By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
Then last fall Maher bought La Mirabelle from founders Francois and Catherine Fotre. He closed it and nipped and tucked it with all of that "papaya" before reopening the restaurant in February. He also changed the name to Mirabelle, jettisoning the "La," though in the thick glass panel separating the bar from the dining room the "La" is still visible. Maher says this is because he wants to maintain a thread of history in the restaurant to connect with its roots. He plans to change the name to Adrian's (after one of his children) before the end of the year.
Another of Maher's quirks is his shunning of olive oil. This is the culinary equivalent of blasphemy. Maher says he adheres to this track because the flavor is not neutral and it can obscure the natural flavors of his dishes, mainly seafood. Instead, he uses grapeseed oil, which has a relatively neutral flavor.
Yet what is one to make of the Mediterranean branzini? This Mediterranean sea bass was crusted in herbs--tarragon, sage, parsley and cilantro--and settled in a red wine emulsion on a bed of wild mushrooms. Our server says that Maher likes to create fish dishes that can work as well with red wine as they do with white. And the red wine emulsion with mushrooms certainly reaches out to lighter-bodied red wines. But there's hardly any thoroughfares here for natural flavors to shine through. Though the fish was delicate and sweet, it didn't flake and was a little spongy.
17610 Midway Road
Dallas, TX 75287
Region: Carrollton/ Farmers Branch
Quail breast: $9
Duck breast: $20
Hawaiian king prawns: $25
Passion fruit crème brûlée: $6
Perhaps in a twist from his steak house stint, Maher offers a grilled buffalo medallion that's smeared with a merlot sauce and capped with a single morel mushroom. Despite its lush appearance and burnt-orange hue, this wasn't an in-your-face sauce, but a delicately pervious one that let the rich, lean flavors of the buffalo meat peek through.
But Maher's Hawaiian king prawns are perhaps the best example of what he is trying to achieve in the kitchen. Though the head-on prawns are bathed in an orange beurre blanc with a little Chablis, the meat tastes like a fresh spritz of ocean spray. And despite sauce fats, there was no obscuring of these flavors. This is a rare flavor profile to stumble across in a landlocked restaurant.
Passion fruit crème brûlée was typical of its ilk. The lid was crisp and warm, the custard was cool and firm, and the taste of passion fruit was suffused throughout.
Service at Mirabelle is excellent, with servers who are well-versed in the ingredients of the dishes and attuned to the flavor profiles on the wine list (mostly French and California examples). Servers know the menu and the ingredients and know the flavors of many of the wines and what they would be most successfully paired with.
Maher says he thinks of his food as art. There is certainly nothing revolutionary in this conjecture. Yet Maher tumbles a little with this cliché by using oversized tableware of varying colors and styles to "frame" his food. Sometimes it seems Maher's food disappears in these frames. Yet this is just a subtle deception, for it comes across on the tongue with the impassioned vibrancy of his art collection.