Mesa (Dallas) Review
Since my sister was visiting from Austin, I was home from Chicago for the summer and it was Father's Day weekend, the four of us were looking for a restaurant that was nice enough for Father's day, neither run-of-the-mill nor too expensive.
Don't be fooled by the restaurant's exterior: the interior is tastefully decorated in a warm and contemporary style. The music was at the right volume for a conversation: we couldn't hear our neighbors talk but could easily hear each other. This may, however, be a function of the fact that there are only 8 well-spaced tables in the restaurant.
We started with Empanadas Rellenas and Ceviche. The empanadas came with small bowls of salsa verde and black beans and were tasty without being greasy, but in retrospect we should have opted for either the chicken or shrimp filling (given these options, we chose neither) as the empanadas felt a little empty. The Ceviche, prepared with a mixture of fish, shrimp, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and avocado, was excellent. Paired with the crunch of the chips that accompanied it, the Ceviche's bite complemented the creaminess of the avocado and the silkiness of the seafood. These appetizers left us looking forward to the entrees.
The entrees were Tamal de Frijol y Platanos Rellenos, Mole de Mama Cata, Rabo de Res al Acuyo and a seafood stew. The Tamal de Frijol (a vegetarian option) came with a pair of well-fried and -caramelized plantains lightly drizzled with sour cream, in addition to a black bean sauce and a banana leaf-wrapped masa tamal. The tamal was a little bland, and this was probably the most underwhelming dish we tried. The Mole de Mama Cata, in contrast, was probably our favorite. It consisted of extremely tender (literally falling off the bone) duck leg in an incredibly rich and flavorful mole sauce. I've never had mole sauce, but its taste (complex, smoky with a hint of sweetness) ensures that I'll try it the next time I see it. The Raba de Res al Acuyo, which consisted of oxtail in a spicy green ("hoja santa") sauce with yucca, paired meaty fattiness with a vibrant, cilantro-like flavor. Finally, the seafood stew, which contained blue crab, shrimp, mussels, scallops and octopus, had a deep fishy (and this was a good thing) flavor and a surprisingly large amount of delicious seafood. All of the entrees were well-proportioned, leaving each diner with just enough room for dessert - no giant plates of which only half can reasonably be eaten. Dessert was an orange-flavored flan that was sweet, dense and as well-sized as the entrees it followed. Without tip, drinks and tax the meal came to $75 for 4, which we thought was a pretty good value.
Service was unobtrusive yet attentive and all staff were friendly but professional. Reservations are recommended and metered parking in front of the restaurant was free after 4 p.m.
To summarize, this was the most authentic Mexican restaurant we've eaten at (it's certainly not Tex-Mex). Also, since it specializes in Veracruz cuisine that we'd never tried before, it was a new and delightful experience. Strongly recommended!
nice write up, and I completely agree. I love the food here, and really hope this place stays in business. Not sure if you had any, but it's worth mentioning that the tortillas are hand made and very good - and that the magnificent chips (served with the ceviche) are freshly fried from said tortillas hechas a mano, which gives them a hearty crunch and maybe a vague chewiness... anyway the texture is unlike the chips made form machine pressed tortillas.
If you liked the mole entree, you should try the enmolladas - simply the hand made tortillas, dipped in mole with a bit of grated cotija on top. Very nice, and a little less overwhelming than a giant plate full of mole (although the entree is still very nice). You can also get enfrijoladas - the same thing but dipped in black beans instead of mole.
Nice catch re: tortillas. We received several of them for the table but only managed to eat a few. But that isn't a reflection on the tortillas. I thought they were, as you said, very good (I can't off the top of my head think of a better one I've had). We just had many other things to eat that didn't seem to lend themselves to a tortilla. That didn't stop me from eating one plain, though. And that quality did translate into some nice chips. They certainly were nothing like the stuff that comes out of a bag (or at least any bag I've found).
I'll keep the enmolladas in mind for the next visit. Thanks for the tip.
I read Mesa's menu and it's on my must list with your reco. The Mole de Mama Cata sounds fabulous. Too many mole dishes are mole of questionable authenticity (spelled j-a-r-r-e-d), and ladled over a cooked boneless skinless chicken breast. That's not how it is meant to be. A fall-off-the-bone duck leg stewing half a day in home made mole sounds irresistable.
