What will the food at the revamped French Room be like? Its new chef shares his vision

At long last we know know who will be heading up the French Room, the Adolphus Hotel's legendary restaurant: Michael Ehlert.

News of his appointment, however momentous, might seem less than dramatic to those with an ear to the ground; The News reported in September that Ehlert was already in the hotel's employ.

Nonetheless, it is exciting news indeed for the city's food lovers. I've admired Ehlert's talent since his Dallas debut at the (short-lived) Chesterfield in 2011; the chef's cooking helped earned four stars for the Front Room Tavern in 2014; the following year Ehlert appeared on the cover of Palate magazine as one of seven young Dallas "game-changing " chefs.

And the French Room's cooking and creative energy haven't matched the splendor of its majestic 19th-century dining room, with its domed ceiling and 24-carat gold leaf accents, at least not since I landed on the Dallas dining beat in 2009.

Michael Ehlert (left) at a 2015 shoot for Palate magazine. He's shown with (from left) Melody Bishop, Dennis Kelley, Kyle McClelland, Misti Norris, Andrea Shackelford and J Chastain.

I had a chance to chat with Ehlert about his vision for the food at the revamped restaurant, which he hopes will open by late spring. Here are some of the details:

  • The cooking will be modern French.

  • Ehlert expects to offer two fixed-price menus. One will have three courses; the other will be a seven-course tasting. No a la carte offerings are planned.

  • Prices have not yet been decided, but they won't be a "great departure from what we've seen in the past" at the French Room.

  • The 88-seat restaurant will serve dinner only, Tuesday through Saturday.

  • A new French Room Bar and Salon will offer shareable plates. It is expected the hours will mirror the main dining room's.

  • David Gomez, who worked with Ehlert at Front Room Tavern and Hibiscus, and who also has worked at CBD Provisions, is Ehlert's sous chef.

  • Eric Burrell, executive pastry chef for the hotel, is in charge of the French Room's pastry program. Burrell was previously at the Fairmont Hotel.

  • Anna Pereda leads the drinks program for the hotel as beverage manager. She comes to the Adolphus via the Ore House in Durango, Colo.

  • The team is in the process of hiring a sommelier.

  • There will be a dress code, but not one requiring gentlemen to wear jackets. According to one of the restaurant's publicists, it will be "Upscale. No jeans or tennis shoes are allowed."

Ehlert's vision for his modern French menu is filtered through the lens of Charles Ranhofer, author of the 1920 book The Epicurean. "A lot of his language and his references are rooted in Escoffier, Carême, the French masters," says Ehlert. "He was famously the chef of Delmonico's," he adds, so a lot of our American fine dining vocabulary comes from that."

Louis Saulnier's Le Repetoire de la Cuisine, published in 1914, inspires the French Room's new chef, Michael Ehlert.

Louis Saulnier's classic Le Répertoire de la Cuisine is another strong influence for Ehlert, who likens the 1914 volume to " the Cliff Notes of Escoffier."

Yet the cooking will feel contemporary, Ehlert says. "I want it to feel light and airy and effortless and clean, and just pleasant in every possible way. It's just fun to sort of explore that stuff."

For example? Consommé Colbert — spring vegetables with consommé and quail eggs, a dish Ehlert says will be "striking and elegant but effortless." Or something he's calling Quail Diane, with the birds "gently braised. This application with deboned quail and coxcombs and lettuces is done in a little cocotte, with a little seal of bread dough around it. I think something like that is super appropriate for our direction. A Texas product, a Bandera quail probably from Broken Arrow inserted into this classic way, and we touch it up and do it our way."

At the French Room Bar and Salon, a la carte plates will be offered. "Things like nice Maine oysters with uni butter," says Ehlert. "Or really great and well thought out frisée salad with house lardons. Or a great risotto of whatever's seasonal — if we catch the springtime at the right time, artichokes or something like this. Parisian-style ham, like jambon de Paris, that we're very happy with. Maybe a tartine."

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