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The Mansion on Turtle Creek

Barbecue and Tortillas meet Haute Cuisine

Harvey Steiman
Posted: April 17, 2000

The Mansion on Turtle Creek

Barbecue and Tortillas meet Haute Cuisine

The Mansion is the complete package: sumptuous surroundings, warm skillful service and a deep wine cellar geared to the vibrant flavors in chef Dean Fearing's Texas cuisine. Fearing raises what could be mundane fare -- tortilla soup, lobster tacos and mustard lamb with redeye drippings -- to the height of refinement.

Built by cotton magnate Sheppard King in the 1920s, the Mansion houses the restaurant on two floors, dividing the dining areas into graceful spaces accented by mullioned and arched windows, carved wood ceilings and stone fireplaces imported from France. A table for 12 occupies a separate wine cellar. Several private dining rooms are up a spiral staircase.

The kitchen hides discreetly in an attached modern building, which in turn extends to a 140-room hotel, the flagship of Rosewood Hotels' international luxury chain. Tree-shaded Turtle Creek burbles outside the door, and a tiered fountain graces the hotel entrance.

Fearing and his chef de cuisine, Amador Mora, have a genius for making such quintessentially Texas elements as chilis, barbecue, tamales and fritters harmonize with such non-Texas fare as salmon, Chilean sea bass, ahi tuna and foie gras.

The menu is a great read. Each of two dozen dishes has at least four elements, and amazingly, none of them repeats from one dish to another. That they pull off 100 separate items with such aplomb is a daily tour de force. Ahi tuna seared and glazed with tangerine, for example, would have been wonderful by itself as an appetizer, but it shared a plate with coconut rice (actually a risotto with coconut) and a clear sauce that mingled mango, ginger and citrus flavors and a fine crisp julienne of yam. It was all so deftly balanced that it did no harm to a glass of Far Niente Chardonnay 1997.

The wine list, a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner on its worldwide range more than its depth in traditional Bordeaux and Burgundy, favors wines with vivid flavors. The list has plenty of great choices, especially in Rhne and California. Staglin Family Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 sang its song like it was meant for veal rubbed with mole seasonings (crushed chilis thickened with chocolate) nestled in sauted wild mushrooms and an adobo of braised cabbage.

Pastry chef James Wagner makes soothing, creamy desserts such as a pumpkin ice cream sandwich made with thin gingerbread cookies. Those who want something light can trust the sorbets, such as a green apple that announced its tang clearly.

Though entres are among the most expensive in this report, and a four-course menu goes for $85, the Mansion will be worth a visit as long as Fearing continues to make magic and Rosewood keeps up the luxurious standards of everything else.

-- H.S.

Restaurant Ratings

Address 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd., Dallas 75219
Telephone (214) 559-2100
Fax (214) 528-4187
Web site www.mansionturtlecreek.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Cost Very expensive
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, Discover, Carte Blanche
Wine Spectator Award Grand Award since 1995

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