Sunday, August 23, 2009

HRW: Monarch at Hotel Zaza

Well, guess it's not really truly an HRW visit and I'll get to that. Myself and couple of co-workers got there early so we sat at the bar for a drink. When we were ready to be seated, the hostess sat us against the wall between 2 big tables. What's worst was that the wall we were facing was where the servers had their water jugs and extra utensils. So, the server was reaching over our heads to get stuff.

We of course, asked the hostess to reseat us. The poor girl basically was told by the head hostess that it has all be planned and basically can't move us. Mind you this is still early for dinner. There's a table in a corner and we don't even mind being stuck in a corner, but truly a 3 top should really get a 4 top table, not squeezed on a 2 top. Mind you, the 2 top isn't truly for 2, it can seat 2 but we've seen a twosome seating at a 2 top they ran out of room to put their drinks and food.

Of course, I escalated it to the manager and the guy didn't bat an eye and reseated us immediately. I must say sitting at a table for 4 truly for 4 is very spacious. I'm sure that totally messed up the hostess' arrangements, but they also under estimated us. They thought we were coming in just to do the prix fixe and weren't going to generate alot of money off of the tab, when in fact we ordered off the menu. Honestly, their menu looks better than the prix fixe. This should teach servers and hostesses alike that when we are going to Restaurant Week, it is really to attract patrons to the restaurant, but don't write us off by giving us bad service or sticking us against a wall. By the time we were done, we actually had a similar tab to what we would have w/ the prix fixe.

Alright, on to the food. Like I was saying that the prix fixe wasn't that interesting. So all of us ordered off menu. We started w/ their nacho. That was yummy and it was made with sirlon and you can tell it was puree sauce that really makes the nachos. That said, one of my coworker ordered filet, another one ordered salmon, and I ordered scallop. The filet was done well, the twice cooked potato wasn't that done, it was still crunchy, so I'm not sure how it's twice cooked, but it was still crunchy. The salmon and the potato was fine, the scallop was recommended cooked medium, and it was good, but the mashed potato was better.

Sadly, their dessert looked good, but has no taste to it. I've never leave a dessert unfinished. I had the nutella crepe, I kindly talked the server to get me the crepe from the prix fix, it's not usually served. It was like a little omelet shaped with cheese inside, with the nutella drizzled over it. It wasn't warm. I don't appreciate any crepe that's cold, and traditionally that means it's not cold. One of my friend ordered pomegranate creme brulee, and it has a very thin sugar crust, and the brulee doesn't have any real brulee texture to it. It tasted more like a lemon bar than a brulee or anything w/ pomegranate in it. The strawberry cheesecake was much like any artificial cheesecake you taste. It came w/ strawberries w/ what made out to be romanoff sauce. The strawberries were good the sauce was not what romanoff is supposed to be. I'll just call that a wash.

Drinks were delicious, wasn't enough to bring me back, maybe for happy hour but not for another dinner. A word of warning, if you pull up to the hotel side of the place and valet (which seems to be the only option around there), the hotel side charges you $12 for parking. The restaurant side charges you $6 for valet. So, be careful which side you pull up.

Monarch at Hotel Zaza
5701 Main Street
Houston, TX 77005
(713) 526-1991

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

HRW: Post Oak Grill Uptown

This is my 5th Restaurant Week venture... I haven't heard much about Post Oak Grill but they are quite reputable in Houston, so figured it can't really go wrong. The only complaint is the traffic. I had forgotten about the constructions on San Felipe between 610 & Post Oak Blvd. It makes getting there a little more stressful than it's necessary.

That said, once I got there, we got top treatment. My friend and I both started w/ a drink, she got the Chocolate Cake Martini that really has the cake taste to your pallet. I had a glass of wine.

Then on to our prix fixe:

Both of us had the tomato salad instead of the soup. While I'm a big fan of crab meat and welcome that in a salad, I'm just not a big fan of corn something-or-another soup. The dressing was like yet tasty, so no complaint here. My friend did say that she wished she had a tad more dressing w/ her salad, which I can totally understand without having to lick the plate. Then we got the Intermezzo which was a papaya sorbet, which was nice, because cleansing my pallet or not, it's telling me that I'm prepared for the next exciting taste to come.

