Rise No. 3, 5135 Monahans Av, FW. 817-737-7473. 11am-9pm Sun, 11am-10pm Mon-Thu, 11am-11pm Fri-Sat.
A good soufflé is hard to find.
The iconic dish of French grande cuisine, made from a sweet or savory béchamel folded into beaten egg whites and baked into a towering pillow of golden brown, has long been a rite of passage for ambitious home chefs. The preparation is so time-consuming and unforgiving, though, that restaurants rarely put the elegant classic on their menus anymore. Back when they did, you might have a choice of chocolate or Grand Marnier, and you’d have to request your soufflé when you ordered your entrée. A logistical nightmare, it is no wonder the delicacy fell out of vogue with diners and restaurateurs alike.
Thankfully, the epicurean team of Hedda Dowd and Cherif Brahmi — owner and chef, respectively, of Rise restaurants — were undeterred by the prevailing wisdom against serving soufflés to the public. They opened their first shop in Dallas in 2008 and a second in Houston last year. Rise No. 3 is now open in Fort Worth’s posh Clearfork development with a vibrant menu of low-carb, high-flavor treats. With the perils and pitfalls of soufflé preparation mastered, the Rise kitchen is breathing new life into the ultimate egg dish.
The menu is centered on an eclectic variety of classic and contemporary soufflé flavors designed to showcase the versatility of the medium. From a traditional creamed spinach soufflé to corn with serrano chiles, the kitchen offers something for every palate. Vegetarians in particular (though not vegans) will find plenty to enjoy. Even the egg-averse aren’t left out in the cold — several French bistro entrées and appetizers round out the menu, all buffeted by a very impressive wine list.
Real soufflés will never be fast food, but the Rise team has whittled their lead-time down to a respectable 25 minutes, based on a recent weekend lunch service. The leisurely pace gave my guest and me a chance to enjoy the precision ballet of the open kitchen and drink in the ambience (along with a pomegranate mimosa). The design and decoration of the small space reflected the values (thoughtfully articulated on the back of the menu) of our hosts: real food, real ingredients, and conscientious repurposing of materials. Perhaps the most beautiful example of reclamation was the heavy wooden double-door of the entry, a wide Gothic arch that had been salvaged from a church demolition outside Paris.
To help pass the time (and to sate our curiosity), we ordered the kitchen’s signature marshmallow soup. Though it was, in fact, a bowl of vermillion tomato-carrot bisque, the name was apt — floating atop the potage were three miniature goat cheese soufflés that would have looked perfectly at home on a s’more. The soup was tangy and rich, and the mini-soufflés were sweet and tender, with a crunchy, gougère-like crust. A swirl of electric green pesto brightened the bowl.
Just a few minutes and a loaf of crusty bread later, our soufflé entrees arrived, punching proudly out of their ramekins into the sky. They brought their own atmosphere with them, a toasty blast of oven air that signaled a singular kind of gastronomic experience that simply can’t be replicated on the cheap. When our spoons first penetrated the outer crust, there was an almost audible sigh, as though our provender knew its work was done, and done well.
My guest had opted for the very non-traditional Southwest chicken soufflé, and the flavors of roasted chicken and tomatillo salsa worked remarkably well with the airy, eggy custard.
Meanwhile, I congratulated myself on ordering the roasted cauliflower and brie soufflé, with tender, golden morsels of the crucifer suspended above a center of molten cheese. The edges were browned, while the center was a delicate meringue that puffed steam into the air with the slightest provocation.
After enjoying two courses of soufflés, it seemed only natural to try one more. And though chocolate and Grand Marnier soufflés lead the dessert menu, they’re joined by some more adventurous offerings, like raspberry and praline pecan. We were enchanted by a bread pudding soufflé that seemed to contain neither pudding nor bread yet still captured the unmistakable essence of the heavier dessert. I was charmed by an apricot soufflé that paired a base of preserved fruit with a sauce of fresh apricots pureed.
From the able kitchen to the friendly wait staff, the Rise vision is to present one worthwhile dish — the elusive soufflé — exceptionally well. The effect is that a meal, like an egg, becomes an event.
Rise No. 3
Marshmallow soup $10
Southwest chicken soufflé $19
Cauliflower and brie soufflé $20
Bread pudding soufflé $12
Apricot soufflé $12
Pomegranate mimosa $8