Monthly Archives: August 2007

Kiran’s Restaurant & Bar


We’d been planning to try Kiran’s for quite some time since it moved to its Highland Village area location.  The mood for Indian food just hadn’t struck recently, having been burned at a couple of over the top spicy experiences at Indika.  When the mood returned, we ventured over to Kiran’s on a Saturday evening.  We had a reservation, and it’s a good thing as the place was full with a multi-cultural clientèle.  Although more upscale than we had envisioned, the deep red hued room was very comfortable, and the service was friendly and attentive, although our water glasses could have been filled more frequently.  We don’t know the chef-owner, Kiran Verma, but she seemed very engaging as she table hopped among what appeared to be quite a few regulars.

The menu is large and varied.  Go with friends so you can sample a number of items.  In addition to a variety of appetizers, there were probably twenty vegetarian dishes that can be served as entrées or sides.  And a large selection of tandoori items, as well as other Indian dishes.  Although more traditional than Indika’s contemporary cuisine, Kiran’s does offer many interesting twists, including Chilean sea bass and lobster tail.  True to Indian cuisine, there’s no beef or pork.

The pappadams, the complimentary crispy flatbread common in many Indian restaurants, were very fresh, as was the dipping sauce.  We started with the crab samosas, large globes of crab, deep fried in a tasty batter.  Who can resist naan?  We couldn’t, so we tried a yummy whole wheat, goat cheese stuffed version.  We moved on to two of the tandoori items — roasted leg of lamb and chicken.  There was enough food for a feast (and lunch the next day).  Wonderfully sided, the lamb was served with a spicy red sauce, while the chicken had its own green sauce.  (We can’t remember  the exact flavors, but we liked them.)   We also got beautifully prepared fluffy mushroom biryani (rice) and a fabulously spiced bowl of creamy lentils.  And the one of us who can’t resist creamed spinach in any form, found the sag paneer quite delicious.  Even the anti-spinach eater thought it was o’kay.

We aren’t particularly knowledgeable about Houston’s many Indian restaurants, but it’s hard to imagine one that’s any better.  Some may prefer the cutting edge style of Indika, but, at Kiran’s, without feeling that our mouths had been seared, we actually tasted the many flavors in the food and could enjoy the wine.

4100 Westheimer (at Mid Lane)
713/960-8472
http://www.kiranshouston.com/ 

Brasserie Max & Julie


The owners of Cafe Rabelais in the Village have likely hit a home run with this new endeavor.  Located in the former Aries/Pic spot on Montrose and open only about two weeks, Brasserie Max & Julie was hopping on a recent weekday evening.  With more space than Rabelais, the Paul’s have brought us another piece of France, only this time, with a more extensive, regular menu of French treats.  Good news for those with vision issues — the menu isn’t on a blackboard.  And many of our favorites from Rabelais (the sweetbreads and cassoulet) show up as entree items.  The only missing dish is Rabelais’ deservedly lauded mussels.  And the wine list, all French, didn’t seem as extensive as Rabelais’ award winning selections.

We tried the foie gras, a velvety hunk of cold goose liver served with a lightly dressed salad and onion chutney.  Yum.  We moved on to the aforementioned sweetbreads, hot and crispy, served with mushrooms in a Madeira sauce.  And then a great steak tartare with frites.  For those who don’t want to eat raw egg (but are otherwise comfortable with raw beef), an egg shell containing a raw yolk was perched on top of the tartare.  Dump it all over that wonderful capery pink stuff and dig in for an Atkins’ devotee’s nirvana.  The skinny crispy frites provide a nice foil for the meat if a few carbs are on your diet. 

The menu offers a mix of authentic French dishes, such as sausage with sauerkraut and boeuf bourginnone, as well as simply grilled items with a selection of sauces.  They even have the seafood platters that are mainstays of French brasseries.  Trust us, even if you think you don’t like French food, there are plenty of choices.  Service was very good.  A nice touch was the chilled water bottle on the table, so you didn’t have to keep asking for water.

