As mentioned previously in this blog, I’ve been unable to find, anywhere on the web, a review of the newly opened Hilton Bella Harbor’s premier restaurant, Mistra. So I guess I’ll just have to do it myself.
Tom and I made reservations for Sunday evening, but reservations weren’t really necessary. When we arrived at 6:30 p.m., the place was almost empty. I guess that’s not surprising, since word does not seem to have gotten out that it even exists. That’s a shame, because the food is good and the setting is beautiful. It’s pricey, but no more so than Blue Canyon (also in the Harbor district) and the food quality is definitely comparable. And based on our most recent experience at BC, back in June, the service at Mistra is far superior.
This was our first time inside the Hilton proper (we had been in the conference center for the Reagan Day dinner given by the Rockwall Republicans back in the spring before the hotel opened). It’s quite impressive, especially in comparison to the other hotels/motels on the lake. It’s a Hilton, and it’s a nice one. When you walk in, there’s a large, lovely sheet waterfall that sets the mood:
To your right, just past the reception desk, is a nice lobby sitting area:
Lobby sitting area
Behind that was my favorite part of the lobby, a comfortable "library" style room that I would love to emulate in my home:
And beyond that is a very classy looking shop area:
The hallway that leads to the back (lake facing) part of the hotel, where the restaurant is located, is nicely done in a warm marble and looks out over the pool:
There is a cozy bar called C&B Scene ("see and be seen" – get it?) tucked into a round room at the end of the hall:
The entrance to the restaurant itself is appropriately dramatic and everything looks shiny and new (as it is):
There’s a nice selection of tables and different styles of booths. We had our pick, and ended up in a large round booth with a view of the lake and a big table that had plenty of room to hold lots of goodies:
Finally, we get to what we came for: the food. I had not been able to find even a menu on the web site, although chef Steven Weir (more about him later) assured us that it will be up there in PDF format soon.
I have to confess that I was a little disappointed when I saw the menu. First, this is a small thing but the physical quality of the menu itself left a lot to be desired. Far from the leather covered menus I’ve come to expect from restaurants in this price range, it was a plain and very unimpressive cardboard menu.
Worse, I wasn’t very excited by any of the items there. Granted, I’m a pretty picky eater. I don’t eat beef or pork, don’t like shrimp, and there are quite a few things that I’m just not crazy about. I was also annoyed that, like Blue Canyon, they didn’t have white zinfandel. White Zinf is one of the most popular wines in the country – especially among those who generally don’t drink wine. These restaurants are probably losing money because of their snobbery, since many of us White Zinf fans will end up not ordering wine at all, or drinking fewer glasses of some other wine than we would have if we’d had the White Zinf. Thus they lose out on the huge markup they generally get on alcohol. I ended up getting one glass of an Italian sparkling wine (a Prosecco), which was just okay.
After perusing the menu a bit, I settled on the warm crab dip with homemade chips. It didn’t sound very exciting, but most of the other choices contained something I don’t eat.
I was wrong, though. The crab dip was quite exciting – in fact, for me it was the hit of the evening. It came with a nice browned crust and it was absolutely delicious, as were the lightly fried potato chips. It was a dish that could easily have been too greasy, but it wasn’t. The portion was big, but I finished every bite (except for the few that I shared with Tom) and was left wanting more. That’s exactly what an appetizer should do.
The waiter had recommended the crab-ginger fritters, which I considered but rejected because although I love crab, I’m not very fond of ginger. Tom tried them, though, and he (who actually eats the ginger that comes with the sushi) seemed to like them a lot, judging by how quickly they disappeared.
For the second course, I went with the tried and true: a Caesar salad. It’s hard to mess up a Caesar, and this one was fine, although it had more Romaine hearts and fewer leaves than I’d have preferred. But the dressing was good, and the salad was crispy and cool after the warm dip.
