Changing your menu with the seasons has become a hot concept in the restaurant world. But few do it with the panache of Lark on the Park, the glass-walled, art-filled restaurant across from Dallas’ Klyde Warren Park from longtime restaurateur Shannon Wynne.
Lark opened in 2013; but chefs Melody Bishop and Dennis Kelley recently introduced a summer menu that highlights how exuberantly the restaurant embraces the seasonal mantra.
The restaurant also has a new pastry chef, Ann Parravano, who is bringing her own magic to the mix, with inventive desserts such as a Bavarian cream made from avocado and white chocolate.
Bishop and Kelley exhibit a playful creativity, pairing scallops with Texas melons and tossing in tomatoes everywhere: roasted to accompany a Texas hanger steak; in thick slices on a turkey sandwich; or bobbing in a colorful succotash with corn and summer squash.
The chefs, who previously worked with renowned chef Suzanne Goin at the Tavern in Los Angeles, know their way around a rib-eye (which they sell in a grass-fed version for two, $39 per person). But they give equal consideration to what else is on the plate, treating grains and veggies holistically, rather than as window dressing to pretty up the meat.
Marrakesh hen ($26) had a Moroccan theme. A thigh and leg were seasoned with ras el hanout, the signature gingery spice mix of Marrakesh, and braised. Though still on the bone, the moist, buttery-soft meat slid away effortlessly with a fork.
The hen rested on fresh spinach and a mound of wheat berries and black rice, fortified with an exotic mélange of saffron-hued onions sliced thin like spaghetti, golden raisins, apricots, figs and pistachios. The interplay of sweet, savory and spicy was rich and complex.
The spinach started out uncooked, its still-attached stems lending an appealing rusticity. As the greens slowly wilted, some kept their body while the rest collapsed, becoming shiny and moist.
Apricots and pistachios also appear on the antipasto board ($13), along with prosciutto and burrata cheese. The all-meat charcuterie plate ($13) stars prosciutto and salami. Cheese plates come in two sizes, with three cheeses for $12 or five for $16. Lark sees many large groups, and they all seem to order multiples of these boards to share.
Gnocchi ($23) was like an adult version of SpaghettiOs, delivering all of the comfort and surrender of that childhood favorite, but in foodie mode. Bite-size nubs of pasta were dredged in a garlicky orangey-red tomato sauce, along with smooth chunks of Japanese eggplant and cherry tomatoes, some soft, some still firm.
Salads included ingredients you might not expect and made them feel harmonious. One paired radicchio ($14) with Bing cherries, apricots, hazelnuts, prosciutto and Brillat-Savarin cheese.
Radicchio can seem bitter and unforgiving, but tossing it in balsamic vinegar with sweet fruit and a rich cheese like the triple-cream Brillat-Savarin made its bitterness welcome. The cheese, a large wedge with rind, was dropped on top ever so casually. Prosciutto consisted of a single sheet, dried until crisp like bacon.
At lunch, there’s a Thai-flavored steak salad ($16) with chiles, and the eponymous Park salad ($12), a stunner with tomato, avocado, corn and baby beets. Lunch is when you’ll find the burger ($13), along with Park Cities ladies and old-time Dallasites who have followed Wynne since the days of 8.0.
Service mimics the tone of other Wynne concepts such as Bird Cafe and Meddlesome Moth. Basically, it’s about them, not you; but you’ll eventually get what you need. There are benefits to being part of the Wynne family enterprises, namely at the bar, where you can find unique craft beers on tap whose seasonal rotation matches the standard set in the kitchen.