Monthly Archives: January 2007

TopWater Grill

We had heard this restaurant was written up in Southern Living, and friends who live in the Clear Lake area had recommended it.  It took us an hour to get to this hole-in-the-wall seafood restaurant in San Leon, Texas.  We figure an hour one-way road trip warrants categorization as an Out of Town Destination.  Be sure to go on MapQuest to get directions or look at the map on the website, or you’ll likely get lost.

Housed in a ramshackle wooden structure, with lots of outdoor seating, the restaurant is located directly on the water.  To suggest there’s no dress code is an understatement.  Anything goes.  The dress of the hostesses and wait staff was so casual, we couldn’t figure out who they were.  We hear bathing suits are just fine when the weather permits.  Boats can dock right at the restaurant.
 
The menu is quite large and varied.  Although seafood predominates, there are choices for non-fish lovers.  We started with the 2+2+2 baked oyster sampler.  There are a number of styles from which to pick and we liked all the ones we selected — garlic butter, rockefeller, and crab au gratin.  We then tried the seafood gumbo which was the only disappointment of the evening; nothing to write home about, stick with Goode Company.  We moved on to the Florida stone crab special — 10 meaty claws for $20, which was quite a bargain.   Served with a remoulade sauce, they were delicious.  We then shared the whole stuffed flounder.  Topped with a pink creamy sauce (called Pontchartrain on the menu), the fish was wonderfully fresh and flavorful, although we would have preferred a stuffing that was less gooey with more discernible ingredients (i.e., the billed crab).  The mixed vegetables were fresh and appropriately cooked.

We had good service, even though the waiter seemed a little anxious to take our order, asking us a few too many times.  And the place wasn’t crowded.  That being said, the food arrived hot from the kitchen.  And the waiter and manager were quite helpful when the clutzy one of us slashed her finger on a stone crab claw.

If you find yourself in the Kemah area or you’re looking for a restaurant on the water and want an alternative to the commercial and crowded Kemah Boardwalk, this place definitely deserves a trip.

815 Avenue O, San Leon, Texas
281/339-1232
http://www.topwatergrill.com/

 

Dolce Vita

UPDATED REVIEW:  JANUARY 2007 —


The place was packed on a recent Friday night and, although we were told the wait was 30-45 minutes, it wasn’t more than 15.  Barely time to find a seat at the crowded bar and get the attention of the harried, not-particularly-knowledgeable-about-the wine-list bartenders.   (Colonel Klink-see review below-was still there!)   Notwithstanding the seeming lack of knowledge and time for discussion, we did get a recommendation for a good red Italian wine (Palazzo was somewhere in the name — what can we say, two of us drank a bottle) priced in the $40 range.

After our last experience of the food coming too quickly, this time around we paced our order.  We tried a couple of the marinated vegetable starters — beets with walnuts, and mushrooms encircled with rosa ricotta.  Both were fabulous.  We wanted to try a few of the other marinated vegetables but moved on to the warm appetizer special — grilled calamari stuffed with pancetta, leeks and ricotta in a spicy tomato sauce.  It was also delicious.  We had thought we’d have room for one of the famous pizzas, but we were too full at that point.  Should have eaten less of the fabulous grilled flat bread. 


Our experience was much better this time around, and we’ll definitely be back.   We’ve taken it out of the Disappointments category.


INITIAL REVIEW:  JUNE 2006 —

We tried this place within a month or so after it opened.  We’d heard the hype and really wanted to like it.  Our experience wasn’t horrible, but we weren’t enticed to go back.  We liked the somewhat ramshackle old house.  We didn’t mind the wait at the bar, although the service started out quite shaky as a person-behind-the-bar who didn’t appear to be a bus person knew nothing about the specialty drinks or any of the food that was available at the bar.  After we got past Colonel Klink, the real Bartender was helpful, albeit harried.  Upon being seated, the service was quite timely  — actually too much so.  The meat balls and pizza that we ordered arrived (literally) within 3 minutes of placing the order.  So much for envisioning our pizza being made to order and popped into the famous oven.  In fairness, the food was quite good — the meatballs (without any sauce) were moist and flavorful and the pizza (covered in prosciutto) was tasty, although it didn’t send us into the raptures of many commentators such that we had to run out and book a trip to Italy.  We didn’t try any of the multitude of appetizers (marinated/grilled vegetables, cold meats, and cheeses), which appeared to work best if you ordered a number of them and shared among a large table.  We also didn’t try the pasta which looked pretty good based on the dishes being eaten at the table next to ours.  Other than the appetizers, pasta, and many interesting (i.e., ranging from innovative to just plain wierd) pizza selections, there was one daily entree special.

500 Westheimer
713/520-8222

Polo’s Signature [Closed]

We’d been monitoring the construction of this new strip center on the Southwest Freeway between the Mercedes dealer and Lakewood Church and had noticed that a new restaurant was going in.  Hadn’t heard much about it but thought we’d give it a try after seeing that it had opened.  Polo’s is named after its chef, Polo Becerra, a very genial guy who greeted us at our table, who was formerly the chef at Post Oak Grill.  The room is very lovely, evoking thoughts of its neighbor, Tony’s, with an elegant, warm, contemporary feel.  Although perhaps a little more casual than Tony’s given the open kitchen across the back.  We wouldn’t wear jeans to Tony’s, and we felt fine with our nice jeans on here.  The prices are also slightly lower.

The food is the ubiquitous upscale, contemporary, new American.  There’s a decent selection of wines by the glass that are not excessively priced, which is refreshing in today’s world.  (The bar area also looks quite inviting.)  The service was attentive, although a little lax in places, which leaves room for improvement since there were very few tables filled.   A very nice touch is the bread basket,  baked fresh for each table.   Like many, we try to limit our carb intake, but we couldn’t resist the delicious selection served with an herb butter.    

We started with the seared foie gras, which was served on top of a daikon radish salad.  When it arrived at the table, the foie gras was lukewarm, but it was quickly replaced by a hot version.   The combination of foie gras and radish didn’t work for us  — each one separately was good (and a generous serving of foie gras given the $15 price), but not together.  Plus, the cold salad likely contributed to the cooling off of our first serving of foie gras.  However, the small glass of sauterne was a very nice touch.  As was the complimentary intermezzo of a champagne granite.  Not sure whether the sauterne or the intermezzo are regular items, so we appreciated the special effort made.

For entrees, we tried the seared tuna and lobster.  The tuna was high quality and appropriately cooked, but it needed something extra, and the red chili sauce, although sounding like it would add that oomph, wasn’t particularly flavorful.  The lobster was a very good dish — a shelled 1 1/2 pound lobster (missing one claw) was served with baby vegetables in a light cream sauce, atop couscous.  This may seem picky, but the tasty sauce was absorbed quickly by the couscous, which was unfortunate.

We dropped in on a weeknight after the restaurant had been open about a week.  We understand it’s already hopping at lunchtime.  Other than the aforementioned Tony’s, there’s nothing similar in the busy Greenway Plaza area.  We wish Polo’s the best of success.  If we were professional restaurant critics, we wouldn’t be reviewing a place that had only been open for a week.  So, we’ll be back, but we’ll give it some more seasoning time.

3800 Southwest Freeway
713/626-8100