Uptown, I see your inventive menu, impeccable service, and warm ambiance at Private Social, and I raise you a chic multimedia interior, classy and diverse clientele, and a champagne bucket of elegance at Oak in the Design District.
Fittingly, the space feels like a gallery where an artist has decided to do an installation piece in the design of a pop-up restaurant. It feels temporary, which is very unique and, (please forgive my lack of eloquence here) really cool. We were in on a secret location, having a special one-night-only dinner, and as soon as the night was over, all of the set pieces would be whisked away to make room for the next exhibit. And to take the analogy a step further- the design and service are so much about you, the guest, that the space feels like the canvas and you are the art- a revolving group of people in and out of the door that the designers chose specifically for their purpose.
There was no rowdy and anxious crowd building up at the reception stand; everyone was accommodated perfectly as they arrived and yet every table was full. There were no groups of giggly girls snapping phone photos of themselves in mini-dresses getting in the way of cocktail servers and ruining the mise-en-scène – it was all perfectly executed class, right down to every guest.
But the food and cocktails were art in their own rights. First ordering off of the Imbibe menu, I made an easy choice in the LOLita, an elixir of Hendricks Gin, St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur (thanks to dear friend and occasional barmaid Shannon, who introduced me to this last summer), English cucumber and bitters, just about every one of my favorite cocktail ingredients in one glass. My handsome companion chose The Mighty Oak, with Eagle Rare Bourbon, mint, ginger lemon, and soda, and then moved on to the Hamilton Dark & Stormy with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, Gosling’s Ginger Beer, and lime. It was difficult to change drinks after our first round but we were determined to try more options from Abraham Bebell’s cocktail menu.
What a relief to see a list heavy on gin and whiskey! It is always a joy to go back to the classics after years of the overdone craft cocktails. Our lovely server Z came by and answered all of our questions about the menu aptly, and patiently waited for our selections. I went with a bird-centric dinner with the foie gras torchon appetizer and roasted duck breast entree.
My Texan turned to the sea and started with diver scallops before his main course of Mediterranean bronzino. I wanted to inelegantly scrape my first plate clean of the foie gras, candied kumquat and black pepper gastrique. It was that good. And the duck! I ordered it Chef’s recommendation and received it cooked to pink perfection, served with puy lentil, crispy brussels sprouts and burgundy foie gras jus. It was heavenly.
With our server’s assistance I paired it with a glass of Louis Jadot Macon Chardonnay. The bronzino was a lighter dish but no less perfect. The server brought the charming Mr. Bebell to our table to create a new cocktail based on my fiance’s tastes to pair with his dinner, another special touch to our evening. If only we could have tried more but we had reached our breaking point.
Not ready to leave, we moved to the bar to experience the space from another angle. Barkeeps in suspenders and dark rimmed glasses kept busy but never flustered, managing every sitting and standing patron with professionalism, energy, and ease. Instead of my usual single malt scotch dessert, I decided on the appropriately named Distinguished District Man with Johnny Walker Black Label, Cinzano Bianco, clover honey, and bitters, and enjoyed distinguished district conversation with men on both sides of the bar, an eclectic group light on Dallas natives. Suddenly realizing the toll of the generously poured liquor, we sadly called it a night but vowed to return soon.
Kudos to owners Tommy DeAlano and Richard Ellman, the Plan B designers, the previously mentioned Mr. Abraham Bebell, and Executive Chef Jason Maddy. I’m new to Dallas but your reputations preceded my experience at Oak. Thank you for a wonderful restaurant in my new home city.
Jayne is new to Dallas and discovering the city with a voracious appetite. Read more of her discoveries at her website, A Moveable Appetency.