Get Ready For Some Big Hits at Marquee Texas Grill. Chef Andre Natera’s Loading the Bases.

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Dallas remains a city with many excellent restaurants and exceptionally talented chefs, especially when you consider that there are plenty of other cities no one cares a spork full of elotes about. While Dean and Stephan and Kent continue to pull in their share of attention — deservedly so — chefs like Julian Barsotta, John Tesar, Jeff Harris, Matt Balke, Tim Byres, Matt McCallister, Graham Dodds, Omar Flores, Samir Dhurandhar, Taylor Kearney and about three dozen more are happily hard at work every day, slaving away to make delicious food for people like you and me. On every visit to one of their restaurants, every one of those chefs works hard to give you and me a reason to come back.

Andre Natera is that kind of chef. In fact, he’s that-kind-of-chef’s chef. He may not knock every ball out of the park, but he’s always gotten on base and usually rounds second.

Now that he’s traded jerseys, swapping comfort and security at the Pyramid restaurant for new Highland Park Village digs, he’s having to work a little harder. A new manager, a new roster and new field will do that to you. I’d bet even super-cool Tre Wilcox, whom Natera replaced, would break more than a sweat if the roles were reversed.

Natera’s new menu had been in place exactly three days when I popped in for dinner last week. You won’t look far down the new menu before you spot a fancy sauce. Veloute, mignonette, demi glace, bearnaise, carrot-chile puree, yuzu-lime ponze — to me, a billion sauces on the menu is a sign that Natera is in the kitchen. No one loves sauces as much as Natera. And that ‘s generally a good thing, because Natera’s sauces are almost always made precisely right — the right starches, the right ingredients, the right seasonings, and almost always the right acidity. I love that most about Natera’s cooking–he’s never been afraid to play up acidity, which is one reason his dishes usually sing.

On my dinner visit to Marquee, Natera’s precision made a few of the dishes sing — three spinach ravioli sitting on bright-green spinach basil veloute were a brilliant appetizer, and the sticky fried Brussels sprouts with chunks of crispy Spanish chorizo were a thrilling mashup of Momofuku-meets-Mission-Chinese. I loved the scallops with maple-infused pork belly, carrot-chile puree and caramel sounded brilliant, though they didn’t rapture me up.  Ditto the seared halibut filet over shiitakes, sugar snap peas and wasabi pea sauce.

Marquee’s decided to go casual, to strip the tables back to their bare-wood nakedness and turn up the lights. Upstairs, they’re refashioning the bar as a sushi restaurant, hoping that that might appeal to a broader  Village clientele.

Given that the Marquee/Natera team is just in their first inning, I’m intrigued to see Natera swinging for hits rather than home runs. I’ll check back a couple innings from now.  I’m betting Natera is just about to load the bases.