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First Take: Oak in the Dallas Design District

Oak Restaurant in the Dallas Design District. Photography by Desiree Espada.

What to Expect: To be knocked out by the interior design and the food. The space, designed by PLAN B (Royce Ring & Alex Urrunaga) worked closely with owners Richard and Tiffanee Ellman to create a modern, contemporary living room where couches replace booths. Veteran Tommy (Candleroom, Sunset Lounge, The Dram) DeAlano, also a partner, oversees the day-to-day operations. The threesome have created the perfect attitude for Oak’s location in the Dallas Design District.

Jump for details and beautiful photography by Desiree Espada.

From the Top: Owners Richard & Tiffanee Ellman and Tommy DeAlano, Moroccan Octopus & Pork Jowls, Cocktail: The Mighty Oak, Dining Room, Gianduja Chocolate Panna Cotta with Patron Citronage ice cream, Large comfy booths, Mediterranean Bronzino, 7-ounce Grilled Filet of Beef, Projection of rustling Oak Tree. Photography by Desiree Espada.

The Vibe: Sophisticated and sexy. Once you open the front door, you can survey the whole room. The side walls are original brick; the back wall is illuminated by a framed quivering oak tree which is projected from a camera in the ceiling. The couches are dark brown, the carpet is shades of beige taupe, and olive, the tables are light oak and the chairs are upholstered in a putty grey flannel. Almost all of the furniture was made next door in the Design District.

The Kitchen: Executive chef Jason Maddy’s pedigreed history: worked with chef David  Bouley at Danube (NYC), executive sous chef at Driskill  Hotel (Austin), chef de cuisine at The Mansion under John Tesar and continued when chef  Bruno Davaillon took over in 2009. His sous chef, Brian Zenner: sous chef under Chef Pascal Chareau at Fenouil in Portland (Oregon), executive of chef at Portland’s Matchbox Lounge, and sous chef at The Mansion under Executive Chef Bruno Davaillon. Pastry chef: Chef Sarah Green spent the last three years working at The 2nd Floor Restaurant and Bar.

The Menu: Simple, clean, global, and elegant. Extensive travelers chef Maddy and owners Richard & Tiffanee Ellman have a story to go along with each dish. Moroccan octopus and pork jowls was inspired by a dish the Ellmans discovered on their honeymoon to North Africa. Maddy cooked in Austria and he brings a stellar version of veal schnitzel to Dallas. A Caesar salad is tossed with mint dressing and a rack of lamb is rubbed with berbere, an exotic spice from Ethiopia, and served perfectly warm and rosey red.

The Price Point: Appetizers ($8-$14) Entrees: ($18 for pappardelle with marble potato, dandelion pesto, San Marzano tomatoes, and fennel to $28 for the aforementioned lamb).

The Wow Factor: Celery root fries rubbed with Hungarian paprika and black pepper.

The Wine List: Short, global, and personal. Some usuals: Caymus and Sliver Oak Cabs. Some unusuals: Plumpjack Merlot from Napa Valley. Some personal: Boekenhoutskloot “The Chocolate Black” from, like Richard Ellman, South Africa.

The Bar: The cocktail program is designed and executed by Abe Bedell, the veteran mixologist from Victor Tango’s. His innovative cocktails are 4-or-6 step concoctions so thirsty patrons don’t have a long wait for their hand-crafted drink.

The Crowd: Once they open for lunch on February 1, expect the place to be jammed with designers and their clients. Currently they crowd the stunning rain forest green granite bar top at happy hour and slide over to a table for dinner. The night I visited, I spotted young couples from Uptown and a few of my contemporaries (fiftysomethings).

10 comments on “First Take: Oak in the Dallas Design District

  1. Delicious cocktails, beautiful room and thoughtful menu. Congratulations on a great start Oak!

  2. don’t forget my fav drink the ‘lolita’. can’t wait to sip a few on the patio when that opens. :-)

  3. Had a great time with great food. A little let down with the duck dish but still an awesome meal with great cocktails.

  4. We had a very pleasant meal there. the space is really airy and open but our table stilll felt intimate and private. The kobe duo was really fantastic. The schnitzel was great schnitzel but needed something to take it up a notch or two in the ‘taste’ department. Tommy did us proud with some light and not over the top schmoozing. Made us felt welcome and appreciated. More restaurateurs should learn that trick!

    We will definitely go back.

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