The ultimate test for Perch, the weekday restaurant inside the new Frost Tower in downtown Fort Worth, is whether it can be a worthy destination when the patio is closed.
To dine there when the weather is bad — the 12th-floor porch was off-limits the night we visited due to “high winds” — is the equivalent of patronizing a restaurant when the chef has the night off. You don’t realize it at the outset, but then come to regret the aftermath.
Does the food outshine a generalized lack of ambiance inside, where hexagonal fluorescent lights yield more corporate cafeteria than festive rooftop vibe?
Nah, not a chance. But the unflashy fare (a safe, small dinner menu of salads, flatbreads, paninis and different types of hummus) was pleasant enough on a recent evening. The restaurant is open for grab-and-go breakfast and lunch as well.
The Mediterranean Trio ($14) is a choice of three dips — in truth, five different hummus iterations — plus muhammara (a red pepper and walnut dip) and an olive tapenade. We chose the white bean hummus, and the muhammara and tapenade, all of which were served on a huge, rectangular white dish that added little to the bland presentation. It was all accompanied by a miserly four mini rainbow carrots (which both our server and our check referred to as “beets”) and about 10 pita triangles. We asked for more of the veggies and pita and $4 was magically added to our bill.
I liked the spicy muhammara — even though it tasted as though it had been inside the refrigerator seconds earlier — and the hummus and tapenade were serviceable enough, but for $18? We already felt like chumps and we hadn’t even been there 20 minutes.
The shrimp flatbread ($14) featured five slices of lavosh-like bread topped by pesto, artichoke hearts and four sauteed shrimp. I quickly reached for a slice that had the shrimp — you can never be too quick with my crew — and found the dish to be perfectly fine. The pesto tasted like pesto. The artichokes had a little acidity and the shrimp were cooked correctly. There was no sundried tomato, despite being advertised on the menu, and the dish was better for it.
The grilled chicken panini ($14) on a ciabatta roll was exactly how you might imagine it too: grilled chicken breast; a slice of tomato; and more pesto. The fact that there were no other sides to accompany it but a small forgettable salad was disappointing.
Veggie overload continued with the steak salad ($12), a likable offering of tried-and-true ingredients: mixed greens, slices of skirt steak, blue cheese, grilled red onions and a balsamic vinaigrette.
Nothing here screams “signature dish,” and there isn’t anything you can’t get elsewhere. But perhaps what is most surprising is that Perch’s dinner menu is so abridged. Towards the end of the meal, so unsatisfied, I found myself dipping the cute rainbow carrots into a dish of buffalo sauce, the only type of hot sauce the kitchen had on hand.
Open for just three weeks, Perch needs some time to blossom. Currently, the food and service offer little ROI (return on investment) — to borrow a term that’s likely used often in this building — which is a problem, no matter what kind of view you might have from your table.
640 Taylor St., Fort Worth (on the 12th floor of the new Frost Tower)
6:30 a.m.–9:30 a.m., 11 a.m.–2 p.m. and 4–9 p.m. Monday–Friday