They don’t plan to take reservations except for large parties.  Although, if you call the day of your visit with the time and number in your party, they’ll put you on a priority wait list.   If you have to wait, there’s a cozy bar area and, when the weather cools off, tables on the front patio.   

As a final note, don’t get caught up with French nomenclature as to what constitutes a brasserie (versus a bistro or cafe).  You’re in Houston, Texas — just go and enjoy. 

4315 Montrose
713/524-0070

Piatto Ristorante


We’ve dined at Piatto on a number of occasions.  Owned by a member of the Carrabba family, it turns out a variety of well prepared Italian dishes.  Not everything is the best version of the dish that we’ve ever had, but we’ve always enjoyed our meal.  Service is good, they take reservations, and you can hear your guests’ conversation.  It also seems to be a good place to take your elderly relatives judging by the crowd on a recent Saturday evening. 

Given the plethora of Italian dining options in Houston, there are at least two extremely good reasons to pick Piatto — the fried asparagus appetizer and the calamari.   These are two of the best starters in Houston.  The former is beautifully crisp, non-greasy asparagus spears generously topped with lump crabmeat and sided by a ramekin of butter sauce chock full of even more lump crab.  Go ahead and eat the stuff with a spoon.  The calamari, which we rate #2 or #3 in the city, is also deftly fried with a tasty batter, sauced lightly with a pepper butter sauce.  Sit at the bar with a glass of wine and these two dishes, and you’ll be a happy diner.

4925 W. Alabama (behind Dillards Galleria) (and another location way out on Westheimer)
713/871-9722
http://www.piattoristorante.com/

Killens


Some may not consider Pearland an Out of Town Destination, but we do.  It’s outside the Beltway, and in an area not yet annexed by the City of Houston.  Accompanied by four friends on a recent Saturday evening, we road tripped to check out this new steakhouse that received a rave review from the Houston Chronicle’s Alison Cook.  The chef/owner, Ronnie Killen, is Cordon Bleu trained.

Reportedly an icehouse in its previous incarnation, Killen’s decor is more Bonanza than Flemings, although there are white tablecloths and some artwork that we don’t recall including farm animals.  Low ceilings and small windowless rooms lend to a somewhat cramped and noisy setting.  But the place was packed.  Reservations are definitely required.  No need to dress up, although shorts wouldn’t be advisable.

Service was good even though we were probably asked a few too many times whether we were ready to order, and it took a while to get the cocktails.  Although the restaurant appears to have a full bar (no seating), it’s not designed for turning out drinks quickly.  No problem, we also ordered wine.  The list was fairly extensive, not too heavy on the really high end stuff, and oddly missing vintages for all but a few of the listings.   But we enjoyed a reasonably priced 2001 Rutherford Hill.  Prices seemed to be about twice retail.

The restaurant likes to use lump crab meat, so we tried the crab cakes and fried asparagus starters.  The crab cakes were excellent, not much breading and topped with even more crab and a large grilled shrimp.  The asparagus, sauced with the same stuff as the crab cakes, were fine but not as good as Piatto’s version.  We tried three classic steakhouse salads — caesar, wedge, and sliced tomatos with blue cheese.  All were more than acceptable, although the caesar stood out (nice and garlicky/anchovy’y) but for being overdressed.  The wedge’s creamy blue cheese was too sweet for our taste. 

We all ordered steak except one person who tried the chicken fried sirloin steak.  The steaks were just fine, comparable to Houston’s other steakhouses.  The overdone t-bone was promptly replaced. There wasn’t much chicken fried steak left on the plate.  The onion rings (crispy and grease free) stood out from the other two sides of creamed spinach and potatoes au gratin.  Although probably healthier, the potatoes lacked the gooey decadence of other steakhouse versions.  We finished with the creme brulee bread pudding.  We aren’t big bread pudding fans, but Alison Cook steered us well when she raved over this version.

If you live in Pearland or the surrounding area, this is a must try restaurant.  It’s likely one of your best options for great food.  Would we drive from Houston again?  Probably not, but one never knows.  

2804 Main Street, Pearland, Texas
281/485-0844
http://www.killenssteakhouse.com/