For our entree' both of us went in different directions. I had wanted to surf and turf, and instinctively, that's what I would've gone for, but the idea of Duck Confit in a crepe just too curious to give that a try. So, I did. My Roasted Airline chicken actually tasted better with the skin on to capture the flavor than off. By itself, the chicken tasted dry, but with the oil and the skin it's brings out the flavor that didn't get to seep in all the way to the meat. The Duck Confit was interesting. There weren't enough fat for the duck, but it's wrapped in crepe and soaked in wine sauce. It just has a good nice easy going taste to go along w/ the duck.

Then onto our dessert: my friend ordered the banana foster and bread pudding, while I got my lavendar creme brulee' and chocolate souffle'. To my friend's disappointment, she didn't see the banana foster part of the desssert, we weren't sure if it wasn't brought out, or it was supposed to be mixed in. Her bread pudding, however, was good. While, I had 2 distinct little plates for mine. The Chocolate Souffle was dryer than I'd like. Plus, aren't the feature of souffle is that you poke the top and it deflates to late the air out? Mine was hard as a rock and it did crumbled. But my creme brulee' did not disappoint. It has a nice texture and the scent of lavender enhance my taste more than interrupting it. I'm a big fan of creme brulee' if it's a different way to present this old classic I'm definitely welcome the change.

As with my dining tradition, I also had a cup of cappuccino to go w/ my dessert, and the nice people at Post Oak Grill was kind enough to give me a biscotti. It was orange biscotti dipped on both end, one with white chocolate and one w/ milk chocolate. However, when I dipped it into my cofee, it quickly came apart. So, that was interesting.

When we got to paying our bills, our server gave us another chocolate chewy cookie. It was nice texture, like and fluffy and chewy all at the same time. I can deal with that anytime.

Overall, the place is fancy, service is top notch, they are not in a hurry and neither are you, type of place. They do let us take our time, as do their diners often are... taking their time; of course, to enjoy their fine meal. They do have a pianist to play mood music but not too loud where you felt like it's taking away from the meal.

They do have a bar next door, and while I haven't checked that out looks like it's nice and I can imagine to food to be just as good. Parking is not as easy to dicepher during peak hours, since it is shared w/ the office buildings nearby, I would suggest paying the $3 for valet, that way it's one less thing you have to worry about.

Post Oak Grill - Uptown
1415 S. Post Oak Lane
Houston, Texas 77056

Monday, August 17, 2009

HRW: La Colombe D'Or

Well, let's face it, I chose this place because of the
, I know nothing about their food or their style, so I am there to 'eat the building'. Rather, to buy into it's ambience and the mystery from the years of driving by this place.

To me, this place always seems to be the cliche' shi shi type place attached to a hotel, known for doing weddings. Well, when you get this type of build up in your head, it's very hard to sit down and be disappointed. I sat down and the servers seems to be in a hurry by the servers. We sat down, and had a look see thru the menu. Their cocktail is about $9 a piece, and it's stronger than I'm used to, which I guess I'm getting my money's worth, if you want to call it that.

For the prix fixe, I had the French Onion soup, after all, they are a French restaurant. The soup wasn't the best I've ever had, I've had better at Ruggles Green. They had 2 pieces of bread in the soup, and a few strands of onions. The Gruyere cheese was thick alright, but doesn't mean it's flavorful.

The entree' they had a choice of Hazelnut crusted Chicken w/ angel hair pasta, fish of some sort and tenderloin. I chose the tenderloin with a wine reduction, and my friend had the chicken. It's sad to say, but I would've preferred the chicken. Not that my tenderloin was bad, but there was something about that chicken that is much more better tasting than my tenderloin. Like I said, it's not bad, just je ne sai qua.

Then comes dessert, I made yet another mistake. Traditionally, I order the creme brulee' that's my standard yardstick to measure the restaurant. But see, they offered poached pear, which sounded exotic with the red wine sauce and saffron. The pear came with sorbet, and to my disappointment, the pear was cold cold cold. In my mind, poached pear is warm, which would go well w/ the sorbet, but it wasn't the case. It was nice and cold. Hmm...

I like said in the beginning, the waiters weren't the most attentive for a restaurant like this caliber. It was a nice touch to have the owner stop by to say hello and ask how are things going, but the food and the service just doesn't make up for it. As a matter of fact, I wonder how they sustain business on a normal week, where their food is not up to the class as the place built up to be, and looks like their hotel suite portion was not being occupied. Well, we're really there to check out the building more than check out the food. But now, I know how uninspiring the food is, it just satisfied the curiosity.

