Ponder the paradox. The more we flee the grit of the city, the more we crave its talismans. We crave them so much we recreate them in the metropolis' own image—the urban villages, the revitalized town cores, the lofts. Yes, the lofts. And where they can't be molded out of existing clay to make sophisticate eyes go gaga, we cut them out of whole cloth. If you build them, the tingling will come.
Slipped in front of Loft 610 Urban Restaurant & Lounge in the most convenient spaces to its entrance are a yellow Lamborghini and a blue Ford GT. For those unfamiliar, that's the $150,000 non-Mustang GT, the thoroughbred in the Ford stable. Just as they are in Dallas, exotic cars are instant handicap-parking permits in suburbia. But this is not just any suburban stretch. Loft 610 rests in Granite Park, on the hazy rim between Plano and Frisco, where suburbia transcends itself and becomes an entirely new species of municipal classification: fauxpolis.
Don't think this is a denigration. There's a certain brilliance to artful faux, a canny suspension of disbelief. At its heart, Loft 610 is a sexed-up and pouty replica of a dull piece of urban landscape. Much work goes into making these ugly ducklings appetizing, transforming weathered brick, tangled ducts and cables, beams and support struts into desirable ambience.
Loft 610 recaptures this romanticism and tumbles it into a nostalgic 1980s rehash with contemporary techno sensuality. From the outside, the restaurant looks like a bank or a medical complex, the blond façade with metal and glass in the searing glare of the Plano sun. Inside, its polished crudity intrudes immediately: slightly rusted, curvaceous pieces of metal at the entrance, beads of welding on the seams. The ceiling bulges with a rippled chest of ducts and ports, an array of industrial fans in the center.
It behaves like a cathedral with its vaulted ceilings and collection of metropolitan grit all neatly fashioned and trimmed to exacting fakery. Only suburbia could produce this convincing piece of urban idolatry without rolling its eyes.
It almost makes you want to linger over your food and wine. But then the lounge creeps in. The ear-rattling din. The conversational cackles and clinking rising up from the space below, anchored by a long narrow bar shaped like a two-headed bullet, glimmering chrome above. Women dressed in plunging necklines and impossibly short dresses and shorts balance on high heels, making a farce of suggestiveness. Men are the same as they are everywhere—striped shirttails over designer jeans. No shorts. No tennis shoes. No flip-flops. No T-shirts. Replicas have their rules.
The kitchen has its rules too.
Tuna rolls are loosely bound with thin ribbons of cucumber instead of rice and nori (sheets of seaweed). Cool, moist, refreshing. Woven into the tuna strips as dark and deep as a blood blister are threads of carrot. The plate is neatly trimmed with tarry smears of sweet soy and shavings of ginger.
Texas ceviche is a swollen puck of red snapper laced with pico de gallo bloodied in orange cayenne catsup, imparting a tropical sweetness without actual bits of fruit. The snapper is simmered into opacity by lime, perhaps to too great a degree, although this keeps it from becoming just another stab at tartare. Sharp arrowhead shingles of wonton are off to the side.
There is a wedge, a Texwedge, a huge overwrought fulcrum of iceberg lettuce overrun with bacon, jalapeño, tomato and cheese-crusted slices of juicy and tender chicken, all topped with an avocado vinaigrette. If you get the ingredients just so on the fork, it can be sublime.
There are sandwiches: burgers (patties of hand-pressed "premium" beef), turkey Reubens (turkey burgers too), subs, the ubiquitous sliders (only these are made from meatloaf). Prime rib French dip is thick and rich slices of juicy beef, blushes of pink over the surface, covered with melted black pepper jack cheese and tucked into a baguette. Two ramekins of jus are nearly ample enough to survive its girth.
In keeping with its lofty status, Loft 610 is a two-level leisure system. A dining room on the lower level is equipped with a floor-to-ceiling wine rack wedged into one wall and glassed over, its upper level inventory accessible via a ladder. You can watch the servers climbing and twisting, struggling in off-balance postures to reach their selected bottles—a liability litigator's Lamborghini in waiting. The upper level is also stocked with dining tables. As the night progresses, as the DJ punches out the sonic wallpaper and a tiny dance floor is carved out of the bar space below, this upper level becomes a fauxpolis lounge.
Until then, there is Texas quail that's juicy, clean and slightly infused with dried prairie grass essence on the finish. It's accompanied by a delicious starch component: manchego cheese engineered into Indian fry bread. There is a Caesar topped with strings of sweet potato forming a rat's nest over croutons, the dressing not yielding even scant hints of lemon or anchovy.
"Loft-style" caprese salad is even odder, though not distractingly so. Supple disks of mozzarella are laced with vertical cuts into the surface, dissected tomato slices hidden within the wounds and then pressed back together. This is no mere gimmick. The tomato and milky flavors merge beautifully in this structure.
Wild sockeye salmon, medium rare, pink and almost viscous to the eye, has a slightly crisped sear veneer and an indistinct fruit essence on the finish. It is, without a doubt, one of the most distinctive pieces of fish of any species in recent memory: rich, clean and pleasantly abrupt in its savor.
Of course, a Texas urban outpost must offer prime steak. Prime rib eye is lush and rich, not extraordinarily so, but it is silken in its tenderness nonetheless. Juices flow like drain water; fat globules are relegated to the edges.
Lamb chops are extraordinary, juicy and tasty with distinct sweetness. They are as rich as a steak and tender as a scallop. A long sprig of rosemary is laid over the surface. But a side of home fries, sprigs of sweet potato mixed with conventional potato and served in a paper cone, is greasy.
For dessert, there's bread pudding drooling with melted white chocolate, tight and tasty, moist and relaxing. There's crème brûlée with Grand Marnier that's merely adequate.
Loft 610 is well-trimmed with a fake urban ambience that somehow fails to strain credulity. Its menu can be odd but rarely distractingly so. And you can coax some exceptionally well-tempered flavors out of it.
5760 State Highway 121 in Granite Park, No. 175, Plano, 972-377-2500. Open 11 a.m.-midnight Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday, 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. $$$-$$$$
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