**Edit…I originally wrote this after I’d just ended 9 months working prep and the line at Hibiscus under Graham Dodds and then Nick Ocando. It was a rewarding (and sometimes challenging) experience.**
Not too long after I went back to concentrating on my private chef business, Chef NIck took a gig at the Gaylord. And today (Sept. 19), Hibiscus announced that it’s shutting it’s doors.
If you know you me, you know that I really love good food. Having worked with Nick for a while, I’m confident in putting this out there for…consumption. Go eat.
If you haven’t eaten Chef Nick’s food, you should go. Here’s why:
1. The Food Is Excellent.
I’m not talking “Oh, that’s nice.” I’m talking “Give me a moment.”
The flavor combinations are wonderful. You might get a little out of your traditional food box, but nothing is weird. It all works. It’s au courant without being trendy. Oh, and he’s originally from Maine, so all you seafood lovers will love what he does.
2. It’s (mostly) Locally Sourced
Nick tells me he’s got the green light to work with all his local producers. Let’s face it: You can’t get clams in Dallas. But to the extent it’s available, the food comes from local farmers. All the little pea tendrils, micro swiss chard, and a lot of the meat are produced locally.
What does it matter? Flavor. Trust me. Find someone who raises chickens and make a scrambled egg from one their hens’ eggs. Now make one with a “store-bought” variety. Check the color. Taste the flavor. It matters.
3. If It’s Not Local, It’s Fresh (and Top Quality)
Chef Nick is constantly putting new and different fish on the menu. That snapper, by the way, was flown in fresh, then portioned in the restaurant. The same for the black bass, the cod…you get the idea.
He’s also constantly searching for the best of any particular ingredient. Ever heard of Piedmontese Beef? Yeah, neither had I. When I worked with Chef Nick, that’s what was on the menu, because that’s what was worth eating.
4. The Charcuterie
At Hibiscus, Chef Nick’s charcuterie was awesome. He tells me that the Gaylord has given him free reign, with a dedicated room just for curing meats. Having been a part of the process (don’t ask…it’s like politics), I know first-had that his charcuterie is awesome, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.
(By the way, there’s a reason D Magazine listed Hibiscus as one of the best in Dallas.) Just sayin’.
5. Nick Ocando Is A Great Guy
Why should this be a reason to eat at a restaurant? Do you want to eat some place where the line cooks are just making it through the night, or somewhere where they’re inspired to do their best? Me? I would choose the latter.
Beyond that, maybe there’s a little bit of karma that needs spreading. With all the hot-shot, hot-headed chefs out there, it’s nice to see a nice guy finish first.
So, for your next nice meal, check out Chef Nick at the Gaylord. You’ll thank me when you do.