Celebrity Chef Ken Rathbun is Lending his Rock Star Cred to Zea Woodfire Grill--and It's Working

Kent Rathbun.

You know him best as one of the Rock Star Chefs of Dallas, the creator and driving force behind Abacus, Jaspers, and Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen, not to mention his stint on Iron Chef America, where he and brother Kevin bested Bobby Flay in Battle Elk. His wife Tracy also gets into the act by owning and operating Shinsei with Lynae Fearing, wife of Dean Fearing, another culinary legend around these parts. Recently, Kent has been seeking new worlds to conquer and therefore decided with partner Bill Hyde to take over the management of Zea Woodfire Grill, tweaking the menu, staff and wine list to incorporate more of his personal philosophy.

My wife and I have enjoyed Zea's rotisserie goodness in the past and since we were in need of a place to celebrate, we made the short drive to see how the Rock Star was doing with his new band.

Zea's taupe and beige tones have always present a warm atmosphere, as suited to the young and hip as well as the SUV crowd. Lots of brick and wood complete the illusion, and the delightful bar has been made more spacious with the addition of a patio complete with outdoor fireplace, where a cool jazz combo was performing. We took over a curved booth facing the patio, so we could watch the band play while we dined.

Scanning the wine list, we noticed Rathbun's first positive impact on Zea. Ever the savvy businessman, he has grouped the list by bottle price into several sections, such as 25 Whites, 35 Reds, 45 Whites, and so forth. Also, the markups are quite reasonable and even more so on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays, when all bottles are half price. We elected to go with two house wines by the glass, the Le Terrea Chardonnay and the Stone Cellars Cabernet, and both proved to be worthy dining companions throughout our leisurely meal.

My wife and I love hummus, so we started with the Mediterranean Hummus Supreme, quite creamy and garlicky with Kalamata Olives and sun-dried tomatoes. When considering entrees, I often opt for steaks if they are offered, but I was more in the mood for something a little lighter. So when our delightful waitress Allison mentioned that pork was the rotisserie special of the day, I decided to try it. Thin, tender slices of roasted loin were topped with a rich wine demi-glace, mushrooms, and capers and sided with excellent sautéed spinach for a standout variation of that old Southern standby, pork and greens. The meat was well-smoked without being overpowered, which was also the case with my companion's choice of Rotisserie Prime Rib, a cake-like slab of beef delicately drenched in French onion au jus and sided with horseradish sour cream. The smoked rib roast met my wife's exacting standards, and she was also quite pleased with the Zeasar Salad, a savory blend of romaine, radicchio, parmesan cheese, Caesar dressing, and herb croutons. Zea's features excellent fresh fruit crackles for dessert, but we opted for more wine and music instead.

Allison proved to be an excellent waitress, invoking the personal touch whenever she saw that we wanted conversation, and also made spot-on suggestions. She also informed us that Rathbun was very nice and quite determined to introduce some of his signature dishes to Zea's menus in the very near future. Keeping the best and tweaking the rest, he has re-energized Zea Woodfire Grill. How very like a rock star.


The Shops at Granite Park
8100 Dallas Parkway
Plano, TX 75024
972 712-7077

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