Kent Rathbun still knows how to throw one hell of a party. It was a Tuesday night, and yet his nearly 14-year-old Abacus—the white tablecloth centerpiece of the celebrity chef’s restaurant empire— was downright raucous. Well-dressed patrons were clinking crystal and downing lobster shooters with gusto. Yes, those darling lobster-stuffed fried dumplings, bathed in a fragrant red curry-coconut sauce and served in a sake cup, were as popular as ever. Abacus’ signature appetizer epitomizes the restaurant’s experience: fine-dining flavors served with casual flair. Rathbun’s fans certainly seemed to enjoy them. We did, too. Much like the shooters, the best dishes were both comforting and complex. Wood-roasted venison boudin sausage with walnutparsnip purée. Duck breast with black pepperricott a cavatelli. Butt er-basted silver corvina and king crab risotto with wilted sorrel and tarragon pistou. These dishes exhibited a lusty, rustic quality, flaunting their world flavors without delving into tired fusion cuisine territory. Sometimes Abacus’ dishes played it a bit too safe. There was nothing wrong with beef tenderloin paired with black truffle potato purée—but it didn’t dazzle, either. For $42, we deserved better. Still, if I ever have to eat fried calamari again, let it be Rathbun’s tempura-battered version with its yuzu-spiked hot and sour sauce with Meyer lemon and kumquat. Judging by the joyous atmosphere, the customers that Tuesday night certainly agreed. And perhaps, all these years later, that’s the point of Abacus. The Dallas dining scene may have become more daring, but there’s always a place at the table for Rathbun’s blend of homey yet haute cuisine.
For more information about Abacus, visit our online restaurant guide.