The recipes in chef Davaillon’s cookbook lack one thing: His deft execution
Since taking over the kitchen at The Mansion on Turtle Creek almost three years ago, Bruno Davaillon has brought renewed attention to The Mansion That Dean
Built — and in a good way. He earned Michelin stars two years running at Alain Ducasse’s Mandalay Bay resto in Vegas, and was a finalist earlier this year for a James Beard Award. His latest accomplishment: Bringing a culinary cookbook featuring the Mansion’s signature recipe to fruition.
Still, is that enough?
It certainly seems to be. For a Frenchman, he’s mastered much of the flavors Texans (and Mansion fans) have come to expect. His red snapper ceviche (page 27 of the cookbook) is spicier than Sofia Vergara at a jalapeno farm, and the cod fritters (page 203) benefit from a cayenne-infused tomatillo salsa.
The watermelon salad (page 69) offers a soothing summer balm given a sophisticated twist. Sweet Texas melon takes a salty tinge from a garnish of thinly crisped bacon and a crumble of feta that crowns deep, magenta cubes. For dessert, he goes full-out Mex-Mex with crunchy churros (page 238), planted in a bed of chili chocolate mousse and dollop of house-made ice cream.
But it’s with the entrees where Davaillon’s European techniques shine through. Not only is the lobster cannelloni (page 37) an inspired concept, it’s that rarest of creations: A lush summery meal, as light as it is savory. A small tail cups a single pasta shell, itself filled with bits of lobster and spinach, and just a trace of ricotta to unite them. That, in turn, sits atop a bed of perfectly diced zucchini and summer squash, and doused in a Parmesan emulsion.
Davaillon’s “flavor of duck” — a trio of duck recipes, including a lobe of foie gras, a confit of thigh and a sliced breast (page 115) — offers a richer dish for more full-bodied summer palates. The foie gras soars: Creamy and sweet, with a dark cherry glaze. The skin on the confit is ideal, as well — crisp without being greasy. (One misstep: A far too salty corn puree with the confit.)
The cookbook also contains cocktails, conceived by the Mansion’s mixologists, which you can also try to recreate.
In fact, it might be a good idea to stick with the cocktails. Davaillon’s skills set includes not only inventive ideas about food, but deft execution. That’s something amateur cooks probably can’t reproduce on Saturday evening. The cookbook is gorgeous, and makes a great coffee-table topper, but should come with a warning: “Don’t try this at home.” When it comes to preparation, I’ll let Davaillon do the cooking — like James Bond, nobody does it better.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 6, 2012.