Tuesday, May 21, 2024 May 21, 2024
87° F Dallas, TX
Advertisement
Publications

With a New Chef and New Swagger, Georgie is the Talk of Dallas

Georgie ditched its TV-star celebrity chef and remade itself into one of Dallas' most exciting high-end restaurants.
| |Photography by Brittany Conerly
Georgie Dallas Hiramasa
Hiramasa (amberjack) is plated with fiery red pepper au poivre at the newly reimagined Georgie. Brittany Conerly

Conventional wisdom says that if you want to attract attention to your restaurant, you should hire a celebrity chef. Georgie, the upscale bistro just off Knox Street, is trying the opposite approach. Seemingly every food lover in Dallas is talking about Georgie’s renaissance—after it dumped its television star.

The restaurant opened in late 2019 as Georgie by Curtis Stone. It was the first Dallas business for the Australian chef known for endless TV appearances and just-out-of-bed dirty blond hair. Now that he’s gone, I can make a confession: when Georgie opened, I’d never heard of Stone. I’d missed all his cooking shows, as well as his real-kitchen bona fides working for Marco Pierre White at London landmark Quo Vadis. Following his ascent to American TV ubiquity, Stone opened two Michelin-starred restaurants in Los Angeles, Maude and Gwen. Georgie, his third kitchen, never made his Wikipedia page.

Georgie excluded him equally coldly. A nondisclosure agreement prevents the restaurant from officially commenting on Stone’s departure, but the chef he recruited to open Georgie, Toby Archibald, now runs Quarter Acre, and Stone’s own name came off the branding last summer.

Georgie’s owner, Stephan Courseau, and Travis Street Hospitality’s corporate chef, Bruno Davaillon, decided to reinvent a kitchen that had previously combined elements of bistro and steakhouse. New executive chef R.J. Yoakum comes most recently from The French Laundry, a California restaurant legendary for its technical excellence and cheffy pedigree, but also notorious among frequent-flying foodies for finicky museumlike plating and the heavy feeling in your stomach after dinner is over. Yoakum’s work at Georgie, however, combines the skill and high-flying experimentation he learned at The French Laundry with a certain rebellious streak—even a sense of humor—that hints at his own personality. 

Seemingly every food lover in Dallas is talking about Georgie’s renaissance.

He loves to turn classics upside down. Forget beef tartare. Instead there’s trout tartare, served on chicharrónes made from fried trout skins and topped with trout roe for a triple perspective on the same ingredient. The final touch is a horseradish cream that’s been frozen into little pellets. It’s a fun garnish, and the horseradish is not light-your-nose-up strong.

Yoakum’s churros are savory, made from potato batter. This sacrifices a bit of crispiness on the edges but makes the potatoes a satisfying companion to a sophisticated caramelized onion “dip” that’s more like a creamy sauce. He also uses potatoes to make tortillalike flat discs of dough with cilantro leaves pressed in for decoration. Those “tortillas” come with some of the city’s best-cooked octopus (made tender via sous vide, then finished on the grill) and a pepita-based mole.

Advertisement

With a New Chef and New Swagger, Georgie is the Talk of Dallas

{{ oneIndex }} / {{ images.length }}

Advertisement

The ultimate upside-down dish is Georgie’s French onion soup. Here’s an old classic that, no matter how dusty it gets, will satisfy as long as the cooks make sure the bread on top is crisped under the broiler. Georgie replaces that standard crouton with a cheesy pain perdu, French for “lost bread,” and, punningly, hides that lost bread in the bottom of the bowl. It’s topped with caramelized onions, broth, and a final floofy layer of cheese that’s been whipped until it’s practically a cloud. 

After the appetizers, my table worried that Georgie would fall into a trap typical of high-end Dallas restaurants: the meal without acid or spice. Too many otherwise smart spots have a habit of serving up rich food that lacks finesse in the balance. But Yoakum is now one of the Dallas chefs most eager to add peppers and heat to fine-dining dishes, along with Regino Rojas, Dean Fearing, and Misti Norris.

He isn’t joking, for example, about the harissa in the side dish of roasted carrots. Mushrooms come with another hot sauce, this time made with preserved summer carrots and Fresno, guajillo, red bell, and Espelette peppers. A tangle of fennel escabeche provides bite and acid to an appetizer link of house-made sausage. (The sausage is made with leftover scraps of pork and poussin, or young chicken.) Peppery pesto enlivens a dish of snapper with a breadcrumblike crust of potato, butter, cheese, and lemon zest, while hiramasa (amberjack) showcases a condiment—red pepper au poivre—that, delightfully, proves to be hot sauce under a fancier name. On this winter’s menu, frozen horseradish reappeared atop a mushroom cavatelli pasta bowl with duck confit and Madeira cream sauce. 

R.J. Yoakum is one of the Dallas chefs most eager to add peppers and heat to fine-dining dishes.

Everything coming from Georgie’s kitchen now is, I think, exactly how the cooks want it to be. Dry-aged duck breast arrives with the deeper flavor and supercrisp skin that aging should provide. Scallops are flawlessly cooked with a golden outer sear and the inner near-raw taste of ocean. Seasoning and presentation are equally buttoned-up, though watch your scallops, because they’re served on the shells, and if the shells tip, the sauce spills out. 

The only real problem you might have with the menu is a stylistic one. It’s a meat-heavy place where you can’t quite order as many things as you might hope to try. Maybe that will subtly change in springtime. Maybe diners will trust Yoakum enough to support a menu of preappetizer one-bite treats, the way they do down the street at Mister Charles. Opportunity also awaits in the tasting menu option, which currently functions as a greatest-hits tour of the rest of the menu but could blossom into a more intriguing off-road culinary adventure.

Georgie’s dining room remains one of Dallas’ most stylish and comfortable, with glowing sepia tones and cushy booths that are dominated by the throwback curved panels on the ceiling. It can be somewhat loud at peak times but calm if you visit midweek. As before, service is polished and attentive. Yoakum delivers dishes to many tables himself. (Managers recognized me, and Yoakum even dashed in on his night off to watch over my dinner, but we saw him talk with every other table, too.)

The drinks program is largely unchanged, which is less fortunate. The house cocktails are well made but somewhat overcomplicated, forcing Georgie’s excellent servers into frequent use of explanations that begin “That’s our twist on … .” My favorite is the Bad Bunny, with rye, tequila, ginger, and carrot. It’s rare for a pun-based drink to be so enjoyable.

The wine list goes deep on expensive library vintages from Napa and the most prestigious regions in France. This focus suits serious aficionados with deep pockets and knowledge of the great vintages, but it leaves slim pickings for the more adventurous or more frugal wine drinker. Now that Georgie has changed its culinary emphasis from Australian steaks to more refined French plates, I hope the cellar will feature more versatile food-friendly bottles replacing the excess of cabernets. Meantime, if you’re looking for a bottle under $150, seek out whites from Austria, Greece, and the Jura; reds from Spain; or an Oregon pinot noir. 

This, we hope, is just the beginning. Yoakum is learning the Texas seasons and convincing Knox Street diners to forget about their old TV-star patron. His combination of precise French technique and stylish invention is something Dallas hasn’t enjoyed since Davaillon left Bullion in early 2020. There are more reasons to expect continued improvement: between my recent visits, even the petite baguettes in the bread service became fresher, hotter, and more crisp-crusted. Though I wish the drinks program would catch up with the food, this is already a restaurant transformed. Ditching its celebrity figurehead was the best decision Georgie ever made.


This story originally appeared in the April issue of D Magazine with the headline “Recasting the Lead.” Write to [email protected].

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

View Profile
Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.
Advertisement