Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Oh So Tasty: Brian Zenner Takes Charge of Oak

Photo: Bullfrog & Baum / Joy Zhang
At the beginning of July, Richard Gras brought Executive Chef Brian Zenner over from Belly & Trumpet to sister restaurant Oak to completely revamp the menu and move the needle up the culinary radar. You might remember that Zenner was chef de cuisine under Jason Maddy when Oak first opened in late 2011, so he's no stranger to the concept. Have no fear B&T fans, Zenner will remain in charge of the kitchen at Belly & Trumpet, as well as oversee his new duties at Oak.

The Bangkok-born chef (who grew up in Dubai, London and Houston) worked at the Mansion Restaurant with Bruno Davaillon before opening Oak and his work at Belly & Trumpet earned him a spot among The Best in DFW 2013 from the Dallas Morning News. At the time, Leslie Brenner called Zenner’s cooking "accomplished, exciting and inspired." Gras is clearly hoping that Zenner will bring those same traits over to Oak.

I was invited over last night to sample some of the new items Zenner has created. Overall, I found the menu to be filled with fresh ingredients, complex tastes, interesting textures and savory sauces. Highlights for me were the Canary Melon Salad, Branzino and Chocolate Tart with Banana Ice Cream.

Crudo, Greek Sardine, Berkshire Short Rib & East Coast Squid and Beef Short Rib

The new menu is filled with dishes that have items on them that I've never heard of and can't pronounce. Things like: dashi gelee, cohija, aji panca, salsify and ladolemono. How does one know what to order when you have no idea what these things are?  I personally found that a little off-putting. It's a fine line between encouraging culinary exploration and making guests feel stupid and at an average cost of $30 an entree, I don't want to gamble - I want a sure-fire winner. Zenner is an affable guy with a lot of enthusiasm for food. I wish him luck and encourage you to try our his menu for yourself.

Oak is located in the Design District at 1628 Oak Lawn Ave, Dallas, TX 75207. (214) 712-9700. http://oakdallas.com