French Wave

Mercat French bistro opens in Dallas with a certain je ne sais quoi

Mercat French bistro opens in Dallas with a certain je ne sais quoi

Mercat, restaurant, Harwood, lentils
Cold lentils and shallots in vinaigrette, served in a beautiful flower-rimmed bowl. Photo by Teresa Gubbins
Mercat, restaurant, Harwood, sweetbreads
Sweetbreads with butter lettuce and radicchio, topped with a poached egg. Photo by Teresa Gubbins
Mercat, restaurant, Harwood, salumi
Charcuterie plate with toasts and cornichons. Photo by Teresa Gubbins
Mercat, restaurant, Harwood, water
Mercat serves cold water without ice or straws. Yay! Photo by Teresa Gubbins
Mercat, restaurant, Harwood, farro, kale
Kale and farro salad with mint, cucumber and red onion. Photo by Teresa Gubbins
Mercat, restaurant, Harwood, lentils
Mercat, restaurant, Harwood, sweetbreads
Mercat, restaurant, Harwood, salumi
Mercat, restaurant, Harwood, water
Mercat, restaurant, Harwood, farro, kale

Opening night finally arrived on June 8 for Mercat, the new French bistro on the edge of downtown Dallas. The restaurant is the more sophisticated sibling to neighboring Saint Ann.

The patio was furnished, the crew on its toes. Inside, couples and foursomes sat at marble-topped tables, the first on the block to try something new. A large, festive party sipped champagne and feasted: charcuterie plate, bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes and burrata, veal sweetbreads, and roast chicken with French fries.

We had Texas wine by the glass — Fume Blanc by Becker Vineyards, a mixed red by Pedernales — and snacked on house-made pain d'epi, or wheat-stalk bread, served with a basil-flavored butter.

We tried two salads: one was kale and farro (an ancient grain), with mint, cucumber and diced tomatoes; the other was cold lentils and shallots in vinaigrette. We dug into a bowl of mushroom ragu, with roasted mushrooms and breadcrumbs topped with a sunny-side fried egg. We split French fries, brown and crisp, served with sweet, mildly spicy ketchup that they make in-house.

We felt grateful that chef Jared Robinette had spent time at SPQR in San Francisco before biding his time at Saint Ann and that Harwood International owner Gabriel Barbier-Mueller crossed paths with restaurateur and Mercat general manager Stephan Courseau.

We appreciated the water — without ice or straws — with a bottle placed at the table so we could pour our own into French-made Duralex glasses. We took note of the shabby chic mix-and-match combination of plateware. We loved the atmospheric house music — sometimes with female vocals, sometimes not.

It felt like we were somewhere other than Dallas, and that's always a good thing.