Mesero, 4955 Gage Av, FW. 817-402-0744. 11am-9:30pm Sun-Thu, 11am-10:30pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
The Shops at Clearfork, Cowtown’s swankiest retail center, doesn’t have anything as pedestrian as a food court. When the Neiman’s crowd wants Panda Express or Sbarro, they’ll have to drive their X6s quite a ways. Clearfork, however, quickly and quietly amassed what may be the highest concentration of upscale, above-average chain eateries in Tarrant County, designed to target the tastes (and wallets) of the leisure-shopping demographic.
This isn’t to be snooty — I’ve yet to have a bad meal in Clearfork, though the insular development still feels like a chunk of Plano broke off and landed in West Fort Worth. If it doesn’t quite feel homegrown, if it doesn’t quite feel integrated with the rest of the city, that isn’t to say the developers are not bringing some worthwhile additions to the local food scene.
I’m more than happy to add Mesero to the list of pretty good restaurants serving pretty good meals within walking distance of Tiffany & Co. The sixth location for the Dallas-based chain serves contemporary takes on Mexican classics in a manner and setting that will be familiar to fans of Taco Diner and Mi Cocina but with an emphasis on slower cooking and deeper flavors, braised meats, and the nuanced use of chiles.
A recent weekday lunch service found the dining room about half-full, and my guest and I were seated immediately. The sunny dining room was dressed in natural woods with turquoise booths. High ceilings and an open kitchen made for a pleasant buzz.
A trio of salsas and chips arrived with our iced teas. A chunky dip of green tomatillos and ripe avocados flecked with queso fresco was the standout favorite, but the house salsa of roasted tomato and habanero chiles was a close second.
A cup of sopa de fideo – a thick tomato-based chicken-noodle soup – was spiked with smoky morita chiles and crowned with a crispy fried onion ring. Hunks of ripe avocado bobbed on the surface. For a dish that rarely appears on menus in these parts, it made quite an impression, with a depth of flavor that lived up to its outsized presentation.
The carne asada tacos were packed full of tender grilled steak, but the beef needed all the help of chopped cilantro and onions, as well as a tangy slaw, to keep it from seeming a bit bland. Dregs from the complimentary salsa helped fill in the flavor. The tacos’ corn tortillas were (sadly) not made in-house but had been given a healthy toast on the comal to bring out their nuttiness. A side of Mexican rice was jeweled with fresh-chopped carrot and zucchini for a bright flavor far superior to the usual frozen peas and corn.
For the most part, Mesero’s menu is the same for lunch and dinner service. There are a few items offered at a reduced price for lunch. “The Chairman” braised pork is such a dish, and we ordered it at the recommendation of our server. The lunch portion of fork-tender pork loin was generously smothered in chile seco, similar to a New Mexican red chile. It was also laced through with cremini mushrooms and roasted red peppers. An electric-green drizzle of jalapeño ranch (give it a chance) was better than expected, imparting a whimsical tang to a very serious dish. More of the kitchen’s Mexican rice was served on the side, with plenty of toasted tortillas available to mop up the sauce.
We’d ordered the kitchen’s roasted Brussels sprouts on a lark, mostly because the menu boasted a topping of mango relish. Brussels sprouts have come a long ways indeed, but even a maple glaze with bacon could hardly compete with the surprising combination of tropical fruit against a cruciferous backdrop, charred papery leaves crackling around a sweet and sour glaze. They were excellent – and no worse for their slow delivery, arriving at the table just in time to stand in for dessert.
Mesero’s only weakness is that the service (personable though it is) seems geared more toward shoppers without any particular schedule than it does workaday drones with an hour for lunch. To be fair, we’d have made it back to the office on time if we’d skipped the Brussels sprouts – but that’s really no way to live.
Sopa de fideo (cup) $4.50
Carne asada tacos $11.95
Braised pork (lunch portion) $14.95
Brussels sprouts $6