Chef John Tesar walks through Knife’s best dishes

John Tesar opened Knife at the Highland Dallas Hotel in 2014. It was an idea built around steak, to celebrate the science of dry aging and cooking the perfect plate. But Knife has always been more than a steak. Tesar enjoys a steakhouse that serves great rack of lamb, pasta, salads, and rotisserie chicken because, as he tells us, you can’t eat steak seven days a week.

Knife, acclaimed steakhouse chef John Tesar debuted at the Highland Dallas Hotel in 2014, won his following with a menu that championed dry-aged steaks. He has since opened another Knife outpost in Plano, as well as restaurants in Florida, California, and Austin, Texas. One of them, in Orlando, won a Michelin star in June 2022.

“Stars are great, but it’s a liability and you get evaluated every year,” says Tesar. “You could win a James Beard award…and then you get the medal and they can’t take it away from you. But a Michelin star can be taken away from us next year if we don’t keep it consistent. That’s another type of rating system that’s really designed to give you the truth about what you’re doing.

After a pandemic and the opening of a fleet of competitive steakhouses in a city that loves its red meat, Tesar shares what’s new, what’s still going well, and where Knife is going in the future to stay competitive.


Akaushi rib steak aged dry for 45 days by knife, at 32 oz.
Knife

Akaushi Ribeye Dry Aged 45 Days, 32 Ounces

“I think the best first experience ordering steak from Knife is to try the 45-day dry-aged steak, which is going to give you an eye-opening experience. When you have the dry-aged steak, you have all that umami that goes with it, the sweetness that we’ve grown with our mold, and that Angus beef from 44 Farms.

“Once you do the entry level, you experiment with increasing the age until it’s too much for you. Two hundred and forty days of dry aging is too much for many people. It’s too much for me sometimes because after one bite it’s so rich, so flavorful.

“What I’ve learned over the years is that it’s not about how many months or days or years you age the steak. It’s about cultivating your product and then discerning if it’s the best day you can serve people. Each animal is different; every season is different. Livestock need water, summer is hot – all of these things have an effect.


A cooked snapper lies on a wooden board and is garnished with greens.

A whole snapper cooked at Knife Dallas.
Knife

whole fish

“We’ve had great success in Orlando using local fish, so we’re doing the same in Dallas. We get the seafood from the Gulf supplied by Texas. We use snapper and redfish. We can remove all the bones, roast it and serve it with salsa verde or chimichurri or okonomi — it changes every night. This is a great article to share.

“The fishmonger gets it and it comes straight in a truck that day. Otherwise you’re buying fish on the East Coast and heaven knows it could be Fulton Fish Market [in New York City] for two or three days, then by truck, then by plane. By the time you get there, it could be a week.

“With the success of [my other] two restaurants [Outer Reef in Dana Point, California and Knife and Spoon in Orlando, Florida], I need to bring more seafood to the Knife menu in Dallas. We put shrimp on the menu. I will add three or four more seafood dishes once I get to California.


In a cast iron skillet, a lobster is cut in half and presented with a chimichuri sauce.

The “Outer Reef” – lobster in melted butter – at Knife Dallas.
Knife

Butter Poached Lobster

“A lot of times you go to a steakhouse and you get a frozen lobster tail from South Africa or Australia that they charge $100 for. We use Maine lobster and poach it in butter. We serve it with lemon and melted butter, like a lobster should be served in a steakhouse. That, to me, is integrity, something pure – not handing you a frozen lobster tail. I fly in lobsters from Canada and Maine, and they come in two or three times a week.


A plate of garganelli pasta smothered in butter sauce and truffle shavings.

Garganelli and black truffle essence from the Knife Dallas pasta program.
Knife

Pasta

“I would like to highlight the pasta program, but the truffle garganelli pasta is a phenomenon. If you took it off the menu, I think some people would freak out. It’s so weird that people have this love affair with truffles. But it’s a simple dish, just buttered truffles and pasta, and people love it. I like its simplicity. I like its purity. We put cacio e pepe on the menu, and we do it with montagna.

“If you taste our pasta compared to others, it is lighter because of the recipe that we developed in Italy in consultation with my friends who are real, remarkable Italian chefs. They are the ones who will give you the secrets and the honesty. Real leaders talk to each other and improve, behind the scenes.


On a wooden cutting board, a breadcrumb-crusted rack of lamb is cut by a large knife.

Rack of lamb at Knife Dallas.
Knife

Oven-roasted meats

“It’s a dish I’ve been making for 35 years, it’s a classic preparation with parsley of rack of lamb. We use a lamb from Colorado because I think it has the best flavor, and it’s domestic. I marinate it in rosemary, garlic and olive oil traditionally, then sear the big shot a bit. Season with salt and pepper, brush it with Dijon mustard and we make a mixture of garlic and herb breadcrumbs that goes on top. We roast it — I needed an oven, it completes a meat restaurant to have an oven to roast things. It’s not boiled or grilled. These things, lamb and chicken, lend themselves to being roast chicken. I think it’s important to have a well-balanced restaurant and to offer people alternatives to steak and salad.

Knife is located at 5300 E Mockingbird Ln., Dallas, Highland Dallas.

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