Ricotta gnudi with sage and brown-butter honey at The Charles, the new Dallas Design District restaurant. Now, a new bar is joining the restaurant.
The Charles’ is opening a new bar, aptly named Bar Charles on December 10.
While they are the first to admit that, being from Fort Worth and Oklahoma, they are almost as far from being Italian as three people could be, there is something about Chas Martin and his business partners, brothers Corbin See and Ross See, that exemplifies la bella vita. The trio behind the toniest new Dallas Design District restaurant, The Charles, share a deep appreciation for beautiful things, good food, good company, and a way of enjoying them that is distinctly Italian.
Martin, a consummate host and gent about town, began work on the restaurant four years ago after learning the hospitality ropes at Hotel ZaZa and Nick & Sam’s. His vision depended on creating the right aesthetic, and he quickly found the ideal partners in the See brothers of Sees Design. Ross oversaw the architectural process of the build while Corbin ran point on design. Evidence of the trio’s cultivated eye fills every inch of the 2,500-square-foot space.
“We all have this… not obsession, but real respect for everything Italian, whether it’s fashion or food or architecture,” Corbin says. “I tried to make some sort of subtle reference in every design decision.”
He is quick to point out black-and-white marble tile throughout, which is reminiscent of a church in Siena; a light fixture by Castiglioni (one of his “design idols”); and a 200-year-old doorway that he snapped up three years ago, knowing he would find a place for it.
The feast for the eyes is only beginning. Local artist and furniture designer Dan Phillips custom-painted the murals on the walls, an interpretation of panels in the Vatican. The artwork in the restrooms is worth a peek, too. Martin and Corbin collaged the walls “Gucci-esque.” Translation: A découpage of magazine and book pages with lots of skin, scantily clad gladiators, Tom Ford, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
After a few sleepless nights preparing The Charles for its opening in May, Martin and Corbin were sitting in the new space, sharing a bag of pork rinds and drinking Topo Chico out of wine glasses — “the oldest mineral water in North America,” Martin notes — while discussing the menu.
The kitchen is led by J Chastain, former executive chef under Stephan Pyles. In the two years since he joined the team, Chastain has spent time in Florence, Bologna, and New York’s West Village, staging in top Italian kitchens and developing the menu for The Charles, which is composed of simple, sexy dishes of house-made pastas and wood-fire-grilled fish, meat, and vegetables.
Martin joined Chastain for a few months in Italy to source wines. “I didn’t cook,” he says of the trip. “I drank a lot of wine. I drove the Fiat.”
The Charles, 1632 Market Center Blvd., 469.917.9000, thecharlesdallas.com.