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[HOU] Houston Fine Dining 2011


Chris Hennes
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I'll answer you in reverse order: first off, we did indeed have lunch at Feast on Saturday. The upshot is that I liked it: I don't know about "best restaurant in the universe" or whatever other accolades it's received, but I'd be willing to go back for dinner some time. It was way better than RDG :). Also to clarify about the cheese course at Catalan: it's not that any of the cheeses themselves didn't impress, it's that I don't think the plate as a whole was well thought-out. You simply can't pair a highly-assertive blue with two very mild cheeses: after tasting the blue, the milder cheeses both taste the same. I thought it was poorly executed. Regarding the foie gras bon bons, I thought they were far too large, overbreaded, and greasy inside and out. To make a foie gras bon bon properly you have to make sure it is a comfortable one bite, and then you make a foie gras mousse that is designed such that it melts but does not separate (you need an emulsification agent to help with this). Finally, you need to apply a thin breading, sometimes just a simple methylcellulose dredging, so as not to overwhelm the foie. As you might gather I'm rather opinionated about foie gras: I love the stuff, and absolutely hate to see it showcased poorly. Oh well.

I am torn about fine dining in Houston: when I am on vacation, I like to eat at fine dining establishments. We have few to speak of in Oklahoma City, so it's something I really can't get at home. I understand that it's not Houston's forte, and that perhaps I'd be better served by sticking with the more interesting ethnic places, etc. But it's hard to convince myself that's a good idea: I wanted RDG to be great, I really did! Damn.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Chris, thank you for your answer and explanation. I had a hugely detailed post in response, but alas, the damn server crashed on me and ate it. So, one more time, but en bref:

-- I'm glad you enjoyed Feast but I hope that you will give it a chance on another visit for further exploration. I completely agree, it's hardly the best restaurant in the world (or, even, in Houston) but I do think the dishes you had that day at lunch didn't do it proper justice. They have one of the best moules dishes I've had in ages and in any city. I think perhaps (??) it's got a bit of vermouth and faintly sweet, very dry wine in the light cream sauce, but whatever their subtle ingredients are, it's consistently delicious. It's not always on the menu but you just have to ask the amazing waitstaff and kitchen, and they'll often whip it up for you. (Just to be clear, I have absolutely no affiliation with Feast; I just root for them enormously whenever I can. There aren't a lot of restaurants like it in Houston and I admire what they are trying to do, as well as the heart and passion they put into their food.)

But, back to their food: they have a fabulous roasted marrow on toast points, a great rabbit stew, a tasty oxtails dish, and a dessert that will make the less-reserved amongst us replicate the scene in "When Harry Met Sally".... So, next time you're in town, give them a more extended run. I think you might be a little more impressed. :)

-Catalan's Foie Gras Bonbons: I completely agree, particularly about the heavy breading. I don't always trust my judgment in things (at least, not when so many people rave otherwise) but to me, I thought they were like doughy, slightly greasy donut holes with a bare modicum of foie gras taste. And, most certainly, no creamy, gooey, rich, oozing foie gras center.

- Regarding Houston's fine dining scene, I think the city has come a long way. That said, I think most of their best restaurants would be akin to the B/B+ range restaurants in cities like NY, Chicago and SF. Take REEF, for example. Bryan Caswell tried out for The Next Iron Chef and he has a remarkable background as one of Jean-Georges' protegés; he's a very, VERY strong chef, imo. His REEF gets a lot of attention but... I hated the food. Hated it. Completely resented wasting my special birthday dinner there, and I equally resented the 2nd time I was dragged there against my will. And everyone I know who has gone there has been similarly underwhelmed. (To be fair, it's quite possible that my friends and family simply can't relate to Gulf Coast cuisine, since we all grew up and lived in Europe or NY where the food is very different.)

Unfortunately, it's more likely that the food there (or at RDG, or at other similarly hyped restaurants) simply isn't in the same league as that put out in certain other cities. I *want* Houston to have phenomenal food, dammit. I want it to have something like a French Laundry, Daniel, Marea, Masa, EMP, etc. But I'm afraid, in my opinion, it doesn't come even remotely close. Not even in the same galaxy. Which is why I generally stick to the small or casual-ish places like Indika, Ibiza or Feast where I have no expectations of false grandeur or sophistication, or to delicious ethnic places where my huge (taste) expectations are usually met.

That's why, next time you're in town, I hope you'll give some of those latter places a shot. Because Houston does have wonderfully good food. Really, I swear it does! :hmmm: So, next time you're in town, let me know. For starters, I'll tell you about one of the best Ethiopian restaurants in the country (and certainly better than anything I've had in the main Ethiopian areas of N. Virginia or Boston). And if you like tartare, as you said in one post, their version will boggle your mind! I'll even take you there personally if you want. :biggrin:

Edited by Kafka Zola (log)

"There are dogs, and then there are German Shepherds.... "- Unknown

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