Despite its elegant address, it’s all about comfort (think: deviled eggs) at this Ritz-y winner.
WHY FEARINGS: There’s much about Fearing’s that could easily intimidate the casual business diner. First, it’s located at the Dallas Ritz-Carlton, a swanky address if ever there was one. Second, this is Dean Fearing’s new kitchen. After decades at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Fearing – the granddaddy of Southwestern cuisine – is armed with a pedigree and panache that puts his peers to shame. Finally, since its opening in August 2007, the restaurant has been lauded by such publications as Esquire (best new restaurant 2007), Forbes (America’s top power lunch spot), and The New York Times. Intimidated yet? Don’t be. Whether you’re a seasoned gourmand or tastebud challenged, Chef Dean has made Fearing’s a five-star experience minus the five-star formality. Murano chandeliers and rawhide fixtures mix and mingle with stylish aplomb. Bespoke suits sit beside designer denim. A team of servers attends to every need without being obtrusive. Best of all, the fare is both challenging and familiar: “chicken fried” lamb chops, buffalo cheesesteaks, and butterscotch custard with apple fritters. Comforting? Yes. Common? Never.
WHAT TO EAT: For lunch, start out with an ideal appetizer for two: buffalo taquitos and smoked chick mango quesadillas. The bite-sized flautas are crispy, rich perfection while the quesadillas are an ideal sweet and smoky foil. The accompanying guacamole is good but seems unnecessary. Salads range from a Southwestern spin on the ubiquitous Caesar with its red chili dressing, grilled radicchio, and San Pedro cheese to an heirloom tomato salad with crumbled blue cheese, crispy onions, and basil dressing. Entrée highlights include the aforementioned cheesesteak, Carolina barbecued pork tenderloin on fried green tomatoes and jalapeno creamed corn, and chili braised short ribs. However, the entrée that best sums up Chef Fearing’s culinary point of view is the palm sugar-mopped beef tenderloin. Used primarily in Thai cooking, the golden brown sugar lends the buttery beef a sweet edge, balancing out the meat’s richness. A spinach salad with warm bacon-blue cheese vinaigrette and a simple yet lovely deviled egg (yes, a deviled egg) completes Chef Fearing’s trifecta of unusual ingredients, bold flavors, and homey touches.
WHERE TO SIT: Fearing’s is a bit like an adult culinary Disneyland: Each room has its own feel and appeal. Dean’s Kitchen with its open kitchen is the liveliest and most casual of the bunch. The Gallery is elegant and upscale. The Sendero is reminiscent of European conservatories and has a lush garden-like feel. The Wine Cellar is intimate and romantic. With its vaulted ceilings, oak table carved from a single tree, and rustic trappings, it’s more appropriate for special occasions (holding up to 16 seated). Wherever you sit, though, conversation is easy and tables are spaced appropriately to keep your business secrets to yourselves.