There are those in Dallas who have a snooty attitude about where they eat. “There’s no restaurant,” they say, “that’s worth a drive farther north than 635.” To these people—and you know who you are—I present Coast Global Seafood. All 8,000 square feet of it. In Plano.

Granted, the place isn’t easy to find. It’s in the Shops at Legacy, but it’s tucked behind the first block of new shops and restaurants on the north quadrant. If you get lost, ask someone to direct you to the fountain. It’s a real Bellagio-style bobbydazzler. Getting to Coast would have been a whole lot easier if the economy hadn’t collapsed while the newest expansion north of Legacy Drive was under construction. The aforementioned fountain is intended to be the center of a bustling mixed-use area of restaurants, shops, offices, condos, and a hotel. Instead, the fountain’s colorful water dance is backed by an empty lot where construction on the hotel has been halted. The office building to the west is filling slowly. Coast sits on what might be the most expensive real estate in Plano, and its future depends on the completion of the surrounding projects—and on some folks’ willingness to venture north.

Coast is worth the trip simply to see the restaurant. You enter the underwater world of Coast through a glass corridor studded with sparkling back-lit seashells from the Philippines that have been laminated into the glass. You emerge at a hostess stand shrouded by a stunning sculpture. The piece by Dallas artist Sherry Owens is made of tall, twisted, red-lacquered crape myrtle branches that mimic a coral reef. In the spacious dining room to the right, two large fixtures hang over two circular banquette areas. From a distance, they look like schools of fish; up close, you realize the light reflects off hundreds of fly-fishing lures strung out on monofilament and looped into 6-foot arrangements. The wizard behind the décor is veteran interior designer Paul Draper, whose former restaurant designs need no introduction (Central 214, Seventeen Seventeen, Lombardi Mare—oh, those hanging goldfish bowls).

If you are looking for a place to pop the question, reserve a high-backed booth in the dining room. If you’re going with a group of friends and want to take in the magnificent fountain and the chic bar filled with casual but well-heeled customers, get a table between the bar and the patio, and soak up all the action. The wall behind the bar has huge cut-out circles of glass lined with Japanese silk and lit with LEDs that change from dark pinks to deep purples. Look up and you’ll delight at the sight of glass jellyfish lights hanging from the ceiling. If the weather is right, you can dine on the patio overlooking the fountain.

Coast2 Roasted Eastern Long Island skate wing. photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

The striking setting would compensate for nearly any culinary shortcoming, but the food at Coast is as stellar as the restaurant in which it is served. Executive chef Joshua Laban Perkins, 35, is new to town, and he comes with an impressive résumé: he studied at the Italian Culinary Institute in Piedmont, Italy; he was a poissonier at the one-star Michelin restaurant La Locanda Di Piero in Montecchio Precalcino, Italy; and he cheffed at di Paolo in Atlanta. In 2002, he was named executive chef at Brasserie Le Coze in Atlanta, sister restaurant to Le Bernardin in New York City, and he worked closely under superstar seafood chef Eric Ripert. In 2005, he opened the Globe, a successful contemporary American bistro that he sold last fall.

Perkins’ “stripped-out classicism” menu translates into a short, innovative seafood-centric mix of old favorites, such as ale-battered fried shrimp, and quirky takes on classic dishes, such as a Peruvian causa. Perkins picked up the recipe from a Peruvian line cook at Le Bernardin. “We worked on it for four or five months,” Perkins says. “We couldn’t get potatoes to work because the U.S. potatoes were too waxy. So we mashed them. It’s an out-there dish because it’s so different from a real causa, and it isn’t easy to prep.” He layers dense mashed potatoes, avocado, and peeky-toe crab and sets it atop an aji amarillo sauce, and a house-made mayonnaise with a little Dijon mustard and pepper paste folded in. “In Atlanta, I sold maybe five a day. At Coast, I’m selling over 25,” Perkins says. A sign, perhaps, that Dallas—excuse me, Plano—is becoming a sophisticated dining city?

Perkins’ cooking style is clean, simple, and seasonal. For his version of a crab cake, he binds a fistful of jumbo lump crab with a dab of mayonnaise, pan-sears it until golden brown on the outside, seasons with salt and pepper, and serves it with ever-so-thinly sliced fresh fennel. He tweaks his Caesar salad, going eggless to keep the usually heavy dressing from overpowering his food. He tosses Romaine in a tasty anchovy vinaigrette, garlic, shallots, and grapeseed oil. I loved the lightness of the salad; my Caesar snob friend didn’t care for it one bit. Perkins keeps his kitchen staff small, and he does all his own sauce work. “I don’t do molecular gastronomy,” he says. “When you order cod, you see cod on the plate.”

Coast3 SEE, FOOD: Coast Global’s Paul Draper-designed interior. photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

Or skate. If you order skate, you will thank me after you have devoured a lovely slab of roasted white, fleshy fish with a sweet flavor and a delicate texture. The fish, served on a pile of slightly wilted spinach, is surrounded by a sauce made from puréed guajillo peppers blended in a lime broth.
But the best reason to risk getting lost on your drive to Plano is to eat the snapper. The pretty pink fish sits on jasmine rice scented with lemon grass and red curry and appears uncomplicated. But Perkins’ prep is tedious: he boils 100 pounds of oxtails and reduces them to two quarts of sauce. He spoons the broth sparingly around the outside of the rice.

The first night I dined at Coast, I flashed back to the defunct AquaKnox, Stephan Pyles’ sexy seafood spot on Knox. Maybe it was Coast’s décor, but more likely the flashback was triggered by Michael Cox, the VP of Coast and Pyles’ former partner in AquaKnox and Star Canyon. Cox quit the restaurant business in 2001 to oversee the expansion of Central Market in the Dallas area. But now that his kids have left the nest, he’s ready to roll up his sleeves and get back into the business. Cox was recruited last January by Richard Gussoni, the founder of Culinaire, a major national player in the hospitality business and owner-operator of Nicola’s on the south side of Legacy Drive. Cox and Gussoni have assembled a dream team of a staff, which also includes GM Michael Bratcher (Tom Tom Noodle House, Nikita, Fuse), and set them up in a glorious spot.

With Coast Global Seafood, there’s no question that Plano has hit the big time in fine dining. Now let’s hope that adjacent hotel gets built and those snooty folks in Dallas learn to operate their cars’ GPS.

Get contact information for Coast Global Seafood.