My aunt and uncle had recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and we wanted to have a nice dinner with them. I remember reading about Mercury Grill in both the Dallas Observer and the DMN's GuideLive reviews. Only 'hound review I could find was soso, but we decided to go ahead and give it a try.
Having moved away from Big D 20+ years ago, I barely recognized Preston Forest Plaza...there was never anything upscale in the center like Mercury Grill, or in the entire area back when I was growing up.
Very inviting space, with a lively bar/dinner scene in the main room. Maitre D' recognized the aunt and uncle from recent holiday parties, and was very welcoming, ushering us into the adjacent room which was much more sedate and appropriate for good conversation during dinner.
Our waiter, Kenneth, was disgustingly fawning...calling my mom and aunt (both in their late 60's) "young ladies" and telling my aunt he thought I was her older brother. PULEEZE! The dude was laying it on with a trowel...very much a turn off for me.
First glances of the menu were very positive, and we ordered drinks while looking things over. My up and dirty martini was fair...no ice film that comes when a martini is properly shaken, and not near dirty enough for my tastes. Second one was ordered dirtier, but the bartender was still being stingy with the olive juice.
After considerable negotiation, we all decided to split a couple of the Kalamata Bread Salads with Feta. I was the only one ordering an appy, the Couscous Carbonara with Poached Egg and Black Truffle Oil, so that plate ended up in the center of the table for all to share.
These first courses proved particularly impressive. The couscous was incredible...a wonderfully conceived and executed dish. A very nicely done Alfredo sauce was combined with the large couscous pearls and a fair amount of finely diced pancetta. The egg was perfectly poached so as to provide a nice contrast to the other more toothsome ingredients, and the dots of black truffle oil around the edge of the plate made for a nice visual contrast and lent considerable and delicious earthiness to the dish. EXQUISITE! The only problem was when Kenneth, without bothering to ask, attempted to pick up the plate with more than several bites left on it. I not-too-jokingly threatened to stab him with my fork if he didn't put it back down.
The bread salad was also a winner. Unlike the traditional version, with cubes of bread, this was a tumble of mixed greens, with plenty of healthy chunks of bright feta and torn pieces of Kalamata, with some pieces of marinated artichoke heart, all covering a thinly sliced piece of bruschetta-like toast, dressed in a perky vinaigrette. Another winner that all of us enjoyed.
My family's entree choices were all fine, particularly my aunt's lamb shank, which was so big I got plenty to enjoy for myself. It's good being the onlyand thus favorite nephew!
My entree was a mixed bag. The menu listed it as Peppered Crusted Tuna Mignon, with a Cranberry-Corn Galette and Braised Chanterelles.
I asked the waiter what pepper was used to crust the tuna, and as I feared he indicated it was crushed black peppercorns. I explained that I cannot stand black pepper, and asked if I could get the dish Unpeppered. He made a weak joke about the chef hurting people who asked for recipe changes, then indicated that it would be no problem. The tuna came out as requested...nicely seared on the outside, perfectly rare in the middle, and not a speck of black pepper...a luscious piece of fish. The mushrooms provided a nice textural contrast and were delicious. The only problem was with the galette, the one component that drew me to the dish. Despite my Unpeppered request, it was strewn with crushed peppercorns. HELLO?!?!?! WHAT'S THE FREQUENCY KENNETH??? I ate it, but to be honest, even without the nasty peppercorns it would not have tasted as good as the menu made it sound...not near enough cranberry or corn to suit my curiosity or my taste buds (they are two of my most favorite flavors).
Dessert was a couple of souffles, coconut and chocolate, both served with Grand Marnier and chocolate sauces. To Kenneth's credit, he did an admirable job breaking the souffles' caps and deftly administering the sauces. Both souffles were superb...probably the best I have ever tasted.
I only wish Kenneth had remembered to bring an aperitif menu as I requested...would have enjoyed a nice port with the killer souffles and excellent Illy coffee.
Overall, it was a pretty good experience...would have been much better if our waiter had concentrated more on his job and less on delivering his litany of lame one-liners.
As long as that couscous is on the menu, I'll gladly forego a Mex or Q meal and head for Mercury Grill when I am back home. I'll just make sure to request a different waitperson.
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