by Steven Doyle
Under the reigns of chef Eric DiStefano, Ocho Kitchen and Cocktails has morphed into a fantastic take on the New Mexico plate. His staff roasts fresh Anaheim chiles each day to create these full flavored dishes not too unlike he does at his restaurants in Santa Fe. I tried some of the menu when the restaurant opened just a few short months ago in Preston Center near Northwest Highway, and had a chance to sample the majority of them again this past weekend.
There have been several tweaks, and a few items removed (please bring back the lobster pancakes) and now the restaurant is snuggling into a familiar taste that is obviously bringing guests back each evening. They started brunch service three weeks ago, and that menu looks equally delicious.
White Shrimp Ceviche
What makes Ocho click is the fact that so much is made in house, such as the masa for chips and tortillas.
Especially wonderful are the enchiladas made with blue corn tortillas and served in a cast iron skillet, still bubbling and packed with the spiciness you might expect. You may order the enchiladas most any way you choose, including with an egg perched atop for that delicate self-saucing effect, bringing an extra layer of richness to the dish.
Although I would not normally order a bowl of queso to run with dinner, I am never one to turn down a plateful of grilled bread triangles and a bowl full of thick cheesiness. Made with an abundance of pico and chorizo, the stuff is addictive. The house-made chips also hold up to the queso, but they are especially addictive when slathered in the provided green chile salsa or rubbed with the Hatch pepper infused butter pat.
Tequila-Lime Shrimp with Red Quinoa
Baja Style Fish Tacos
Our waiter was fast and knowledgeable, suggesting some of the favorites his guests seemingly enjoy. A round of starters soon made our table, including the duck quesadillas which were power-packed with fresh pulled duck meat. The ceviche is another wonderful starter, already prepared onto a handful of those same crispy chips.
We ordered one each of the soups, including the Dallas staple Tortilla. My longing is for another bowl of the Crab and Tomato soup, which was a bit deceiving from the menu. This is a creamy soup made with green chile cheddar cheese and fresh crabmeat and not tomato-based as the dish might suggest. The Roasted Sweet Corn Soup is chockfull of hominy and bacon, giving this creamy bowl a high five to the palate. All the soups are poured tableside to reveal the added ingredients in the bowl prior to serving.
Blue Corn Enchiladas
Another table favorite was the Navajo, which is plump and crispy Indian Fry Bread that is laden with mounds of chicken, pulled pork or ground beef. We went with the pulled pork, and it was especially tender. The fry bread comes two to an order and are huge and sharable. These would make an excellent starter dish for a table of four or a full on meal for one hungry hombre.
Without a doubt the starring dish was the Monkfish fajitas. Monkfish is a full flavored, plump whitefish that is often referred to as a poor man’s lobster. The sweetness of the fish holds up well to the fajita treatment, without a trace of fishiness. His served with a smattering of grilled peppers and onion alongside the obligatory tortillas, again, house-made.
There are still a few dishes remaining that we did not order that look fantastic given the green chile treatment, including a Pork Osso Bucco, which is showing up often on local menus right now, and the Wild Boar Spare Ribs. These sound fantastic, but after our massive order we found little or no room left for the ration of desserts we had to sample.
Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies
Pecan Pie in Phyllo
We made our way around the desserts, sharing bites of the tres leches cake which is broken down into smaller portions on the plate making it ideal for sharing. The cake is rich, creamy and an excellent example of what a tres leches should be.
We all enjoyed the rocking warm chocolate chip cookies served with a side of Henry’s Ice Cream.
Ocho is open for lunch and dinner now, with brunch served both Saturday and Sunday. The late night 8Bar has become a new Dallas hot spot on Thursday evening with a DJ serving up hot tunes that echo throughout the top floor and spills out onto the large patio that overlooks Preston Road. The bar upstairs serves up some very nice specialty cocktails including one called the Hatch Chile Smoke which is infused with lemon juice, agave nectar and powdered Hatch chile, using El Jimador Reposado tequila.
There is also a late night bar menu for those with the late night munchies. This is when the ceviche or fish tacos are best devoured.
Ocho Kitchen and Bar | 8411 Preston Road, Dallas | 214-217-0888