While most of the splashy development in Plano goes down on the west side, the east side plugs along, one quaint bistro at a time. Historic downtown Plano may not have a Gap or an independent-film theater, but this dowager’s been here more than a century. Its brick streets were laid the hard way, sonny, brick by brick; there’s none of that prefab-urban-village bunk. And it has a DART rail stop. Take that, Shops at Legacy.
Still, the old gal could use a marquee-value restaurant or boutique to put ’er over the top, which is why the June opening of Dish, a New American restaurant on 15th Street, the main drag, seemed promising. Harboring visions of George or 62 Main, chef-owner Blake Liles created an urban-cool spot and wrote up a menu with reassuring signpost ingredients.
Dish does have its moments: lovely nouvelle fish and chips, grilled chicken, bodacious wine glasses, rooftop patio. One more dining option in downtown Plano adds to the momentum built by veterans such as Jorg’s Cafe Vienna and Kelly’s Eastside. But the compromises Dish makes, borne of pragmatism or possibly confusion, prevent it from hitting its game.
Liles spent most of his time cooking at country clubs and hotels, and sometimes it shows in the food’s conception and execution. His initial stab at a signature dish was chicken-fried ribs, and what a strange thing it was. He roasted St. Louis-style ribs, then hacked them into individual ribs, which he battered and deep-fried. They tasted, no joke, like donuts. Not a big seller.
It’s a mid-size menu, with 11 entrées—steak, chicken, fish—appetizers and pizza. They bring in the pizza crust, instead of making their own, which has become unacceptable in these days of Coal Vines and Fireside Pies. It served as a neutral vessel in the “pan-bread” appetizer for good sweet-savory toppings of goat cheese, caramelized onion, pecans, and spicy apricot jam.
A trend with steak these days combines it with cheese, usually blue. Ever reaching for an angle, Dish paired tenderloin steak with a goat cheese-potato purée that was just plain weird, with an intolerably waxy texture and mouth-feel. Oh, we appreciate your efforts, we truly do, but how about just a spoonful of honest mashed potatoes flavored with a dab of goat cheese?
Dish’s struggle to tweak tradition finally paid off with the fish and chips. Instead of a battered, deep-fried fish, the halibut was pan-seared with black peppercorns, until the fish was firm yet fluffy. “Chips” were matchstick-size potatoes, fried until crisp. Grilled chicken wore a shiny barbecue glaze, with a wedge of potatoes au gratin on the side—rather like banquet food, but tasty.
The dessert category offered some high notes, especially the waffles, made on the premises (yay), with sophisticated rosemary and balsamic whipped cream. Other desserts included ultra-moist bread pudding topped with dried fruit, and heavy chocolate truffles spiked with raisins—like a Chunky bar.
Wine was served in statuesque glasses with tall, slim stems that looked like crystal. Actually, they’re an affordable line with a “European” look, manufactured by Libbey Glass. The bartender doesn’t scrimp on pours, so you get a good glass with plenty of room for the wine to breathe. Dish has the atmosphere aspect covered, with a clean tan-and-black color scheme, tablecloths, cloth napkins, and gleaming hardwood floors.
Potentially problematic is the restaurant’s two-story layout—the kitchen below and the bar above. You’ve gotta feel for the servers, forever climbing and descending.
The staff came off as pretty green, though they had plenty of unruly enthusiasm. Delivering fish and chips, one server revealed that she reeeally wanted the dish for herself. To another table chef Liles announced that he sure knows how to cook ribs. Much of the puffery was bravado and salesmanship. If only they could serve that confidence on a plate. 1022 E. 15th St., Plano. 972-633-1200. $$-$$$.