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AFrench classic rises to the occasion at a new restaurant concept in Dallas

Among the T-bones and tacos that populate the Southwest’s restaurant landscape, a new interloper has sashayed onto the scene: the soufflé. While soufflé restaurants long have been a staple on the coasts, such as the Souffle Restaurant in Summit, N.J., and Café Jacqueline in San Francisco, this is a new sun rising in Texas. Rise n°1, a 92-seat “salon de soufflé” and wine bar, has been open a month, and it’s already proving a popular spot.

The soufflé is joined on the menu by other French standards, from French onion soup to salad niçoise, but soufflé is clearly the star.

Diners can choose from such savory soufflés as ham and Gruyère, spinach and goat cheese, smoked salmon, blue cheese, wild mushroom and brie, and lobster Thermidor or from sweet soufflés like chocolate, Grand Marnier, raspberry, cassis, caramel and apricot.

Rise n°1 is the creation of three Dallasites: Hedda Gioia Dowd, creative manager and owner of the Antique Harvest shop; Mark Maguire, operational manager and owner of Maguire’s restaurant in Dallas; and chef Cherif Brahmi, executive chef and partner of Maguire’s.

Since childhood Gioia Dowd has spent summers in France, where she often marveled at the technique that could make something as simple as an egg into something as dramatic as the soufflé.

Brahmi, who was born in Lyon, shared Gioia Dowd’s vision along with Maguire, who had lived in Paris and developed a love for French food and culture while working at EuroDisney and FestivalDisney. The trio plans to open four more Rise n°1 locations in the area by 2009.

Gioia Dowd’s antiques business provides some unusual touches at the new restaurant. The napkins are one-of-a-kind antique linen, made from pre-industry flax and hand-embroidered with assorted family initials, straight from French chateaux, vineyard and farmhouses. All of the flatware is an eclectic mix of antique silver plate utensils from France. The recycled couch in the library was salvaged by Gioia Dowd on a walk with her dog, Lucky, and re-covered in 18th century French chanvre, or hemp.

The owners also are committed to supporting the slow-food movement, using local and regional vendors as much as possible. Green touches include the use of a European-style sink for hand-washing and recycled French linen sheets instead of paper towels to reduce waste.

The restaurant’s opening was delayed a bit because of special ovens that allow the cooks to produce soufflés in the same amount of time it takes to cook a steak to medium.

The design pays homage to the egg, the soufflés’ key ingredient. For instance, there are no 90-degree angles, from the curved shape of the private-dining space, which is surrounded by circular stones and reminiscent of the French countryside, to the rounded bar.

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