Tom got more adventuresome with his second course, ordering a "duck confit lasagna rose" that made an impressive presentation. It was an interesting dish, to say the least and I wish I’d gotten a taste of it, but I was still so busy consuming the last of the crab dip that I didn’t even think to ask.
Now it was time for the main entree. By this time I was already getting full, and probably should have skipped the salad. There was really only one choice on the entrees menu that appealed to me at all: a coriander crusted chicken breast. I was disappointed that there weren’t more seafood selections. I’d have liked to have seen scallops, sea bass, or perhaps crab cakes.
It took a while for the entrees to come, and we filled up a bit on the very interesting selection of breads in the meantime. The bread was actually another highlight of the meal – I loved getting all the different types to choose from, including pencil thin hard breadsticks, a delicious crisp flat bread, a soft bread that was almost like a deflated sopapilla, and a very dense, very dark nutty bread that was absolutely wonderful and must have had thousands of calories.
The chicken came, and it was "pretty good." To be fair, it would probably have tasted better if I hadn’t had so much of that great bread. The chicken meat was just a little dry on its own, but eaten with the spinach and small pasta or dumplings and the sauce that it came in, it was fine.
Tom got a filet of beef, which was small but thick (and by that point, he wasn’t exactly in the mood for a 24 ounce steak) and came with super thin potato slivers and cubed sweet potato. He remarked at first that it had a "tart" taste, which was a little off-putting, but as he continued to eat it, he noted that it "got better." Apparently it was a taste that grows on you.
After all this, I was not planning to order dessert. However, there was one item on the menu that caught my eye: tiramisu with Sambuca flavored cotton candy. I love tiramisu, so against my better judgment, I threw caution to the wind and went for it. Tom ordered the same.
When it arrived, I was surprised to see that it was covered with strawberries. Oops. I’m allergic to strawberries. So I spent the next several minutes picking all the strawberries off and scraping off the top layer of filling that had touched the strawberries. Tom didn’t mind – it meant more strawberries for him. Once I got down to the tiramisu itself, it was absolutely splendid. I’m sure if I’d known about the strawberries in advance (as I will next time) I could have requested that they be left off. As it was, I was so shocked by the strawberries that I failed to even get a picture of the dessert, but take my word for it that it was very pretty and unlike some tiramisu, the cake part wasn’t soggy, and the creme was to die for. The Sambuca cotton candy was fun, but Tom got most of it since I was so stuffed by then that I couldn’t take another bite of anything, even if it was as light as air. We finished it off with espresso (for Tom) and decaf coffee (for me).
It’s not unusual for chefs in the better restaurants to come around to the table and introduce themselves; that’s one of the things we always liked about going to the Mansion, and later Fearing’s. But we’ve never gotten as much attention from the chef as we did at Mistra. Undoubtedly it had a lot to do with the fact that there were only a couple of other patrons there, but Chef Weir came to our table after every course to ask how we liked it, and we had some nice chats about the food, the web site and the opening of the restaurant. It was almost like having a private chef (and a lot less expensive).
Speaking of expense, when the bill came, there was no sticker shock. In fact, it was a little less than I expected, considering the four courses and the wine. This is an upscale restaurant and it wasn’t cheap, but the total was well under $150 even with the $12/glass wine. We’ve paid more for a lot less food at other upscale places.
Although my comments about some of the individual dishes may sound less than enthusiastic, I would rate it as an excellent dining experience. The crab dip, the bread and the tiramisu would have made for a wonderful meal (and a much less filling one) and were worth the price of admission. And the dishes that Tom got made me wish I liked ginger, duck and beef. Will we go back? I’m sure we will. Beyond the food itself, the atmosphere was relaxing and beautiful and the service was superb.
I told Chef Weir that I would be doing a review on my blog, and he said "please be nice." As long as he keeps that crab dip coming, I will be very nice. If you’re looking for a restaurant on the lake where you can not only get good food but also be made to feel pampered and taken care of, Mistra’s on a Sunday evening is highly recommended.