When it comes to fine dining, there’s nothing like the warm surroundings, exceptional service, great wines, and impeccably prepared meals of a treasured steakhouse. In Mandarin, there’s the independently owned, one-of-a-kind, American steakhouse – The Tree – that’s tailor-made for exactly this purpose.
You can’t miss the place. Set back from San Jose Boulevard just south of I295, you’ll find The Tree nestled under its namesake – an imposing 458 year-old oak tree that shades the restaurant and its newly expanded outdoor patio. Should you stop to marvel, it becomes clear that this leafy behemoth has borne witness to an incredible amount of history, including the arrival of European settlers and the founding of Jacksonville.
The Tree Steakhouse has its own story of longevity. Founded in 1969, the restaurant has survived relocation, a change in both ownership and management, was reinvented and rebranded in 2015 with an entirely new menu, and has become one of Jacksonville’s most enduring and appreciated culinary destinations.
While the stately oak that greets visitors at the door is undoubtedly impressive, it was The Tree’s one-hundred percent Black Angus prime beef and award-winning wine list that allowed us to consider the ultimate in wine pairings for this edition of Cinda’s Cellar. Ordinarily, this would be an exquisite, meticulously prepared steak and a full-bodied California Cabernet. That’s precisely why we’re featuring an Italian rosé (insert sound effects: screeching wheels, glass breaking, woman screaming). Yes, that’s rosé … as in light, fruity, and pale pink.
At the recommendation of Executive Chef Joe Foster, understanding that a rich and flavorful steak would overwhelm a rosé, we agreed to pair one Italian with another. The first is The Tree’s Mussels Fra Diavolo. For the uninitiated, Fra Diavolo is a popular Italian preparation that typically features shellfish in a tomato-based sauce. At The Tree, the dish is made with mussels sautéed with shallots, garlic and white wine, then finished with a house-made marinara sauce and a sprinkle of chili flakes.
Our selected wine is the second Italian. Produced by the Cavit Collection from a blend of red grapes grown in Trentino (part of the Italian growing region of Trevenzie), the 2017 Limited Edition Rosé is one of several noteworthy varietals from this distinguished winemaker. It displays beautiful aromas of fresh strawberry and cherries with flavors of ripe red fruits on the palate. One sip and you’ll know this rosé would have been way too delicate for steak. That being said, while ideal for seafood, it could also be served outdoors at summer parties, poolside or the beach.
Aside from the Mussels, you may also find enjoyment from the Cavit Rosé with the Sesame Ahi Tuna appetizer (seared rare, wasabi lime soy, wakame salad). If you adore scallops, the Scallop Risotto (sea scallops, parmesan risotto, grilled asparagus) would be an immensely satisfying option. Of course, you’ll want to ask your server about the catch of the day. The fish is always top-notch, featuring fresh sides and innovative sauces. In every case, the Cavit Limited Edition Rosé rises to the occasion as the perfect accompaniment.
If you prefer to imbibe without distraction, you may find the amiable Oak Bar just the place. Warm, cozy and approachable, you can pass the time perusing more than two-hundred and fifty wines on The Tree’s wine list. For the whiskey aficionado, you may prefer one of the many whiskeys from their extensive collection. No matter your drinking pleasure, the Oak Bar is an
inviting and slightly more casual space to sit back, relax and enjoy all of the delicious amenities that The Tree has to offer.
Of course, no meal is truly complete without dessert. We sidestepped the classic Key Lime Tart, Crème Brûlée and Warm Chocolate Torte in favor of the more intriguing Buttermilk Pie. This heirloom recipe is one of the chef’s family secrets, handed down over generations, and will be recognized as a mainstay regional confection by most Southerners.
It goes without saying that an operation of this caliber has its eye on detail and carefully manages activities in both the front and back of house. Ingredients are locally sourced whenever possible, the beef is one-hundred percent black angus prime, the culinary staff have impeccable credentials, and everything is made from scratch. The servers are well-informed, efficient, and engaging and go out of their way to meet or exceed expectations.
According to the restaurant’s General Manager Joe Greene, “The experience at The Tree is not only the steak.” He goes on to explain, “While our steaks are exceptional, we cater to a wide variety of patrons who find the drinks at our Oak Bar, as well as many of the other dishes on our menu, equally satisfying.”
11362 San Jose Boulevard, Suite 1, (904) 510-7445, www.treesteakhouse.com.
Find The Tree’s recipe for Scallop Risotto here.
Pair it with:
Grapes: A blend of native Trentino red grapes.
Description: With beautiful aromas of fresh strawberries and cherries, this medium-bodied rosé is fresh with flavors of ripe red fruits. Ideal with all fish dishes, white meat and lighter first courses as well as an apéritif.
The grapes are cultivated in vineyards in the Vallagarina and the Valle dell’Adige in Trentino, within the heart of the Dolomites. After rigorous hand-harvesting, the grapes are pressed and vinified separately at a controlled temperature of 20°C and without maceration in order to minimize the transfer of color from the skins of the grapes. The wines are then finished for several months in stainless steel tanks in order to maintain their fragrance and freshness. After ageing, Cavit’s oenologists taste the individual wines and determine the proportions of the different varieties that will be used to create the final blend, which is then left to stabilize for a short period prior to bottling.