Fearing’s tops food chain

Dallas Morning News

DINING: Recently opened restaurant No. 1 in Esquire

By MIKE MAZA

Staff Writer

mmaza@dallasnews.com

At a celebratory dinner Monday in New York, Fearing’s restaurant in Dallas’ Ritz-Carlton Hotel was named the nation’s “restaurant of the year” by Esquire magazine.

The selection was made by John Mariani, a longtime dining critic for the magazine, as part of his annual top 20 restaurants feature.

Chef-proprietor Dean Fearing could not be immediately reached for comment.

Mr. Mariani said Mr. Fearing has been “one of America’s greatest chefs for 20 years.”  In a phone interview Monday, he praised his “engaging, ebullient presence and his big and welcoming smile. …And he plays great guitar.”

He said the new restaurant, open since mid-August, captures the essence of “Texas-Southern hospitality that seems so genuine to me.  That attitude just pays so many dividends – so often when I recommend a restaurant, people come back saying, “The food was great, but I didn’t like the way we were treated.”

On the phone and in his Esquire article, Mr. Mariani also noted the restaurant’s luxurious environment, which includes dining areas and different sizes and decors.

He described the menu as a refinement of the Southwestern style Mr. Fearing developed over his years at the Mansion on Turtle Creek, which he left to build his own venue.  “Every dish goes a little farther.”

Mr. Mariani said he based the best-restaurant selection on a single visit to Fearing’s.  He ate a series of dishes selected by the chef.  “I don’t generally like chef’s menus, but Dean is the kind of guy you want to let do his best for you.  I wouldn’t do that with everybody, not even some of the chefs in the top 20.  Dean and his staff are very precise about what’s on that plate,” Mr. Mariani said.

There was a time in the late ‘80s when I criticized him for doing the celebrity chef thing a little too much. Nobody is happier than I am that he’s back in the kitchen now.”

Monday’s dinner was to be at Anthos, a New York restaurant run by Michael Psilakis, who was named chef of the year.  (Dallas’ Stehpan Pyles won that honor last year.)

Mr. Mariani explained the difference between the restaurants and chef awards as similar to the Oscars’ distinction between movies and their directors.  “Michael has invented a new Greek style that you can’t even find in Greece,” he said.

One other Texas restaurant placed in Esquire’s rankings, Catalan Food and Wine in Houston was No. 20, Mr. Mariani said.

The November issue will be on most newsstands this week.