Clearfork has been checking all the boxes with a slew of recent first-quarter openings. Thai? Check. French? Check. Steakhouse and Southern? Check and check. Wine bar, beer pub, martini bar? Check, check and check! The only thing missing was Mexican, but now that the long-awaited Mesero has flung open its doors, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
I made a dinner reservation shortly after reading an article announcing its opening, and I’m glad I did, because the patio, dining room and bar were filled to capacity on the Friday night I went.
The vibe: Restaurateur Mico Rodriguez established and subsequently sold both the Mi Cocina and Taco Diner concepts. You’ll notice some similarities at his new Mesero, like the sleek and modern decor and the amuse-bouche presented to every table: a collection of colorful salsas and a dainty portion of chips. More on those later.
Dallas currently has four Mesero restaurants dotting the map, plus the original location, still called Mr. Mesero, on McKinney Avenue.
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W. “Trey” R. Dyer III, president and CEO of Mesero Restaurant Group, was on hand to open the Clearfork location and shared that Victory Park will be the site of the next Mesero.
Also of note, Dyer says that the Fort Worth location launched with a brand-new menu. About 95 percent of the dishes are new, and after a little perfecting, the company plans to roll out the updated menu to other locations.
The restaurant's open floor plan feels vast, with high ceilings, lots of windows and a simple color scheme, with only a few touches of aqua and Caribbean blue.
As you enter, the bar area is tucked in the corner to your right. It's the perfect spot to wait if you show up without a reservation or to sip its new signature drink, the frozen Berry Street margarita, featuring a purple swirl of blueberry puree liqueur.
There is another bar area flowing down the left side of the dining room, with a view to the open kitchen beyond.
Warm wooden accents throughout tie the space together. The right side of the dining space is home to a row of banquettes with a wooden canopy suspended overhead, adding intimacy to the seating.
The food: At first, my husband and I felt that the cup of chips placed before us was a disappointingly small portion. But soon we came to appreciate the fact that Mesero knew us even better than we knew ourselves. We were spared from mindlessly crunching and dipping, only to wind up staring in shame at an empty basket long before we even placed our order. You can ask for a refill, but the smaller portion forced us to slow down and savor the salsas.
The three salsas are intriguing. The pachi pachi sauce has the color and thickness of queso, but chef Erick Barrera explained that is due to the rust orange hue of its signature chile arbol, blended with green tomatillos. All the ingredients in this salsa are fried in oil separately, then blended. It was my favorite. There is also a spicy tomato puree-style salsa (de mesa) and one featuring chunks of fresh avocado and tomatillo (Mesero).
I am sucker for mole, mostly because I know how labor intensive it is to make. So I had to sample the oaxaqueñas chicken enchiladas smothered in mole ($11.95). I’m happy to report that mole-lovers have reason to rejoice.
This dish is spectacular — sweet and slightly spicy with all those thick, rich, smoky flavors. The enchiladas are served with an interesting cabbage slaw — neither sweet nor vinegary, with subtle flavors of balsamic oil and toasted coriander — and a simple mound of well-seasoned white rice.
Chef Barrera says the mole has 39 ingredients, including six different peppers, peanuts, sesame seeds, ground almonds and chocolate, just to name a few. The slaw is not an afterthought. Neither sweet nor vinegary, it is subtle with balsamic oil and the smoky flavor of toasted coriander.
The verde enchiladas (also $11.95) come with the same slaw and red rice. Two plump enchiladas are draped with one of the better tomatillo sauces around. It is thick and smoky. The dish is drizzled with a crema sauce and dusted with cotija cheese.
Combination plates ($12.95) coordinate some of the favorite items on the menu. The taco plates come in six varieties ($11.95). We tried the carnitas and brisket tacos as well. Both were filled with lean and flavorful meats, but for my money the saucy enchiladas were a better pick.
The signature dessert, called cinco leches ($8), ups the ante on the traditional tres leches cake, (by dos mas leches). The two additional milks are half-and-half and goat milk. This is a three layer, eminently splitable dessert. It is light and creamy, with a thin whipped cream frosting — completely moist, but not soaking in a pool of syrup.
The verdict: This the perfect springtime addition to Clearfork, with classic three-ingredient margaritas (the preference of any margarita snob) and a sublime patio to soak up the shoulder season.
With its upscale ambiance and superior attention to detail in the kitchen as well as on the floor, Mesero will make its way onto your short list of go-to Mexican restaurants. The service team already seems to be in sync and the price point for most items is a real bargain for the quality. Mesero has already caught on, so reservations are a must.
- 4955 Gage Ave., (Shops at Clearfork)
- Fort Worth
- 817-402-0744; www.mesero.net
- Hours: 11 a.m. -10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Weekend brunch is expected to begin in a few weeks.