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Rise No. 1

February 6, 2015

Usually, when we’re traveling, I tell my husband to find some restaurants for us to eat at.  He’s got a better eye at spotting eateries that are good, but also have something that will appeal to me as I’m the pickier eater of the two of us.  He knows what I like and don’t like and what I’m willing to try, so he knows what to pick that I can agree with.  However, in preparing for our weekend jaunt to Dallas, I came across a restaurant that I was really interested in that I was hoping my husband would agree to.  When it comes to food, my husband generally doesn’t have a strong opinion as he says he can eat anything, so if I push hard enough, I can generally get him to agree to whatever it is I want.  When I presented the idea of this particular restaurant for lunch, his reaction was, “sure. ok. whatever.”  He didn’t care either way, and I was thrilled.  The reason?  This particular restaurant specialized in something I’ve never found in any restaurant here in Southern California, soufflés.  I’ve always been a sucker for soufflés.  Truth be told, I’ve only ever had dessert soufflés, and even tried my hand at making lemon soufflés at home.  And while I’ve seen savory soufflés before, I’ve never been to a restaurant that served them, so I’ve never tried them.  So what a surprise it was to find a local restaurant in the heart of North Texas, in a quieter, residential area away from all of the tourists, that specialized in nothing but savory and sweet soufflés.  I had to give it a try.  This restaurant was just calling my name.

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Rise No. 1 was the brainchild of Heddia Gioia Dowd, the daughter of a French mother and Italian American father who spent every summer of her childhood in France.  Ms. Dowd was the owner of an antique store that specialized in combing the vineyards, chateaux and farmhouses of the South of France looking for one-of-a-kind treasure for her store.  Those trips to France reminded her of her time spent with her grandmother who cultivated her sense for fine dining and a true appreciation for food.

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One thing she remembered from her childhood was how her mother and grandmother would always make her both sweet and savory soufflés.  And she was always amazed and fascinated by the concept that a simple egg could be transformed into something as wonderful as the souffle.  And there came the brainstorm for a new restaurant concept.  She approached a French chef friend of hers named Chef Brahmi and together they created this simple, elegant European bistro specializing in soufflés.

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The restaurant, or rather European bistro, had this very down home, earthy feel to it.  It felt quaint and welcoming.  Rise No. 1 offers abundant indoor seating centered around a grouping of indoor plants lit up with cute white Christmas lights.  The restaurant also offered covered patio seating decorated in cute, kitschy decorations, much like what you’d expect to see in a French farmhouse.  The whole place just exuded an aura of charm.

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The first item brought to our table was some homemade crusty sourdough bread and whipped butter.  What I thought was different and unique was that the bread was brought out on a cutting board which a butcher’s knife attached to it, literally.  You’re supposed to lift up the knife, put the bread underneath it and literally chop down to slice the bread.  Something unique that I’d never seen before.  But again, it only added to the charm of the restaurant.

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To start our meal, my husband and I ordered a cup of the soup a L’Oignon Gratinee.  While the restaurant specializes in soufflés, they do serve a few non-souffle items on their menu, including a variety of soups and salads.  Of course, if you haven’t figured it out soup a L’Oignon Gratinee is French for French onion soup.  Makes sense, French onion soup in a French bistro restaurant.  And this was delicious French onion soup.  The broth was rich and hearty, but without being overly salty the way French onion soup can sometimes be.  The onions were tender and melt-in-your-mouth, and all that cheesy goodness baked into the bread floating atop the cup of soup was heavenly.  French onion soup done the right way is so mouthwateringly good.

For our entrees, my husband and I had to go with the soufflé.  The restaurant offered steak and seafood dishes and salads as an entrée, but how can you go to a restaurant specializing in soufflés and not order a soufflé?  That would total blasphemy.  Rise no. 1 offers a variety of different savory soufflés on their menu as well as featuring a number of special seasonal soufflés that aren’t on the menu.  Their savory offerings include creamed spinach, smoked salmon, truffle infused mushroom, sun-dried tomato & pesto chevre, herb & spicy sausage, escargot and southwest chicken.  These are the savory soufflés you can always find on the menu.  On the day we went to Rise no. 1, there were 5 additional special savory soufflés not featured on the menu.  Those included a crab meat with boursin, foie gras, roasted corn and Serrano pepper, and duck a’la orange.

