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Short Orders: Cool River

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Cool River
1045 Hidden Ridge
Irving (which used to have a football team and an important golf tournament)
972-871-8881

When anyone mentions Cool River, those within earshot instantly conjure images of flabby gentleman draped in adult Garanimals desperately maneuvering to isolate younger, outnumbered prey.

And not very ably.

Adjacent to the upscale Champps bar scene, however, there's a lodge-style dining room--remember? The space is masculine in the sense that dark wood, stone and Southwestern cliches are masculine. But the food is more suited to some Rotary Club function in the great Midwest--fit for an evening of networking and business dealing, but hardly memorable.

In struggling to define its character, I wavered between my old 'good, but' standby and the perhaps more appropriate observation that Cool River exists for those for whom dress and ambiance are enough for a fine dining experience. You're getting a night out, considerate treatment from the service staff and a menu of substantial, easily understandable items.

Essentially, it's like a country club function in Terre Haute, Indiana.

That's not to say the cooking is second rate, just that it has a certain, shall we say, quality you'll recognize if you've ever attended such functions. Their ahi tuna appetizer, for instance, is properly tender--almost plush in mouth feel--but with a fresh-from-the-fridge flavor. Two competing sauces (one creamy and horseradishy, the other deep and bitter bourbony) lend an ooh-ah factor and help distract you from the Frigidaire character.

Another example? The ribs--tender enough by any standard, but caked in a cloying and bitter baste that tends erase all the kitchen's good work. If anything, it resembled a sauce drawn from a bottle.

Oh, well. If you're decked out in Kohl's finest, you can always try your luck at the bar.

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