In Henry Van Dyke poem, Trees, he gives his homage to “A pillar of power, a dome of delight, a shrine of song and a joy of sight”. Just as Van Dyke was inspired to pen those words so many years ago, perhaps it was this affiliation to the large Oak tree outside the bustling restaurant that bears its name that created the inspiration of delight and deliciousness into the very fabric of this innovated and chic Dallas eatery. Partnering with acclaimed twice nominated James Beard Chef John Tesar, the Apheleia Restaurant Group, continues to bring innovation and vision to the burgeoning Dallas restaurant scene. Chef de cuisine, Ross Demers, and executive pastry chef, David Collier are at the helm in creating a menu that is highly creative using the best available ingredients to ensure freshness and superb taste and texture on every plate that emerges from the kitchen. On a recent trip to Dallas, we had the opportunity to discover “Oak” and engage in some of the lovely and thoughtful menu items.
The inviting open space is awash in browns and beiges accented with silver-toned lighting that gravitates the eye to the unique holographic tree that changes color, seasons and foliage throughout the dining experience. The bar area is shrouded with rendering of a mighty oak etched into the glass wall, sweeping you into the moment. As trees provide shelter from the elements, you have that sense of comfort and tranquility as you sip on one of the many hand-crafted cocktails. We started with the “Antoinette”, a luscious libation that really accented the fragrant dark muddled blackberries, impressing us with the freshness of ingredients. One may want to try the “Mighty Oak”, as it is the namesake and has the refreshing hints of lemon, ginger, and mint all perfectly intermingled with the George Dickle Rye and topped with club soda.
After a few relaxing moments at the bar, we were cordially escorted to our table to be greeted by our lively waiter, who proceeded to make sure that we are informed on all specials, offering any answers to questions we may have. We took a look at the well-crafted wine list, and decided to enjoy a glass of the Lemelson, Thea’s selection, pinot noir from the Willamette Valley. Pinot noir is usually a good choice in pairing with seafood and some beef dishes, and this seemed to be the best choice for our dining excursion.
We began our meal with the Heirloom tomato salad accented with refreshing tiny slices of watermelon, olive oil powder and black olive oil. The combination of the unique forms of olive oil gave this salad an elevated kiss of creativity. We also were immensely impressed with the tiny cones of Hamachi Tartare, with green curry and wasabi tobeko. Each miniature cone, was filled with the delight of the ocean, as we gleefully indulged in this playful rendition. The main dish of Alaskan Halibut, studded with woody chantrelle mushrooms , added brightness of acidity from the cabernet tomato, and accented with summer truffles and maderia port invoked a chorus of om’s and ahh’s with each forkful. The moniker of all the dishes rang true of the freshness of the ingredients and the artful creativeness of the Chefs as they brought an abundance of flavors and passion to our plates.
We were not at our fini, although well satiated, when we knew that a master was guiding the delivery of our desserts. James Beard “Best Pastry Chef” semifinalist, David Collier, is the Executive Pastry Chef that loves to bring innovation and expertise to the sweet part of the meal. The Strawberry Pistachio with pistachio sucree, mousseline, sponge cake, and strawberry sorbet was a spectacular way to end the meal. This take on the familiar strawberry shortcake was incredibly whimsical and lovely to behold, but better yet the strawberry mousseline gave a delicateness to the flavor, and played well with the other elements. We walked away beaming with yet another great find in the Dallas area.
Whether in Dallas on business or pleasure a meal at any the restaurants that Chef Tesar has been pouring his culinary magic into including Knife, El Bolero, and Oak. He and his partners continue to come up with more culinary outlets and we are excited to see what is on the horizon as the leaves of the organization continue to spread.