Dallas Francophiles find out if gourmet food really can be light

NUMBER ONE ON MOST PEOPLE’S LIST OF NEW YEAR’S resolutions is to reform eating habits. That used to mean a crash diet. But in the more enlightened ’90s it generally means permanent lifestyle changes: less fat and cholesterol, more grains and greenery.

How does that square with the other ’90s food trend of eating out more often? Simple. Chefs are making menu changes-even fine dining establishments are lightening up.

Which brings us to Calluaud’s, probably the most authentic replica in Dallas of a typical French neighborhood restaurant. Chef Guy Calluaud and his wife, Martine, have succeeded admirably in duplicating the look and feel-the food and wine–you’re likely to encounter on a Paris side street or country inn.

But now there’s something new on the Calluaud’smenu:”cuisinelegère,”or”light cuisine.” M. Calluaud attempts the seemingly impossible: the taste and texture of tradition with less fat and fewer calories.

Does he succeed? To check it out we found the ideal Dallasites to join D for dinner: Donna and Steve Suddeth, passionate Francophiles. He collects French wines; she collects countries: 46 to date, from Andorra to New Zealand. “It would be over 100 if we didn’t return to France so often,” says Donna. In her 11th year of French lessons, tonna permits herself to read novels only in their French translation. The couple is equally enthusiastic about French food. But both agree it would be wonderful if Calluaud’s “cuisine legere” succeeds in making French food calorie-safe.

Steve orders a f avorite French white burgundy, an ’89 Meursault, and we chat. We leam of Steve’s passion for home design. He’s a would’ve-been architect who traces his enthusiasm back to working for his father as a housepainter. Loved looking at houses, hated painting them! So, still in high school, mind you, he began selling insurance. He’s still in insurance, and now he looks at houses all over the world and contemplates his next remodeling project. While Donna schemes her next destination, Steve is happily rearranging the walls and wallcoverings, refinishing the floors, redoing the ceilings. He has literally resurfaced every square inch of their home, Donna relates.

Our first courses arrive. Mine is a house-made ravioli intensely fragrant with smoky wild mushrooms-chanterelles, morels, and cepes-under a sheer sherry vinaigrette made with chicken stock, shallots, basil, chives, and parsley (98 calories; fat gm). It proves to be my favorite, but I don’t get to keep it. Steve passes me his chilled Norwegian salmon marinated with lime, chervil, and chives (150 calories; 5 fat gm), which becomes Donna’s favorite when it gets to her. My husband, Jerry, has another salmon dish, his favorite: a smoked filler encasing eggplant “caviar,” finely diced and roasted with garlic, black olive paste, chives ( 159 calories; far gm ). And Donna starts with the a terrine of pheasant and vegetables, extraordinary considering its calorie count ( 197) and lack of fat (3 gm), It’s marinated in cognac with shallots, thyme, hay, and juniper berries, then mixed with a mousse of asparagus, carrots, sweet peppers, and onions. There are crisp nuggets of broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, and mushrooms for texture, and a salsa-like sauce of fresh tomato, basil, parsley, and sherry vinegar with just a touch of olive oil. Steve, who has switched plates with Donna, pronounces the terrine his favorite: “Glorious colors, I love terrines

We move to the main courses and order a French red Burgundy, Nuits St. Georges.

We sample imported Dover sole, nestled with crisply grilled baby vegetables (159 calories; 3 fat gm). Perfect!

The other fish dish is everyone’s favorite: “Filet de Daurade au Four Mediterranée” is a red snapper fillet rubbed with garlic, wiped lightly with olive oil and arranged over thinly sliced sweet onions (180 calories; 3 fat gm).

We all love the Normandy style stuffed quail (375 calories; 8 fat gm}. The small, smoky flavored bird is stuffed with diced apples, gently roasted, then flamed with Calvados. It’s served with rice pilaf.

We try two free-range chicken dishes. The first is coq au vin (235 calories; 8 fat gm), infused with the flavor of good red wine fragrant with thyme and bay leaves, sliced mushrooms, and tiny pearl onions, and flamed with cognac.

The second is poitrine de volaille nicoise-hearty and garlicky chicken as it’s served in the South of France- with hell peppers, tomatoes, and onions (228 calories; 3 fat gm). It’s impossible to choose between the two.

Tenderloin of veal is cloaked in a mixture of fresh and dried herbs: lots of parsley plus herbes de Provence: savory, marjoram, anise seeds, tiny dried Lavender blossoms. The veal is marinated, then rubbed with garlic, dipped in an egg-white wash and rolled in the herbs to form a crust. Then the veal is broiled, not fried. Chef Calluaud serves it with fresh fettuccini and chunky sauce that incorporates sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and a sprinkle of chopped almonds (224 calories; 6 fat gm).

