Written by: Amber Tompkins, Food Editor | Photography by: Chris Redd, Chief Photographer
Co-Owners Greg Mullen and Mary Gary are “redefining the way food works” and taking the term “farm to table” quite literally at their restaurant Artisinal Dish, located off US highway 27 in Ocala. When coming up with the concept for the restaurant they were going for “a sort of deconstructed steakhouse feel”, Mullen reports. They achieved this by combining butcher-block high top tables, rustic bar stools, warm earth tones, and large canvas photographs of their own herd with spectacular organic food and a “less is more” mentality.
Just down the road from Dish is the farm where Mullen and Gary raise their own meat, but not just any meat… some of the world’s most magnificent Wagyu cattle. The duo has a passion for humanely raising and handling these animals in the least restrictive environment, reducing exposure to the two most flavor inhibiting factors: stress and processing. The herd is never given antibiotics or hormones and is able to freely roam the sprawling property for up to 36 months. “One year past maturity, when the season’s at its peak and the grass is greenest is when we harvest”, claims Mullen. Giving the animals that extra year allows for full “blossoming” and the best flavor characteristics. Wagyu beef is renowned for it’s rich flavor and high density of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. This organic grass-fed meat has two times the amount of monounsaturated fat (the good stuff!) than it does saturated fat. This, in combination with the added taste receptors that Wagyu triggers, makes for a meal that satisfies your hunger quicker than your average burger or steak.
Familiarizing yourself with the burger names at Dish might take some time but the owners enjoy listening to customers try and correctly pronounce them. When asked how they came up with such unique menu item names they explained that each burger is named after a famous Japanese Wagyu sire. These burgers come on a freshly grilled bun and each have their own distinctive flare. The Sanjirou burger, for example, has chili fire kale, caramelized Vermont thick cut bacon, chili aioli, crispy fried shallots, and an over medium egg whose yolk makes for the perfect creamy liquid to crunch ratio.
Though burgers are their most popular menu item, Dish doesn’t stop there. In addition they offer made from scratch sandwiches, gourmet pizzas, fresh organic salads, a wide variety of side items and a daily special that allows the chef to exercise his creativity using the freshest of ingredients. The special that I had the pleasure of enjoying was a Full-Blood Wagyu Beef Chuck Roast braised in Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale and served with Brussel Sprouts and Roasted Tomatoes over Homemade Gnocchi in a light cream sauce garnished with Parsley and fresh Parmesan. Each ingredient had a full flavor that spoke for itself, but in combination they created a velvety sauce that put a sophisticated spin on traditional pot roast.
Co-owner Mary Gary does all of the baking in-house daily. This includes all of the buns and breads offered at the restaurant, as well as numerous pastries and gluten free treats. Some of their most popular GF goodies include the Flourless Triple Chocolate cookie with roasted nuts, an Oatmeal cookie with Pepper Flakes and a Flourless Chocolate Chip cookie. But if you’re a glutton for gluten do not fret, Gary also prepares Lemon Bars, Traditional Chocolate Chip cookies, and a variety of cupcakes. Of all the desserts, the house recommendation is the Blueberry Bread Pudding served warm with your choice of milk or dark chocolate chips (or both!) and then topped with cool vanilla custard. Artisinal Dish is one place that will certainly leave your palette pleased!