The local blogs were mighty skeptical when word came down recently that John Tesar was joining the team at Oak in the Design District, following the departure of former chef Brian Zenner. With a busy restaurant of his own, another one reportedly in the works, and a reality TV show currently being filmed, it seemed a downright odd move for Tesar to join the Apheleia team. (Word on the street is Oak co-owner Richard Ellman is an investor in Tesar's next restaurant, which would certainly help explain the situation.)
But the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the tofu dumplings. Tesar, who's official title is "chef partner," just dropped his new dinner menu at Oak, and fans of the chef's shuttered seafood restaurant will likely be pleased to see several seafood dishes dotting the menu — including a Shanghai chili lobster that sounds reminiscent of the Singaporean chili lobster dish that was so popular at Spoon.
You might even catch a glimpse of Tesar himself plating your hamachi crudo: While he's appointed a chef de cuisine, Alex Henderson, a representative for Oak promises Tesar will be handling most of the day-to-day duties. Meanwhile, the sweet side of the menu is being handled by Knife pastry chef David Collier, who also used to work under Tesar during his Mansion on Turtle Creek days.
Scope out Tesar and Collier's new menus for Oak, below — and stay tuned to see if Leslie Brenner decides to pay Oak a visit for a re-review under Tesar's tutelage. (Or will Tesar's infamous banning of the critic from his restaurants come into play here, too?)