Thursday, January 24, 2008

Restaurant Week Meal #3 - Mesa Grill

Once again Mesa Grill did not disappoint. Bobby Flay's first restaurant served up a great meal, and one that was a great value compared to the normal menu prices. For us restaurant week is a balance between having great food, but also getting the best value. It's always better when the restaurant is serving items from their regular menu, and not some low end menu they are using just for the two weeks of Restaurant Week. The Mesa Grill selections are straight from the regular menu, so it's easy to compare prices and you know what to expect if you go back after Restaurant Week.

Our dinner started with an exceptional bread basket - probably one of the better free bread baskets in the city. Two sourdough rolls, one cornmeal and rosemary scone, and one corn and chile muffin - all served warm. Just thinking about it makes me want one of the cornmeal and rosemary scones or the corn and chile muffin. The scone wasn't dry and the flavor of the herbs was a perfectly balanced against the tang of the cornmeal. The corn muffin was really crumbly, it had both yellow and blue corn and mild green chilies.

I started with 'Sophie's Chopped Salad', I had the salad the last time we ate at Mesa Grill for restaurant week and I loved it. This time it wasn't my favorite. It was a solid salad, but last time it was better. I think I figured out that Sophie's salad isn't always the same salad, it's whatever Sophie wants to make for the night. Wednesday night it had lots of olives, red kidney beans, garbanzo beans, cubes of a mild white cheese (maybe queso blanco or jack), tomatoes, a small amount of lettuce, and a few crispy tortilla chips - all topped with a pretty unremarkable vinaigrette. The dressing just didn't add to the flavors of the salad. Last time the dressing was fabulous and really made the appetizer much better. (OK, I just went back and read my review of Sophie's salad from last year - it has exactly the same ingredients and I thought Michael's appetizer was better! I should have read my review instead of relying on my obviously faulty memory and then I would have not ordered the salad again. It wasn't that it was bad, it was just uneventful. I could make the same salad any night of the week, I want special, something I won't make at home.)

Michael started with the Fry Bread Taquitos. It was a piece of fry bread (kind of like a thick flour tortilla that has been fried so it is crispy on the edges, but soft and chewy towards the middle) topped with pork and red cabbage slaw sitting on top of a mango habanero sauce. The fried bread was just as delicious as you would expect fried bread to be (hello, fried and a carb). The pork was tender and well seasoned. I think it was a jerk type seasoning, but I'm not exactly sure. It was flavorful without being overly spicy. The red cabbage slaw added a nice crunch and it toned down the spiciness of the habanero sauce. Lucky for me Michael was nice enough to share, so I finished off his taquito while he tackled the salad.

For dinner I enjoyed the grilled mahi-mahi. The fish was grilled so it had that good smoky flavor but was still moist on the inside - it was sitting on three different sauces one that tasted mostly like pineapple, a sauce that was spicy and made from cascabel chilies and one that was green. The green was maybe a cilantro sauce? The presentation was great the yellow and red sauces filled the plate and the green was just used as an accent. The pineapple sauce was a nice balance to the spicy cascabel chile sauce.

From Cascabel chilies [kahs-kah-BEL] (also know as chile bola) means "rattle" and the name refers to the shape of the chile as well as the sound the seeds make when a dried chile is shaken. The cascabel chile is deep red to brownish in color and when mature is about 1 1/2" in diameter.Cascabels are moderately hot and have a nutty flavor with a rich tannic and slightly smoky nuance. The chile is grown in many states in Mexico including Coahuila, Durango, Guerrero and Jalisco.

The fish was topped with more pineapple and green onions in a rustic/chunky salsa. On the side was an amazing risotto. It was creamy like traditional risotto but the flavors were very nontraditional. It was filled with chunks of pineapple and a spicy green chile (maybe jalapeno?) - so each bite was a mix of the creamy rice, sweet pineapple, and spicy pepper.

Michael had the Sixteen Spice Chicken. It is a signature Mesa Grill dish. I'm not sure what the 16 spices include, but they are nothing short of delicious. The flavors you get when you eat the chicken run the range of smoky and spicy to a hint of sweetness in the background. The chicken is tender and juicy - perfectly cooked. It was served on top of a roasted garlic mango sauce and with a side of cilantro pesto mashed potatoes. The potatoes looked as good as they tasted - they weren't green, but had a ribbon of the flavorful cilantro pesto running through their creamy white goodness. The potatoes muted the strong flavor of cilantro and the result was a nice balance of creamy potatoes with a zing of cilantro.

Finally dessert - Mesa Grill makes a great dessert. Oh to be a pasty chef!

I had the vanilla crunch profiteroles with hot Mexican chocolate sauce. I was served three cream puff shells filled with a home made vanilla ice cream that had a few crunchy bites, like rice crispies or corn flakes mixed in with the ice cream. They were sitting on a very thick and rich chocolate sauce that wasn't too sweet - just like Mexican hot chocolate. In the center of the three profiteroles was a big dollop of bourbon flavored whip cream - it was like a cloud of bourbon in the middle of the plate.

Michael had the warm banana run bread pudding served with sour cream ice cream and topped with some caramelized bananas. He was disappointed when it first came out, but it just took one bite and he knew he made the right choice. The banana bread pudding was not overly sweet and had a rich banana flavor. The bread pudding was sitting on top of a delicious caramel sauce. The sour cream ice cream was a small portion on top of the banana bread, it tasted like cold sour cream that had been somewhat sweetened. His dessert was so sweet the ice cream balanced out everything else on the plate.

We had a great dinner and a cool table on the second floor of the restaurant. We were able to look over at the diners on the first floor. There was a party of 6 girls who were pretty loud, one in particular had a voice that carried straight up to us. It was amazing the difference in the noise level when she was eating and when she was talking.

Thursday was dark - Michael had a work function and I had to cancel my lunch reservation due to work (wuh wuhhh). Friday we're headed back to Thalassa, time to give them another try.