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The perfectly cooked golden tilefish (halibut) with spring peas, Calabrian chile and pea-shoots

Bar None

by Rachael Abrams | Photography by Jill Broussard | Modern Luxury Dallas magazine | May 29, 2014

Though easily mistaken for a speakeasy with a weathered exterior and lack of signage, like its neighboring mixology den, Smyth, The Establishment dishes out some tasty bites along with hip energy, fresh shellfish and a colorful cocktail menu.

The Cedars Social’s Brian Williams’ newest venture brings a little edge to the Knox-Henderson neighborhood. The restaurant is anything but ordinary for Dallas’ dining scene. There’s an oyster bar, a cocktail bar and a mostly seafood menu in a magically chic decor of booths, long tables for communal dining and unique wood-planked walls.

On a recent Tuesday night, a mix of young and old foodies were spread throughout as fairly loud indie rock music set the tone for an upbeat night. The wine list is vast with mostly European selects and a handful of California and South African bottles. Though unsure of who our waiter was, because we were approached by (what felt like) 10 different waiters, we trusted the suggestion to the house-favorite blood orange 75 with Citadelle gin, cava, blood orange and lemon. Similar to a mimosa, this cocktail is sweet and slightly bubbly.

We were told that everything on chef Brent Hammer’s menu was $10 (except the oysters and cocktails), so we opted to explore the options. We began with the housemade ricotta, prepared smoky with crushed roasted tomatoes, which we spread on a toasted baguette. Then we went for oysters—from the list of seven varieties, we chose Kusshi and Fanny Bay, from British Columbia. Served on the half-shell over a bed of ice, with lemon wedges and a variety of sauces, the fresh raw oysters were the perfect treat for a warm day. The only thing missing was a glass of Champagne and more bread.

We can still taste the vibrant greens. The kale salad is full of pizazz with a citrus yuzu vinaigrette, robust pickled mango and pistachios. The bold Asian flavors are rounded out and enriched by the fluffy housemade ricotta. Equally as flawless is the arugula salad dressed in a light aromatic tarragon vinaigrette with watermelon cubes, fried crispy feta and elegant shavings of watermelon radish.

We could’ve skipped the Hudson Valley duck wings, which were crispy, tasty and tender, like our favorite barbecue wings, but not unique enough for the restaurant. And we should’ve ordered two more plates of the succulent lobster because nothing else compared. The meat, drenched in rich popcorn butter, was plated beautifully alongside wild mushrooms and a drizzle of sweet-pea puree.

Other dishes on the menu were hit or miss. Though the fin fish options have potential to be great, we were slightly disappointed. The ocean trout is pink and prettier than it tastes. The halibut cooked-to-perfection, accompanied by warm chanterelles and asparagus, was shattered by an unfortunate pea broth. But the agnolotti pasta is soulful, with sheep milk and a creamy broth with fiddlehead ferns.

There’s only one dessert option—a grainy butterscotch pudding served with pieces of vanilla wafers and giant banana slices—which simply reiterated that The Establishment is really about a cool vibe with unique bites. It’s perhaps the best bar food in-town, if you like seafood. The real magic happens over cocktails and shellfish.

The Establishment

4513 Travis St.

Dinner Sun.-Wed., 6-11pm and Thu.-Sat., 6pm-12am; late night Sun.-Wed., 11pm-12am and Thu.-Sat., 12am-1pm; brunch Sat.-Sun., 10am-3pm

Dress Code
Dress casual chic. The effortlessly cool atmosphere welcomes all—formal and relaxed diners.

Peace and Quiet
For a quieter dining experience, reserve a space on the front patio outside.

Bar Food
For a lounge-vibe, order at the back bar, or at the oyster bar for a swankier dining experience.