Former Mansion chef Dean Fearing has a new home at the Ritz-Carlton Dallas
By JUNE NAYLOR
If hype were a noise, the cacophony heralding the return of Dean Fearing to the Dallas dining scene would be deafening.
But once you find the volume control once you get past the overture – “Elevated American” cuisine! Bold flavors, no borders! Seven dining rooms! – you find the important element: It’s still Dean, but tuned up and ready to rock again.
Opened on Wednesday at the terribly grand new Ritz-Carlton Dallas, Fearing’s signals a fresh edition of the dining experience that made this drawling Kentucky-born chef with the giant smile a one-name presence of international renown. Much as he made the Mansion on Turtle Creek Restaurant a cuisine powerhouse for more than two decades, the charismatic chef who hobnobs with Wolfgang Puck and other certified bon vivants is expected to bring the world to his new home.
Three of us stopped in to see what the fuss was about, finding much to mull over; it will take several dinner visits for anyone to truly absorb Fearing’s overall production.
To wit, there’s the assortment of dining venues, one for each day of the week – or for whatever purpose you have in mind, whether it’s wooing a new love interest or impressing a client. You can pick a counter seat in Dean’s Kitchen, where the cooking action is in your lap, or opt for the stone Wine Cellar or the elegant Gallery, where we sat amid smoky mirrors rimmed in backlit honey onyx. In milder weather, the outdoor Live Oak Bar will be sensational; for now, the inside Rattlesnake Bar, with its mellow lighting and leather barstools, as yummy and velvety as Valrhona chocolate, is the best place to sip margaritas and nibble on appetizers.
The apps we tried included Dean’s new signature dish and a play on his most famous creation. Instead of lobster, he’s putting shrimp lavished with the celebrated Sonny Bryan’s barbecue sauce inside a flour-tortilla taco ($20), along with a mango-pickled red onion salad and a smoky citrus vinaigrette.
There’s also the combo starter of foie gras glistening with a honey-soy glaze atop caramelized peaches hinting of ginger, alongside a slightly browned plump scallop over a watercress salad decorated with a little papaya ($24). Easy for two to share, it could be also be a light entrée.
Entrees, which, like all dishes, feature ingredients sourced from as many local suppliers as is possible, run the gamut from fish to fowl to meat, including game. All indications are that the buffalo tenderloin ($44), swept with maple and cloaked in black peppercorns, will be the rage. True to Dean’s Southwestern sensibilities, it’s served over jalapeño grits with a butternut squash-filled taquito on the side.
For hints of Asia, there’s a dish of pheasant with orange-ginger overtones, served atop curried-shrimp fried rice with tempura-crusted white asparagus and tiny shiitakes ($38). Want to see where Tex meets Mex? Try the chicken-fried lobster and spicy filet with queso fresco corn-potatoes and a spinach enchilada ($48).
Oh, and if you’re still hankering for more of the symphony of Dean, do ask for a to-go order of Bliss to Blisters, the new alt-country CD from his chef-fueled band, the Barbwires, now starring Fort Worth’s own Johnny Reno. Altogether, Dean’s beat goes on.