On Friday, I snuck into Brian Black, Benjamin Crosland and Chef Eric DiStefano’s newest restaurant creation in Preston Center. Ocho Kitchen and Cocktails officially opens today for lunch and dinner. It’s Black and Crosland’s eighth restaurant together (hence, the name “Ocho”), and also the first time Coyoto Cafe’s Chef DiStefano is joining the duo. Ross Demers is the lucky man who gets to be executive chef.
DiStefano, a champ when it comes to Sante Fe cuisine, has designed a two-page menu of what Black likes to call “Santa Fe Tex-Mex.” Every table starts out with a generous portion of hot, homemade tortilla chips that arrives on a plate with two kinds of dips: a roasted tomato and chipotle combo (a stereotypical salsa) and avocado tomatillo (smooth and creamy). Expect plenty of hatch chile flavor in the specialty tacos and the kobe beef burger($13). What’s more, there’s everything from Eric’s New Mexican meatloaf ($14) to a chipotle and agave basted pork tenderloin ($14).
Even though this restaurant is already a fusion of earthy Santa Fe flavors and savory Tex-Mex classics, DiStefano, a guy who’s known for his French-Asian cuisine, is sneaking in as much Asian flavor as he can. He says he uses Thai burnt chile and star anise in his cooking. He’s also pretty pumped to be in Dallas where the “coolest people” live. “I’m so glad to be here; it’s so much fun,” the chef says.
The interior is a sexy red-and-black combo that feels sleek and inviting at the same time. Leading up to the second floor is an ornate staircase where, at the top, you’ll find yourself face-to-face with a portrait of Ben Crosland’s cavapoo (Cavalier King Charles spaniel + poodle mix) named ‘Ocho.’ It’s adult’s only on the second floor. There’s a full bar serving cocktails like Sussudio Collins and Berry Moodie Smash, and you can take your drinks out onto the patio to enjoy. Magic 8 balls – a nice touch – are found on every patio table. The only downside I can see about this patio is the view. From the patio (which faces Preston Road), you get a pretty view of the Chevron gas station, car wash building, and lovely traffic down below.
Besides that, Ocho is a place for lounging and relaxing. Once you sit down, you won’t have any desire to get back up.