This past January the Apheleia Restaurant Group who owns Oak located in the Dallas Design District announced its partnership with Chef John Tesar. Tesar, of course, owns Knife, the undisputed king of beef in Dallas. A three-time James Beard “Best Southwest Chef” semifinalist and “Top Chef” contestant, Tesar is a restaurateur and chef known for his stylish, modern American cuisine prepared with classic European techniques. His innovative culinary perspective and no-nonsense personality have garnered much acclaim throughout his 20+ years in the restaurant industry.
Oak is renowned for delivering clean and elegant American cuisine. Opened by the Apheleia Restaurant Group in December 2011, Oak has earned rave reviews and was named one of Bon Appétit’s Top 50 Best New Restaurants in 2012. The restaurant is definitely one of the shining gems of the ever growing Dallas culinary scene.
Chef Tesar selected Alex Henderson as his Chef de Cuisine. Henderson was a part of Oak’s opening culinary team and subsequently was appointed Chef de Cuisine at the highly acclaimed Apheleia concept, Belly and Trumpet. In addition, James Beard nominee David Collier was added to design the dessert menu. Collier, whose new menu is already in place and includes items such as black cherry sesame cake and chocolate tart, embodies Oak’s focus on sophisticated elegance.
We had heard some pretty terrific things about the new dinner menu at Oak and wanted to check in to see for ourselves. What we found definitely was a pleasant cross between what Oak has always represented since its inception back in 2011, but with a Tesar panache. Although you may find the chef at his restaurant Knife nearly every night, he spends considerable time at Oak each day as well. This most likely makes for a harried chef, but definitely happy guests at each of the restaurants. This is obviously possible to great hires in each kitchen, and Tesar is to be commended.
We started our meal this week with the Hudson Valley Foie Gras Torchon ($16), definitely one of our favorites. The dish was served with strawberry and rhubarb, marking the dish with seasonal with seasonal goodness.
We then moved on to the Squid Ink Pasta ($15) served with a spicy arrabiata sauce and steamed mussels that were topped with bread crumb. The sauce was rich with garlic, tomatoes, and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil. We fought for the last twirl of the house made pasta, and looked around the room to see if it was safe to approach the bowl with our mugs. It was that delicious. This would make an excellent dish for one at the bar paired with a bit of bubbles for an on-the-run meal. Something tht will definitely happen for us really soon.
We then tasted the Atalantic Halibut ($39), a firm but flaky fish that has a meaty bite. The dish was matched with tomato, a French picholine and toasted quinoa. The portion was extremely generous, and the flavors had forks flying from across the table, as was true with every course.
The Peking Duck Breast ($32) was also in order, and did not disappoint. The duck was perfectly seared and rare. For those that like their duck a bit more cooked, you may wish to speak up before ordering. But note that it is sent out perfectly cooked for maximum flavor, texture and moisture. This dish is adorned with roasted grapes, treviso (a cooked radicchio), and a lovely smoked sunchoke puree.
The evening was delicious, the service was well paced and the sweet ending of a plate of assorted macarons had us smiling with tiny sips of espresso.
It is exciting to see that after a few well played years that Oak is living up to its fine reputation enjoyed across the country.