Anyone Remember Chef Danielle Custer

Golly, it seems like it was only last week that I was sitting high above Central Expressway in the dining room of Laurels at the Sheraton Park Central. But it wasn’t last week, or even last year, it was ten years ago. Chef Danielle Custer was one of the hottest chefs in town and her global fusion cuisine was the talk of the town. Originally from Seattle, she moved back in 1999 and ran a place called 727 Pine. When I visited Seattle in 2002, I couldn’t find her. Well, last night I did. She’s still in Seattle and says hi to Dallas:

I have currently been working on a big project and have assisted Bon Appetit and the Seattle Art Museum with their new food and beverage program. The restaurant, 2 cafes and catering operation are all up and in full swing.

Just for grins, I’ve posted the review I wrote in March, 1998 just after Laurels opened. Boy, times have changed. We were all so easily amused.

LAURELS

If matoke mash, pepian, and huitla-coche-banana mojo are part of your everyday vocabulary, go to the head of the class. First glance at the exotic menu of the newly refurbished Laurels compounded our confusion over global fusion cuisine and confirmed our dunce status. We were rescued by the expertise of our waiter, who decoded the menu into a knockout, five-course, around-the-world orgy of tastes.

Rising star executive chef and general manager Danielle Custer brings her cutting-edge weird (in the good sense of the word) cuisine from Seattle’s top-rated Fullers to Sheraton Park Central’s 20th floor. She has done a good job transforming the bland space into a contemporary dining room that is only a backdrop for an incomparable view of Dallas. Her attention to detail is evident from the informed waiters right down to the hand-blown hurricane lamps on each table.

Incomprehensible dishes like a champagne, roasted Red Sensation, and Bosc pear soup with plum wine creme fraiche don’t make sense until you put them in your mouth. And who in their right mind would order smoked mushroom stuffed range chicken with coconut orange collard greens and spicy currant com cakes in a lemon grass red mole sauce? You just have to trust Custer: She thinks with her palate and the results are brilliant. Post-dinner coffee is served with small bowls of raw sugar, sticks of cinnamon, whipped cream, and shaved chocolate. Sheraton Park Central, 12720 Merit Dr., 972-385-3000. $$$.-Nancy Nichols

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