Mirador's tuna tartine may be the perfect sandwich for the fashionable lady or gentleman who lunches.
Open-faced and dainty, it's diced rare tuna lightly dressed in tonnato sauce with a touch of cornichon set on excellent, crusty house-made sourdough toast. A fine lemon-yellow flurry of cured egg yolk garnishes the top, along with finely sliced chives, pickled shallots and a lacy crown of frisée. The virtuous order it with a lovely little side salad: a shaved radish here, a wisp of slender garden carrot there. Devil-may-care types go instead for crisp, golden-brown fries with a silky dollop of aioli for dabbing.
If you missed the memo about Mirador, it's the restaurant atop the new Forty Five Ten on Main. During the day, when the tony downtown department store is open, Mirador is a lunch place, accessible either from the Main Street entrance or the Elm Street motor court back door. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, while the store gets its beauty rest, you can show up for dinner via the back door – so long as you've managed to snag a reservation. Announce yourself at the valet stand, you'll be escorted in and sent to the penthouse in the elevator. How fabulously furtive – the fancy store is closed, and you've gained entry!
Mirador's dining room, with floor-to-ceiling windows, marble tabletops and plush, deep banquettes in gorgeous patchwork stripes, almost lets you forget you're in a department store. (Recessed lighting that whispers "Nordstrom" helps you remember.) Giant glossy blown-up photos of tweezer-perfect food adorn the walls; aspirational objets from the shelves of Forty Five Ten's luxurious home department serve as accents on shelves.
Outside, when the weather's fine, the terrace offers a breathtaking view of downtown's historic buildings, skyscrapers and canyons of steel – and, on one side, Tony Tasset's giant Eye sculpture parked on the patch of emerald-green artificial turf below. In a setting so unusual and spectacular – from this catbird seat, you feel almost suspended in the cityscape – it almost doesn't matter if the food's any good.
But the food is good. Sometimes it even dazzles.
That was the case with a number of starters. One night a foie gras and truffle tart couched in flaky pâte sablée – a special – made a luxurious first impression. Another special, a lemon risotto set off smartly with charred ramp relish, had lovely delicate flavor and impeccable creamy texture. King crab gribiche – a stunningly dainty portion of seafood salad with a $29 price tag – came with three puck-shaped "tater tots," fried crisp and golden brown on the outside, creamy and perfect on the inside.
The gribiche appears on the menu under "for the table," which I appreciate. It's often so hard to know what's meant to share and what isn't.
I found myself frequently amused, impressed, annoyed or pleased by Mirador's diminutive portion sizes. At lunchtime, for instance, a fabulous burger, cooked gorgeously medium-rare, cloaked in melted cheddar and set off deliciously with a dab of sauce gribiche, fit just right on its house-made whole-grain, seeded bun – about two-thirds the size of a standard one. No wonder everyone in the dining room looks so great in those clothes! The night of the foie gras tart special, our server described it as generously sized for two to share. Sure, if generous means a sliver.
One night I ordered a $55 whole grilled lobster, asking about the size first. "About a pound and a quarter," I was told. When it landed, I was gobsmacked: It looked to be much smaller – three-quarters of a pound, if I had to guess. But it was wonderful: the sweet meat beautifully cooked, diced, tossed with a sumptuous butter made with the roe, returned to the halved shell, grilled then topped with fennel pollen and toasted bread crumbs. What a treat.
Yes, Mirador is expensive – which isn't to say the prices aren't justified: King crab, lobster, foie gras and black truffles are expensive ingredients. I refrained from choosing the optional $70 gold osetra caviar garnish for that crab gribiche. The wine list requires deep pockets – white wines start at $50 per bottle – but the markups are standard for Dallas restaurants, sometimes lower. A 2013 Beckmen Vineyards Purisima Mountain Syrah, for example, which retails for about $30, is offered at Mirador for $68. That represents about 230 percent over retail, when 300 to 400 percent over retail has become common in Big D.
