First Look: Drexel House Is Working Out the Kinks

At first look, I wondered if we'd mistakenly walked into a frozen yogurt place. Similar to the ubiquitous "froyo" spots, Drexel House, recently opened in Highland Village, was super-small, modern in style, and had no real decoration apart from its lighting fixtures and a chalkboard wall listing its menu. Steel tables and white chairs further emphasized an atmosphere that seems appropriate for a quick in-and-out. Perhaps it's what they were going for -- patrons shopping at Highland Village, then dropping by Drexel House for a quick bite.

Two steps away from the front door stood the hostess. She welcomed us and sat us at our table, a mere two further steps away. You could probably circle the inside in 15 steps -- nothing wrong with that. But the closeness of the tables was a bit uncomfortable. Let's just say we could have eavesdropped on our neighboring table's conversation to our heart's content. We didn't.

Instead, we focused our attention on the menu: "Eatery and Wine Bar" was printed below the logo, with appetizers, pizza, charcuterie, small plates and dessert filling up the rest of the page. During lunchtime, sandwiches and paninis are offered. Breakfast time brings pancakes, bagels, yogurt and such to the table.

This story continues on the next page. The dinner menu's a safe one, not straying too far from standard cafe classics like Caesar salad, tomato-basil soup, margherita pizza, grilled salmon and a filet. A bit more exciting were a pappardelle pasta with rabbit sausage, charred octopus with a black garlic purée, and duck breast with torched French feta.

We opted for a pizza and a lamb shank to start. In ten minutes or so, we had both dishes in front of us. We were disappointed with the pizza from the get-go. For starters, it was lukewarm. A slightly burnt, thin crust of chewy dough was the canvas for an almost flavorless white cheddar permeated with truffle oil, pieces of dark chicken meat, and cold pears and walnuts that didn't adhere in the least bit to the cheese or anything else. Altogether, the pizza was a mishmash of ingredients that just didn't hold together -- literally.

The lamb shank was also far from the best. Uber-tender it was -- I'll give them that -- but what does that matter when it was tepid and over-spiced? Rather than letting the naturally bold-flavored lamb meat dominate the dish, a strong hand of herbs made the meat's flavor overwhelming. The rest of the dish's components didn't come to its rescue. Sprinkled atop the lamb shank were huge peas that were undercooked. Dollops of fresh goat cheese were also spread about. While I'm usually a fan of goat cheese, I don't like it haphazardly plopped onto a tepid plate of lamb shank, I discovered. Thin streaks of carrot puree adorning the dish seemed more like an afterthought than a contemplated enhancement.

When we finished our pizza and lamb shank, we considered what more to order. A small plate to share would have been great, but we recalled that all of our neighbors' dishes were entrée-size despite being labeled "small plates," just like our lamb shank. Not wanting to over-order and, quite honestly, not wanting to be disappointed again, we opted to end our night with coffee. He ordered an espresso, I a cappuccino. Almost predictably, they weren't hot but rather tepid.

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