Chow, Baby: Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Palate Palette

Even after buying the new leftovers fridge and a couple of other big shiny things (unpaid pretend-celebrity endorsement: Ed at Arlington Appliance rocks!), Chow, Baby still has a wad of gas-well money left. Or rather, its house does, as the rule (the beloved’s rule, but it kinda makes sense) is that the gasfall must be spent on capital improvements; otherwise it would just get frittered away on tacos, rib-eyes, and 2,000 guava empanadas from Mi Tierra. And so, in search of costly home-improvement projects, Chow, Baby has been recently overdosing on DIY and HGTV design shows. The unintended consequence is that the strange voice in the back left corner of Chow, Baby’s head, which used to be Gordon Ramsay constantly criticizing Chow, Baby’s garlic-slicing technique, is now Color Splash’s David Bromstad. (All together now: He’s so cute!)
Hence Chow, Baby is forced by its delusions — and really, what better way is there to run one’s life — to describe the palette at the new Mac’s Steak and Seafood in Montgomery Plaza not as orangey-brown, dark brown, and yellowish, but as cocoa, mahogany, and French vanilla custard. (The only unnaturally bright tone in the place was serverthrob Cori’s eyes, a superintelligent shade of blue.) With its low dividers, chic lighting fixtures, annoying music, and mod all-lower-case lettering on the sign outside, the new Mac’s is a fine example of sleek modern trendy bistro. But unlike most of the million or so sleek modern trendy bistros that have opened in Fort Worth this year, at Mac’s the food is not an afterthought. That’s because they didn’t think about it much at all: The menu is 90 percent the same as the other two Mac’s (Colleyville and Arlington), and 100 percent as tasty. The prime rib (dinner only, 12 oz $24.25) is rosy pink and meltingly tender; the crawfish etouffee ($12.55) can please a New Orleanian — i.e., Chow, Baby’s mom, when the family was here on its most recent hurrication; and the seven-cheese mac and cheese ($3.25) is as gooey, decadent, and comforting as all get-out. The lunch menu is a little more bistro-y, with chicken and fish plates, salads, and yummy charbroiled green-chile burgers ($6.95 with skinny fries); everything the capable Cori brought to the table was delish. See? See? A restaurant can so have both style and substance.
But here’s Chow, Baby’s big fear: You can spend all your gas money on redecorating, but what will the house look like a year later, after it’s actually been lived in? They show you the “after” shot on TV, but not after the after. Case in point, Pho Hung (4125 Belknap St., Haltom City). When the original occupant of this strip-mall space opened a few years back, its clean, modern, minimalist, blond-wood décor blew Chow, Baby away (“Mixed Plate,” Sept. 8, 2004). Sadly, though, the food and service were not all that. Now Pho Hung has come in with its big-screen TV and wrong-colored knick-knacks and mismatched chairs — and friendly service, a huge and wonderfully greasy “Happy Pancake” (a lot like a Saigon pancake, $5.45), and fabulous grilled shrimp and pork vermicelli bowls ($6.50). Here, less style but more substance is a clear improvement. So perhaps the moral is, why waste money on style? That will be 2,000 shrimp rolls to go, please.

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