FT33, Matt McCallister's new hyper-seasonal, obsessively local ode to modern cuisine, opened last Saturday night to much fanfare, and all the who's-who of food media are pouring in to sample the wares. In what must've been a nerve-wracking moment for McCallister and crew, it seems like everyone showed up about the same time on Tuesday night—Culture Map's Teresa Gubbins, DMN critic Leslie Brenner, Texas Monthly's Pat Sharpe, June Naylor of DFW.com, Modern Luxury's Mark Stuertz and more all huddled around tables in the minimalist-industrial chic dining room to audition what's clearly the city's hottest get-there-right-now dining destination. So what did the media heavy-hitters have to say about the initial FT33 experience?
THE DESIGN: The exterior "looks like it could be one of the neighborhood's chic furniture studios", Brenner points out. DFW.com's June Naylor describes the interior, which "blends warmth and industrial notes through use of reclaimed barn wood, concrete, steel, marble, oil drum lids, birch tables and granite".
THE SERVICE: Brenner, known for nitpicking service flaws, only has praise this early in the game, saying her table's server "did a splendid job of elaborating — explaining enough to give us a sense of each dish without boring us with endless details or announcing her favorites." According to T-Gubb, "the hardest-working person in the restaurant had to be Ryan Tedder, tasked with recommending a wine to a critic known for extreme finickiness in that department."
THE PLATES: The minimalist design allows the food to be the center of attention: "McCallister creates playgrounds out of his dishes – playgrounds where adults can play with their food and still make their etiquette teachers proud," proclaims SideDish blogger Carol Shih. Despite McCallister's fixation on local produce and foraging, this isn't rustic cuisine: The kitchen is pushing the envelope with technique and plating design. Gubbins describes a particularly eye-catching chicken dish "pressed until firm, then laser-cut in half and perched sideways into a tableau." June Naylor's table was "wowed by the pork jowl plate, three ample slices of juicy bacon laced with black truffle and sprinkled lightly with caraway crumble, propped up next to a creamed parsnip fluff, with a slick of fermented mango crossing through." As Brenner says, "If you're looking for comfort food, for plates you can dig into, you'd better look elsewhere."
THE SWEET STUFF: Pastry chef (and upcoming Top Chef contestant) Josh Valentine is getting raves for the final course: "They're even more elaborate than the savories and just as formal," says Leslie Brenner. Carol Shih cites a cheese plate with blue cheese puffs that will "make you feel like you're walking on cloud nine".
FT33 is still in the honeymoon phase, of course, and with that many critical eyes in the room everything's got to be top notch. Stay tuned in the coming weeks and months as reviews from mere mortals roll in and the shiny newness begins to wear off; if McCallister and crew can keep up this pace, they'll clearly have a smashing success on their hands.
· First Look: Daring Plates and Industrial Chic at Matt McCallister's FT33 [Eats Blog]
· Hot-as-blazes FT33 Asserts Its Role as Dallas Foodie Central [CultureMap Dallas]
· Restaurant First Look: FT33 in Dallas [DFW.com]
· First Glimpse at FT33: McCallister Brings Creativity and Design to Dallas [SideDish]
· FT33 Opens Saturday—Here's A Look Inside [-EDFW-]
· All FT33 coverage on Eater Dallas [-EDFW-]