If you’re looking for Southwestern cuisine with a touch of the West Coast, try the Aransas Pass café. Located at 2912 North Henderson, a block east of North Central Expressway, this East Dallas café has been open for six months. Its reputation is growing, however, leapfrogging Central and attracting a crowd from the Park Cities.

Owner and chef Antony Knight tries to keep his fish entrees as fresh as those he and his father caught at Aransas Pass (hence, the restaurant’s name). Antony apprenticed under Wolfgang Puck, the noted chef of Los Angeles’ Spago. Puck made his reputation with goat-cheese pizza. Antony takes his creations even further, conforming to his own tastes and standards.

The café’s exterior reflects its Southwestern theme, with an adobe-like, burnt-orange appearance. (Perfect for U.T. Longhorns.) The interior has a warm, homey feeling, with intimate, amply-spaced tables. Even on a crowded night, you’ll have plenty of privacy. An open terrace runs the building’s length, making for a sidewalk café-like feel in warm weather. (Antony tents the terrace during cool weather.)

The entire atmosphere is relaxing and unhurried. The waiters are pleasant, well-versed on the menu and well-timed at the table. What more could you ask?

The menu offers Southwestern and Mexican dishes, with some excellent fish and beef entrees. All are prepared with Antony’s inventive creativeness, such as the Shrimp Sausage Quesadillas with Tomatilla Chutney appetizer. Other appetizers, priced from $6.95 to $7.95, include Gulf Lump Crab Cakes with Cayenne Remoulade and Barbecued Chicken Taquitos with Avocado-Papaya Salsa.

Also on the menu is a Special Soup ($3.95), which is whatever Antony invents for the day. During our dinner, the Cream of Mushroom soup had a particularly tasty cream sauce so light you could actually taste the soup (and not just the cream).

Pastas ($10.50 to $13.95) include Blackened Shrimp with Linguine and Green Chili Pesto Sauce, and Grilled Chicken with Fettuccine and Swiss Chard with Creamy Guyere Sauce.

For the main course ($12.95 to $18.95), how about Jalapeno Honey Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Corn and Black Bean Chili Relleno, or the Grilled Range Chicken Breast with Yam Cakes and Toasted Pecan Sauce? Also, the Baked Whole Flounder with Gulf Lump Crab Dressing is a dish to be savored.

The wine selection is not particularly expansive, but offers good quality and affordability. Prices range from $7.95 to $25 per bottle.

Entrees usually include a main dish and a side vegetable, perhaps a pasta dish or a salad. Steaming, homemade French bread is served with every meal.

All in all, Aransas Pass offers a pleasant dining experience, particularly during the evening, when candlelight will illuminate your table. I liked this place so much, I’d take my mother here (and, believe me, she is a harsh judge of restaurants).

Happy eating. See you next month with another restaurant review.

Aransas Pass (827-8650) seats diners from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. weekdays and until 11 p.m. weekends. Reservations are recommended, particularly on weekends.


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