We’re not sure why we didn’t have t’afia on our short list.  We’d both been there before, but we weren’t racing to return. Perhaps it was our perception that the place just might be too creative for its own good; in other words, very innovative, but just not hitting the mark for really great food.  Kind of like the now departed laidback manor.  Perhaps it was the slightly cramped, low-ceilinged space that can seem a little claustrophobic.  We should have put our misgivings aside sooner.  After our recent visit, we can attest to delaying for too long.  We had a great meal. 

t’afia is known for its unique cocktails.  We tried the hangar gimlet, wonderfully tart with fresh lime, and the “long-legged & dirty,” a gin martini cleverly served with a globe of frozen olive juice on a cocktail pick with olives.  We didn’t try any of the “ratafias,” the seasonal fortified wines from which the restaurant derived its name.  For those who want to sample the cocktails and the food, visit t’afia any Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday evening and, with a drink purchase, you get free lounge food.   And we’re not just talking chips and salsa.

The chef/owner, Monica Pope, is a fixture in the Houston restaurant scene.  She is highly touted for her regionally focused cooking, using many local ingredients.  The menu is divided into three categories of “Seasonal Plates,” i.e., smaller appetizers, larger appetizers, and entrées.  Then there is an a la carte meat/poultry/seafood selection aptly named “Protein.”  All the items in each of the first three categories are priced the same.  

We tried three of the small category starters — mushroom pate, bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with chorizo, and beet salad with frisee, walnuts, and cambazola cheese.  We cleaned each of the not-as-small-as-you-would-have-assumed plates, given the $6 price.    Each dish was wonderfully fresh and tasty.  You could easily make a meal of these small plates.  But we moved on to two of the Proteins –the shrimp/andouille brochette and the grilled sea scallops, each served plain with your choice of various sauces.  We tried a number of the sauces, all of which, other than the beurre blanc, seemed more like salsas or purees, light and flavorful.   Since we felt quite virtuous with our simple entrée choices, we couldn’t resist ordering a side of the mac ‘n cheese — bow tie pasta swimming in a rich sauce.

Our only criticism is that our waitress did not seem fully engaged, but, once we ordered, the food was delivered without a hitch by other waitstaff members.  Of course, that gave us longer to eavesdrop on the couple next to us who were clearly on a first date after meeting on an Internet dating site.  In our defense, the tables were quite close together.

Be sure to make reservations at this very popular venue.

3701 Travis Street

One thought on “t’afia

  1. Christine

    A group of 8 ladies, with a healthy cuisine conscience decided to celebrate our friends birthday here. The food was unique, hit our every need in the taste sensory department. The cocktails were original and extremely fresh, as were the “bites”, salads, and entrees. The portions were plenty, sumptuous, and every bite designed to perfection. I can’t remember when my pallet was so happy!!! To top it off, the food is local, natural and you can taste the difference…..and the fudge brownie, and chocolate bread pudding….icing on the cake! And, the price is great for such quality! Thanks Chef Monica!

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