Published in The Dallas Morning News: 03.10.06
Natalie Caudill / DMN
By DOTTY GRIFFITH / Staff Writer
Fernando's carne asada
Fernando's isn't a hideaway, but it might be hard to find. Although the address
is on Northwest Highway, the restaurant fronts the cross street, Midway Road.
Owner Fernando Padilla brings a touch of Mexico City to traditional Tex-Mex, and his chic interior is a good fit for the upscale North Dallas neighborhood. After being out of the restaurant business for a decade, Mr. Padilla opened his own place. He had been a maitre d' and general manager at Mario Messina's Il Sorrento (now closed).
The interior is contemporary and sleek with bold modern art on the gray walls and a shiny, urban bistro-style bar. That sets the tone for the cuisine, which runs from continental à la Mexico City to taqueria.
A short but well-selected wine list with several South American reds and whites, as well as a quality list of tequilas (silver, reposada, añejo and ultrapremium), further elevates Fernando's.
Dinner offers steak specialties with continental-French touches that characterize time-honored Mexico City dishes. Filet San Angel, grilled beef tenderloin with mushrooms, shallots and chiles in a port wine sauce, is emblematic. The meat was pink and tender.
Make no mistake, these dishes are rich. None more than shrimp Coyoacàn, a generous serving of big shrimp made even bigger with crabmeat stuffing and a white wine sauce.
There are regional dishes, too, such as pork medallions with a mild sauce of cascabel chiles. Flour tortillas, Mexican rice and beans are the customary sides.
Midday, Fernando's offers traditional plate lunches and a variety of tacos. No. 8, with a tamale, an enchilada, rice and beans, answers an urgent Tex-Mex craving. Don't miss brisket tacos, served with soft corn tortillas, guacamole and pico de gallo.
For a sampler, consider the Cuernavaca appetizer plate with fajita quesadillas, fried stuffed jalapeños, chicken flautas, nachos with beans and cheese, and guacamole. That's a nice cross section.
ervers hop to it with almost military bearing. Yet they're friendly and willing to explain menu items.
For dessert, sopaipillas, pillows of dough hot out of the deep fryer, are a reminder that simple can often be best.
Fernando's Mexican Cuisine has been a welcome addition to the neighborhood since opening last fall. Lunch and dinner (even on weeknights) can be lively with tables occupied by families with kids, couples on a night out or groups of friends having fun with cold margaritas.
Keys to the Door: Owner Fernando Padilla.
Tex-Mex, Times Two: Ask Fernando Padilla why he would open two namesake restaurants and he'll credit Il Sorrento - the legendary, now-torn-down Italian establishment from Mario Messina, where Padilla spent 12 years as maître d' then general manager. "It's a simple formula that I learned from Messina," he says. "Offer great food in a great atmosphere." And does he ever. Inside the second Fernando's Mexican Cuisine, at the Travis Walk compound in Knox-Henderson (the first sits at Northwest Highway and Midway Road), you'll find a clean, refined design. We love its slate tiles scaling the walls; all the contemporary art and sculpture from local artists; the airy feel and ample bar and lounge; even the exposed ductwork - all courtesy of interior designer (and Padilla's wife) Anne Padilla. As for the eats, sample one of the classic Tex-Mex dishes from the first Fernando's, such as the brisket tacos with jack cheese, grilled onions and molcajete sauce. Craving more of a Mexico City flavor? Order up the camarones Coyoacàn, a dish of jumbo shrimp stuffed with crabmeat. To wash it all down, summon a splash of tequila from the extensive (and we'd say exceptionally informative) tequila list, or ask for this low-cal libation: The Anita Margarita, with fresh squeezed lime juice, tequila and triple sec, named using the Spanish word for someone very special to Mr. Padilla (and his favorite interior designer): his wife, Anne.
From May 2012
This second location, on the top floor of the former Il Sole, offers a great view of the vibrant Travis Walk scene; it's like dining in an elegant tree house. Slate floors, dark woods, and modern art further contribute to an utterly different feel from the Midway Road location, but the food remains the same. Looking for something new, we felt compelled to order the grilled tilapia napped with a white-wine- lemon-butter sauce with capers. However, our companion stayed true to Mexican cuisine, ordering the tortilla soup and the guacamole Acapulco (which has to be among the best in town). Also rumored to be top-notch are the Anita margaritas.