Oak Restaurant has been like a roller coaster, y’all. Ups and downs, but always a fun ride. I’ve never had a bad meal at Oak, though service has been spotty-to-weird, and the menus have lost their way more than once, twisting and turning, looping and even spinning out of control. Or maybe it was just one too many cocktails on my end. Either way, I’m still excited to see what’s just over this next big hill we’re ticking up.
That’s because the big news, in case you’ve been living under a Hard Rock Cafe, is that celebuchef John Tesar is now running the kitchen at Oak. This makes perfect sense to me, because when Oak first opened it was under the cheffery of Jason Dady, who came from the tutelage of one of the greats, Chef David Bouley. And the restaurant had New York City style to match. That’s also the type of verve Tesar possesses. The best restaurants in New York City represent a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. You walk through the doors, leave your coat at the front and strip off the city. Slide into a banquette (not a booth), and it’s cozy, even when it’s as open as the air is as Oak. The food is simple, elegant yet comforting. It’s special and most of all it’s an experience.
Okay I’ll stop now. Here’s Oak’s new lunch menu, now that Tesar’s in charge. You’ll notice there are a few items that have been transplanted from the recently shuttered Spoon (which is a very good thing). Lord knows that place didn’t close because the food was anything less than stellar.
Notable: The burger. Of course there’s still going to be a burger. Tesar serves several on his menu at Knife, and there was an absolutely incredible on on the original lunch menu at Oak that haunts my dreams with levels of dare-I-say – umami – like I’ve never tasted before. The “Knuckle Sandwich” is a half pork belly, half lobster knuckle, SO-not-kosher delight. The Oak grilled cheese soup and sandwich featuring Paula Lambert’s goat cheese sounds outstanding as well. And the selection of virgin cocktails and juices are sure to appeal to the summer set.