There was nothing timid about the way chef Matt McCallister jumped back into the Dallas dining scene this week. Nine months, three weeks and two days after he closed his influential restaurant FT33, McCallister and his partner Michael Barnett threw open the doors to Homewood, a more casual restaurant on Oak Lawn that has had Dallas foodies on high alert since they spotted the chef's @homewooddallas Instagram account last summer.
On Tuesday's opening night, no seat was left unfilled to ease the Homewood team from zero to, oh, about 120: From the oyster bar to the sunken cocktail bar, the place was fully booked. Flames leaped from a wood-fired grill in the open kitchen and the waitstaff smoothly executed the dining room choreography.
It felt as if the place had been open for months, and no wonder, with top Dallas talent on board including pastry chef Maggie Huff, an FT33 alum, and bar manager Lauren Festa, formerly of FT33 and Flora Street Café. The adventurous but accessible wine list is by sommelier Cameron Cronin, who honed that approach at Sachet.
And along with wood smoke, there's a whiff of California in the air at Homewood, from the tables set with moss-green Heath ceramics to the airy vaulted ceiling, gleaming white tiles and walls, light woods and, in case you didn't get it, a kitchen shelf holding modern Cali-cooking bibles such as Rich Table, Bar Tartine and Flour + Water.
Right out of the gate, Homewood is one of the most exciting restaurants in the city. The menu is dominated by live-fire cooking, seasonal vegetables and electrifying touches of fermentation, as you would expect from a chef who schooled a generation of Dallas chefs on the technique, including Misti Norris, now at Petra and the Beast.
The evening's compelling flavors begin with a Golden Amaranth cocktail, made with gin, golden beets, fennel, and orange liqueur, and don't let up, even with the bread course, where a cast-iron pan holding just-baked Parker House rolls ($6) is served with a bowl of foamy Parmesan Mornay layered over a dense reduction of chicken stock instead of the usual butter.
A subtle touch of smoke is laced through dishes such as embered Monterey squid, cut into tubes and tossed with smoked chile, puffed rice and fresh radish. Pastas included a flavorful twists of gemelli made with heirloom wheat and embellished with a tiny dice of chorizo, roasted garlic, red pepper flakes and thin slices of razor clam, used more like a seasoning than seafood.
Among the main courses, rosy slices of smoked Hereford pork loin are the star of a plate with ash-cooked kernels of hominy, spigarello and toasted peanut jus playing backup, and crisp chicharrones adding some percussion.
Huff's desserts include a rhubarb galette sliced into triangles and looking more like a plate of cookies and ice cream, not to diminish that fabulous scoop of vanilla crème fraiche ice cream and the sandy sweet crumble and whey jam tucked beneath it.
Dish after dish is fresh, bold and deceptive: There are pings of flavors everywhere, sometimes impossible to put your finger on, but intriguing enough to lure you back. Soon.
Homewood, 4002 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas.