oyster crackers. Or smoked chicken rillettes duded up with chicken skin cracklin's. Buttery grits on savory pot liquor come topped with braised greens and a sunny-side up, crispy-edged fried egg.
Bigger -- much bigger -- plates come from the wood grill. It wasn't easy choosing between a two-pound trout, half a Windy Meadows Farms chicken, "butcher's block" Texas Wagyu beef and pork; we went for a mammoth 21-day dry-aged double-cut heritage pork chop, sumptuously surrounded by braised greens and charred Tokyo turnips in a warm onion-bacon vinaigrette.
As at FT33, McCallister's five-star restaurant in the Design District, Maggie Huff is in charge of pastries. I had no business ordering one after all that and more, but couldn't say no to a slice of buttermilk pie with pink grapefruit (a special).
Filament is noisy. Parking was a nightmare on a Saturday night. Management is working on adding valet service ("hopefully real soon," says the restaurant's publicist). The wine list is surprisingly pricey for a restaurant this casual, with reasonable menu prices (share plates $6 to $14, "classics" $7 to $16, shareable whoppers from the grill $25 to $46).
As for me, I can't wait to return.