Simon's Symbiosis

Both times I dined at Mercury, however, main courses easily eclipsed the starters. A smoked pork tenderloin was delicious, propped on a mound of spicy sweet potato hash. Cooked medium-rare, the pork was pink and juicy, curry paste seared into the sizzling crust. Stewed Granny Smith apples were a tart take on the old pork-chops-'n'-applesauce tune.

Equally flavorful, the lemon-chicken sausage was a real treat. Thick slices of chicken sausage, wonderfully succulent and vividly scented with lemon, were scattered around a centerpiece of rich Tuscan risotto with white onions, chopped red tomatoes, and forest-green broccoli rabe.

A fourteen-ounce dry-aged Black Angus steak, grilled and presented with its natural juices, was a little chewy. The pile of lightly salted pommes frites it featured, however, could put a Frenchman to shame. These were fantastic little fries, crisp as potato chips and just as eagerly devoured.

The taters accompanying the grilled tenderloin of beef, though, took first honors. Mashed with wasabi, they were addictive, as was the filet itself. The steak was marinated in teriyaki and stuffed with a filling of red and yellow peppers, grilled tomatoes, and onions. Easily my favorite dish.

I've always believed Simon to be more at home with sturdy foods such as steaks and chops rather than delicate ones like seafood, but his fish dishes were expertly tuned. Chilean sea bass with shiitake mushrooms was from the Jonathan Eismann school of fish, so flaky and tender it practically melted on the plate. Simple earthy flavors were helped along by gorgeous Yukon gold boiled potatoes, dressed in the subtly fennel-ish herb chervil. Miso-marinated ahi tuna was also a terrific cut of fish, thick and steaklike. Charred just a bit too much on the outside, the tuna was as red as beef inside, testimony to its sushi-quality freshness. The fish went well with a hearty white bean salad, presented warm with cherry tomatoes and a garnish of mint.

Portions, particularly the steaks, are hefty enough, but don't let that detract from dessert. Comfortably familiar and just a touch innovative (as well as expensive, at nine dollars), the key lime cannoli sounded tempting, but the strawberry-rhubarb shortcake proved juicier. And the chocolate crepes, one filled with chocolate mousse and the other with sambuca-flavored mousse, were delectable, especially when paired with the Frieze's white-mint ice cream.

A graphic designer from Buffalo, Kenneth Jaworski might be an unlikely partner for Kerry Simon, whose resume includes stints at the Plaza Hotel's Edwardian Room, the Lafayette, and La Cote Basque, all in New York. But the vibe so far seems positive, the operative word symbiotic.

Mercury
764 Washington Ave, 532-0070. Open Tuesday - Thursday and Sunday from 6:00 to 11:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday until 2:00 a.m.

Caviar pie
$14.00
Chilean sea bass
$23.00
Tenderloin of beef
$26.00
Chocolate crepes
$9.00

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