Another of my favorites is huachinango Veracruzano, which I had at nearby Calle Doce, but it lacked the savory capers and green olives that Mesa includes. Thanks for the to-do list. Too bad they are not open for lunch.
I will chime in add that my experience was also excellent. This is now one of the best restaurants in the city. It is in an unexpected location. During dinner several people walked in perhaps expecting to find a more casual and typical Mexican restaurant. The chic, semi-upscale vibe was not what they were looking for. But the staff is warm and very hospitable. They made us feel special. I can see having a night out with dinner at Mesa and a show at the Texas. With Bishop Arts so crazy now and cars being towed, Mesa is nice change of pace.
We had a ceviche appetizer, a cup of a spicy seafood soup with crab, the mole with the tender duck leg, spciy grilled shrimp and enfrijoladas. We sipped on a glass of cava, a blueberry mojito and then Tecate Light that they have on draft (never seen that before). All of it was great. The hand made tortillas are special.
We will go back for dinner, but also to just sit at the bar with the cool bartender and have a beer, ceviche and tortillas.
I'm going to chime in too and say this is one amazing restaurant. We have been twice and have enjoyed everything we have tried so far! We have had picadas de Veracruz, the mole with the duck leg, the snapper Veracruzana, the pork ribs with adobo sauce and the oxtail. All were delicious.
Their cocktails are really impressive too (jamaica paloma, spiked horchata, fresh fruit mojitos) and the service is great. I'm looking forward to going back and trying out some more of the menu, especially the ceviche.
Had dinner at Mesa the other night. In a word? Sensational!
I was pleased that the staff remembered me from the La Palapa days. I loved the mixed seafood ceviche, duck in mole, empanadas, and I especially loved the ribs. Cannot wait to return.
Based on this review, the girlfriend and I decided to find this place and have dinner. Despite the fact that I'm not a huge fan of Mexican cuisine (and yes, I know the difference between Mexican and Tex-Mex), I was very impressed.
Everything that we had was good, but the mixed civiche was the star of the show, to my mind. IF I had ordered it at Le Beranardin in NYC -- a restaurant that I and many others consider the finest seafood restaurant in North America -- I would have still been blown away. It was amazingly fresh, perfectly seasoned, and just out of this world. Out other appetizer, a crab and shrimp soup, was good, but not in the same category as the civiche.
The snapper veracruz and the ribs with the adobo were also both very good. I think that choosing between them is very much a matter of taste. I think that although I ordered the ribs, I would be a tad more inclined to order the snapper, but both were quite good. The adobo had a nice richness to it, but with just a little heat. While I am certainly no authority on Mexican cuisine, I might have preferred just a tad more heat and spice with the adobo.
Finally, a word about the service. It was not formal, but it was impeccable. Our witness was knowledgeable about the menu and was able to answer all our questions about the menu. Our water glasses were always full, but the service wasn't at all intrusive. Finally, the chef dropped by our table twice to check on our food and was very friendly.
I really can't say too much good about this restaurant. We dined, as is out custom, a bit late, and they weren't very busy, although it was a Wednesday night. I certainly hope that Dallas gets the word on this restaurant. It certainly deserves to thrive.
Fortunately for the family that owns Mesa, they not only own the building they occupy but also the two adjacent spaces next door as well.
Although we went on a Saturday evening and they were quite busy, I fear that in that particular neighborhood, business will be somewhat slack during the week.
But, if all remains as good as it was last Saturday evening, they'll do just fine. The word is getting out fast!
With a stroke of serendipity, the Mana concert tour passed through Dallas tonight, and I was able to tear away 2 old friends from Uruguay who crew the tour, and we dined at Mesa. We ate half the menu: most of the antejitos, mole, huachinango, ceviche mixto, flan, too much to critique by item, so I broadly say it was all sabroso and a happy experience. Raul stopped by several times and we swapped Veracruz stories and he indicated he and Olga will vary the menu seasonally. While I was suggesting chiles en nogada for September he was already nodding. This one is a winner. I had to eat early for my friends' schedule, and as I left with a sassified sonrisa there was a queue for tables.