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I was really tempted by the roasted corn and Serrano pepper soufflé, but our waitress did warn us that that particular soufflé did have a bit of a kick.  Considering I have a weakness when it comes to hot and spicy foods, I decided it was best not to push my boundaries, even though I’ve had Serrano peppers before and they’ve been ok.  So, instead, I chose another one of the special soufflés of the day, the roasted cauliflower and brie soufflé.  Something about the roasted cauliflower really sounded good to me.  I’m not a huge brie fan, but I know that it’s a good, soft cheese that melts easily when baked so I thought I could live with it.  The waitress said that this soufflé did contain an inch of brie cheese put right into the middle of the soufflé batter so that when you put your spoon into the soufflé you’d get all this melted brie cheese with every bite.  Like any soufflé, when its first taken out of the oven and brought to the table it looks huge.  Of course, once it starts to settle and the soufflé deflates a bit, it looks a bit more manageable.  Couple that with the fact that a soufflé is really made up mainly of whipped egg whites, then you know that the soufflé isn’t really that filling and it just looks a lot bigger to your eyes than it really is.  This roasted cauliflower & brie soufflé was so amazingly good.  The roasted cauliflower flavor came through loud and clear and was so delicious.  Who knew that enjoying a meatless dish could be this good?  There was indeed a layer of melted brie cheese in the soufflé that came up with every spoonful scooped out of the soufflé.  Surprisingly, my husband admitted that if I hadn’t ordered this soufflé, he was going to as he was intrigued by the brie.  One bite of my soufflé, and I think he was in brie cheese heaven.  It’s funny because I loved the roasted cauliflower in this soufflé and my husband really loved the brie in the soufflé.  One thing that couldn’t be denied was how heavenly the soufflé was.

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For his savory soufflé, my husband ordered the jambon & Gruyere – basically the ham and cheese.  The use of Gruyere cheese in this soufflé was terrific because the nutty flavor of it combined really well with the airy feel of the soufflé.  The hints of salty, sweetness of the jambon really brought the whole soufflé together.  As much as my husband said that he would have ordered the roasted cauliflower & brie if I hadn’t, I had considered ordering the jambon & Gruyere until he mentioned that he had wanted to order it.  Personally, I thought that the jambon & Gruyere hit all the perfect notes for a filling and delicious savory soufflé.  In the end, I ended up enjoying this soufflé more than my own, and my husband enjoyed mine more than he enjoyed ours.  So, halfway through the meal, we switched up our soufflés and I ended up finishing off his jambon & Gruyere and he finished my roasted cauliflower & brie.  I guess a meatless dish for me just doesn’t go over all that well.  For me, it was the combination of the nutty Gruyere, which I love, and the meaty ham, together that really made this soufflé work for me in a way that just enjoying roasted cauliflowers didn’t fill me up with my own soufflé.

Of course, for dessert, my husband and I had to each order our own soufflé.  Having our own savory soufflé just wasn’t enough, we each wanted our own sweet soufflé as well.  Rise no. 1 offered a couple of mainstay sweet soufflés that you’d expect to find at most restaurants that serve soufflé for dessert as well as a special seasonal soufflé as well.  Their normal dessert soufflé menu consists of strawberry, apricot and chocolate, to name a few.  The special seasonal sweet soufflé being served when we were there was pumpkin & cassis.

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My husband opted for the Grand Marnier sweet soufflé for his dessert.  This huge, perfectly baked, monstrosity of a sweet soufflé was brought out to our table a few minutes later piping hot from the oven.  I don’t know how they get their soufflés to rise so high.  Obviously, they are the experts.  Along with the soufflé, which is served on a ramekin as is tradition, on the plate is also a small saucer of creamy Crème Anglaise.  Upon being served, the waiter takes a spoon and cuts a small hole right in the center of the soufflé and pours out about half of the Crème Anglaise sauce right into the hole and around the top of the soufflé.  The Crème Anglaise slowly makes its way into all of the airy pockets inside the soufflé and creates the most amazing flavors when combined with the Grand Marnier-flavored soufflé.  My husband especially loved the tiny bits of orange zest that he found all throughout the airy soufflé.  These dessert soufflés are so delicious they can bring a person to their knees.  And while they look huge, again, they are filled with so much air inside that its really not that bad.  My husband devoured his Grand Marnier soufflé and cleaned out the entire ramekin.

