Friday night “Meet and Eat” dinners at the Oak Cliff’s Bolsa Mercado showcase the playful nature of Executive Chef Jeff Harris and his Executive Sous, Matt Blake. Hospitality abounds in this humble retreat from all things cookie-cutter ordinary. Wine pairings with each course, outrageous talent in the kitchen, community seating and a general feeling of joie de vivre make these dinners both festive and delicious.
It’s fun to have a little bit of this and a little bit of that, explore flavor combinations pretty well dreamed up a la minute or shortly before “show time,” depending upon the offerings of the marketplace – and enjoy the company of a jolly bunch of like-minded food buddies both old and new.
On a recent foray to the Mercado, I was seated with the ebullient Gregory Sawin, General Manager of the eagerly-awaited Jo*Jo Eating House and Bar, which will open soon on Howell Street. Sawin, whose work I adored at Galleria’s Town House, is one of the new breed of Dallas F & B folk whose concern for customer goodwill subtly overrides the “celebrity chef” ego-breath thing.
Harris, in his quiet way, is also of this new breed. So often, at wine dinners, guests sit through overly-chatty ingredient and preparation recitations. Not so here. We were left, largely, to draw our own conclusions and experience our own reactions to what was presented.. A few well-chosen words from the chef and wine guru Jimmy Contreras of Virtuoso Selections, and the general hilarity at our table continued.
Here’s what we enjoyed:
Confit of rabbit, leeks, heirloom peppers, mustard greens, country ham and peaches, served with Shug Sonoma Pinot Noir 2009.
Caprino Royale goat cheese dumplings, plum and brown butter puree, candied pecans, fried basil and blackberry gastrique, with a truly amazing Italian vermouth that’s not your mama’s cooking wine, Cocci Vermouth Di Torino NV.
Pastas at Bolsa Mercado are always handmade, then rolled out on a machine. Portions for these wine dinners are generous, the wine pour far from skimpy. While I wasn’t wild for the seasonings used to prepare the Wagyu beef tongue in Course Four, everything else was superb. Like the chef’s art, the wines were extraordinary. At $75 per person, the Friday night prix fixe at Bolsa Mercado is a food-lover’s bargain at an understated restaurant that is, quite simply, one of the best in Dallas.