It’s a wierd feeling to go to a Misti Norris restaurant and admire the eating room’s gleaming new finishes, be seated by a number, and order off a cocktail menu. Norris is beloved throughout Dallas for her bounteous charcuterie boards, modern pastas, pickles, preserves, and Cajun-influenced cooking. However she’s received all that acclaim whereas working in tiny kitchens with settings that have been removed from fancy. First got here Small Brewpub, which was, properly, a small brewpub. Its patrons ate at shared picnic tables. Then she moved to Petra and the Beast, a BYOB spot in an former fuel station in Outdated East Dallas. In Petra’s earliest days, Norris took orders along with cooking.
Stepchild, which arrived a month in the past in downtown’s Change Meals Corridor, is a brand new form of Misti Norris place. Set on the corridor’s second ground, Stepchild is a shiny, opulent area with views out over AT&T’s pleasant new entrance yard, with its sculptures, fountains, synthetic turf, and fixed hum of exercise. Contained in the restaurant, there are a number of open kitchens and a separate bar, vestiges of this area’s authentic life as a type of high-end dinner meals court docket serving steaks and sushi.
The Corridor’s upstairs is now a rotating-chef idea the place Dallas’ culinary leaders can check out their menu concepts. (Though the rotating-chef area typically is known as Attalie, its first chef, Norris, is looking her model Stepchild, creating the odd formal title “Attalie That includes Stepchild.” For simplicity’s sake, I’ll simply say Stepchild going ahead.) Norris confirms that Stepchild is at present booked to remain by means of the tip of 2022; after that, she’ll be seeking to take it to a everlasting brick-and-mortar residence elsewhere in Dallas.
The phrase “simplicity” matches Stepchild’s idea. At Petra, the pasta names would possibly ship you to an Italian dictionary and the pickles and preserves stretch the creativeness. Stepchild is a extra easy imaginative and prescient. It’s French-Cajun, a tribute to her father’s Acadian heritage. Because of this, the menu looks like one thing you’d discover in New Orleans, perhaps on Journal Avenue within the Backyard District.
The most effective dishes at Stepchild contain phrases like “duck coronary heart bacon,” slices of which add pops of meaty taste to Norris’ fried duck leg boudin balls. The balls themselves flip principally gentle inside, the place confit duck leg and rice mix collectively; they’re extra fascinating for the crispy crust, mustard seed gravy, and two garnishes: these bits of coronary heart, and slices of pickled celery.
Right here’s one other of these phrases: “shellfish salt.” It’s a method for Norris so as to add taste to her star predominant course, stewed tomato rice topped with slices of grilled and pickled okra. When we talked after Stepchild’s preview nights, she stated she thought everybody can be going for steaks and different attention-getting mains, however that the okra was the most well-liked dish in early days. It’s well-earned. The rice particularly has a comforting depth of taste; my tablemates and I all agreed we might eat it for breakfast. All that’s lacking is a little bit of crunch—like, perhaps, a slice of fried okra.
Honestly, the large meaty mains are each standouts too. The steak selection is tri-tip, an retro providing that’s massive on taste, however comparatively lean and simple to overcook. There is no such thing as a want to fret about that at Stepchild. And, so as to add to the already flavorful beef, Norris’ cooks whip up wealthy, eggy garnishes: herbed butter utilizing the yolks, and a clean cream incorporating the whites.
Visually, nothing is as putting because the pork chop. Not as a result of it’s double-cut and subsequently as thick as a Stephen King novel, however as a result of Norris covers it in an herby inexperienced sauce so clean and so dense that it appears to be like like cake frosting. Fortunately, the mix of herbs and mild spice is as fascinating to eat as it’s to stare at.
Not every part caught my consideration in the identical method as that sauce, these okra, or the steak. There’s a aspect dish of potatoes cooked confit in pork fats, topped with whipped goat cheese and smoked trout roe. It’s as indulgent because it sounds, however the entire textures are gentle, and the pork fats and smoke flavors, when mixed, simply make me take into consideration bacon.
There’s a vegetarian predominant of seared trumpet mushrooms and braised morel ragout, which divided opinion at my desk between those that loved its sweetness—which comes from each crimson wine and crimson wine vinegar—and people who discovered the sauce an excessive amount of. (I favored it.) And (heresy alert) I don’t typically love double-cut pork chops, as a result of the thickness makes it laborious to hit my dream chop ultimate of a young, barely pink center and chargrilled edges.
However Stepchild is barely a month previous. Additionally it is solely a testing floor for a future everlasting restaurant. It has time to evolve, and now we have loads of causes to return. Sit by the window, drink an impeccable cocktail—just like the cucumber-citrus-gin refresher Juliet Romeo or a classical Vieux Carré—and dig into our favourite dish on the menu thus far: the summer season tomato salad. It’s a mixture of beautiful heirloom tomatoes, candied hazelnuts, whipped comté cheese, and thinly sliced daikon, drizzled with an herbaceous dressing and topped with recent dill. Summertime doesn’t get higher than an amazing tomato salad, and this is likely one of the greats.
If Stepchild is a brand new enterprise to Norris, that’s nothing in comparison with the brand new view from the restaurant’s home windows: a vibrant, bustling downtown Dallas cityscape at night time. After I moved right here 10 years in the past, I used to be informed that no person ever went downtown for enjoyable, and that no person stayed there after 5 p.m. Now, we will sit in polished eating places from acclaimed cooks whereas watching guys in Spider-Man physique fits go for his or her night jogs previous artwork installations and selfie-taking vacationers.
Stepchild is a enjoyable place to get dinner, however probably the most thrilling factor about it’s the change it represents.
Attalie That includes Stepchild, 211 S. Akard St. (second ground)
Brian Reinhart turned D Journal’s eating critic in 2022 after six years of writing about eating places for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning Information.