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When it came time to order my soufflé, my husband was sure I was going to take the chocolate soufflé.  I thought I was going to as well, until I thought to myself that I always order the chocolate soufflé, I should mix it up a bit.  While I’m not the world’s biggest fan of mint, something about Rise no. 1’s dark chocolate mint soufflé was calling to me.  I figured that my husband, who is a mint fan, could eat my dark chocolate mint soufflé if I didn’t like it because I knew I could eat his Grand Marnier soufflé.  When my soufflé was brought to the table, I was so glad I had decided to order it over just a plain chocolate soufflé.  The soufflé was this beautiful, gorgeous shade of light airy green.  Again, the soufflé was perfectly baked and seemed like half of it had risen out of the ramekin.  The top of the soufflé, along with being dusted with powdered sugar, also had a sprinkling of crushed mint chocolate candy pieces.  The waiter cut small hole in the top of the soufflé, and poured in about half of the saucer of dark chocolate sauce that came with the soufflé.  OH. MY. GOD.  This dessert was so sinfully good.  It tasted like I was eating an Andes mint candy, only 100 times better.  The mint flavor, while present, wasn’t so strong and in your face.  The dark chocolate flavor really helped to balance out the mint..  It was, hands down, the best soufflé I’ve ever eaten.  I was so full towards the end, but I couldn’t waste any of this amazing soufflé.  Even my husband had a little bit and he thought it was just heavenly.  I was so glad I stepped a bit out of my comfort zone at ordered the dark chocolate mint soufflé.

At the end of our meal, we got to talking to our waitress who was so surprised to find that we had traveled all the way from Los Angeles to dine at Rise no. 1.  Ok, so we didn’t come all the way to Dallas just to dine here, but it was certainly high on the list of things to do once we knew we were going to Dallas.  She couldn’t figure out how 2 people from Los Angeles could be interested in their little restaurant.  She told us that before we left, she wanted to show us something really special right at the front of the restaurant.  It was obvious that this wasn’t something that they talked about much at the restaurant and they obviously didn’t put it on display to show all of their customers, so I was kind of surprised and honored that our waitress decided to show this to us.  It was explained to us that a few years back, just before the opening of the new George W. Bush Presidential Library on the campus of Southern Methodist University, the former President Bush and his family, along with former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came into dine at the restaurant.  As a commemoration of that meal, the restaurant asked the former first family if they’d be so kind as to sign the table they were sitting out.  That table now resides up front in the restaurant, right near the host desk.  On a busy lunch day when we were in town, where it seemed every table both inside the restaurant and outside on the patio were occupied, this particular table was left empty.  I’m not sure if they allow anyone to sit at this table anymore or not.  Anyhow, the tables at Rise no. 1 are old game tables where each place setting can be lifted up to reveal a storage drawer of sorts underneath where games and puzzles can be stored.  So, looking at the table, it’s not obvious that there’s anything special about it until you start lifting up the place settings and looking at the underside of the flip top table, as that’s where all of the special signatures can be found.  Our waitress was kind enough to clear the table for us and walk us around the table showing us all of the special signatures.

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Former President George W. Bush and one of his daughters, Barbara Bush

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Former First Lady Laura Bush136

Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

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And the other one of the Bush twins, and current NBC Special Correspondent, Jenna Bush Hager.  I thought it was so neat, and special for our waitress to go out of her way to show this to us.  It left us with a neat memory from the restaurant.

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One last neat thing about Rise No. 1 is that when you leave the restaurant, instead of the traditional after meal mint or fortune cookie that you might find at other restaurants, here, you’re given proverbs and fortunes printed on Rise no. 1 paper to take home with you.  A little memento and token of your meal at this amazing restaurant.

My husband and I walked out of Rise No. 1 after our lunch completely satisfied and extremely full.  This was, hands down, the most unique restaurants I’ve ever dined at.  To this day, months later, my husband and I still talk on and on about how delicious both our sweet and savory soufflés were at Rise No. 1.  We lament about how we can’t find a restaurant like that here in Los Angeles.  We dream about going back to Dallas just for the sole purpose of dining at Rise No. 1 again.  It really is that good, hands down.  If you like soufflé, ever had a hankering for soufflé, or just want to try something different that will knock your socks off, this is the restaurant for you.  The most amazing soufflés you’ve ever had in your life.  You would almost think you were dining at one of the top French restaurants having the most decadent and delicious soufflé ever.

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