Jean Le Boeuf
Cape Coral's Seven Oaks restaurant has a deceptive name and a tasty, eclectic menu -
just don't call it a pizza place.
There are scallops and steaks and hazelnut-crusted mahi, each seared till juicy and wonderful on that wood-fired grill. Salads are slicked with hand-made dressings.
A thick burger is cushioned by a house-baked pretzel bun or soft potato roll.
Bread is where Seven Oaks most brightly shines.
Co-owner Thorsten Stein is a baker by trade.
He owned the old Cakes Bakes and More, also in the Cape, and he ran the short-lived The Germans food truck.
Seven Oaks builds on those experiences, adding worldly flavors that are assertive but, usually, well balanced.There will be good bread to start, toothsome, two-bite chunks of it to be soaked in good olive oil sprinkled with herbs and salt.
Appetizers include lush wisps of beef carpaccio flecked with capers and drizzled in truffle aioli (just a bit too much of it).
Those scallops are fat and perfect, crisp at the edges and served atop slivers of cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto for a sweet hint of salt.
Amid such classics, the Korean lettuce wraps are an outlier, albeit a delicious one. Thick chunks of tender strip steak pair with a blazing kimchi.
The servers warns you they've “got a kick,” but neglects to mention you’ll be mopping sweat from your eyes for the next 10 minutes. Seven Oaks’ salmon teams with pearls of Israeli couscous and ribbons of caramelized leeks.
Its short ribs all but melt under your fork.
There is some pizza, yes, but the four options are relegated to the third page of the menu alongside the kids’ chicken fingers.
It is not available to-go (huh?), so don’t bother asking. Just sit and enjoy it fresh from that beautiful, wood-fueled oven, the way God (and Mr. Stein) intended.
Best Bite: Wood-Fired Salmon at Seven Oaks
By Dorothea Hunter Sönne
Our ancestors’ cookery was sparked by fire, and some of their better inventions to harness it—the wood-burning oven and grill—have withstood the test of time.
Chef Thorsten Stein, also a baker and pizzaiolo with authentic Neapolitan training from Italy’s greats, first perfected this brand of pyrotechnics to acclaim in his native Germany.
Now he has brought his fireworks to Seven Oaks, a restaurant he opened last year in Cape Coral.
“Firing up” anything is a catchphrase, but here’s how it looks in Stein’s world. A slab of salmon, grilled over heat rising from oak planks, is placed alongside dainty toasted pearls of pasta.
The explosive finish comes from fennel and leeks, cooked down to the point of melting and then popped in a 900-degree stone oven powered by those same aromatic logs to sop up the trademark smokiness.