Certainly at lunchtime, when you can get away for $16 for that mini-burger or $16 for the wonderful tartine, sticker shock lessens; sandwiches come with fries or a side salad. (The modestly sized yet splendid $26 lobster roll, with its luxurious house-made brioche bun, isn't exactly the budget choice.)
If you're wondering about the chef in charge of all this deliciousness, it's, um, complicated.
Executive chef Josh Sutcliff heads the kitchen, working "under the leadership" of Junior Borges, executive chef of the Joule hotel, explained a spokeswoman for the Joule. (Borges oversees all restaurant and catering operations for the Joule and Mirador.) Both chefs have impressive résumés: Borges helped Uchi earn five stars when he was chef de cuisine there; Sutcliff was chef de cuisine at five-star FT33.
For all that star power, the main courses – only four, and they haven't changed in two months – are less exciting than the rest. The West Coast salmon was always perfectly cooked, but overwhelmed by the assertive flavor of its romesco. One night a chicken paillard on sunchoke purée with charred lemon was fine if unremarkable, another it was so beautifully cooked and flavorful it made me eager to order it again. A Wagyu New York strip with crispy potatoes and a simple jus was meticulously executed, yet didn't have the spectacular flavor you hope for in a $42 6-ounce steak. Most predictably delicious was the superbly tender and flavorful roasted pork collar with black trumpet mushrooms and grilled radicchio on silky onion soubise.
If the small portions leave you wanting more, here's happy news: Mirador's desserts, created by executive pastry chef Keith Cedotal (one of Dallas' most talented), are stellar. Crack open the crisp meringue shell of his lemon Pavlova and saucy berries tumble out, along with citrus mousse. How perfect for the season. Apple praline pie, self-contained in a wonderful chewy-crisp-buttery crust, is doused in caramel sauce and topped with praline ice cream. Even the cookie plate – a bowl, actually, filled with macarons, a mini Linzer torte, a madeleine, a Mexican wedding cookie and fruit gelées – is a special treat.
Partly because the experience is so tightly curated, to use a euphemism for small menu and wine list and limited dinner hours (Thursday through Saturday only), assigning a star rating to Mirador feels fraught. Meanwhile, will Borges continue to spend as much time in Mirador's kitchen as he seems to be early on? (He was in the restaurant every one of the five times I dined there.) Whose talents are responsible for the kitchen's triumphs, Sutcliff's or Borges' or a combination? If and when Borges' leadership evolves to the point of being less hands-on, will Sutcliff do just as well? Impossible to know. The Headington Cos., which owns the Joule, is expanding its restaurant portfolio, so such a scenario seems entirely possible.
A restaurant review, let us remember, is a snapshot in time. In my five visits over the course of two months, the experience has been – with few exceptions (a monotonous Cobb salad, an overcooked burger first time around) – quite impressive. Four stars it is.
Mirador (4 stars)
Price: $$$$ (Lunch appetizers, soups and salads $6 to $20; sandwiches $14 to $26; main courses $17 to $42. Dinner starters $13 to $99; main courses $24 to $42. Desserts $8 to $10. Bar bites menu $6 to $14.)
Service: Professional, attentive and knowledgeable about the menu
Ambience: A stylish and contemporary dining room with plenty of elbow space, comfortable banquettes, floor-to-ceiling windows with spectacular views and a wraparound terrace
Noise level: Usually fairly quiet, even when the dining room's full, but one evening the music's volume made conversation difficult.
Location: Mirador, Forty Five Ten on Main, penthouse level, 1608 Elm St., Dallas; 214-945-8200
Hours: Lunch Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner Thursday-Saturday 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday brunch service (noon to 3:30 p.m.) is planned beginning April 30.
Reservations: Accepted; required for dinner
Credit cards: All major
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar. A fairly brief wine list ranging from $48 to $350 per bottle features mostly California and French vintages, often with lower-than-usual markups. Seventeen selections are available by the glass.
5 stars: Extraordinary
4 stars: Excellent
3 stars: Very good
2 stars: Good
1 star: Fair
No stars: Poor
Average dinner per person
$ – $14 and under
$$ – $15 to $30
$$$ – $31 to $50
$$$$ – More than $50