Mesa needs more love.
At the media dinner I was invited to last night, there wasn’t a single breathing soul in the restaurant besides the bloggers and writers tasting the new menu by Raul Reyes, owner and chef extraordinaire of Mesa Veracruz Coastal Cuisine. Sure, it was a Wednesday evening, but it was still surprisingly empty for a restaurant of such high caliber.
Perhaps Reyes’ new fall menu can persuade enough people to venture out to the adventurous side of Oak Cliff, where Mesa is squeezed between a pawn shop and bakery.
Jump for some sweet shots by Melisa Oporto.
Raul Reyes is the Leonardo da Vinci of our times. I swear this man can do anything with his hands. Not only does he rule the kitchen at Mesa, he also built his restaurant from the ground up. He’s the DIY king of recycled material.
Our party ate our meal inside the patio, which took Reyes about three months to construct by hand. The patio floor has this beautiful, old-school wood coloring because it’s made from cedar that’s 110 years old. Reyes took the sidings of an old downtown building and nailed it down to the ground. Everything in the patio – even the tables – were made by Reyes, who also built the bar inside Bolsa. Did I mention that this handyman is also a hair stylist? He’s been one for 24 years.
As impressive as the patio is, so is everything on the new menu. The calabazita soup (with organic zucchini, pork ribs, and corn) is a warm and inviting way to start off the meal. It’s got good, fatty pieces of pork soaking in a hot broth, and the whole dish is one I could probably eat every day through the rest of fall. A waiter came by soon after I finished licking my spoon to explain that Reyes’ mole is different from the typical Mexican mole. His is blended with Mexican chocolate and made with over 20 ingredients, so it’s on the sweeter side. This mole is found in the enchiladas stuffed with chicken and served with jasmine rice.
The sweet white corn tamale that comes with the carne asada was so rich and velvety that I’m promising myself to visit to Mesa again. But I know I’ll have a hard time choosing between all the great offerings on the menu. For me, it’s a tie between the guiso del rey and the sauce on those enchiladas de langosta (lobster enchiladas). The guiso del rey, pictured at the very top, is swimming with seafood and aesthetically appealing. It’s so easy for a chef to throw a mixture of octopus, shrimp, clams, mussels, and jalapenos with rice into a bowl and charge $20 for it, but Reyes arranges the seafood to make art stew.
He’s also a wonderful sauce maker. Instead of using cheese to cover his lobster enchiladas, Reyes mixed pureed yellow pepper with cream to come up with a creation that is worth every embarrassing finger lick.
As for drinks, the new menu includes a cocktail called “Abuelitas Cafe,” which is exactly like Christmas in a mug. For $8 of XO Cafe Patron, tres leches liquor, whipped cream, and cinnamon sticks, it’s a perfect drink for the holidays. And though the ginger snap cocktail didn’t have enough of a snap to it, I liked its frothy texture made from a blend of eggnog and Captain Morgan. It almost, almost tasted better than the Mesa horchata, which is made from an infusion of coconut and vanilla rum.
The Reyes family is considering the possibility of moving to another location since they aren’t getting as much business as they would like. Over the summer, Nancy even posted that Mesa was in trouble because people weren’t eating there. Business picked up for a time, but for some reason, it hasn’t skyrocketed. It needs to. Dallas, Mesa needs more of your love. The food there is incredible, and Reyes is an unbelievably charming man who works around the clock. He told me that after the media dinner, he had more patio work to do. He was going to tidy up the restaurant and finish welding shelves together. Let’s hope he didn’t stay up too late.