A few minutes into my first lunch at the new Marquee Grill, I caught myself humming “Wilkommen” from the musical Cabaret, particularly the line, “In here life is beautiful. The girls are beautiful. Even the orchestra is beautiful.”
It’s certainly easy to be seduced by the good looks and charm of this newest Highland Park Village addition. Well-coiffed women in their Chanel best and dapper gents in pin-striped splendor sit pretty within the restaurant’s tony interior, a modern mash up of 1930s art deco and Hollywood regency glam. It’s all high contrast: crisp, white brick walls; black leather banquettes; carrara marble; bubble glass chandeliers and nearly-floor-to-ceiling mirrors, all the better to check your appearance while you’re checking out the stunning beauty at the next table.
Prowling the dining room is executive chef Tre Wilcox, whose muscular good looks are the perfect accessory to the Marquee’s handsome ensemble. After a few fits and spurts in the Dallas dining scene, the popular former Top Chef contestant has finally found a platform from which to capitalize on his reality TV fame. He and the Marquee are a perfect fit.
Much like the restaurant’s decor, Wilcox’s fare is good-looking. Alas, it also feels familiar: crab cakes, risotto, scallops, flat iron steak, and more. He isn’t revolutionizing anything here. In fact, sometimes the menu feels like it stepped out of the 1990s. But he injects it with enough whimsy and culinary flourishes to make it his own.
After several lunches, I found Marquee’s starters far more engaging and imaginative than its entrées. They’re substantial enough that you could easily make a light lunch of them. My hands-down favorite and, by far, the most creative, was the coffee-spiced rabbit tenderloin. Paired with chocolate panna cotta and pumpkin seed powder, it was sweet, savory, and playful. Spring vegetable risotto was a toothsome treat, littered with peas, asparagus, and mushrooms. Even ubiquitous crab cakes proved special, lightly fried and packed with bright, fresh crab flavor. They’re some of the best I’ve had in town.
Entrées were perfunctory. Sea scallops were nicely seared with a truffle champagne sauce. A wood-grilled flat iron steak was topped with a spicy jalapeño pico and surrounded by an ancho-Shiner Bock reduction. Thai-style surf and turf—soy marinated beef and jumbo shrimp—were almost too aggressively seasoned. Nothing disappointed yet nothing truly dazzled.
What does dazzle, however, is the restaurant’s balcony perched atop the marquee of the historic movie theater next door. With an expertly poured Manhattan cocktail in hand—the Marquee has employed master mixologist Jason Kosmas as its beverage director—and looking out over well-heeled Park Cities denizens as they scurry from boutique to boutique, it’s easy to once again give into the Marquee Grill’s stylish charms. So what if the food is only a small yet satisfying act of the restaurant’s overall handsome show? Go ahead. Enjoy. After all, life is a cabaret, old chum.
Marquee Grill | New American
The Cost: Average lunch entrée price $15
Full Bar: Yes
Who's There: Nancy Rogers, Roger Staubach, former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf
The Power Table: The six-top round table in the center of the downstairs dining room.