The sturgeon was the dish we all wanted to hog. In the interest of sharing, everyone passed their plates around, but the impeccably fresh fish—dressed up in a mild whole-grain-mustard sauce—always provoked a “Wait, wait, let me have one more bite” before it was yanked from the offender’s grasp. At the four-month-old Dallas Fish Market, executive chef Randy Morgan and chef de cuisine Nick Yanes are taking chances with seafood both exotic and familiar. They are also taking a chance on a location (it used to house Jeroboam) that has struggled for customers in the past but has every chance of becoming a destination if only enough retail businesses could combat the “downtown drain” phenomenon and if suburbanites and central-city residents would get over their never-drive-more-than-five-miles-
But back to the sturgeon. The densely textured and white-fleshed fish is not common on menus, and that is the point. Morgan reaches out for rarities. Sautéed skate wing (a portion cut from the fin of a skate, a type of ray) has become so popular at the Fish Market that it’s offered all the time. The neatly ribbed filet all but soaks up its Meyer-lemon-and-caper beurre blanc. Talk about a slam dunk.
Among the appetizers, we had two surprises—one pleasant, one less so. The special of butternut squash soup took everyone by surprise by being (1) not cloyingly sweet and (2) subtly seasoned with spices you usually associate with pumpkin pie. Like the sturgeon, it provoked the “just one more spoonful” response. By contrast, the steamed Prince Edward Island mussels, which would have been boffo in their broth of coconut milk accented with kaffir lime and lemongrass, were ruined for me by the addition of baby-banana chutney. It swamped the sharp, aromatic notes that were the dish’s main attraction.
Of course, at any seafood restaurant, attention must be paid to meat eaters, and the kitchen does right by them. One of six turf selections, the huge bone-in pork chop was perfectly tender and so successful in a specially requested black-pepper coating that the treatment ought to be considered for a permanent slot.
Desserts are undeniably clever. The tiramisù is done up like a sushi roll, with the espresso-and-brandy-soaked cake in the middle and the mascarpone cream around the outside (the cheese mixture had been thickened with gelatin to make it work, engineering-wise, but the flavors had the right stuff). Other desserts needed just a little tweaking, such as the Key lime mousse layered napoleon style with not-totally-crisp puff pastry.
Given the chefs’ penchant for trying new things, the restaurant’s sleekly modern, almost disco-y look fits right in. The color scheme highlights bright white, silver, and steel-gray, and miraculously, the gleaming combo feels comfortable. I would like for the Fish Market to succeed, because it could be another anchor in the continuing revival of downtown Dallas. All of the area’s pioneering restaurants are taking a chance by going where customers are sometimes loath to tread. Dallasites should take a chance on them too. Bar. 1501 Main (214-744-3474). Lunch Mon–Fri 11–2. Dinner Mon–Thur 5–10, Fri & Sat 5–11. Closed Sun. $$$ W+