Shoal Shocked

The Lighthouse doesn't quite work

It's not hard to stare across the turbid ripples of Lake Ray Hubbard and imagine romance. Lake Ray Hubbard spans 22,745 acres, so it looks like an ocean through a slightly sozzled night squint. And though Lake Ray reaches a maximum depth of only 40 feet, there is still plenty of room to wheeze amorous submarine metaphors into your martini.

Glistening lights on the other side of the lake add to the idyllic imagery, twinkling like faraway ships, or maybe nearby bass boats. The Lighthouse's bar and lounge is called Club She. Perhaps this name just reinforces the hovering aquatic mystery. In one of the Lighthouse rooms, in the corner of the ceiling, hangs a mermaid who appears to be lunging into the dining room from a potted fern.

Our Club She cocktail waitress is a woman of stature, just slightly under 6-foot-3, she says. I wonder how she feels about wearing the tiny black velvet hot pants of the Club She cocktail uniform. Maybe a little like GI Joe in one of Barbie's camisoles.

The Lighthouse's tower on Lake Ray Hubbard makes it easy to find, but don't bother looking.
Stephen P. Karlisch
The Lighthouse's tower on Lake Ray Hubbard makes it easy to find, but don't bother looking.


972-463-1210. Open for dinner 5-11 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; open for brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. $$-$$$

Escargot: $9.95
Crab cakes: $8.95
Laurenís petite filet mignon: $22.95
Brittanyís bone-in rib eye: $27.95
Herb-crusted Chilean sea bass: $26.95
Mixed seafood grill: $26.95

9900 Lakeview Parkway, Rowlett

The band at Club She is tight, even if it is only a two-piece. They call themselves Southpaw and Saxman. Saxman is a burly bearded fellow in a coat and tie who wanders around the cocktail tables sweating and blowing into a soprano saxophone. Southpaw looks more like an aging Allman brother. He's dressed in a white shirt with a few buttons unfastened. He has the kind of mustache that looks like it needs to be raked after a hearty meal. He stands in front of a Korg keyboard and strums a white guitar. In between strums, he hits a note or two on the keyboard to sketch out a bass line. Southpaw sings, too. He has a very good voice.

Southpaw and Saxman play a whole range of favorites: from Kenny G, to Derek and the Dominoes, to Tony Bennett's I Left My Heart in San Francisco.

It turns out the latter number is apropos. The Lighthouse bills itself as an Old San Francisco-style restaurant. The Lighthouse has lots of gleaming wood paneling, and the servers wear tuxedo shirts and black pants. Around their necks hang untied black bow ties. I wonder why this is. I don't recall seeing this type of paneling or attire in San Francisco. The Lighthouse has a couple of big fish tanks in the dining room with cichlids and other assorted tropical fish. Yet I don't remember many restaurant fish tanks in San Francisco either. But San Francisco does have a lighthouse or two perched above dangerous shoals in the bay, so maybe this is the connection.

The music in the dining room isn't as memorable as the Southpaw-Saxman variety. It's the kind of music they used to put in elevators before they discovered that mirrors were better for passenger morale than string arrangements of Cheap Trick tunes. The piped-in music is mostly from movies and plays: the theme from Evita and "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" from The Sound of Music. The latter is especially fitting, as most of the servers seem plucked from that age bracket.

Which isn't to say they aren't attentive or enthusiastic or polite. They are all of these things and then some. It's just that...well, take wine service for instance.

We order a bottle of Echelon Pinot Noir. Our very enthusiastic and attentive server returns to our table with a sweating bottle of Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio. This is an understandable mistake. Both wines begin with "Ec"--though phonetically they have as much in common as Lake Ray Hubbard and San Francisco Bay do--and contain the word "pinot." We restate our request. The server takes the wine away and returns with Ecco Domani Merlot. It's the "Ec" that's hanging him up. We suggest he look for a label that begins with "Ec," contains the word pinot and is pasted over a bottle holding liquid that looks like berry Kool-Aid. This works.

But the meal doesn't, at least not as well as Southpaw and Saxman work Club She. It starts with the salads. A blond server positions herself behind us with a tray of three iceberg-lettuce salads. The iceberg and the beefsteak tomato and onion salad are the complimentary choices that go along with The Lighthouse's USDA prime Midwest, grain-fed, aged beef. But only two of us ordered beef, and none of us ordered iceberg salads. The server insists that we must have these iceberg salads, and she begins to place them at the table settings. We insist there must be some mistake. She walks away with her salads and a demeanor that could not be described as enthusiastic or polite. Maybe she's 17 going on 18.

Our first appetizer is escargot, and just as it arrives, our server adds tiny little forks to our place settings. The escargot is served on a platter: a heap of portabella mushrooms, caramelized onions, asparagus tips and snails in a dark brown demi glace. The snails are not in the shell, so we wonder why we were given the tiny forks. Then one of my companions crushes a large piece of shell in his molars. We wonder why he wasn't using his tiny fork. The sauce resembles a thick gravy you might ladle on mashed potatoes in a Luby's line. We wonder about that, too, as this flavoring doesn't seem to work with snails.

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