Not since Warren Leruth opened his honest-to-gosh French restaurant, LeRuth’s, in Sherman in 1963, has Texoma had a restaurant that aspired to truly fine dining like Fulbelli’s.
Leruth was a food scientist for Anderson Clayton who developed their Seven Seas line of salad dressings. When he wanted to run his own restaurant, Sherman provided his first opportunity. The restaurant lasted two years before he moved back to his hometown of New Orleans and opened another LeRuth’s in Gretna, Louisiana. That restaurant would become a huge success and Leruth would earn recognition as one of the greatest chefs of the Crescent City, which is a city with many great chefs.
Whether or not T.J. and Heather LaRose, the owners of Fulbelli’s in Sherman’s Kelly Square, knew about Warren Leruth when they opened their restaurant six years ago in Sherman is not known, but their aspiration to offer Texoma a truly fine dining experience is obvious. With that in mind, it seemed like a good time to see how they were doing.
My guest and I were among the first diners when Fulbelli’s opened for dinner service at 5:30 p.m on an evening in the middle of the week. Seated in a quiet corner, we took our time perusing the menu, before starting with a glass of New Zealand Taonga Sauvignon Blanc. My guest then decided to begin with an order of Bruschetta and I had the Maryland Blue Crab Cakes. Next came an Heirloom Tomato Salad for my dinner companion and Roasted Corn Chowder for me.
For the entrées, my guest chose an eight-ounce Tenderloin Filet served with Parmesan mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and topped with Béarnaise. I decided to try the Parmesan-crusted Flounder topped with crawfish and crab and a Cajun cream sauce. It came with mashed potatoes and roasted carrots and zucchini.
The crab cakes were excellent. They were light, sweet and flavorful. The flavor of the blue crab was not diluted by the sort of filling often used in crab cakes. Bruschetta is an Italian antipasto of grilled slices of bread rubbed with olive oil and garlic and an added topping, in this case whipped feta cheese, caramelized onions and tomatoes. I had a slice, and while it was good, it would have been better had the bread been a little crisper.
Next up was the Heirloom Tomato Salad assembled with red and yellow tomatoes and a light dressing. My companion gave it a thumbs up, while I worked on the Roasted Corn Chowder. Because chowders are usually finished with whole milk or cream, I think of them as being fairly thick. This chowder was a thinner variety, but that did not diminish the taste. It had corn, bits of red pepper and tomato, and a bit of a kick from slices of roasted jalapeños floating on the surface. It was very good, and the fact that it was lighter than expected made is better fit in the overall scheme of things.
Finished with the starters, the waiter came to the table with the entrées. My friend’s filet was properly cooked to a rosy medium rare, and the bite I tried was tender and tasty. My choice proved an excellent one. Two fillets of flounder, sautéed with a Parmesan crust, were topped with crawfish and crab and a slightly spicy Cajun cream sauce. The fish was flaky and sweet and the topping and sauce added another layer to the taste. The mashed potatoes and roasted carrots that came with it also added something of their own.
Fulbelli’s does not subscribe to the “small plate” idea of very small portions that have become fashionable in recent years. Their servings were more than substantial, with the flounder being well more than I could finish.
True to the title of these reviews, we left room for dessert. My friend had a hefty slice of cheesecake, and I choose the New Orleans bread pudding with whiskey sauce. The cheesecake was good — I got a bite — but the bread pudding was on another level. Warm and sweet, with the buttery sauce featuring just a hint of bourbon — it was a great way to finish a fine meal.
It is unlikely you will find a dining experience like what we had at Fulbelli’s anywhere else in Texoma. It was top drawer all the way from the atmosphere to the food to the excellent and attentive service. It was truly fine dining.
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