Plano puzzle

"Texas-French" Joshel has many pieces. Some don't fit

The cuisine is not the only conundrum here. There's that name. What does Joshele mean? "It's just a name that we sat around and came up with," Barbaria says. "It sounded good." But that's not the only story behind the moniker. Barbaria says that at one point they planned to retrofit the restaurant with a 65-pound lobster for the kids to ride on Sundays. They eventually scrubbed the idea because they had no place to harbor the beast. "The name of the lobster was going to be Joe Shell," he says. "And with Texas-French, we came up with Joshele."

It's nice how everything sounds so seamless. Yet it isn't. Things perpetually hit on one count and miss on the next. Creme brulee was good and smooth with a warm crust lid and a cool, creamy custard. Yet the tiramisu turned out to be a soggy wad of mush that leaked when you pressed it with a fork.

Lunch items proved just as bumpy. Sesame seared ahi tuna over a sweet cucumber slaw with an Asian emulsion had nicely textured flesh. But there was no stimulating tension to the arrangement: The mixture of blond and black sesame seeds crusting the meat had no foil. The salad certainly couldn't do it. And the viscous emulsion of sesame oil and soy sauce sort of picked up on the understated tone and toyed with it instead of giving it sting. A few peppercorns on the crust, perhaps--or better, a surge of wasabi in the emulsion--may have made all the difference. Pieces of Washington state smoked salmon over Belgian endive, pear, and walnuts tasted like scented soap. But the grilled chicken breast with basil pesto and goat cheese was moist and yodeled with flavor appropriately bolstered with a fearless application of salt. A side of tasty roasted garlic mashed potatoes rounded out the dish.

Decor is freshly handsome. Two fountains flank the entrance. On the left is a dribbling thing with stepped layers of rough glass and dolphins at the base. On the right is a trio of descending white bowls, one pouring into the other, with a little fog wisping from the brew and tiny red lights providing illumination. White stone columns, bleached wood beams, and fake foliage garnish the dining room that holds cushy green carpeting and soft brown leather booths. Dupree maintained that the only ambient blemish was the pedestrian strip-mall view through the windows just before the patio. She felt latticework or some other delicate shroud should have closed off the patio to blur the view and add some mystery to the environment. I agreed.

Joshele also has an extensive cigar and single-malt Scotch menu. The wine list is mostly California, with a few Texas vintages tossed in to keep the Texas-French theme aloft. A few more French selections (there are just four sparklers and maybe five wines) would punch it up even more. Service here is impeccable, among the best I've experienced. It was uniformly gracious, efficient, considerate, and infused with menu knowledge, despite the glaring lack of familiarity with Raquel Welch's film legacy. (The answer is Fathom, by the way.) But no matter. As I was leaving, a server handed me an item left behind at our table: a well-worn crossword puzzle dictionary.

Joshel, 1401 Preston Road, (972) 713-0383. Open for lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m Monday-Saturday, Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Open for dinner 5-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 5-11 p.m. Thursday, 5 p.m.-12 a.m. Friday & Saturday, and 5-9 p.m. Sunday. $$-$$$

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