Its front entrance is at 1608 Elm St., where a parking circle of pavers, not concrete, takes up the curb, swooping around a sculpture island. This is the kind of driveway so fancy that its owners call it a “motor court.”
After the attendant deposits me in the elevator, I press the “PH” (penthouse) button. The penthouse is dimly lit, manned by a welcoming committee of mannequins dressed better than I ever have been. To the right is a tony bar; in front is a bright staircase, blocked off, which leads down into the store. Much of the penthouse suite is taken up by private hobnobbing areas, sectioned off by enormous gray curtains. Here House of Cards could film a scene of crafty legislators planning a kickback scheme.
The result is, technically, less sandwich and more vertical toast. Two women at the table next to me stare and loudly ask, “Is that a quiche?”
The rest of my $75-for-two lunch was disappointing, too. For one thing, those women wouldn’t stop talking about how they thought Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, had consorted with Russian spies. For another, a cup of coconut shrimp chowder ($6) got the creamy texture right but tasted heavily of lime and coconut and could have used more shrimp stock to balance out those flavors. My cup had just four pieces of shrimp, all so tiny that the broth overcooked them. The deviled eggs ($14 for four) might more properly be stuffed eggs since they contain no spice stronger than chives, but they are otherwise perfectly fine.
Our waitress informed us that the humidity was too high to serve a pavlova for dessert while the Hillary haters next to us happily finished a pavlova.
“The pastry chef won’t serve anything that’s not perfect,” the waitress explained, and then the pastry chef served us a cookie plate ($8) topped with a macaron from which a large chunk was missing.
Try the very substantial Caesar salad ($16), for instance, with curly leaf lettuce, endive and a generous dusting of herbed breadcrumbs to provide unusually strong textures. There's a lively tuna crudo with gooseberries, elegantly presented in a little rimmed bowl ($18). The chicken paillard main course ($24) is another example of understated elegance, with the thin grilled chicken exceptionally tender. It’s sandwiched between creamy sunchoke puree, which complements and amplifies the delicate flavor of the meat, and a festive topping of roasted sunchokes, arugula and lots of shaved pecorino.
Although the proteins in the main courses don’t change often, the sides are seasonal. Right now, a fillet of salmon, excellently cooked, is being served with al dente to undercooked field peas and fried fennel strips that look like onion rings ($34). And, although I missed it by a few days, the roasted pork ($34) spent early summer celebrating morel mushroom season.
Diners will still have to decide for themselves, of course, if spending $60 per person for food is justified when the food is prettily plated fare that bistros and hotels have served for decades.
Drinking at Mirador gets expensive fast, and Champagnes in particular are clearly selected for name recognition rather than quality. I wouldn’t splurge on any wine fancier than the Maxime Graillot 2013 syrah ($14 glass, $56 bottle), which, behind a funky bell-pepper nose, is a complex and delightful wine that would pair well with darn near anything.
Mirador is a vexing restaurant because it is fully confident in its identity when it should really be suffering an identity crisis. It's an elegant, upscale space in a forbiddingly fancy department store, occupying premium real estate with killer views and semiprivate dining possibilities, boasting two of Dallas’ most talented chefs in Nilton Borges and Josh Sutcliff, serving impossibly expensive wines to impossibly wealthy patrons, yet Mirador is content to serve chicken sandwiches, Caesar salads and a $14 order of ricotta toast.
That’s fine if the food is executed well. But Mirador is deliberately declining an opportunity to lead Dallas’ fine dining scene, and I hope the leadership team knows it. If it tried, the kitchen here could find a clientele for some of the city’s most sophisticated, innovative food. I’m reminded of a bistro that opened in New York City 20 years ago to supply reasonable grub to busy financiers, even offering sandwiches in delivery lunch boxes. Eventually, Eleven Madison Park’s owners realized their space was destined for greater things.
Mirador, 1608 Elm St. 214-945-8200, mirador-dallas.com. Lunch 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, dinner by reservation only, 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.