The Chef’s Room is Back. You Should Skip Lunch.

(Alternate headline: I have a food hangover.)

Executive Chef John Tesar is back in Dallas after a few weeks of traveling Europe for inspiration (poor guy) and invited the media to the Mansion last night to see what he found. Needless to say, the ink-stained wretches didn’t class up the joint (note to gents: jackets are still required in the Chef’s Room), but the food was pretty outstanding. My guest and I opted for the six-course chef’s tasting menu and the seafood tasting menu, respectively. Jump for the details.

The evening began in the salon outside the chef’s room, where we drank blanc de blanc and dined on a two-tier serving of canapes. If I could get the Mansion to let me hang out in the snazzy anteroom and eat trays of those canapes for an afternoon, I’d die a happy woman.

The highlights: a foie gras brioche (the warm foie gras melted in my mouth. I dreamed about it last night.), smoky shrimp ball on a stick, lobster with wasabi gelee, organic carrot mousse with bitter dark chocolate, and stacked goat cheese/Kalamata olive/tomato confit on a mint leaf. There were a few others in the mix.

Then came dinner. First off: A “six-course” tasting menu is a misnomer. Our server put it this way: “When we say six, we mean 12.” Seriously. Here’s how the chef’s tasting menu went:

-terrine of rabbit foie gras and black truffle (the portion was so huge it could have fed six. A little overwhelming)

-progression of Beau Soleil oysters (very cool, kind of wacky, had flavors like blood orange and cucumber)

- lobster hot and cold (hot was served in green, liquid heaven)

- slow-roasted Pacific halibut with celery root puree in almond milk (absolute slam-dunk, and the Sartarelli Verdicchio paired with it made it sing. The best pairing I’ve had in a long time)

-herb and garlic-crusted rack of Texas veal with crispy sweetbreads

-salt-crusted Elysian Farms lamb with braised collard greens and potato puree (I want to order the potato puree for Thanksgiving dinner. I’d pretend I cooked it. My parents would be so impressed)

My date chose the seafood tasting menu, and I think I’m going to have to go back and order it.

-steamed butter clams in a clam miso broth with seaweed (mixed table side. Our server: “It’s like breathing the ocean.” Indeed.)

-oysters hot and cold

-steamed Maine shellfish in bouillabaisse consomme

-sea urchin risotto (the menu called for tentacles—no explanation, I was excited to try it—but Tesar said it wasn’t up to par and served the creamy, delicious risotto instead)

-slow-roasted Pacific halibut (also on the chef’s tasting menu)

-salt-crusted branzino with porcini mushrooms

Then the cheese course (20 to choose from on the tray), a pre-dessert dessert, and then dessert: creme brulee ice cream with caramel and raspberry for me, apple tatin verinne for him (this is the thing to order, folks. Go with the apple). Plus a warm chocolate and corn ice cream dessert for the two of us to split. Then came warm madeleines. At this point I kind of wanted to cry because I was stuffed and the food kept coming. Then came the candy cart, which made me happy again (homemade marshmallows and cotton candy).

This is not a tasting menu for the casual eater. I left food on my plate in almost every course, and it was still too much—the portions were huge, and I felt guilty for wasting so much food. I’d like to see Tesar offer more of a taste than six complete meals in one.

With a few small adjustments, this could be the best menu in town.

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