Remember the Main
It's not surprising that David McMillan is not intimidated by altitude. His first Dallas stint put him 27 stories up in the sky in the Wyndham Anatole Hotel tower. There he brought maturity to a kitchen coming down from the star power of young chef Doug Brown. Maybe swinging a knife while breathing thin air blurs judgment. Maybe the stuff is addicting.
Now McMillan has opened 62 Main (named for the address, not for the dining room's 62 seats), a restaurant located on the upper level of a two-story building reachable by a long winding stairway. Risky, that. Adding to the edgy thrills is that his 62 Main rests in one of those faux urban village replicas in the Village at Colleyville, a kind of West Village/SoHo wannabe with a strict bedtime. Have dinner at 62 Main, stroll around the village to work off the veal chop with foraged mushrooms and soufflé lemon pudding, and notice this peculiar thing: All the shops close at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Maybe this place needs a 7-Eleven.
Or maybe you should just stay in the restaurant and reread the menu to work off dinner. McMillan's food is complex and simple all at the same time. It's also tight and organized, even as it flirts with the ditch at breakneck speeds on bald tires. Bread plates are delivered to well-manicured tables by servers and managers dressed in blue jeans. The staff is polished and professional, even as McMillan exploits child labor. The evidence is right there in the center of the menu: Ryan's warm pecan and rosemary crusted goat cheese salad. It's a delicious mix of crisp greens drizzled in tomato coriander dressing. The cheese is thoroughly embedded with pecan and herb debris, which contrasts well with the subtle cheese sharpness. Instead of gooey, the cheese is flaky, almost like fine pastry.
McMillan's son Ryan invented this. Ryan is 5. Ryan is different. Instead of video games and micro-racers, Ryan plays with cinnamon, flour and baking powder. Instead of cartoons, Ryan incessantly watches the Food Network. Emeril is his SpongeBob.
One day Ryan was hanging out at the 62 Main counter chopping pecans, rosemary and garlic. He grabbed a piece of goat cheese and packed the mixture around it. "Then he asked one of the cooks to put it in the oven for him," McMillan says. That would be a wood-burning oven. Ryan also takes dinner reservations, as he attempted to do with us. How long do you suppose it will be before Ryan drifts over to CNBC and discovers the beauty of royalties and licensing fees?
Here's an oddity: 62 Main lists the wood du jour for the wood-burning oven at the rear of the restaurant. It's written on a chalkboard, just above the fish and the mushrooms. Today it is cured Texas oak. Other days it might be cherry, hickory, mesquite or Presto Log.
McMillan throws as much as he can into that oven: mushrooms, a veal chop, a whole fish. Whole roasted barramundi is slashed, covered with olive oil and crusted with herbs. The herb mix goes a little like this: chives, thyme and fennel. But it can vary. On the plate the fish is shriveled and black. Ashes flake off tail and fin tips and gill edges. Still, the herb flavors and aromas bleed through, albeit in thick smoky guise. Tear the skin and the creamy white flesh blows steam billows. It's moist with sweetness conversing quietly on the finish: a beautiful fish, even if it looks like a tarred and feathered Trinity River carp.
Here's another odd thing: The fish comes with a soupy side of leeks, fennel and orzo in a chicken stock saffron broth. McMillan calls it deconstructed bouillabaisse. Deconstructed, why? For one, because a bouillabaisse made with a charred fish would suck. Second, McMillan finds some diners don't dig saffron, if you can believe that. So he quarantines it in a ramekin, where it can easily be held or pawned off.
Not everything gets a stint in the wood oven, for good reasons. One, it's small. Two, the corner where it rests is tight. Oven traffic control is difficult, and gridlock is a constant danger. The oven is used sparingly, which, in the context of this small menu, is significant.
One dish that isn't but should be fired in that oven is the pair of Texas quail. They rest in a bleached white pool of turnip puree, which is ringed by a lumpy slick of cherry sauce. The fruit is halved, quartered and otherwise fragmented. The sauce is extracted and is slightly sweet, but sharp barbs keep it tame--the cutting scourge of port and sherry vinegar. The bird itself is clean and chewy. Its gut cavity is stuffed with bits of hickory-smoked sausage. This is how McMillan leaves a wood-burning impression without compromising oven traffic. The smoke pervades so thoroughly, you'd swear a few billows have licked the turnip pool.
There is room in that oven for a shrimp cocktail. This is a far stretch from the typical steak-house species: glass filled with lettuce shreds and cocktail sauce, shrimp hooked on the edge of the glass. These are fine things, most of the time, but they chloroform the imagination. McMillan's gives it some smelling salts. Ecuadorian shrimp are marinated in herbs, fired and arranged on a narrow rippled glass plate. Random smears of pepper coulis and whipped horseradish crème fraiche are there for dipping, but resist. Let these shrimp be. Dressed in a gossamer crust with specks of slightly crisped herbal fringe, these shrimp are rife with marine sensuality. These are dirty things. Take a bite: The texture isn't cleanly defined or consistent across the chew. They're firm, sure. But there is that perceptible layer of mushiness around the edges that sweats sea splash. They don't taste like they were manufactured at a Firestone synthetic rubber subsidiary. These things have quirks.
Of course, there's foie gras, this with blackberries and royal tokaj (Hungarian sweet wine). It's good. Yet the center of the lobe is a little loose--like a runny egg. Flavor is clean and rich, though it could have used salt grit. Tei Tei Robata Bar does an ingenious foie gras thing. In the corner of the narrow plate where the lobes are spread is a tiny drift of sea salt for dipping. When our plate arrived a server suggested we wash it down with a glass of DeLorimier Lace Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. The salt wasn't missed.
McMillan's restaurant occupies the space that was once Urban Tapas, which unraveled after roughly a year. But he almost didn't end up here. He explored a project in an upcoming boutique hotel in San Francisco, but the investors got spooked by a unionized staff mandated by the city coupled with San Francisco's living wage regulations. He took a look at the former Star Canyon space but balked at the Centrum's rich lease and the awkward valet parking system. So he opened in this tiny space, ripping out Urban Tapas' faux brick walls, splashing them with pale yellow and softening the room with plush banquettes and leather chairs. He plans to add a 1,000-square-foot lounge sometime in June.
Until then, tear into the raspberry cobbler. McMillan says he picks up many of his ingredients from a little farmers market nearby. But these berries are weird, even for a farmers market. They are so impossibly swollen with flavor and acid, they could have only come from a biotech firm in Berkeley. McMillan bravely exploits them, pulling way back on the sugar, softly sweetening the edges with a blanket of sweet cream. This is picked up with moist, firm honey shortbread--a brilliant piece of fruit exploitation.
What's the culinary philosophy driving McMillan's menu? "I try and buy great things and present them well and not screw them up," he says. Deep and cogent. Ryan has a great future. 62 Main St., No. 200, Colleyville, 817-605-0858. Open for lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Open for dinner 5:30-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 5:30-11 p.m. Friday & Saturday. $$$
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