Tesar can’t sit still…
There is a reason I often find myself slinking around the phoenix that is The Mansion on Turtle Creek. A number of times in the past few months, and in various lauded gastronomic environs (including his own) Chef John Tesar has looked at me with glee and exclaimed, “I love this guy!” I am the perfect foil, my mantra being “I am addicted to crazy good food and all that is associated with it’s preparation, presentation, and consumption.”
Well back at ya, John… I love this guy! So, last week it was announced that the Chef’s Room at The Mansion would “pause service” for the remainder of the summer, to resume on Labor Day. Hmmm… Well, in these challenging economic times, I had beaten down the gourmand monkey on my back a bit… but I needed a fix. A quick e-mail to my pal made it clear that if I wanted said fix, I’d better get my ass over to the restaurant on Saturday night – as he’s off to Europe Sunday morning… As it happened, a group of foodie friends and I had planned to hit Abacus on Sat. – but they had to bail… so, I had no choice but to drop by my favorite haunt. Usually I just hang at the Mansion bar and drink whatever new concoction Michael is tinkering with, and BS with the (fascinatingly diverse) clientele… and, then, yummy food arrives for my pleasure. It’s obvious that the cat is out of the bag, however, as this night performing in the bar was none other than Hunter Sullivan and his able three piece – doing what they do… to a packed house. Great for biz, but I’m all just huddled near the service bar with uber produce guru Tom Spicer, suffering an endless chorus of “Excuse me, sir.” Rrrrrrr. I still look 35… oh, wait… 28… no dice. Soon enough, Chef pops out of the kitchen and is all “Well, you hungry? What do you want?” Dude, WTF, where’m I gonna park? “Oh, come on, I’ll stick you in the dining room.” …fine.
^The Chef’s Table
^The Chef’s Room (Scene of many crimes…)
But tonight, Chef plops me down in a comfy corner table in the main dining room, pillows to each side on my plush banquette. It was a pleasure to sit here – at the end of service – and take in the elegance of the space… it just glows.
And in step with the “next generation” attitude of this well established venue, it was fun to faintly hear the crowd singing along with the band in the bar across the lobby. It’s decades away (literally and figuratively) from my first memories of this restaurant – birthdays as a young man with my parents… and later, my best friend and I bringing our girlfriends to dinner before our high school prom… crazy…! (I mentioned this prom anecdote to Dean Fearing a few months ago – we looked at each other, did the math – and changed the subject.)
In his tempered New York staccato Tesar says: “So whadd’ya wanna eat… huh? … I got the short rib for ya.” Fine, John.
It’s a new preparation, and the finest of the 4 or so that I have enjoyed here. Michael Flynn drops by – “Oh, Hi! Here’s a nice cab – you’ll enjoy this…” Yes, I do.
Chef: “I have to leave at 7:30 in the morning… I haven’t even packed… you want something else? You OK? You want dessert? … Bring him the Lemon. Or the Chocolate… Bring him both – he’s good to go.” Fine, John.
So, you going to Spain? “Yeah, Spain, France, Italy… It’s all good.” And thus the silver lining to my culinary hiatus.
Upon his return from this European adventure, we will enjoy a dramatic refresh to the already innovative menu he has crafted to date. He beamed while discussing even the IDEA of turning his own distinctive vision for The Mansion on it’s ear. …I love this guy.
Safe travels, Chef…. can’t wait!