Friday, July 4, 2008

Mesa Grill

Bobby Flay might just be my favorite TV celebrity chef. Years ago, I bought one of his grilling cookbooks, and it remains one of my favorites. Not having a grill - or a yard, for that matter - I haven't used it much since I moved to Boston, but back when I lived in DC I would make something directly from this cookbook or directly inspired by something in the cookbook on a fairly regular basis. All of the recipes have been consistently good. Naturally, I couldn't spend a summer eating in New York and not try one of Flay's restaurants.

I can't really compare this place to many of the other restaurants I have been to recently for a couple of reasons. First, we sat at the bar, and, second, we weren't that hungry, so we just ordered a bunch of appetizers.

We started out with a flight of three different ceviches: sea scallop with tomatillo and orange, shrimp with pickled hot and sweet peppers, and lobster and octopus with yellow pepper and smoke paprika. I thought that these were all really good, but I liked the lobster and octopus ceviche the most. (As an aside, the best ceviche I have ever had was at this sushi place that Abby and I went to when she was living in Santiago, Chile. I can't remember the name, but it was in Plaza Nunoa. If you are ever in that city, check it out.)

After the ceviche, we tried the dishes pictured below.

Barbecued country ribs with mango habanero glaze and green onion peanut relish. These were really tender and the peanuts created a nice textural contrast. The sauce was awesome. That's something I could say about all of his dishes. I think bold, interesting sauces are sort of a Flay signature. Tequila cured salmon and cripy squash blossom salad with roasted lime vinaigrette. This was my least favorite dish, but it was still pretty good.
Shrimp and roasted garlic corn tamale with fresh corn and cilantro sauce. I didn't actually try this one, but it got rave reviews at our table. It looks great.
Barbecued pork and Oaxaca cheesee quesadilla with hot and sweet cabbage relish. This one was sort of mundane, but it was still tasty. I just wouldn't have paid $13 for it.
Blue corn pancake with barbecued duck and habanero chile-star anise sauce. This was my favorite appetizer. It is one of the restaurants most popular appetizers with good reason.
Vanilla, Sevilla orange and creme fraiche flan with blueberry salad and orange sage caramel. I thought this was a really good flan. It had the perfect level of citrus accent, which made the flavor really bright, for lack of a better word. The blueberries mixed with the orange sauce and some candied orange zest were great.
Chocolate and dulce de leche layer cake. I only had a bite of this one. It was very rich, but very good. If you like chocolate, this is your kind of dessert.
In total, I thought that this was pretty good food, but I thought you were definitely paying for some combination of the location (right near Union Square) and the celebrity brand. Most of the appetizers were around $15 and most of the entrees were over $30. At those prices, I would expect something much more formal than the dining experience offered at the Mesa Grill. So, it was good food, but overpriced.

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