Fearing, Pyles, Gottlich, Hage, Luscher. These are some of the names that are automatically given as answers whenever the question is asked, "Who is the best chef in Dallas?" They have all prepared thousands of wow-inducing meals for their grateful patrons, they have worked in some of the cities better establishments, some like Stephan Pyles and Dean Fearing have become stars by producing a series of well-received cookbooks for fans across the country. Mention the name of chef Tre Wilcox, and most likely the answer will be, "Oh, the Top Chef guy? He's an up-and-comer. So, what's he doing these days?" Well, a lot actually. Seems he's busy busting his chops at Loft 610, the mega lounge and restaurant complex by the Tollway in North Plano. And, based on a couple of meals I've had recently, he just might be ready to merit serious consideration in the pantheon of top Dallas chefs.
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Take the lamb. Whatever your usual fine dining option, consider ordering the lamb. This dish is not the usual, dainty preparation that often photographs better than it tastes. Rather, Wilcox has infused his own personality into the massive, brawny bones so that they are now smoke-filled primal hunks of meat, to the point where picking them up and gnawing at them caveman-style is understandable. The accompanying whipped potatoes are spiked with jalapeno and cheese, making this one of the lustiest dishes I've had outside a steakhouse.
Of course, if you've already dined at Loft 610 before Wilcox's tenure began, you might want to revisit an old favorite, the pan-seared sea scallops. The scallops are juicy and flavorful and the bacon - scallion risotto complements rather than overwhelms the delicate seafood. Pomegranate citrus brown butter adds a touch of fruity sweetness on the finish.
Speaking of risotto, Wilcox has introduced one as a starter, a black-truffle-infused number that, like any good appetizer, whets rather than sates the appetite. Just the right amount of truffle makes this dish sing, and this risotto, like the other, was perfectly prepared, and not at all gummy. Finally, you may want to finish with the cupcake trio, light yet sinfully rich, and particularly good cream cheese frosting on the carrot version.
Loft 610 is still a cavernous barn of a place, modeled on the urban warehouse post-industrial plan, and set on multiple levels. If you find this intimidating, you can ask to sit in a cozier dining area near the entrance. The restaurant proper is on the ground floor, the loft is one flight up, and the pulsing, high-energy lounge is at the very top.
You might expect service in this kind of place to be spotty, but not so. The waiters such as Abe proved honest (sorry about the reference); at one point, he steered me away from the Smoked Bone-In Pork Chop and toward the lamb. The dish was pricier, yes, but worth the upgrade.
So make room Dean and Stephan, all signs are pointing to Tre
y lofting himself into your higher chef orbit.
UPDATE: Wilcox has recently changed the scallops dish, opting instead for a
simple melange of scallops, English peas, tomatoes and crab, and no risotto.
570 State Highway 121, STE 175