It’s been two years since Sachet sailed into our dining scene. Allison Yoder and Stephen Rogers’ passionate ode to the food and wine of the Mediterranean quickly became the local ambassador for a national food movement. The restaurant’s gorgeously breezy dining room and saffron-scented menu were a contemporary celebration of the region’s vivid flavors and festive, communal style of dining. It dazzled every critic in town.
But even the city’s most admired restaurants aren’t protected from the swift currents of the Dallas dining scene. In the last year, Sachet lost Michael Lawson, its executive sous chef who had contributed a number of dishes to the menu, when he went to Macellaio, the charcuterie-centric hot spot in Bishop Arts, and then to Curtis Stone’s forthcoming Dallas restaurant, Georgie. Sachet’s sommelier, Cameron Cronin, one of Dallas’ leaders on natural wine, departed for Homewood, Matt McCallister’s progressive four-star restaurant in Oak Lawn.
It couldn’t have been easy for Rogers and Yoder — he’s the chef, she handles front of the house and wine — a married couple who also own Gemma, the beloved Henderson Avenue boîte. Five months ago, they promoted a 24-year-old Gemma cook, Brendon Vaughan, into Lawson’s spot and hired another up-and-comer, Christina Spadaro, to the somm team.
Clearly, it was time to check in. I had been to Sachet once under the original lineup and enjoyed the dinner. But without doubt, each of my three recent visits was better than that experience — the flavors more vivid and assured, the service a little more confident and relaxed. Even designer Elizabeth Parham Johnson’s dining room — its gleaming whites and pale woods washed with sunlight during the day and flickering candlelight at night — has softened into something that feels a little more gracious and lived in.
Yoder and Rogers, working with Vaughan, are gently moving the menu toward more family-style dishes, such as the profoundly delicious Catalan-style lamb stew and large cuts of meat, while maintaining a core of favorites and the vibrant energy that defines the place.
As always, influences from Spain, Sardinia, Tunisia, Turkey, Greece — anyplace that shares a Mediterranean shore and a couple of places that don’t — are seamlessly woven together to create a breathtaking range of contemporary dishes.
You’ll want to start with the meze, an array of small vegetable dishes served at room temperature. They land on the table within minutes of ordering, and with a sip of a Flamenco aperitif — an herbal coupe of Manzanilla sherry, suze, lavender and lemon — they are a wonderful way to ease into the evening as you decide on the rest of your meal. (That is, except for the time a waiter refused to take our meze order until we were ready to order everything.)
Each meze is as distinct as a thumbprint: The Lebanese okra, softly stewed with tomato and brightened with mint and pops of coriander seed. The French lentils, earthy and almost al dente, offset by the big flavors of a coral-colored muhammara, the Turkish puree of red pepper, walnuts and pomegranate molasses. The cool relief of the julienned celery root, a mashup of French celery remoulade and Middle Eastern flavors including tzatziki, feta and dates. The tiny bowl of six fat Spanish Gordal olives, meaty and marinated in garlic, citrus and herb oil.
With your meze, you’ll also want to spend the $5 for pita from the wood oven, two rounded breads about the size and thickness of hefty biscuits. Baked in the pocketless Israeli style, with a blend of flours that has lately included buckwheat, they are terrific dipped into a little of the grassy Sicilian olive oil and sprinkled with dukkah, the Egyptian blend of ground toasted nuts, seeds and spices. And the pita is a big improvement over the rather fetal, underbaked ciabatta served gratis.
Rogers’ green fava falafel, also Egyptian in inspiration, is one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in a while. He uses a mix of fresh and dried favas to create amazingly airy, pebbled little pucks, set off with a swirl of mint-infused yogurt and topped with a tangy radish and herb salad.
Pork ribs, new to the menu, are brined with shawarma spices, braised to tenderness in the wood oven, then quickly seared and brushed with tahini. They are complemented by a bright tumble of shaved fennel, cherry tomatoes marinated in red wine vinegar and bursting with juices, and flat-leaf parsley.
Rogers is reducing the number of pastas in favor of family-style dishes and a new kebab menu. But here’s a vote for green tortiglioni forever: a comforting, light dish of large pasta tubes bathed in a piquant salsa verde with oyster, cremini and trumpet mushrooms.
The lamb stew recently returned in anticipation of cooler temperatures. But I have to say I loved eating this even on a 90-degree day, when it arrived in a bright red tagine, the vessel’s conical top ceremoniously lifted to release a steamy burst of aromas.
A whole lamb shank, lamb ribs and tender chunks of lamb shoulder mingle in a rich tomato braise redolent of saffron, leavened with sliced new potatoes, brightened with olives and thickened with ground almonds. It is $52, and it would have been enough for four. But I was happy to have some to take home and reheat the next day.
A roasted chicken leg and thigh sounded like something I might cook on a weeknight, but I would never achieve the ideal crispness and juiciness and oneness with the wilted spinach, orzo and feta making a bed beneath it. It was one of many dishes that had me wishing Rogers would please just go write a cookbook.
