Coal-roasted and shaved raw beets with smoked blue cheese, buttermilk green goddess dressing and popped sorghum granola at Rapscallion. The latest expression of Modern Texas cuisine comes via chef and co-owner Nathan Tate.

Coal-roasted and shaved raw beets with smoked blue cheese, buttermilk green goddess dressing and popped sorghum granola at Rapscallion. The latest expression of Modern Texas cuisine comes via chef and co-owner Nathan Tate.

Ashley Landis/Staff Photographer

The latest expression of Modern Texas cuisine — and one of the most original and interesting in Dallas — comes to us from Nathan Tate, chef and co-owner of Rapscallion.

For starters, he proposes pork belly cracklins: meaty, crusty, happily salty chunks served with wedges of lime. Or vuelve a la vida, a Mexican-style seafood cocktail — deconstructed. Or a beautiful salad of coal-roasted and shaved raw beets with celery leaves, bits of smoked blue cheese, dabs of buttermilk green goddess dressing and popped sorghum granola for a nice crunch.

Do consider his wrapped scallions: green onions enrobed in thin slices of house-made pancetta, then grilled and set on a zippy Espelette vinaigrette. Yes, it's also an appetizer wrapped in a pun: Rapscallion. Wrapped scallions!

Rapscallion

The 2-month-old Lowest Greenville spot is a smallish place tucked between Trader Joe's and Yucatan Taco Stand, across the street from Remedy, Steel City Pops and Nora. Yes, the neighborhood is super foodie-hot.

Sister restaurant Boulevardier is known for its oysters and cocktails, themes that play out convincingly at Rapscallion as well, even if a bit of grit tends to stay behind when the oysters are shucked. The bar is inviting and sociable, whether you want to sip one of Eddie Eakin's delicious alcoholic potions, slurp a few delicately cucumbery Pemaquids or briny Raspberry Points, or settle in for dinner — tables in the narrow dining room (white brick walls, long dark comfy banquette) book up quickly.

In fact, the place is ideally suited for bar dining, or casual snacks and drinks — or a dandy bottle of wine from Brooks and Bradley Anderson's thoughtful all-American list (the Anderson brothers co-own the place with Tate). That's because so many of the best dishes are noshy, like the cabrito kebab — a couple of flatbreads, each folded around terrific grilled baby goat spiced with ras el hanout and dressed up with parsley-and-mint-happy herb salad, red onion, pickled watermelon rind and a dollop of yogurt.

Tate's pickled gulf shrimp shows, in a fiery way, a difference between modern Southern and Modern Texan cuisine: jalapeños, baby! Mint and chunks of watermelon give the salad delicious end-of-summer allure. If spicy's not your thing, go instead for a plate of coriander-cured yellowtail, luscious slices of fish counterpointed nicely by a silky lemon emulsion and tangy chow-chow (I felt its crunchy mini cornbread croutons detracted from its luxuriant texture, though).

Vegetables get star treatment here, as in a generous — and great-looking — plate called "greens": fermented collards and Chinese water spinach strewn with diced bacon and lots of chopped toasted peanuts. Another side dish, cast-iron pan de campo ("made-to-order skillet cornbread with duck confit and culture butter blended with sweet cornbread") was far less interesting than it sounded; all those cool ingredients got lost.

Chatter at the bar one night suggested the fried chicken is a big draw for diners. Cutely named "the long walk to Nashville," it's available by half or whole bird. Its crunchy coating is nicely spiced, but I was looking for more succulence and flavor — particularly after the brining and "rotisserizing" that precedes its frying. Tea-brined spit-roasted chicken was fine if unremarkable, served with nicely grilled spring onions and a dull rye whiskey gravy.

I preferred thick slices of boneless short rib cooked sous-vide and seared to miraculously tender medium-rare. Tate gave the beef summery appeal by tucking a lively salad of tomatoes and cucumbers underneath, along with roasted pepper-studded hominy and zippy horseradish chimichurri. Even better was spit-roasted Berkshire pork collar: juicy pink slabs set on an unusual caramelized plantain purée and dressed up with vibrant-tasting charred salsa verde and an escabeche — bright, fresh and crunchy — of carrots and cauliflower.

Chef Nathan Tate at Rapscallion on Thursday, September 3, 2015 in Dallas. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News)

Chef Nathan Tate at Rapscallion on Thursday, September 3, 2015 in Dallas. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News)

Ashley Landis/Staff Photographer

There were main-course misses, though, as in nicely fried catfish fillets served with Manila clams on undercooked black-eyed peas and not nearly enough fermented collards; the redundant double-umami of dashi and ham hocks in the broth wasted a perfectly good Asian-Southern mixed metaphor. The same evening, a gorgeously cooked 23-ounce, 21-day-dry-aged rib-eye cap for two had excellent flavor, but my friend and I were baffled by its accompaniment: a decidedly un-summery roasted marrow bone.

Our server was no help — he cheerfully brought pitas (for a charge) when we requested bread, as eating forkfuls of marrow seemed so bizarre when you had a steak in front of you. But he neglected to tell us that Tate means for diners to spread the marrow directly on the meat "for an incredible richness," as I later learned. Advice would have been welcome, too, about how to eat that deconstructed seafood cocktail — serve everyone a little of each ingredient? Or mix it up, then serve? Seemed like every time we needed him, he was rushing away.

Another evening, a different server chatted my table up so thoroughly I nearly asked if she wanted to pull up a chair and join us. A sweet kid, but there's a limit, and her hard-sell of "favorite" dishes was tiring.

The third time, when I sat outside on the just-opened patio with a girlfriend, the service was just right: attentive, professional, not overbearing. Our server described each dish as it was set before us: Oh, right — that's smoked tomato aioli with the fried pickled vegetables. No need to refer back to the menu, which is so nice.

Dinner ends happily with any one of a trio of desserts, all with lovely house-made ice cream — caramel-squiggled peach crisp with a scoop of vanilla; a deceptively Spartan-looking pineapple upside-down cake and buttermilk ice cream; a slice of glossy Texas chocolate sheath cake with gooey coconut-cream-cheese filling between its layers, candy pecans and a scoop of horchata ice cream.

Or enjoy that ice cream in a boozy float, like one with Knob Creek Bourbon ice cream, Dr Pepper and peanut brittle.

A Modern Texas dessert if ever there were one. It's a dilly.

Rapscallion (3 stars)

Price: $$$ (appetizers and salads $5 to $19, main courses $14 to $36, desserts $9)

Service: Ranges from overbearing to elusive to attentively spot-on professional, depending on the server

Ambience: A friendly, laid-back, inviting little spot with an appealing bar and likable patio

Noise level: Medium-loud

Location: 2023 Greenville Ave., Dallas; 469-291-5660; dallasrapscallion.com

Hours: Raw bar and starters Tuesday- Sunday 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.; dinner Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday 5:30 to 10p.m., Friday-Saturday 5:30 to 11 p.m. Bar open Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 4:30 to 10 p.m., Thursday 4:30 to 11 p.m., Friday-Saturday 4:30 p.m. to midnight.

Reservations: Accepted

Credit cards: All major

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar. Brooks and Bradley Anderson's two-page, all-American wine list offers plenty of interesting surprises that work well with the food, such as a deliciously herbal 2013 Barboursville Vineyards Cabernet Franc for $57. From Texas, Duchman Family Winery Trebbiano ($8 per glass, $32 per bottle) sings with the oysters.

Ratings legend

5 stars: Extraordinary

4 stars: Excellent

3 stars: Very good

2 stars: Good

1 star: Fair

No stars: Poor

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