Hello, summer! After weeks of never-ending rainfall, cloudy skies and countless flash flood alerts on my iPhone, I am so happy to see warmer temperatures and the sun. And there is nothing I like more this time of year, besides the pool and a summer beer, than watching restaurants add fun, fresh items to their menu. A few weeks ago, Dive Coastal Cuisine invited us to try some of their new summer offerings!
Dive has been opened for about five years, but for some strange reason, I had never dined there before. Talk about foodie failure. I think its Highland Park location may have been a deterrence. Lesson learned.
From the colorful mind of chef and owner Franchesca Nor, Dive is a casual restaurant that features local organic produce, seasonal seafood entrees and an array of creative salads, sandwiches and specials. Because I had never dined at Dive (say that three times fast), Nor thought I should also sample some sample a variety of their dishes. I happily obliged.
Everything from the starter to the salads and main entrees is fresh and has a simple, yet creative flavor profile. Dishes like the Calamari Fire, which can be inconsistent, featured fried calamari and lemon wheels, herbs and a drizzle of jicama slaw and sweet chili sauce.
Even the crab cake, which again can lack consistency at different restaurants, was meaty and served on a bed of summer succotash that made me a fan of okra.
And that’s pretty much the same experience Nor saw in her vision for Dive. During her time earning her restaurant stripes, she noticed that many diners desired lighter fare – fish and vegetables – for lunch and dinner. She wanted to create healthy options that would help them look their best without sacrificing on favor or quality.
Her upbringing in California and Brazilian father inspired her to create a bright profile full of spices, fruits and sauces and is very similar to what one might find at a spa, something that will cleanse your palate and want you booking a trip to the nearest beach. And because she was a vegetarian until she was 21, she knew what dishes to create that would give food from the sea the honor it deserves.
For quick options, the cove size salads are the perfect option and can be made into a sampler or topped with a protein. The soba noodle salad, full of mixed greens, citrus, carrots, sliced almonds and a sesame orange vinegarette was perfect and is officially my new favorite salad. I could literally eat every day, and if it was located closer to my office in North Dallas, I probably would.
The seasonal seafood entrees change on a daily basis based upon availability, but I have no doubt that these dishes will exceed your expectations and make you question your previous seafood choices. Nothing could have prepared me for this salmon served simply with tomatoes and sautéed spinach. The garlic and lemon tickled my tongue. I enjoyed the party.
Make sure you save room for dessert because nothing says summer more than grilled peaches and cream, which was made only better when it’s swimming in a pool of coconut milk. This lactose-intolerant foodie was happy.
I’m not sure what Nor puts in her recipes, but nothing I sampled tasted bad. And to be honest, everything got better as the evening progressed. Each of the summer menu items are packed with health benefits including lowered cholesterol, clearer skin, hair loss prevention, improved brain health and digestion. But more importantly, there’s no way you can leave Dive not feeling a little freer, a little lighter and a little happier.
Dive is far from just your regular sit, down fast-casual restaurant. This restaurant is special. From the vintage poolside, Miamiesque décor, the make-your-own tea, and the Kids Korner for all Highland Park moms meeting for play dates, Dive is different. And I’d like to think that has something to do with the Nor. She wanted a restaurant with staying power, one that would adapt to the desires of Dallas diners, but not fizzle out like so many of the other trendy spots.
I think she accomplished her goal. The summer menu is splendid, but people will continue to return as long as Nor provides a quick escape to a California beach with her food.
Dive is modern. It’s approachable. I’m sold.
(Disclaimer: My meal was complimentary, and all thoughts are my own.)