First Look: Bruno Davaillon's Menu At The Mansion

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Chef Bruno Davaillon is eager to know what Dallas wants for dinner. At least that was the sentiment echoed by the wait staff and marketing department last night at a media dinner at the Mansion on Turtle Creek.

The Mansion staff has been asking recent patrons what they'd like to see on the menu--which makes their incoming chef sound like a culinary Phil Donahue. On the other hand, the restaurant may be willing to sacrifice a customer favorite for French-American fusion dishes.

We'll get to that later...

Davaillon took over as executive chef at the Mansion last Tuesday, and has already started incorporating new dishes into the menu created by his predecessor, the much loved...sorry, that was about to be tactless. Born and educated in France, Davaillon spent five years at executive chef at Mix at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas where he earned Michelin stars in 2008 and 2009. When I spoke briefly with Davaillon last night, he was proud (I think--he has a heavy accent) of all his additions to the menu, especially the Atlantic cod with a French potato brandade and lemon caper sauce. He was enthusiastic about the upcoming changes to the menu, and Mansion staff told me the completely reinvented menu will appear in three weeks.

Since this dinner was free and we're suckers for special treatment (being important media members and all), my date and I ordered a four course meal with wine pairings. The wait staff was quick to recommend a new appetizer Davaillon had introduced: Maine lobster salad with caviar cream and tomato confit. Too quick, in my book. So we started with something I hoped the chef had neglected, given the invited media: the oysters and the tartare duo. But the tuna tartare was extraordinarily delicate and the oysters topped with diced cucumber and Tabasco gelee.

For the next course, I sampled a small portion of the new--and quite earthy--mushroom risotto. A hearty portion of duck confit sat on top.

My date had never been to the Mansion and I suggested he try the tortilla soup. And now we arrive to the question on everyone's mind: will Davaillon keep the famous tortilla soup on the new menu? Tracy Fitz, the Mansion's marketing director, says they aren't sure if the tortilla soup will remain. Like the rest of the menu, it's up to Chef Davaillon--and, obviously, the patrons he asks for input.

Guess if someone on the new menu isn't popular, he can always blame the guests.

Chorizo crusted halibut debuted last night. The fish was delicate and flaky, but the chorizo crust didn't add the bite I was expecting--so he must be using a Spanish dulce version. "Didn't one of the Top Chef contestants make this recently?" remarked my date. Who knows, but it did seem like a dish you'd see in a Vegas restaurant. I had the duo of ribeye and braised short rib with potato fondant. The short rib was perfectly cooked, and I'll leave it there.

By the time the dessert menu came, I was too full to glance it over. So I stole bites of my date's lemon overdose: a lemon cake with lemon meringue.

Chef Davaillon has already put his touch on dessert, adding the lemon dessert and a candy bar. While the menu evolves over the next few weeks, some people will be crossing their fingers that the tortilla soup stays on the menu.

Maybe Davaillon will reinvent the Mansion classic, but my bet is on more French inspired dishes like his butternut squash soup.

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