The old adage about having too many cooks in the kitchen has never rung truer than at this new North Oak Cliff restaurant. Since opening last November, it has gone through three head chefs: opening chef Matt McCallister of Stephan Pyles/Fuego fame, who left Campo to open his own restaurant; Campo sous chef Josh Black, who was promoted to executive status in February; and, most recently, former Chesterfield head chef Michael Ehlert, who replaced Black a short three months later. That’s a lot of soap opera histrionics for any fledgling restaurant to overcome. So it’s a testament to owners John Paul Valverde and Miguel Vicens that the culinary focus has not been completely lost. Campo’s facade—a quaint 1920s bungalow—is a sharp contrast to its Ibiza-by-way-of-Oak Cliff interior. Industrial light fixtures, a soft gray and honeyed-wood palette, and requisite lounge music complete the hip vibe. Chef McCallister excited with his opening menu: seasonal rustic cuisine with panache. His cooking was adventurous. Highlights included a rich and briny black squid ink risotto with Meyer lemon, beef heart tartare, Barnstable oysters with elderflower apple mignonette, and veal sweetbread and chestnut tortellini. Organ meats dominated McCallister’s menu, practically daring diners to surrender all inhibitions at the door. And then—poof!—McCallister was gone. He stayed on as consulting chef when Black took over the kitchen. Alas, the new chef’s cuisine failed to match McCallister’s bravado. A bright pea beurre blanc worked well with a perfectly cooked mako shark fillet. But a bed of overseasoned wilted greens battled with the fish. Gnocchi with lemon cream suffered from overly soft dumplings. Better was a milk-braised pork tibia with ham hock milk pudding. And the Campo house salad—with its local mixed greens, house-made ricotta, ham vinaigrette, and frittered egg—is one of my new favorite salads. As of press time, chef Ehlert had just replaced Black. Hopefully, the talented Ehlert can bring stability to Campo’s kitchen. This gem of a restaurant brims with possibility. It deserves a second act. I mean third.
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