We work pretty long hours and are generally night owls, so we're always looking for decent late-night food options that don't include a call to Mr. Wong. One of our favorite spots is Gemma, especially because their reverse-happy hour menu starts at 10:30 PM and they serve food until 1 AM. They're one of the few restaurants in DFW that offers high-end dining at such a late hour, so they stay busy and rightfully so.
Gemma is in a cool dining/retail strip on Henderson, and is really spacious inside, considering the frontage it's been given. Chic inside, the decor isn't the only thing that shines. From a very small open kitchen, the chef and staff produce great food. Gemma also has two certified sommeliers on staff (all working to become a Master Sommelier--see the movie Somm on Netflix, if you don't know how challenging that is), so the wine selections are always good. One of our friends--also a certified sommelier, and someone who has scored extremely well at TexSomm--sells wine to the restaurant, so an even bigger indication that they have a quality wine program. To put this into perspective, Gemma's Somm staff ranks better than some Michelin-starred restaurants in Napa.
When you show up for the late-night happy hour menu, as we usually do, be prepared for a somewhat limited menu (5 or so options per course) chosen from the regular dinner menu. That said, you really can't go wrong with anything they have available. Start by getting a bottle of the wine-of-the-night (red or white), very reasonably priced at around $35-40/bottle. Each course offering (appetizers, small plates, salads, entrees, vegetables) has good diversity, depending on what you're in the mood for. While we've tried just about everything on the menu, we have our go-to options:
Our favorite tuna tartare of all time. The perfect balance of fresh tuna, crunchy mango, citrus, and a hint of spice from fresno peppers. We really love the lotus root chip that comes with it as well, and they'll happily give you more of those. The presentation is also beautiful. Did we mention the lotus root chip?? Yea, it's that tasty.
Fig and Smoked Gouda Scones (complimentary)
These are freshly baked and served table-side with fresh butter. Sprinkle a little bit of flaked sea salt on top of the melted butter, and it creates a nice balance of salty and sweet. It's the perfect-sized serving of luscious bread--it doesn't fill you up, but is a great starter. You will want more of these, trust me. Leave no scone behind.
Gemma's caesar is hands-down better than most. I think it has to do with the amount of shaved parmesan they use, and the perfectly balanced house-made dressing. This is great to share as an appetizer.
Duck Fried Rice
This is the epitome of late-night comfort food, no soy sauce needed. It's fried rice in its traditional form with carrots, peas, and fresh basil. However, instead of frying the egg, it's topped with a soft poached egg. The best part is the generous amount of shredded duck confit--tender, crispy, and delicious--that is mixed throughout the entire dish. Break the yolk and give it a good stir - sheer perfection.
We love this because you never see rabbit on any restaurant menus--mainly because it's easy to mess up and the general population is often too hesitant to try anything new or fuzzy. Even though this is a pasta dish, it's surprisingly light, fresh, and simple. The pasta is handmade, and the sauce is similar to a light vodka-cream base with a heavy infusion of thyme. The rabbit in this dish isn't the slightest-bit gamy, and there's enough of it so that you can have a decent amount with each bite. Sauteed swiss chard adds another layer of freshness and earthy complexity, creating a very well balanced entree.
Just good to have as a side dish to munch on. These aren't the typical heavily-battered version, and they're a lot more seasoned and flavorful than most. We love the spicy house-made aioli for dipping since it breaks through the richness of the onion ring itself. Really worth trying. Big enough to share between 2-3.
So, as you can tell, Gemma is one of our favorite restaurants in Dallas, not only due to the fact that it stays open so late, but more-so because the food is consistent and delicious every time we go (which is becoming more and more frequent). We're really very happy that it is rising through the ranks of best restaurants in Dallas, and any prestige it garners is well-deserved. We look forward to having Gemma around for a long time.