It's odd putting time into a restaurant review when you know the restaurant you're writing about will most likely not exist as it does for very long. Campo Modern Country Bistro, the subject of this week's review, opened last year with Matt McCallister as its "consulting executive chef." After designing the menu, McCallister planned to turn things over to Josh Black, the kitchen's number two.
A first look in the Dallas Morning News made McCallister's tenure with the restaurant seem more permanent. The owners, according to Leslie Brenner, were saying that McCallister will continue consulting even after Black takes over. Co-owner John Paul Valverde gave me the same line when I asked about the restaurant's future.
But while dining at Campo I heard mention of McCallister's next venture, a more refined concept with a name I promised not to repeat. (McCallister confirmed the project later over the phone.) What he would confirm is that the project is his own, and that the current group responsible for Campo is not involved.
It's pretty easy to see that McCallister has his eyes on the horizon instead of the pass right in front of him. What's amazing is that, given that distraction, Campo still makes for a compelling dining experience -- the most interesting restaurant Dallas has going right now. That's why I thought it deserved a full review, even if it will likely be something different later this spring.
It would be a shame if Matt didn't stay involved (and I doubt he will). He's in a great space and most of his cooking sings. While eating a pickled lamb's tongue salad, I tweeted that I was eating a poem. It was that good.
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Given the chance, I think most young chefs would jump at the opportunity to work for themselves. What remains to be seen is if McCallister can conjure the magic that is Campo when he lands in his new digs, wherever and whatever they may be.