By James Reid
Dallas-Fort Worth’s dining landscape is dynamic and ever changing. Some of the newer establish ments fade away quickly or suffer when the execu tive chef leaves. Others not only endure, but also thrive over the years and become must-visit stops on the DFW dining map.
Gemma has all the traits necessary to become a long-term success due to its simple sophistication. Chef Stephen Rogers and his wife Allison Yoder left the Napa Valley restaurant, Press, where he was executive chef and she the general manager. Chef Rogers, a Dallas native, wanted to bring his brand of cooking back to Texas, and he found a home for his restaurant on trendy Henderson Avenue in Dallas.
Gemma’s understated exterior sets the stage for the elegant interior, where wall colors of muted blues contrast with white shelves above the bar. Simple tables with comfortable chairs add a touch of classic elegance to the atmosphere, as do the patrons—a varied group of University Park residents and young, Uptown professionals. All together, it makes for a relaxing environment to enjoy the meal to come. Yoder oversees the dining room, and we had the opportunity to speak
with her for a moment during our visit. One bit of trivia about Yoder, she is a classically trained opera singer and met her husband while attending performing arts school in Pennsylvania.
The menu is divided into six sections: raw, salad, appetizer, to share, vegetables and main course. The focus in each section is on fewer items with greater care in ingredient selection and preparation. The theme of simplicity can be seen in Chef Rogers’ less-is-more approach, which translates to beautiful, flavorful and overwhelmingly satisfying dishes
We started in the to share section with turkey meatballs. The spices in the meatballs gave it a full flavor, and a sweet and tangy tomato sauce (not marinara) and side of toasted crostini complemented the dish. For our main course selections, I chose the braised veal cheeks with a side of the vegetable of the moment, roasted Brussels sprouts. Gemma’s are pan-roasted with bits of savory bacon. As for the meat, braising is a cooking technique that requires preparation, patience and time. The veal cheeks were served up in a cast iron pan on top of house made black pepper spätzle and surrounded by turnips, baby carrots, baby onions and bacon. The veal was moist, tender and rich. I had to keep my dining partner from taking more than her share because of how amazing it was. She chose the pappardelle pasta with braised rabbit. The pasta is made fresh each day, and the sauce was rich and perfectly salty with bits of crisp pancetta mixed with Swiss chard and thyme. To finish our meal, we chose the apple tart topped with butter pecan ice cream. It was decadent.
Plan a trip to Dallas soon to take a seat in this very elegant dining destination, but remember, they are only open five days a week—Wednesday through Sunday—and you’ll need to make a reservation. If you see Yoder working the room, say hello from Southlake Style and enjoy! You won’t be disappointed.