Among the desserts, a new version of pressed Greek yogurt was the surprise standout. Quenelles of yogurt, lightly sweet and scented with vanilla, were amped up for fall with cardamom and allspice, and served over a browned butter crumble and with an addictively dark compote of blackberry and blueberry. It was a humble dessert that had all the components of a trendy deconstructed pie.
And for just pure, simple pleasure, there are the yo yo — by now a Dallas classic — four Tunisian doughnuts dusted in cardamom sugar and served with intense lavender honey and dark chocolate dipping sauces.
The Sachet wine list is an odyssey of its own, covering the full sweep of the Mediterranean in dozens of unfamiliar bottles, 40 of them offered by the glass, with a general tilt toward natural and biodynamic wines.
I’m pretty well versed in unusual wines, but Albania? Turkey? Israel? Even if you’re just ordering a glass, request the help of a sommelier. Drinking at Sachet is like discovering another planet of regions, varieties and wineries.
In addition to the sparkling, rosé, orange, white and red wines, a strong sherry and flor section covers the range of dry to sweet, with flexibility to use some as aperitifs and others as dessert wines. Like the rest of the list, prices encourage experimentation — if I were stopping in after work, this might be the section I’d explore first, maybe with that meze of spiced marconas and pistachios.
Yes, there were some bumps along the way, too. The swordfish kebab, a few morsels of fish cooked in the wood oven and served off the skewer over a bed of white beans, was fishy and a little dull. A fatoush salad was ruined by some extremely salty croutons. The broccolini meze was underseasoned compared with its robust siblings.
But these are quibbles. At the end of my visits, I was eager to hear more about the prodigy they have in the kitchen. But Vaughan, Yoder told me, is leaving the restaurant in a month to work at the Hotel Crescent Court.
Such is life in a Dallas restaurant. But Yoder and Rogers have built a sturdy vessel, and they will, no doubt, sail on.
Rating: Three and a half stars
Price: $$$ (Lunch appetizers $5 to $15; sandwiches, pasta and pizza $12 to $27; entrees $19 to $33. Dinner salad and appetizers $5 to $17, pasta and pizza $13 to $22, entrees $19 to $52, family-style dishes $45 to $84, four-course prix fixe $35. Sunset menu appetizers $5 to $16, pasta and pizza $13 to $28, entrees $21 to $37. On all menus, meze $6 to $23, desserts $7 to $9.)
Service: Professional, friendly and well-versed in the nuances of the menu and wine list
Ambience: After two years and some major staff changes, Allison Yoder and Stephen Rogers’ gorgeous ode to the food and wine of the Mediterranean is more dazzling than ever. The menu seamlessly weaves influences from Spain, Sardinia, Greece — anyplace that shares its shore — to create a breathtaking range of precisely flavored, contemporary dishes, be it sprightly meze, a profoundly delicious Catalan lamb stew or a pressed Greek yogurt dessert that reads more like a deconstructed blueberry pie. The room is as stylish and festive as you’d expect in this corner of Highland Park, its gleaming whites and natural woods washed in sunlight during the day and flickering candlelight in the evening.
Noise: Shouty (79 decibels)
Drinks: The Mediterranean wine list is its own odyssey — filled with unfamiliar grapes, regions and wineries — but organized and priced to encourage some risk-taking. Ask for a sommelier before you choose even a glass (there are about 40 on offer), and prepare to have a new world open up (who knew Albanian Kallmet was so good?). Cocktails ($9 to $14) are equally fresh and keyed into the menu, including the Sachet Spritzer with apricot- and lemon-infused Aperol, cava and orange, and the Mediterranean Margarita, with tequila, blackberry and orange blossom water and mint.
Recommended: Meze, green fava falafel, green tortiglioni pasta, shawarma-spiced pork ribs, Catalan-style lamb stew, pressed Greek yogurt dessert, yo yo (Tunisian doughnuts)
GPS: Most tables are arranged along partitions that block views of the room. To take in the show — the open kitchen and wood-fired oven, towering glass wine cellar and stylish crowd — grab a seat along the left side of the bar.
Address: 4270 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas; 214-613-6425; sachetdallas.com
Hours: Lunch Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunset menu Tuesday-Saturday 3 to 5 p.m. Dinner Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 to 11 p.m.
Reservations: Accepted. The 24 seats at the bar (plus some of the tables in the restaurant) are reserved for walk-ins.
Credit cards: All major
Health department score: Excellent (1, September)
Access: Restaurant and bar are on one level.
Parking: Free valet parking; self-parking in the front and back of the shopping center.
4 stars: Extraordinary (First-rate on every level; a benchmark dining experience)
3 stars: Excellent (A destination restaurant and leader on the DFW food scene)
2 stars: Very Good (Strong concept and generally strong execution)
1 star: Good (Has merit, but limited ambition or spotty execution)
No stars: Poor (Not recommended)
Below 60: Quiet. Maybe too quiet.
60-69: Easy listening. Normal conversation, with a light background buzz.
70-79: Shouty. Conversation is possible, but only with raised voices.
80-85: Loud. Can you hear me now? Probably not.
Average dinner per person.
$ — $19 and under
$$ — $20 to $50
$$$ — $50 to $99
$$$$ — $100 and over