We were curious to check out Dakota after we heard from multiple sources that their happy hour is decent, the decor is warm, and their burgers are quality. They label themselves a French bistro with an American twist and offer “soul-satisfying riffs on American and French cooking.” They’ve been at their Donghu Lu location now for over a year, but we haven’t managed to try them out until now. So when they invited us to come taste their new seasonal menu concept, we were more than happy to oblige.
Their idea is to change things up monthly in an effort to offer only the freshest and best ingredients available. First up we tried the highly autumn-appropriate Butternut Squash and Quinoa Salad (85RMB) studded with diced house-cured bacon and seasoned with a shallot vinaigrette (they make all their bacon and sausage in-house, which is very cool.) The rich bacon morsels packed enough meaty oomph to keep the dish memorable, and the farm fresh greens and tangy squash were bathed in a light but zesty dressing that kept the palate fresh and ready for more. The moral of the dish: keep the layout simple, but go all out on the quality of the ingredients.
The centerpiece of the fall seasonal menu is undoubtedly the Hairy Crab Bucatini (118RMB), a creative twist on the traditional autumn hairy crab. The dish melded the delicate but firm texture and pungent sea-essence of China’s most prized critter with a European fan-favorite, pasta doused in a savory garlic cream sauce. And on a practical note, you didn’t have to bloody your fingers fumbling around with the razor-edged crustacean, and we’re thinking maybe they factored that extra labor into the price.
For the essential sugar-high as we enter the season of SAD, we sampled another seasonal options, the chestnut creme brulee (60RMB.) We like the nutty take on a custard classic. The accompanying flower-pink pomegranate sorbet served as a welcome palate cleanser after the heavy dessert’s creamy assault on the arteries.
Aside from the seasonal fare, the menu also features some year-round crowd favorites: A French classic such as the bechamel, grueyere, and melted parmesan-lathered escargot atop home-baked bread slices (55RMB) and your traditional tuna tartare (68RMB) have received rave reviews from the regulars.
We asked for a preview of what’s up next. For their November menu, you can expect to try dishes incorporating any of the following: pear, pumpkin, asparagus, butternut squash, and fig.
They also offer brunch on the weekends (a la carte menu in the 50-70RMB range) and a lunch menu that has some of their seasonal choices on offer as well. We’ll be going back again, if only to finally try out their burgers and enjoy a happy hour draft in that sleek, dark wood-paneled interior of theirs.