(Image of the gorgeous Chef Blythe Beck and her favorite serve Calvin - The Naughty Chef - Oxygen - All rights reserved).
I'm not a food critic. Yes it's true I have eaten at some of the very best 5 star restaurants in the United States, including many dinners at The Mansion on Turtle Creek (where Chef Beck studied under Chef Dean Fearing). I know great food even if I don't personally create it myself.
With all that said, I decided to pop into Chef Beck's Central 214 for lunch today. No, I didn't spot the Twitter, but I did eyeball the entire restaurant, which is gorgeous.
One of the show's episodes involved Chef Beck getting just 2 stars from a reviewer at The Dallas Morning News. The reviewer didn't get the "naughtiness" factor of the Central 214's menu which is based on the richness of the various ingredients. I have to confess that I wanted to love the food to prove the DMN food critic wrong.
What did I find at Central 214? It's not that the food wasn't good. It was. It just wasn't mind boggling. I think Chef Beck is very close to having a top notch eating establishment (and total world food domination), but I do agree she may need to amp up the naughtiness factor a few notches. I get where she's going with naughty, but I think in Dallas we need a bigger, bolder naughtiness factor.
I would never want to tell anyone how to do their jobs, but I want Chef Beck's fame and fortunes to soar. I'm a true fan. I'm in her corner. I think she's amazing and wildly talented.
Cafe 214 is a gorgeous restaurant. The decor is sleek and elegant with a strong Art Deco feel to it. At least that's how I experienced it along with a dining companion. She agreed that the combination of the gorgeous slate floors with the splashes of burnt orange across the walls of the bar and on the shirts of the servers along with the soft lighting created a retro-meets-modern feel.
Although the back wall consists of a long row of half-booth seating, we chose to sit at one of the tables next to the windows overlooking a very cozy outdoor lounge area. The table was beautiful and the half-back chairs were covered in either white or burnt orange leather.
Even though Chef Beck has said on her Oxygen show she doesn't like servers, we were treated wonderfully by our server Arif. He was very attentive and made sure my coffee and my friend's ice tea drinks were always topped off. He stopped by to make sure our food was just the way we had ordered and to make sure we didn't need anything. He wasn't pushy like some servers can be, he provided just the right amount of attention without being intrusive.
The food was good, but not eye popping WOW. I ordered the Kobe burger which came cooked exactly to my specifications and was nestled into a soft bun. The melted Gouda cheese was a nice touch as were the fried pickle slices. The very generous mound of skinny fries were unfortunately a bit average. They were hot, but not crispy and came with a small tray of ketchup. I requested mayo for my burger and it arrived almost as soon as I requested it.
I ate every bite of the delicious burger, but left most of the fries which became limp and cold shortly after they were served. The fried pickles were an unexpected but wonderful treat. Even though I'm not normally a pickle fan I did eat these fried versions.
My companion had the chicken pesto sandwich on a baguette. Her thoughts were similar to mine. The chicken was good, the baguette was soft and the pesto was rich. Her meal also came with French fries and ketchup. I tried a small amount of her sandwich and found it to be good. Again, nothing spectacular, but definitely good.
Our take on our lunches was that it would be relatively easy to punch up the naughtiness factor on both sandwiches. Why not serve the Kobe burger with Sweet Potato fries, hash browns or some other more exotic potato? Or how about flash fried thin sliced veggies?
If that doesn't work as an option, why not serve the burger with a trio of naughty sauces you could optionally slather on the bun. How about a spicy BBQ sauce, creamy jalapeno sauce and a Chipolte mustard trio? Some people might be terribly naughty and try all three at the same time.
I don't know. Is that being disrespectful of the very special Kobe beef? Maybe, but it would be interesting and fun.
OK, I'm not a chef. I don't pretend to be a chef. I have no idea about whipping up naughty sauces. Yes, I'd like to try but hey, I have no clue about whether it would work or not.
The Kobe burger was good, but why not sass it up a little bit? Ditto on the chicken sandwich? How about three naughty sauces to substitute for the pesto sauce? Or combine on top of the pesto?
At this point if I were giving stars I would have whipped out three big shiny ones and thrown in a half star for the excellent service. The atmosphere is wonderful, the service is great and everything is served to order and fresh. I would definitely recommend the restaurant to my friends, especially if they want a quiet and intimate location to hang out.
Feeling a little disappointed and mad that I wasn't thrilled beyond belief, I decided to order dessert. The naughty sassy feeling kicked right in and I did feel the WOW factor. Take that you DMN reviewer. The naughty was in full display.
My companion had the warm chocolate waffle with caramelized bananas, peanut butter ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce intermingled with the banana sauce. WOW! The waffle was orgasmic. The first bite was heavenly and each bite after that was even better than the first. The chocolate waffle dessert is true perfection with a 10 on the naughtiness scale.
I ordered the fried vanilla bean ice cream. Although not as compelling as the chocolate waffle, it was still an excellent choice. The fried ice cream was nestled into a fried lacy cookie cup and rolled in pistachio nuts with chocolate. There was a generous chocolate and caramel drizzle on the plate around the fried ice cream which was topped with whipped cream and a cherry. The combination of the crust with the cold ice cream inside was delightful.
My previous 3 1/2 stars shot up to a solid 4 1/2.
What a great way to end the meal. The desserts were spectacular and we only tried two from a very yummy sounding dessert list.
As we were leaving Cafe 214 we lingered in the bar area which is cozy and warm. My companion mused that it would be a great late night date location. You could stop in and have a cognac or some other bone warming after dinner drink and then order that yummy chocolate waffle. I agreed. What a great end to any evening.
No, I didn't have dinner at Cafe 214 which I am sure would be different. However, I did notice the restaurant, which opens at 11:30 for lunch, had several full tables of smiling customers as we were leaving. I was happy to see full tables since I love Chef Beck and want her restaurant to become the go-to destination in Dallas.
Any new restaurant takes time to find their groove and I think Central 214 is moving in the right direction. I will definitely be going back to try the dinner menu. Yes, you may even spot me some evening nestled deep into one of the bar couches drinking a late night cocktail and munching on that yummy naughty chocolate waffle.
Meanwhile I will be watching Chef Beck on Oxygen and rooting her on. No, we didn't spot a camera anywhere or any of the show's "characters" although I had hoped to spot either Blythe or Calvin. Yes, this is based on a reality TV show so who knows how much of the show is "reality" versus "scripted".
It doesn't matter. I applaud Blythe for being willing to step out in front of a camera to promote her restaurant and her craft. When you go out in the public you have to take the good with the bad and she seems willing to do whatever it takes. Bravo!
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