Private Social, where former Top Chef cheftestant Tiffany Derry hangs her toque, has just started lunch service. To publicize the new menu, they held a media event and I was among the invited guests.
There is a tony ambiance to this place located on McKinney, one of the busiest blocks in Uptown (valet parking recommended). The decor is done in tones of earthy grey and burnished metal. The name of the restaurant reflects the division of the interior space into two rooms. ‘Social’ is the bar and an open area for casual drinking and dining at café-style tables. ‘Private’ is a the cozier room on the side that creates a environment for more serious dining. We were seated on the private side.
The lunch menu offers more choices than one usually sees and spans a broad swathe of accessible New American dishes with pockets of Asian influence and token Mexican, Jamaican, and even Australian representation. There is a soup of the day, four different salads, and five sandwiches. In total, eighteen items plus desserts. That is quite a handful for a kitchen to manage within the tight time constraints of the, mainly business, crowd that lunches here. On our Monday visit the place was about half full and the courses came out with slick timing and adept execution.
We started with Surf n’ Turf Sushi Roll, Spicy Tuna, Torched Beef, Ponzu and Truffle ($14). As our waiter presented the oblong plate bedecked with a banana leaf and the rolls arranged on top, the unmistakable aroma of truffle oil drifted across our table. The tuna stuffed into each roll was soft and seemed to emulsify in the mouth. The beef, prepared carpaccio-style had an earthy charred taste I liked on its own. My question is whether the components of this dish coexist? I admit to not being a surf n’ turf fan in its conventional (steakhouse) incarnation, but the truffles, tuna, and beef seemed to be three pleasant, strong flavors getting in each others way. This dish was doubtless an attempt at something original built from familiar foundations. But why not, for example, take slow-roasted beef, shred it, and stuff it into sushi rolls? That would showcase one defined taste against the textural backdrop of sushi rice.
Next we tried Ramen Noodle Bowl, Poached Egg, Nori, Pork Belly, Green Onions, Herbs ($12). This Japanese-inspired dish could teach the previous one about harmony. The ingredients had synergy in spades and came together with a force that seemed perfectly attuned to the winter weather that had just arrived that day. The backbone was the broth that enveloped the other ingredients. The pork belly and egg were redolent of breakfast. The noodles had a melt-in-the-mouth softness. But one caveat: Don’t order this if you are a job applicant being taken to lunch by a prospective employer. Soups tend to splash anyway, but add noodles and deny chop sticks and the soup takes considerable skill and time to avoid finishing the meal looking like a Jackson Pollack test mule.
Then was Lamb Burger, Red Leaf Lettuce, Tomato, Pickled Onion, Brioche Bun, Fries ($14) from the sandwiches section of the menu. SideDish readers will have noticed that there is gourmet burger battle royal going on this town. Congratulations to Tiffany Derry for having the guts to put a lamb burger on the menu. They may be ubiquitous in Australia, but it sets Private Social apart in the Dallas burger wars. This one is good due to its flavorful meat, generous size, and the sweet brioche bun.
We also ate the Jerk Chicken, Squash Purée, Pepper Sauce, Brussels Sprouts ($14) in which the chicken retained its succulence and the mellowness of the squash purée was a good foil for the seared meat.
Dessert has an item you may want to make a daytime snack: house made salted caramel gelato. It was the high point in an excellent flight of three ices (the others were eggnog gelato and lemon buttermilk sorbet).
If you are on a budget, try the prix fixe: a three course lunch for $15. And on warm days there is patio dining available.
My take: Private Social offers a high-quality lunch with some familiar, and some little bit different dishes, at reasonable prices in a comfortable environment with good service.