Steakhouse Does Salad

Knife may be a modern steakhouse but chef John Tesar doesn't scrimp on salads

Knife may be a modern steakhouse but Tesar doesn't scrimp on salads

Knife, salad
House garden salad at Knife, the new steakhouse at Hotel Palomar. Photo by Marc Lee
Chef John Tesar of Knife steakhouse in Dallas
Chef John Tesar inside the meat-aging room at Knife. Photo by Marc Lee
Knife, salad
Complimentary crudite with green goddess dressing. Photo by Marc Lee
Knife, salad
Knife's pea shoot salad. Photo by Marc Lee
Knife, salad
Onion rings piled high. Photo by Marc Lee
Knife, salad
Watercress salad is also on the menu at Knife. Photo by Marc Lee
Knife, salad
Redecorated restaurant at Hotel Palomar. Photo by Marc Lee
Knife, salad
Chef John Tesar of Knife steakhouse in Dallas
Knife, salad
Knife, salad
Knife, salad
Knife, salad
Knife, salad

Hotel Palomar's new restaurant Knife, starring celebrity chef and Top Chef contestant John Tesar, may be a steakhouse dedicated to rare and exotic cuts of meat. But like any steakhouse, it has an equally serious commitment to vegetable side dishes and salads, and we are here today to celebrate those salads.

The restaurant opened discreetly. "We kept a lid on the reservations — we wanted to allow for a few locals to walk in," Tesar says, even as the restaurant faced a busy Sunday night.

A collaboration between Tesar and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Knife takes the steakhouse model that Dallas knows and loves and brings it to 2014. That means unusual cuts of meat; steak sold by the inch; and a custom-built aging room where steaks are aged for 240 days, which is practically a year.

 "I want to give people a little of what they expect from a traditional steakhouse but also surprise them with specialty cuts you rarely find, cooked in unique ways," Tesar says.

"I want to give people a little of what they expect from a traditional steakhouse but also surprise them with specialty cuts you rarely find, cooked in unique ways," Tesar says.

Although the layout of the dining room hasn't changed, almost everything else has, including decor conceived by Tesar and executed by design firm Breckinridge/Taylor. Keeping the hotel's aesthetic in mind but still showcasing Knife's personal identity, the decor injects a modern sophistication into traditional steakhouse elements with rich fabrics, rustic chandeliers and wood paneling.

The decor is warmer and more quintessentially Texan, with leather-like fabrics that are draped over the bar stools and a couple of chairs in the bar outfitted in over-the-top animal hide and polished horns. Opening bartender Michael Martensen expects to be there for at least 30 days. The sommelier is Sabrina Snodderly.

As for the meat aging room, Tesar was inspired by one he saw at Carnevino, Mario Batali's steakhouse in Las Vegas.

"I asked [executive chef] Nicole Brisson, 'Do you mind just showing me how this works?'" Tesar says, as he enters the room to have his photo taken inside. He offers a quick caution before stepping into the room. "We had to bleach this whole place down, and we have to keep it clean, so be careful with your shoes."

He predicts that keeping a supply of steaks aged that long will be difficult, and he expects that he'll have to mete out the portions carefully.

The salads exhibit the same wild abandon his salads did at his now-closed One Arts Plaza restaurant The Commissary. The house/garden salad features butter lettuce with radishes sliced paper-thin, fresh herbs, a boiled egg cut in half and baby root vegetables smaller than your pinky finger, with their stiff stems still attached. You pick them up by the stem to eat, then set the stem aside — very rustic and sophisticated.

The watercress salad is similar to a salad he did at The Commissary, but with more Belgian endive and crunchy walnuts. The pea shoots salad is killer, with roughly chopped pea shoots; freeze-dried fresh peas that crackle when you bite them; and a cool, creamy frozen pea sorbet.

Sides include a tower of onion rings fried in a light and crunchy beer batter, stacked on a spindle in a tree-shaped display similar to that served at Sushi Samba, the Miami-based chain. Everyone gets a complimentary tray of crudites, chopped roughly and casually, lending an appreciated homey touch. Raw radishes, purple and orange carrots, quartered cucumber wedges and Belgian endive are served with house-made green goddess dressing and a thin sheet of peppery house-made beef jerky.

"You have to have that for the meatheads," Tesar says.