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Now Open: Fort Oak in Mission Hills Celebrates Local Ingredients in Playfully Elevated Plates

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PHOTOGRAPHY by
Erin Jackson
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February 27, 2019
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Now open in Mission Hills, Fort Oak is off to a promising start. The genre-redefining restaurant by the team behind TRUST and Hundred Proof offers fusion-inspired dishes crafted with locally sourced ingredients.

Located in The Fort, a mixed-use residential and commercial project by renowned architect Jonathan Segal, the space is divided into self-contained areas including a sun-dappled main dining room, outdoor patio, private dining area with a raw-edge wood table, a U-shaped bar in a historically preserved stand-alone building, and a chef’s counter, where guests can warm themselves by the wood-burning fire and watch cooks in action.

“The defined spaces mean guests can have five different experiences here, and that means a lot to me,” says Executive Chef Brad Wise.

Whereas Trust is all about hearty plates, Fort Oak is serving up a farm fresh menu with more seafood options (including a raw bar). ​​​​​​

Fort Oak’s dinner menu is dominated by a selection of smaller plates meant to be shared, including creative dishes like charred little gems—a warm salad with wood fire-kissed greens, razor-thin slices of housemade bresaola (cured eye of round), parmesan frica, and a soft-boiled egg.

Fort Oak’s dinner menu is dominated by a selection of smaller plates meant to be shared, including creative dishes like charred little gems—a warm salad with wood fire-kissed greens, razor-thin slices of housemade bresaola (cured eye of round), parmesan frica, and a soft-boiled egg.

A zippy black garlic vinaigrette created by Executive Sous Chef Mark Schmitt provides the finishing touch.

Fancy cheese has a way of getting noticed, and Fort Oak’s burrata is no exception. Wise describes it as a “composed cheese plate” with arugula, apple butter, roasted sunchokes, fortified wine, and a drizzle of Elderflower honey spiced up with chile flower, cumin, and a splash of vinegar.

Entrées tend to center around generous portions of protein.

I was drawn to the local duck, which is sourced from GoneStraw Farms. The base of the dish is a cassoulet-style bolognese with confit duck legs and fresh tepary beans from Rio Del Ray farm in Valley Center.

The already flavorful dish is kicked up a notch with scratch-made vadouvan, a smoky-sweet French curry. On top lies a tender duck breast topped with pickled cippolini onions, fried sage, and crispy Italian-style croutons.

Early standouts from the brunch menu include the signature benedict (with scratch-made corn beef, cabbage, and potatoes); a hefty dry-aged burger with fried egg aioli and truffle onion jam; and crispy mulas with chile verde and jalapeños pickled in red and rice wine vinegar with mustard seeds—one of 50 different pickling liquids in the restaurant’s arsenal.

Fort Oak’s chicken fried quail and French toast is a true achievement that demonstrates the culinary team’s chops.

Thick slices of 48-hour enriched brioche developed by pastry chef Jeremy Harville are dunked in a classic custard, then cooked at a low temperature on the flat top to achieve the perfect texture.

Equally delicious is the plate’s co-star: tempura-battered quail seasoned with cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic, and yellow curry powder, which lends a surprising sweetness.

The crisp and tender pieces of poultry are topped with sumac and coffee dust and finished with dollops of hot honey and date purée.

When in doubt, order a pastry basket for the table.

On my visit, the featured items were banana muffins, tender apple pound bread, mini English muffins, a flaky raisin cream cheese Danish, and brioche balls stuffed with blueberries—plus housemade strawberry-raspberry jam and cultured butter.

Fort Oak


1011 Fort Stockton Drive, Mission Hills
fortoaksd.com

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Erin Jackson
Erin Jackson is a food writer & photographer and the founder of Friendly Feast, a nonprofit organization that produces food and drink events to benefit the local community.
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