The Establishment quietly re-opened about a month ago and the anticipation leading up to my visit was a mixture of anxiety and excitement. After reading Leslie Brenner’s sort of review, I had my eyes set on this spot as my next foodie location to check out. But, like her article said, any info on The Establishment was not really available online. Facebook hadn’t been updated in a year, the website isn’t fully up and running, and the phone number lead to some strange voicemail inbox that was already full. There’s was no way for me to get a preview of the menu or know if I needed a reservation on a Friday night. I just had to show up and hope for the best.
Walking in…I instantly loved the place. Classic, romantic, Friday night date night perfect. We sat on their lovely patio and thoroughly enjoyed one of Dallas’ first warm spring nights. Travis St that night was poppin. A great beginning to a date night. I also came prepared with a ravenous appetite.
To start, we ordered the oysters. At $3 a pop, there were a variety of oysters from different states to choose from. We ordered a dozen oysters and went half and half on the ones we thought sounded yummy. I got The Deer Creek Washington Oysters which were small, sweet and plump and had this awesome freshwater flavor that I loved. The other six were the Martha’s Vineyard from Massachusetts that had a buttery but salty profile. Not my fav. More salty than buttery. I’d recommend the Deer Creek. Honestly, my palette for oysters isn’t all that refined. Yes, they were delicious and if you are into that sort of thing, great. I don’t mind the cheap deal for a dozen that you’d get from Pappadeaux during the summers. $36 for oysters I can do without. Sorry, I’m cheap like that.
The Establishment serves their plates “tapas style” which is a clever and nicer way of saying “we are charging you more for smaller portions”. Some dishes were better than others and the price range is an average of $10-$15. Definitely fancy tapas, but what you are paying for is quality and creativity. Here’s the low down on all 7 dishes we ordered to feed our inner tapeworm from least favorite to what we thought was the best tasting:
Lobster with snap peas, mushrooms, and popcorn butter. Sounds amazing right? This was a $16 plate with about 4 bites of lobster. The lobster was a little chewy but each bite with the sweet snap peas and mushrooms brought it together. I was probably the most excited about this dish, but was underwhelmed. I wanted more.
The halibut came in a sweet pea broth and some fancy mushrooms. Also slightly lacking. Felt like something was missing. This was my second most anticipated plate off the menu, but was sadly disappointed that I wasn’t wowed. I was hoping the broth would bring out the sweetness in the fish but it didnt. Sad face.
Wagyu Tri Tips. The meat was cooked perfectly and came on a small bed of black trumpets, caramelized onions and this cabbage looking thingy.
Foie Gras Torchon. I’m no connoisseur of foie gras, but it was delicious. The sweet grapefruit marmalade and the toast was lovely, even if it kind of reminded me of french toast. Beautifully plated.
Dessert: Banana rum pudding with vanilla wafers, banana halves and sea salt. Totally makes me think of childhood comfort food. I could do without the sea salt (just a personal preference of sweet and salty), but it was really good. Perfect end to a meal to balance all the savory things we just ate. For now there is only one dessert. I’m excited to know what other fun stuff will be offered in the future.
The homemade papperdelle pasta with melt-in-your-mouth suckling pig and arugula. It wasn’t a pretty dish but it was damn good. The pasta had the perfect density. Not too thick or chewy. Perfectly cooked and the suckling pig was such a great complement. Very yummy.
My absolute favorite was the Agnolotti, which is braised rabbit leg, sheep milk, more fancy mushrooms I’v never heard of, and stinging nettles (whatever that is). This plate left me wanting more. I had to refrain from licking the plate. Next time, I’m not sharing.
Overall, I enjoyed the creativity of the dishes, the ambience, and the service. From what I can glean, the service is very accommodating, attentive and well-versed about each component of each dish. I love it when a waiter knows his shit. If you don’t want to do tapas-style and want a dinner size portion they can definitely do that too. I honestly think that might be the better route. The bar still offers Smyth-like service, where the mixologist will create a drink based on your conversations with them about your drinks preferences.
While I’m sure by the time you try this place out, all the social media and websites will be available for you to peruse the menu, reviews, and maybe even pictures of the venue. Prices might even change. As much as I really want to love this place for the food, I’d give this spot a 3 or 3.5 stars. It’s still relatively new, so while the venue is working out any kinks, it’s tough to judge.
If I do come back, I’ll probably ask for dinner sized portions instead of going for tapas style or check out their brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. All in all, there’s definitely some great potential here.