In 1998 the award-winning Chef Chris Ward joined the M Crowd Restaurant Group as Executive Chef of The Mercury. Ward had garnered many honors including “Rising Star Chef” by the James Beard House Foundation. Today he is still in the kitchen at this neighborhood staple and packing a crowd even in the middle of the week. Located in a modest strip shopping center, inside you’ll find the lights lowered, dark wood tables, padded seating, stone and wood walls, shaded windows to the outside, and music in the background. You enter into the large bar area and now next door houses a sushi bar that shares food with this place. Along one wall is the opening to the kitchen where some terrific food is being offered to diners. There was only one special that evening but the menu covers a good range of American classics. The service was outstanding and we truly enjoyed an evening there with some friends.
We started with a round of excellently made cocktails from the full bar. The server brought some sliced baguette with butter and a liver spread. The bread was warm and the butter soft but not whipped. The liver spread was light, smooth and delicious.
With our drinks we tried some appetizers. The Pan Seared Shrimp were served on jalapeño grits with a tequila-cilantro lime sauce. This was recommended by the server and was a wonderful dish. The plump juicy shrimp were cooked perfectly and surrounded a mound of yellow grits. The sauce brought it all together. It was not as spicy as I expected but lots of flavor was in the dish.
Jumbo Lump Crab Dip came in a small casserole dish alongside some thin sliced crisped bread and bagels. It was topped with crispy buttery bread crumbs and inside were tons of sweet crab chunks in a creamy cheesy sauce. It was a good amount for 4 but I bet 2 of us could have polished it off, it was that tasty.
Cracklin’ Chicken came with potato purée and vegetable nage. The semi-boneless chicken had the skin crisped and browned. It included both white and dark pieces and the meat was juicy and tender. It sat on the purée with some well-reduced jus to further flavor the meat and the nicely cooked array of vegetables. It was a good plate.
Veal Milanaise came with arugula, artichoke and asparagus salad with a side of spaetzle. A different spelling but still a traditional Veal Milanese – a veal escalope breaded into a cutlet and fried in butter. On top was a tender mix of the greens that were lightly blanched and then topped with slices of hard cheese. There was a creamy sauce and some jus in the mix also. It was tender, delicious and full of fun textures and flavors.
Onion Rings appeared to be house made with a light coating that was well-adhered to the sweet onion. They were nicely crisp but unremarkable.
Everyone seemed to enjoy their desserts but I didn’t sample all. Got pictures anyway. Keylime Pie was with raspberry pulp.
12 Layer Coconut Cake was served with a salted caramel sauce. Some fruit pieces also were used as decoration for the very moist cake. Lots of crisp coconut on the outside added texture to the fine cake.
Soufflés have to be ordered at the beginning of the meal We chose Grand Marnier and Chocolate ones. The former comes with crème anglaise (vanilla custard) sauce and the chocolate comes with chocolate sauce. Both were wonderful. I had the former and it was rich, hot and scrumptious. Nothing new, but done really well it didn’t need a twist.