It’s hard not to fall in love with French cuisine. The French are masters of elevation; they take homely ingredients—onions, snails, frog legs—and whip them up to gourmet heights, layering flavor on flavor like paint on a canvas. Who else could sell the world on escargot, but the French?
In true French style, Plano’s new Toulouse is effortlessly elegant with huge octagonal chandeliers, a long marble bar with plum leather barstools, and sleek mirrored walls. The elegant color scheme favors sleek black and white with bold green jewel tones, a mix of old and new. At once it balances sleek modern dining with neighborly intimacy. Toulouse is sure of itself, and pretty sure of you too.
As with every Lombardi restaurant, Toulouse is built on excellent customer service from the moment you step inside. The wait staff, who favor classic black and white, are attentive but never invasive, which can be a hard line to walk. Our waiter is full of wonderful, informed recommendations. It’s always awkward when you ask a waiter what they’d suggest and they blink and go, “uh, well, everything’s good…” That isn’t the case at Toulouse.
To celebrate the gentle arrival of spring, we start with cocktails. Because we’re horrible creatures of habit who never branch out, my coworker and I stick to the light side of the liquor spectrum with vodka and gin respectively. I opt for the Westside Gimlet, a gin-cucumber-mint combination that’s as refreshing as it sounds and she gets the the Pear & Honey, a beautiful creation sweetened with made-in-house honey syrup that has just a hint of orange zest. We sit back and relax as the meal begins, a meal we don’t eat, so much as marvel over.
Toulouse’s dishes are artful but never showy. Well, Lobster Bisque is a little showy. The shallow bowl arrives first, containing no bisque at all, but lovely lumps of lobster, young green herbs and a little puff pastry. Then the waiter brings the bisque in a silver tureen and pours it into the bowl. It’s blessedly dark with a wealth of sherry foam. It isn’t nice just because it makes diners at the other tables stare with envy. It lets you note exactly how generous the kitchen has been with your lobster.
Steak Tartare is one of the highlights of the meal. Filet, tenderly seasoned with dijon mustard, cornichon and shallots, has been rounded off on the plate. Caper berries sit on top, holding up a beautiful speckled quail egg. Toasted brioche on the side offers the necessary foundation. This is a stirring dish, surprisingly powerful because of the bare hint of mustard.
Leading off the entrees, Duck Two Ways features duck breast, fennel l’orange, compressed apples, potato dauphinoise and a beautiful dark cherry demi. This one is hard to stop eating, with its rich, fatty skin and the hint of creaminess in the potatoes. So is the Wild-Caught Salmon, a whimsical dish that feels as light as air. Salmon flakes into buttery layers to be caught up with cauliflower mousseline and raisins in a caramelized shallot vinaigrette.
It you haven’t already ordered souffle, do it now. Toulouse’s stands out for its size. Like chocolate air, souffle is a spring, delicate dish that’s harder to master than it looks. Toulouse serves it with lemon curd on the side. It takes a few minutes to bake on the spot and is served warm and steaming, just like souffle is meant to be.
Profiteroles are also really fun. These fluffy pastries sandwich pistachio ice cream, for a slight twist on the dish, and are each served on a mossy pile of matcha soil, topped with a disc of chocolate gelatin. Their natural sweetness is tempered by surprising nuttiness from matcha, and color too. We’ll be back for these.
Toulouse is the peaceful brasserie we’ve been waiting for, where a good meal feels leisurely, and there’s no such thing as “too indulgent.” Beautifully plated dishes with complex flavor preen on the table: food that only the French could offer.
Toulouse Cafe & Bar
- Mon – Thurs | 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- Fri | 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
- Sat | 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
- Sun | 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Where: 7301 Windrose Ave. Ste. c150, Plano