Friday, November 25, 2011
CampO Modern Country Bistro in Oak Cliff boasts tasteful design
Owners Miguel Vicéns and John Paul Valverde design restaurants for a living.
The lights at CampO Modern Country Bistro are unique. Linear and angular, they jut out from the ceiling individually at 45 degrees, all facing different ways, before bending again to become parallel with the floor and ending in a soft, white, oversized bulb.
It was no small dose of consideration that went into the lighting at this new restaurant in Oak Cliff, nor were any other details treated lightly: CampO is the result of personal pride and the professional pursuit of Miguel Vicéns and John Paul Valverde of restaurant design firm Coevál Studio, and in developing their own restaurant, they left few things unconsidered, even to the angle of the custom lights.
“The idea for starting our own restaurant blossomed from the experience of going to a few clients, working with them, and then coming back a few months later and seeing that things weren’t really like we had left them, and that was a little annoying. So we just started talking about starting one and running it and maintaining it the way we imagine it,” says Valverde, who began working with Vicéns in 2007. “And then the specific idea for CampO came from a trip I made to Argentina with a few friends. We went to Buenos Aires and Mendoza, and it was something I didn’t imagine before going on the trip. I’d imagined a European-style city with Spanish inspiration, but it was that and so much more.”
It’s no surprise that neither Valverde or Vicéns have a single-word definition for the style of CampO, which had a soft opening on November 3 and officially opened on November 7. Intimate – but not cramped – the restaurant seats 53 people within its light-blue walls. Chairs and tables designed specifically for the restaurant adorn the converted house (which hashoused two restaurants before CampO), and a bar made from slabs from old wooden flooring give it a comfortable, yet refined and well-considered atmosphere. And, of course, they made sure the food equaled the ambiance, taking on Matt McCallister (formerly of Stephan Pyles) as a consulting chef.
“You’ll see some Portugese, French, and Italian on the menu, along with some of our own influences, and stylized plating. You’ll see a focus on execution,” says McCallister. “We keep the style of food within the scope of what we’re trying to achieve – you’re not going to see borscht on the menu here.”
But it’s not just the menu or the dishes where McCallister’s influence can be seen at CampO – along with the wine and glasses on a length of shelving in the middle of the restaurant are rows and rows of house-made preserved fruits and vegetables. Pickled sunchokes and spruce tips sit next to preserved cranberries and rhubarb, and along with functionality from a dining perspective, add color and vibrancy to the decor of the restaurant.
But Vicéns and Valverde didn’t just stop at consulting for the kitchen. Brad Hensarling, of Fort Worth’s The Usual, came on as CampO’s mixology consultant. Customers perch on the cleverly designed bar stools ("functional art," Vicéns calls them) and simply have a drink or two of Hensarling’s imbibable inventions. Cultivar Coffee even sent a representative to instruct the staff on how their product should be prepared and served, tableside. It’s clearly a project Vicéns and Valverde knew they’d want help with, and so far, the extra knowledge and experience is paying off.
“It’s all been running very well, just as we hoped it would, and people really seem to be enjoying it. We’ve even had people come in, leave, and then come back in a few seconds later just to say again how much they enjoyed the experience,” Valverde says. “We want to be that kind of place where people can be comfortable in a suit or in tennis shoes, where they can come in and have a dinner and a drink for $20 on any weeknight, or on a different occasion have a bottle of wine or a few drinks with some friends.”
From the lights to the barstools – and even the labels on the colorful preserving jars – it’s clear that Vicéns and Valverde had a clear plan of what they wanted CampO to be, and from all indications, they’ve achieved an atmosphere, an ambiance, and a menu that has people thinking about coming back the moment they leave. The experience from restaurant design is surely key, as are all the helping hands. And while there were a few surprises along the way (“like the budget,” Valverde says with a laugh), they’re looking forward to providing more and more people with the experience they’ve had in mind all along.
“We’d like our customers to leave knowing they got a great meal at a good price point,” Valverde says. “We want them to leave happy.”
As it turns out, at CampO, the customers may not want to leave at all.
Pegasus News Content partner - Entree Dallas
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