La Colombe D'Or
3410 Montrose Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77006

Sunday, August 16, 2009

HRW: Cavatore

Despite it's annoying website. This is a truly unique place. Who would've thought this transitioning neighborhood would have a neat little place like Cavatore? This is right on Ella near TC Jester. You can't miss it, it is actually a Texas Style barn. I wouldn't say it's the traditional red barn, but it's more like a old house that has add-ons throughout the years.

When we arrived, there's a bar and a side room, several side rooms and a main room where the pianist was playing. The whole set up was kinda weird, we were seated in a room that has 4 tables comfortably, right next to their skinny wine room. The entire set up was very kitchy, not the old mod way but Italian plus Texas mix. There's art work, photos, news clipping of random stuff, stained glass windows and several other memorabilia.

I once again did the Houston Restaurant Week prix fixe. I was told that their table-side Caesar was a must, which by the way, if you're the only person that ordered it, they will not make it table side, but I will say that it's fresh and it tasted it. The main course I ordered the Veal Marsala. I haven't had anything Marsala for the longest time. It was pipping hot, there were 4 small medallions of veal, and I do mean small. There were more mushrooms than veal, and there was more sauce to cover the entire plate to where I can't see if there's any meat left on the plate. They also on the side has asparagus or spinach. I also didn't know that they were going to bring out a small side of rigatoni with tomato sauce.

Of course, the place was famous for their Tiramisu, so I had to have it. It's good, but I didn't think it was any better or worst than the Tiramisu I had from Carrabas.

Overall, I think the food is decent. Not the best Italian I've ever had, but not the worst either. I like it fine, which is what alot of review I've read had said. My thing is that, by the glance of the menu, it's definitely a place that wants to be fancy, they have their own sunroom for crying out loud. On the other hand, the menu prices is way too high for the ktich and normal Italian food you get. This is definitely something you take out-of-town family and friends to, but not really for that price.

The pianist was awesome, they will play top 40 songs to Broadway songs... that's really set the mood. The place is totally causal like the neighborhood despite the price tag. They say you should make a reservation, but on a weekday, you definitely don't need one. On a Friday/Saturday, it may be a possibility of it being full, but it wouldn't be a long wait, because they do have tons of tables. Just a matter of hanging out for a little while.

Cavatore Italian Restaurant
2120 Ella Blvd.
Houston, TX 77008

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

HRW: 17

This is Houston Restaurant Week night #2. Tonight's pick was 17 inside the Alden Hotel (formerly the Sam Houston Hotel). It's part of downtown that's being revitalized.

The hotel is definitely shi-shi, the waiting area of the restaurant is the lobby, where they were happy to get my friend a drink while she's waiting for me. At first I thought 17 was because it's on the 17th floor, I kinda figured that that's their rooftop, where they frequently have weddings. But, turns out 17 is because back in the day, there would be 17 different lines of trains converge in Houston, that's why they named it 17. There's a better story on the menu, so, go try it and read it for yourself.

Anyway, we were offered the prix fixe, and as it turns out, it also serves as a preview for the new executive chef, Chip Hight's, fall menu preview. I find that very exciting and felt very exclusive. It's nice to preview anything before it became dime a dozen, so I applaud that.

We also had a very good waiter, Diana, she remembers what we ordered and explain the pairing also very attentive. While the pairing was not my thing, most of their wine were too dry for me. She brought over this amuse-bouche where it's corn sorbet with lime segment. The corn sorbet was good, but once you had the lime segment, which was dipped in salt, you definitely need the sorbet to tone down the salt and lime zesty-ness.

For starter, I had the Seared Peach with Salmon that came with crème fraîche & micro greens. The weird part for me, and also very unexpected was the salt around the plate. The Salmon with the salt worked ok but I wasn't sure with the peach. Turns out, if you mix it w/ the creme and the greens, add the peach, the salmon and the salt, that's actually works. I'm not a cook, can't tell you why it works but it does. I was sorta expecting a small piece of salmon, but it was done in tartare style over chopped peach, that was interesting and not bad either.

My friend Steve & Krista happened to get their Coastal Napoleon which was fried green tomato, gulf lump crab, remoulade sauce & micro greens. They managed to get a nice consistency of chips on the tomatoes, and put the crab meat in between the tomato slices. It's a nice little sandwich.