We share two salads. The first: soft leaves with a creamy dressing that’s more Dijon mustard than oil. The ratio; 1 tablespoon each of mustard and canola oil to I teaspoon lemon juice. Surprisingly, it s not at all sharp. The other salad is wild greens in a lemon vinaigrette that’s low in oil. There’s a surprising little treat: the “croutons” are little cubes of toasted goat cheese!

Finally, it’s time for dessert: blackberry cheesecake or chocolate mousse are on today’s “light” menu.

“Cheesecake,”I say. “Mousse,”counters Donna, a confessed chocoholic. “I’ll have a little of each,” says jerry who doesn’t want to miss anything. In the end, we all have a little of each.

The cheesecake is light and creamy, fresh and tangy (235 calories). It’s topped with huge fresh blackberries spiked with Amaretto. To cut down on fat and calories, M. Calluaud uses nonfat cottage cheese, sugar-free yogurt, egg whites, and a touch of Nutrasweet over the berries. The mousse is intensely chocolate with lots of coffee flavor thanks to espresso and Tia Maria liqueur; it’s made with a cooked Italian egg-white meringue and chocolate (175 calories).

As we linger over cappucino and latte, we calculate the calories (sans wine) and find that the wo salads, four appetizers, and four entrees-divided among the four of us-average around SCO calories per person. A comparable French meal would’ easily double that.

The moment of truth: Would they come back? Steve made another reservation on the spot!

the experience

Decor: Country French antique armoires for servers, 19th-century style provincial pewter chandeliers with small, shaded candelabrum, corner hearth with fireplace, muted colors, white tablecloths, flickering candles, and Mme. Calluaud’s passion: huge roses, imported from South America.

Table settings: You won’t be tipping over the plates or turning over the silverware for hallmarks. The tables are set as they would be in France: white linen, plain white china, the appropriate crystal, candles…and more of those roses.

Sound and Music: Muted, but not hushed. Classical music tinkles almost inaudibly below the happy chatter and bustle. Tables are far enough apart that what you hear, primarily, is your own table’s conversation.

Dress Code: Business or social-occasion attire both lunch and week night dinners; weekends skew toward more extremes: either a little dressier or casual chic.

Who Goes There: Lovers of French food and wine and foodies in general, loyal regulars, Park Cities locals, business people entertaining clients, foreign visitors, homesick French nationals, romantic couples and, increasingly, fitness-minded types, who want to try the “light” cuisine.

Best Table: Romantics might prefer a corner in the dining alcove. If you thrive on attention get a table right in the middle. In the winter, ask for a spot in front of the fireplace.

The Calluauds: Chef-owner Guy Calluaud (pronounced the French way: “Gee,” with a hard “G,”) was born in French Morocco, fifth in a line of French chefs dating back to his great-great-grand mother who was chef de cuisine for Napolean III. A corporate transfer from New York 22 years ago brought him-“temporarily”-to the Fairmont Hotel. Obviously, they stayed, and he and his wife, Martine, have raised two daughters here.

Tiny, dark-haired Martine is the epitome of the urbane French wife: full partner and helpmate, intelligent (Guy says “brilliant”), pragmatic, energetic, amusing, totally supportive, and genuinely charming. She was teaching Spanish in a university and headed for an advanced degree when they met and married in Morocco. “She can master anything,” says Guy with undiminished awe, as Martine headed off to her computer to update their wine database.

Prices: Dinner entrees in the $15-$24 range, moderate considering that French tends to be the priciest cuisine, usually served in small portions. Calluaud’s servings are Texas-sized, even the “light” dishes.

Address/Hours: 5405 West Lovers Lane near Inwood, Dallas. 214-352-1997. Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Sunday. Smoke-free except in bar area.

the menu

Rack of lamb, cassoulet, lobster souffle, rabbit, sweetbreads, escargot, traditional onion soup. The “cuisine légère” (low in fat and calories) includes terrine of pheasant, wild mushroom ravioli, eggplant caviar-style encased in smoked salmon, veal tenderloin wrapped in herbs and served with fettuccini with sun-dried tomatoes, Normandy-style Calvados-flamed boneless quail stuffed with apples, red snapper baked with fresh lemon, tomato, and onions, mousse au chocolat, and more.

Cuisine: Regional French, with a special fondness for the hearty comforting flavors of Provence (tomatoes, garlic, fresh herbs). North African roots show in some dishes with couscous and other grains. Like the best French cooks everywhere, Calluaud likes to focus on working with the best of what’s locally available: game, gulf seafood, fresh produce, regional cheeses.

The Wines: a substantial selection of French wines in a broad price category.

Related Content


Keep me up to date on the latest happenings and all that D Magazine has to offer.