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Dining options in Dallas are many and varied, from Tex-Mex to Southern to modern American. If you want tacos, there are at least 10 places I can think of immediately to get them (pro tip: definitely go to Mr. Mesero.)
But Gemma carves its own niche in the city along Knox-Henderson Avenue, somewhere between Asian-American fusion flavors and rustic Texas cooking. The menu has oriental-inspired seafood dishes of coconut milk and lemongrass, as well as pork chops and fried Texas quail.
Honestly, if there’s one thing you should’t go home without tasting, it’s the fried castelvetrano olives and toasted local Texas pecans. Served piping hot out of the oven, the salty mix feels festive and full of Southern charm.
The space is softly lit, the dining room characterized by its gray paneling against white walls, dark wooden tables and rope light fixtures. Beyond the marble bar and mirrored shelves, a chalkboard on a wall by the bathrooms lists the farms and suppliers of every ingredient on the menu, including the limes in the jalapeño-infused tequila, cilantro and lime cocktail.
The baby bok choy salad is a texturally perfect combination of ingredients. The bok choy is sliced thin into emerald green strips and tossed with shavings of raw fennel and pomegranate seeds, cashews, and cubes of juicy, floral Asian pear. The Meyer lemon vinaigrette dressing alone is like the best lemonade you’ve ever had.
The apple & beet salad was made with richly flavored, plump wedges of golden beets; thinly sliced apples (gala?), endive leaf spears and Point Reyes blue cheese.
For main courses, the grilled striped bass is a seasonal fall addition to the menu. The perfectly charred on the outside, tender on the inside pieces of fish are served over a bed of butternut squash quinoa “risotto,” which tastes as if it’s been simmered in perfectly seasoned squash puree.
I’m all over the duck breast and duck confit served with fried rice, mushrooms and plum sauce, which I’ve enjoyed in the past. My mom swears that Gemma is the only restaurant she’d order chicken, and one bite of the tender porchetta (read: stuffed) and foraged wild maitake mushrooms in red wine pan jus served with gnocchi told me why.
The service at Gemma is consistently one of the very best in the city. Upon requesting a dish that was prepared without gluten or dairy ingredients, out waitress kindly pointed out serval dishes that could easily accommodate me, one of which was the striped bass. There was no fuss; no forgetting; and no worries. Now that’s a modern kitchen.
The night I visited Gemma was my mom’s birthday, and as a gesture the folks there offered us complimentary dairy-free sorbet for dessert, birthday card included. One scoop was crafted with coconut milk, giving it a creamy texture. The mulling-spiced apple cider sorbet tasted like frozen Fall, despite the 85-degree November temperatures in Dallas.
Cheers to the chefs at Gemma, who after running a successful restaurant in Napa Valley (read more about their bio in D Magazine), have struck the right balance in Dallas with West-Coast-meets-Texas fusion of modern lightened-up fare and simple comfort flavors.
2323 N Henderson Ave, #109 Dallas, TX. 75206