Best Fancy Restaurant (2002)
It's a little confusing, this heavy metal bandying about by Mico Rodriguez (The M Crowd, Restaurant Life) and company. The Mercury used to be a casual fine dining experience in a strip mall at Preston and Forest. But that shingle got changed to Mercury Grill. The new "The Mercury" (a tribute to Orson Welles' and John Houseman's Mercury Theatre in New York) was revamped and installed in the Shops of Willow Bend in Plano. And what an installation it is. It's a contemporary brush of soft hues and glimmering hard surfaces, the kind that relax instead of agitate. The Mercury isn't visually busy or fashionably annoying, rather it's so tastefully done in every area that it's hard not to marvel between bites. Tan booth enclosures and the green-blue frosted glass frame the clear glass viewing slits in front of the kitchen. Those slits reveal an avalanche of stainless steel. Good things go on in there, too. Every dish--no, every bite--is a near-flawless oral escapade. Simple afterthoughts--like the ubiquitous house salad--become attention-getting flourishes within its midst. Fried calamari, almost as ubiquitous as pretzel twists and peppermint candy in bars and restaurants, takes on new life. Who would have thought of parking battered little tentacle blossoms and tender body rings on a bed of creamy risotto rattled out of composure by a spicy tomato sauce? This is the kind of stuff that makes the best dining a bastion of perfect moments; when unexpected elements come together with such gentle seamlessness they seem genetically predisposed to couple. Yet with all this culture and pedigree, The Mercury omits Paul Masson from its wine list. Orson Welles would be so jealous.