Heavy metal

The Mercury rises above its strip-mall surroundings

But The Mercury plunged in the glare of daylight. Service, smoothly attentive in the evening, got clumsy with gooey geniality and a hovering staff. At one point it seemed everyone from the busboy to the manager got in line to hit us with the same question in the space of three minutes (Are you enjoying everything?).

Actually, no. There was little with which to quarrel in the grilled asparagus with applewood bacon and black olive-caper vinaigrette. The dish was lively with a speckling of diced tomato among the perfectly grilled stalks and chunks of tangy bacon lightly hazing the dish in smoke. The only drawback was the oiliness, which swamped things a bit.

But the Israeli couscous carbonara with candied duckling and black truffle vinaigrette was equipped with a duck confit that--unlike the aforementioned appetizer--was mushy and suffused with off flavors, as if the bird had been sitting at room temp for a lengthy stretch. Only the firm and articulate couscous soaked in a rich, smoky carbonara effectively cut by a sprinkling of tangy capers saved the dish from utter ruin.

Location Info

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Mercury Grill

11909 Preston Road
Dallas, TX 75230

Category: Restaurant > New American

Region: North Dallas

Crispy fried squid over spicy tomato risotto and green olive tapenade achieved a culinary milestone of sorts: potent blandness. Tender squid jacketed in flour and cornstarch was chalky and vapid--ill-equipped to stand up to the pasty glue of a risotto swamped in a tomato sauce charged with chili paste and red pepper flakes. The only saving grace was the lively tapenade drizzled over the squid.

The Mercury's wine list is adequate, if unimaginative, with far too many California Chardonnays among the whites, and a preponderance of California Cabs/Merlots among the reds. This is strange, because this eclectic, imaginative menu would profit from a few more Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Noirs, and Zinfandels, and would be rounded nicely with a dry Chenin Blanc, a couple of roses, and a more diverse selection of reds that included more Italians (Dolcetto) and the addition of Spanish Riojas to complement the menu's Mediterranean and rustic elements.

A creation of the M Crowd, a partnership that launched Mi Cocina and the Mainstream Fish House (a new Mainstream location is set to open this week at Oak Lawn and Blackburn), The Mercury is the concept the group hopes to replicate at other locations. And it's ripe with potential. The look is good, the menu is provocative, and the heart of its staff is in the right place.

But it needs some tightening if it's going to prosper and multiply. Alchemists thought mercury, which they associated with the planet Mercury, had mystical properties and used it in their attempts to transmute base metals into gold. And the M Crowd has taken a rather homely mall slot and very nearly transformed it into something precious. But it will take far more than mysticism to turn The Mercury into the culinary equivalent of yellow metal.

The Mercury. 11909 Preston Road, corner of Preston and Forest, (972) 960-7774. Open for lunch Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Open for dinner Sunday-Thursday, 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m., Saturday 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m. $$$-$$$$

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