We hadn’t been to the Mansion on Turtle Creek for dinner since Dean Fearing left; I guess that’s been around two years ago. Wow, how time flies. Frankly, we were a little wary of all the changes that we’d read about: a new chef, the remodel, doing away with the dress code … it just didn’t sound like the Mansion we had known and loved for so long.
After all, this was where we had dinner on our wedding night, and we’ve spent a few anniversaries at the hotel following a great meal. We hated to see someone tear it all down and start over.
But we decided to finally take the chance and celebrate Tom’s birthday last Friday by giving it a try. By reserving a table late (9:30 p.m.) we got 1000 points on Open Table – so that provided some incentive. And our curiosity had finally gotten the better of us. We figured we’d find out, one way or another, whether the Mansion could remain on our list of favorite fine dining options.
I was pleasantly surprised when we walked in the door. I really loved the old look: the dark mahogany Old English library feel of the place. But the light colored walls and the more modern furniture didn’t change the overall atmosphere as much as I had expected (or feared). And the new big outdoor fireplace on the terrace was definitely a great addition.
Still, when you pay that much for dinner, it’s all about the food. Could someone else work the same sort of magic that Dean always does? I was pleased to see that the signature tortilla soup was still on the menu – it hadn’t been there when I looked at an online version of the dinner menu. Of course I ordered it. Tom got a fried duck egg with Pacific sturgeon caviar as a starter.
The soup was just as good as ever – but the portion was smaller and the price was a dollar higher than last time. Oh well; that’s progress, I guess. Tom devoured the duck egg so I assume it was good, too. He also ordered a second course, toasted potato gnocchi with braised beef ribs, carrots, mushrooms and peas, which he also finished off in short order.
The wait for the entrees was a little longer than I would prefer, although the waiter came ‘round more than once with that wonderful platter of heavenly breads; one couldn’t help but be mollified a bit by that. The heavy whole wheat rolls with nuts and grain were delicious, and I was glad I hadn’t ordered a second course so I could enjoy two of them.
Finally the entrees arrived. Tom had taken the waiter’s recommendation and ordered the grilled braised short ribs with truffle macaroni. I went all out, since I’d saved $25 by not getting a second course, and went for the most expensive entree on the menu: roasted Maine lobster with English peas, pearl onions and shitake mushrooms. When I saw the small size of the plate, I had to wonder if there could possibly be enough food there to justify the $55 price tag, but what it lacked in quantity, the dish made up for in quality. There was a green sauce on the plate, the makeup of which I have no clue, but it was fantastic and really set off the tender lobster meat.
For dessert, we shared a seven layer chocolate concoction that was very good, but by then I was more than full.
Service was good, although maybe not quite as over-the-top as the Mansion used to be. That is, there wasn’t someone there to remove every crumb from the tablecloth at the end and beginning of each course, but that’s not a big deal. Prices are definitely a bit higher; the bill for two (with the only alcohol being two glasses of wine – total, not each) was $280 with tip. Two years ago, it would have been closer to $200. Inflation, I guess.
It’s not the kind of thing we do every week or even every month, but we do like to indulge in the upscale restaurant experience a few times a year, on special occasions. The Mansion still makes our list, although if given a choice between going there on my own birthday and going to Fearing’s at the Ritz for chicken fried lobster, I have to say I’ll opt for the latter.