At a recent media event, DISH (in the Illume on Cedar Springs) previewed their new seasonal American menu. I attended with cautious optimism. Dish’s Executive Chef Doug Brown (ex. Nana execuchef at the age of 23, James Beard House presenter, Culinary Institute of America graduate, numerous awards, etc.) is one of this city’s culinary stars. Now he consults and caters to discerning diners through his Beyond The Box operation. New at the restaurant is Garreth Dickey, who I thought all the Gods conspired against to make his job at the ill-fated Park impossible. At the front of the house is owner Tim McEnerny who cut his teeth working for hotelier Ian Schrager. This should be a formidable combination.
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We started with selection of flatbreads. These are like unleavened pizza and are somewhat of a ‘beyond pizza’ dish in certain circles. Then we were served a wide range of appetizers. One, was a creamy and opulent (in a comfort food kind of way) Jumbo Lump Crab Meat Dip. Another was a visually arresting Grilled Lamb Meatball Lollipops (and lamb is a welcome dimension to menus in Dallas). But the real star was the Ahi Tuna Pica, which combined the tastes of succulent fresh flesh with the gritty sweetness of biscuit. And the Salt & Pepper Calamari with Burrata, Figs and Roasted Endive was an interesting composition.
New weekly specialties will include Grilled Mahi Mahi, a somewhat odd combination with black refried beans (I think the more delicate cannellini or pinto would have given the fish more of a chance). Bourbon Marinated Pork Chop was the timeless combination of fruit (chopped apple) and pork (in the form of both the chop and the diced bacon). The bitterness of the arugula offset the sweetness in the sliced onions. Fran’s Texas Free Range Roasted Chicken passed the ‘chef test’ with flying colors. Chicken is a chef test because it is so easy to screw up. There are too many versions served dry, overcooked, or under seared. It shouts the errors loudly. DISH’s version was chewy, certainly (these are free range chicken after all – jumping around on their Space Hoppers all day) but flavorful, juicy, and seared to a beautiful dark roasted coffee brown.
New desserts included a house made ice cream that was so irresistible I appear to have eaten some before remembering to take the picture. Duh!
The bar scene is as big at DISH as the dining. Like a lot of upscale bars they are heavily into the lucrative cocktail business. The wine list, at about 70 selections (17 by-the-glass), has plenty of interest pitched at 4x retail for low-end wines (e.g. NV Cristalino Rosé Cava, $43) and 2x retail for high-end (e.g 2008 Kistler Sonoma Mountain, Chardonnay $125). But there are no Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache), Albarino, Texan, New Zealand, or Alsatian wines on the heavily domestic list. They must hate Spain. The third-largest producer in the world gets no table wine representation at all. And the only Argentinian is a Malbec misplaced under Merlot.
There was live music in the shape of a guitarist the night we were there. The amplification was too loud to converse part of the evening, which is a good thing if you go with a date you don’t want to talk. The décor is edgy modern and the seats comfortable. A patio provides a front row seat to the motor accidents on Cedar Springs.
So DISH is a place for admirably executed food that is generally more interesting than other places round town. No macabre ingredients (e.g. bits of unheard-of organ from a critter you didn’t know existed) or exotic preparations (e.g. foamed carpet slipper cooked en papillote in an airplane sick bag). It will prove popular. However, given the talent show involved, it is flying in the troposphere at present. May the spring menu ‘kick it up a notch’, as a famous chef once said (and repeated).