Ounce, a well-mounted Prime steakhouse near the border of Addison, is capable of producing a great steak. I saw it with my own eyes: a 16-ounce New York strip, with a peppery black crust, a stunning magenta-red center, and a buttery-firm texture that seemed to confirm its Prime grade status. Prime flavor, too: salty yet sweet, with a pleasing metallic tang and a juicy richness on the tongue.
But that steak sure didn’t come easy, arriving only after a prolonged spell of clueless service. To be fair, Ounce sets its ambitions high—i.e., four-star level—and the staff did try, so hard that it hurt. Service at the bottom rungs was overbearing, from the rabidly diligent water filler to the obsessive bread-basket carrier to the compulsive napkin folder to the genuflecting chair pusher, all hovering, hovering. The service problems existed at a higher level, too, among the haughty order takers and the vacant floor managers who patrolled the dining room, unequipped to spy even the most obvious gaps in food and service.
Hopefully owner Jorge Fernandez, a restaurateur based in San Antonio, will have found a capable replacement for his acting manager, chef Richard Calhoun. Who wants to see a chef loitering in a dining room when you’re waiting 20 or 30 minutes between courses?
You get the sense that Ounce is the fulfillment of a life’s worth of dreams, which are evident in some of the quirky decisions made. Menus, for example, are printed on expensive coated card stock and measure approximately 20 by 15 inches, like one of those massive calendars you see lying on people’s desks. It makes a big impression—oh, yes it does—but it’s impractical to read or comprehend.
More baffling is the signature symbol, a numerical-looking scrawl said to represent the ancient symbol for ounce. It’s an elaborate conceit, a gesture that can look either like a bold vision or flat-out silliness. Didn’t we all learn what not to do from Prince?
Big money has been spent on the interior, obliterating all remnants of the Mexican restaurant La Ventana that resided here previously. It houses multiple dining areas, including a soundproof, glass-enclosed private room, wine room, and cigar room with TVs. The walls are covered with stone, mosaic, and fireplaces. Chairs are high-backed black leatherette, with high-end wine glasses and sparkling flatware.
Unwieldy though the menus may be, they offer a full lineup of steaks, chicken, lobster, sea bass, and the newly popular Akaushi (American Kobe) beef, plus salads, soup, and the usual steakhouse sides. They’ve resuscitated some old-fashioned dishes, including beef Wellington-steak wrapped in pastry crust and Châteaubriand for two for $68. Neither is worth getting; the Châteaubriand seems especially pointless, as you end up getting less steak than if you’d simply ordered two filets at $32 a pop.
Pasta dishes got good grades. Slices of seared New Zealand lamb loin were nearly incidental next to the accompanying ear-shaped orecchiette pasta: not overcooked, and strewn with a fetching combination of broccoli rabe, pancetta, white beans, and pecorino Romano cheese. Rock shrimp pastina—small BB pasta pearls—were tossed in a red pepper "fondue" and spruced up with arugula.
Appetizers strayed from the usual steakhouse rut, with selections such as coconut shrimp, scallops crusted in macadamia nuts, and smoked salmon bruschetta, a cute spin on the usual smoked salmon and capers. But side dishes were uneven. Applewood-smoked bacon sounded like a good addition to the mac and cheese, but it brought less flavor than hoped. Creamed corn, which came highly recommended by the server (we should’ve known better), looked and tasted like nothing more than canned corn doused with butter and cream. Black truffle gnocchi should be avoided, unless you like yours with a weird, crunchy crust.
Whatever its ups and downs, Ounce scores mightily with its savvy, user-friendly wine list, which is actually two lists. On the right, high-priced bottles. On the left, a page with 45 affordable wines that can be ordered by the bottle, the glass, or the sip. What a pleasure to be able to try tastes of an under-the-radar wine, such as the Mauricio Lorca Poetico Cabernet, for only $7.
Every steak comes with a little puck of polenta that they’ve gone to great lengths to customize. It sports an indentation shaped like the Ounce logo, as if it has been branded. The cavity gets filled with a jigger of balsamic vinegar, so that the symbol makes a stark impression on the pale yellow corn mush. Who can fathom all that attention to such a little thing? And such a clever effect to boot. But, wouldn’t you know it, the polenta itself seemed a bit dried out. 14866 Montfort Dr., 972-503-5800. $$$.
Update: Ounce has closed.