New Highland Park Fine-Dining Spot Madrina Is A Goddamn Work Of Art.
For a few months, it was hard to talk to Michael Martensen about anything but Madrina, his upscale new French-Mex restaurant in the former digs of Nosh Euro Bistro at the Shops of Highland Park — a relatively uncharted strip of Dallas.
Seems every time we chatted with the guy about his then soon-to-come restaurant, his eyes would glaze over with fervor.
First, Martensen, part owner of Madrina, spoke of cultivating the largest brandy list in Dallas — a list that even includes a house brandy of Madrina's own. Then it was the beautiful geometric patterns of woodwork on the floor. At one point, he told me about flying out a Venetian specialist into town to do the wall plaster for the restaurant. And he bragged, too, about a potato tamale he strong-armed chef Julio Peraza into putting on the menu.
Now that it's all finished, we can see why Martensen was so hyped up.
Madrina is a work of art. Top to bottom.
The main dining area is immaculate. The majority of the floor is made up of a geometric pattern of mono-toned isosceles triangles. The leather on the seats and banquets is soft and comfortable. The beamed ceiling is made to look like distressed stone. There's a chef’s counter toward the back made entirely of slabs of smooth white marble — and the kitchen and the hallway leading toward it have gray rectangular subway tiles on the walls and ceiling.
As you move towards the horseshoe bar, there's a sudden switch in design. The smooth off-white walls switch to distressed cedar planks stretching from floor to ceiling, and the tile work on the base of the bar becomes a geometric optical illusion of cubes.
Past the bar is a unique seating strip where you might feel like lighting a cigar and drinking two fingers of that house brandy — neat of course. The dark, shiny leathers and the matching thick dark wood on the tables is contrasted by the colorful triangles introduced onto the walls and ceiling. The light fixtures back also here change to handmade metal, while still boasting intentional rough welding ridges and discoloration.
It’s overwhelming just how many special details this restaurant boasts. But those three different types of floors, four different types of walls, three distinctly unique dining areas and accents really tie it all together.
Brought to us by Misery Loves Co. — the restaurant group that operates Proof + Pantry and was co-conceived by Martensen (previously of Driftwood, Cedars Social and the reservations-only Smyth) — Madrina offers up an interesting fusion of Mexican and French cuisine, too. We're talking dishes that range from tamales to duck confit enchiladas to a dessert tart. I had the chance to enjoy their tasty baby corn esquite appetizer, which boasted a perfect blend of baby corn, smoked Cojita cheese and chile spices. It all comes at a reasonable price point, too, considering this is a fine-dining establishment: Appetizers hover between $11 and $15, entrees range from $15 to $50, and desserts fall just over $10.
Meanwhile, the drink menu, crafted by James Beard award nominee Martensen himself, is just as exciting as the food. There is a Mexican and French side to all the drinks, from a house Old Fashioned made with Madrina's brandy to an extensive French wine list.
Notable cocktails include Amer-Bier, a beer cocktail mixing a french beer with an orange apertif. The house margarita is a banger too, with the taste of a perfectly mixed top-shelf margarita with an underlying jalapeño spiciness. One of the more unique options — and my personal favorite on the menu — is the Carajillo, a simple espresso poured over Licor 43 on ice.
Sure, restaurant and bar openings from over the course of this past Dallas summer have been rampant. Thankfully, this isn't just in density. These options have been quality, too — an upswing that comes to a crescendo with the opening of Madrina.
It's beautiful, gorgeous, artisanal and upscale. But, mostly, it's unique. That's why most every foodie in Dallas is already enamored with Madrina.
Granted, it's almost certainly too pricey to be your new regular hang. But if you have a hundred bucks left after you pay your bills this month, it's basically the perfect spot at which to charm a date or some friends.
Better start saving those pennies.