As for entree, we all had the deconstructed beef wellington, it was tenderloin, roasted radish, bordelaise with wild mushrooms. My oh my, let me tell you. The sauce is to die for, there was a small piece of pasty over the beef, and together with the sauce, it's just delightful. I love it. Of course, what I like about the dish too is the small piece of something, not sure if that was truffle or fois gras over it, but it was delish.

For dessert, all of us got something different. I had the peach souffle, which is totally not like the traditional souffle I had expected. It's only the top half, but was done in more of a meringue than a true souffle. I would have to say, though, when you cut into it, it doesn't deflate, it is like a pillow that lets you cut in, and it'll bounce back. The 'peach chips', it's more like drizzling of peach bit, there's no real piece of peach around, but you can taste the essence.

in Alden Hotel
1117 Prairie (at San Jacinto St.)
Houston, TX

Monday, August 10, 2009

HRW: Arcodoro

This week begins the Houston Restaurant Week, where all these Houston premier restaurant puts together a prix fixe menu for $35. It's a great price when entree and dessert already cost that much. The prix fixe usually have 3 courses if not 4 or more choices than you can wrap your stomach around it.

Tonight's choice is Arcodoro in the Galleria area:

Patty said~

The decor is definitely fancy. They have outside seating where you can definitely enjoy a nice glass of wine on a good weather day. Unfortunately, those days are very limited in Houston, so you can take a guess on that. They have a casual seating and a dining area as well.

I had done the HRW prix fixe, which consisted of the Salmon Carpaccio, Paella, and Tiramisu. They, of course, have other choices as well and you can definitely order off the menu. The Carpaccio is not as good as I thought it'd be. I'd like the salmon to be colder than room temperature. I can taste the oil and the frisee' but not the apple. So, that ruined it for me. The Paella was good and flavorful. The shellfish was more fresh than I anticipated. Tiramisu is delightful, but I must say, I've have had better. So, I'm not sure if that's a good judge. Since most of my judging is based on creme brulee's not on tiramisu. Guess I'll have to go back and try it all again.

Overall, food is good, not the best I've ever had. Though I've never had Sardinian food before, which has heavy Italian influence (because duh, they're right next to each other). The price of their dishes aren't cheap but I would say the quality is worth it.

5000 Westheimer
Houston, Texas 77056
reservation is recommended

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Original Marini's Empanada House

So, I've been reading about the Empanada House on Houston Press and ever since I've been jonesing it...  I'm not usually an empanada person usually but who can deny good food?

I drove by the shopping center where I'm familiar with the Chili's, 713 Sushi, Masala Wok, and Marble Slab on Westheimer & Briar Park.  But I don't recall seeing anything about an Empanada House.  Well, that's because it's tucked in behind formerly Wolfgang Puck Express (which is now something different altogether).  It is a tiny spot, but also quite deceiving because it looks small but tons of seating for inside and out.  

Empanada runs about $2.25 which is cheap for dinner, if you think about it.  The dessert ones even cheaper.  I had the beef & spinach to start for savory empanada.  Let me tell you, the beef one has this nice juice to it, and with their zesty sauce, it's just awesome and wonderful.  The spinach one has cheese inside and it was a nice mesh.  The dessert, oh boy, the dessert... I had a banana carmel, it's nice, yummy, warm and gooey.  Word of warning, it does get messy.  Between the powder sugar and the carmel, I was a dripping mess.

They also have sandwiches and salads, vegetarian friendly food.  Definitely affordable and good not to mention yummy and fried.  If you get the savory one, you HAVE TO get the zesty sauce.  Definitely going back!

If you are hanging out at the Vintropolis, they will deliver.  I know that you can order online too.  If you're in Katy area, they have a store out that way too.  Go check them out.

The Original Marini's Empanada House
10001 Westheimer #2570
Houston, TX 77042

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Patty says:

They finally opened a Smash Burger in Houston.  So, we went on their opening day.  It was busy and the place is smaller than I thought it'd be.  Their 1/3lb burger is just right, not too heavy, not too soagy; that's because it's never frozen.  Yay for fresh meat!  Wow, that goes in so many levels.

They have their own version of fries and it was made with olive oil, rosamary and something else.   It's pretty good.  I think the best part is that they make their milkshake w/ Haagen Daas ice cream and boy oh boy, it's smooooooth.  YUM!

I think the best part is that after all that indulgence, I didn't feel like a piece of dead weight like you usually feel after a meal like that.  So, I chalk it up as good, thumbs up!

Smash Burger
5220 Buffalo Speedway
Houston, Texas 77005

open 10-10