Friday, May 13, 2011
Photos: Mesa, new authentic Mexican restaurant on Jefferson, serves preview dinner
Highly anticipated opening day will be Friday, May 20.
Mesa, the new Veracruz-style Mexican restaurant from chef-owners Raul and Olga Reyes, has settled on an opening date: Friday, May 20.
While Mesa's opening is unlike to drive anyone to tears, this small chef-driven spot on Jefferson does promise to be a destination for Dallas' foodie community, a fate sealed by the support it has received from some influential trend-setters, including the owners of Smoke.
Mesa's opening has been anticipated for nearly two years, after the owners hosted a dinner at their old restaurant, called La Palapa Veracruzana, for a group of Dallas' more adventurous diners and bloggers. Just as good word-of-mouth began to spread, La Palapa abruptly shut down, which only stoked its mystique.
This time around, the Reyes' prospects for longevity seem more promising. The restaurant has undergone a makeover that's handsome as well as personal: The stamped metal plates and rustic slats of wood on the walls were collected and assembled by Raul himself, in sync with Mesa's commitment to sustainability. The reclaimed wood and clean aluminum feels both warm and modern, unlike anything else on Jefferson Boulevard, for sure.
And while the recipes come from the Reyes', the menu has been glossed up and the day-to-day operations streamlined by a support group that includes Chris Zielke, co-owner of Smoke and Bolsa, as well as Nick Zukin, the Portland blogger and restaurateur who is co-owner of Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen. Bolsa bartender Eddie "Lucky" Campbell consulted on the cocktail menu, which includes a luscious house-made horchata -- spiked, of course.
Leading up to their opening date, they hosted a couple of friends-and-family dinners this week to run the staff through its paces.
On food and atmosphere alone, Mesa has an insidious appeal; as you scan the menu, you realize you want every dish. There is shrimp and snapper in light clean sauces, infused with chile that makes your mouth nice and warm, and house-made mole that's dark and sweet and complex.
At this week's events, attendees paid for cocktails but dined for free. To ensure that the kitchen could handle a cross-section of dishes, diners were given random slips of paper specifying their dishes. I felt grateful to get "enmoladas" -- corn tortillas bathed in mole and folded into plump triangles, a holdover from their La Palapa days. But then at the next table I saw the "empanadas rellenas" -- plantain and corn dough turnovers filled with cheese -- and a bright, crunchy salad made of diced chayote squash with Mexican oregano, and I started wanting those instead. Next time.
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