By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
His harassment obviously works, because the cold tomato soup, seasoned with basil, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and thyme, filled the mouth with an addictive set of simple, lively flavors. Leave it to a Frenchman to sniff out good produce in the land of steers.
I don't know if Fotre also harasses ducks, but his foie gras was rich and delicate with elegantly focused flavors and a sweetness derived from a splash of sauternes wine. It's served on a salad of Belgian endive, walnuts, watercress, tomato, onion, and diced potato drizzled with vinaigrette. The salad was fresh and appropriately bitter, providing a near perfect contrast to the slightly sweet foie gras. The downside to the whole assembly was the toast points, which, a bit too singed, tended to annihilate some of the more delicate liver flavors.
To get some kick out of those blah, blah, blah, fresh ingredients, La Mirabelle also tosses in a little theater. They do table-side culinary performance art with such things as Caesar salads, flambe, chateaubriand carving, and Dover sole filleting with a pair of table spoons. (Doesn't this seem a little bit like doing your taxes with an abacus?) It yielded, however, one of the best pieces of finned flesh ever to beg for a swallow. Soaked in a lemon-butter sauce spotted with garlic and capers, the fish was flaky, tender, tangy, moist, delicate, fresh, flavorful--I'm running out of adjectives. It was served with an aged basmati rice that was soaked overnight and cooked in chicken stock with a little butter and turmeric. The stuff was lively, fresh, almost airy in the mouth. How does he get rice to do that?
Other main-stage stuff that danced included the rack of lamb, which, while served exceedingly rare, was firm and tender without the stringiness that often plagues flesh this shade of pink. It was drenched in its own juices with only the addition of roasted garlic, which means your mouth clutched only the mild richness of the meat. It also included this square of thinly sliced potatoes spiked with nutmeg that made the fresh potato flavor scream. Quail came paired with sweetbreads (the thymus gland of a calf) sandwiched in puff pastry. This was an interesting combo. While the quail was moist, rich and chewy, the sweetbreads--drenched in a rich mushroom-bumped brown sauce--were mild and delicate, if slightly rubbery.
The wine list was difficult to grasp, and I'm not sure I can put my finger on exactly why. It seemed to have mainly token regional representations--a little California, a little Alsace, some Loire Valley, a little Rhone, some Bordeaux, etc.--and not much depth. I had my heart set on a Burgundy or a pinot noir and somehow settled on a Chateauneuf-du-Pape (La Fiole). Instead of being big and generously flavored, it was mild and delicate. After exhausting that, I was at my wits' end. So I asked Fotre for a recommendation from his private reserve selections, an unlisted assortment that includes pricey Burgundies like Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and a few Bordeaux. He poured a 1993 Cháteau Pouget, a fourth growth from Cantenac-Margaux. It was silky with a delicate richness that paired with our lamb and sweetbreads far better than my original selection.
The desserts seemed to stumble a bit. While the raspberry sorbet was supple, flaky, and surging with fruit, the creme brulee lacked the appropriately caramelized sugar crust across the top. No matter, you can top off your dessert with a stroll to the tiny bar area where you can yank a stogie out of the cigar coffin. How hip.
The service, while pleasant, had a few glitches, the most annoying of which was the reluctance to quote prices on specials and wine recommendations (sticker shock on the check is a bitch). On one visit, our server didn't seem to have even the most rudimentary grasp of the menu.
But these are just minor itches. The best part about La Mirabelle--named for a small yellow plum grown in Alsace--is you won't find any of those grossly exaggerated idiosyncrasies and stereotypes I babbled about in the intro--just fine cuisine in a comfortable, largely unpretentious atmosphere. After all, have you ever met a French person--Socialist or not--who's actually heard of Jerry Lewis?
La Mirabelle. 17610 Midway Road at Trinity Mills. (972) 733-0202. Open for lunch Tuesday-Thursday
11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Open for dinner Monday-Thursday 6-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 6-11 p.m.
Cold tomato soup $4
Caesar salad done table-side for two $15
Dover sole $27.95
Rack of lamb $25