Carruthers and me

I admit it.  I loved Oak when it opened several years ago.  The wine list was on point and I really enjoyed the menu.  But over the years, the restaurant seemed to lose its focus as it cycled through five chefs and seemed to lose the magic of what made the restaurant special. Sommelier Tim Carruthers and I started corresponding on social media when I became intrigued by some of the wine dinners and programs he was posting.  And when he asked me to join him for dinner and wine late last year, I jumped at the opportunity.

Oak is located in the Design District and opened in 2011 when Richard and Tiffanee Ellman saw the need for a fine dining concept in their neighborhood.  It is part of the Apheleia Restaurant Group.

Let me be the first to tell you that Oak has found its way with Jeramie Robison as the new culinary director/executive chef; Eric Salzer as vice president of operations and of course Tim with the wine program.  As James Brown once said, “”He ain’t no drag—Papa’s got a brand new bag.”  It’s a completely different food and wine scene here and I can’t say enough good things about my visit.

First let’s talk wine.  The wine list is in the process of going through an evolution, so expect continued change.  When you inherit a list, especially a list that was full of safe Dallas steakhouse choices (heavy on big California wines), you can’t just rip and replace.  You have to phase things in.  Today, when I visited, there were 34 wines by the glass.  The breakdown was 5 champagnes/sparklings; 10 whites; 2 roses and 17 reds ranging from $11 to $40.  Every Tuesday is half price wines by the glass and there is a weekly champagne flight that is super interesting.  When I visited, it was Dom Perignon, Piper Heidsieck and Paul Marie Bertrand Brut Reserva for $35.  There is also an upcoming Perrier-Jouet Wine Dinner on March 7.  Click here for more info.

Here are the wine and food pairings that I tried with Tim that night:

Course One:

Grilled Blue Point Oysters over Hickory with Chopped Shishito Peppers and 2015 Chateau Saint Martin de la Garrigne Picpol.

Course Two:

Honeygem Salad with Avocado, Boquerones and Ricotta Salata with 2016 Stags’ Leap Viognier.

Course Three:

Beef Tartare with Horseradish and Egg Yolk paired with the 2013 Domaine Duseigneur Chateaneuf du Pape.

Course Four:

Wagyu Short Rib with Green Bean, Cabbage, Spinach and Dry Vermouth with 2012 Piazzo Barbaresco.

Tim talked about the new management team’s desire to let Dallas diners know that Oak is back and they have rediscovered who they are.  There has definitely been a change and this is a group that has a passion for food, wine and service, but wants to have fun at the same time.  You’ll see this with the wine dinners and tastings that they are hosting.  I saw it with the approach to food and service while in the dining room.  And, I’m excited to go back (on my own dime) and try the menu items that looked amazing that I didn’t get to try along.  Not to mention some of the wines I saw on the list as well as the ones Tim talked about adding as the list evolves.