It’s tough to keep a restaurant open in Houston, even if we do eat out more than any other city. But it seems this location on Montrose has seen more restaurants come and go than many places. The latest resident is Danton’s Gulf Coast Seafood, hailed by Alison Cook as one of Houston’s best new restaurants in 2007. Not sure why it took us six months to get there, but, emboldened by a “free cup of gumbo with an entree” coupon that we found in the Chronicle, we headed over there.
Like Jimmy Wilson’s, Danton’s is owned by local guys with experience in the restaurant industry, Danton and Kyle Teas. The layout of the restaurant is the same as its predecessors, including the welcoming booths. There’s a clubbier, more casual feel here than at Jimmy Wilson’s. The restaurant is well lit and not as noisy as many places. The clientele included those of all ages, and, while we wouldn’t call the atmopshere staid, this is more of an upscale Goode Company than the happening experience of Reef or Pesce.
We got great service from our friendly and accomodating waiter. The wine list is limited but reasonably priced. The menu is broad and varied, with many of the usual suspects.
We started with Oysters Kyle, shelled oysters broiled in a ramekin with garlic lemon butter sauce. They were tasty enough, although the sauce was a little thin. But, on the plus side, it was not so full of butter that we felt too guilty to sop it up with the bread. We moved on to the heralded seafood gumbo. It was full of fresh seafood and was a beautiful dark chocolate color, but there was something about the taste that didn’t work for us. Perhaps it was a little sweet, we’re not quite sure. Entrees come with two sides, so we selected the caesar salad as one of ours. It was much better than Jimmy Wilson’s version, but sufferred from the same fate as many restaurant caesars — not enough garlic and anchovy. Our entrees were the fried stuffed shrimp and the grilled amberjack. The shrimp were nicely cooked, with plenty of stuffing, but not quite as tasty as Goode Company’s version. To the restaurant’s credit, they offer half orders of many items, including the fried seafood dishes. The waiter brought us some garlic remoulade that was a very nice addition. The amberjack didn’t thrill us; it was overcooked and not well seasoned. On the other hand, the dirty rice was some of the best we’ve tasted, and the onion rings were great. The side of red beans and rice, which included nice chunks of sausage, was also well done.
For the style of food offered, we’d likely lean toward Jimmy Wilson’s or Goode Company. But, we wish these two guys good luck at this location.
4611 Montrose Boulevard
UPDATED: JULY 2008
We intended to dine at Danton’s Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen but found it closed over the July 4th weekend. Based on our experience described below, we weren’t overly eager to give Pesce another shot. But, we wanted seafood, and we didn’t feel like going quite as casual as Goode Company or driving downtown to the oh so trendy Reef. So, we headed over to Pesce, which was packed, with no tables available without a reservation (and even then, as we experienced, sometimes not). But we were happy to sit at the oyster bar as we weren’t sure how much of Pesce’s high end fare we wanted to order.
Lenny, our amiable wait person who seems to rule the oyster bar, took good care of us. We forgave him for crashing the first signature seafood martini on the counter and dropping the shrimp off the second one. The third arrived fully intact, and we carefully ate every bite of it. Chunks of lobster and shrimp sat on top of creamy, kim chee spiced shrimp slaw. Although perhaps less seafood than when Pesce first introduced us to this dish, it remains a unique, very enjoyable start to a meal, slightly pricey at $17. We then tried the seafood gumbo. Dark and quite spicy, it had plenty of seafood, including a couple of fried oysters. While not over the top hot, this gumbo is not for the faint of heart. We then debated over the $32 crab cakes (for which Pesce is well known) or the scallops. We had wanted the stuffed soft shell crab (also $32 for one crab), but they ran out just before we ordered, with the couple sitting next to us getting the last one. We opted for the scallops as we were getting full. Listed as an appetizer on the menu, we got three large seared sea scallops, coated in crushed arborio rice, in a delicious lemon butter sauce. We didn’t love the rice crust, but the scallops were perfectly cooked and the added crunch was an interesting twist. One of us had the urge to end the meal with something citrus, but the couple sitting next to us also got the last piece of the lemon meringue pie. As a consolation prize, we ended the evening on a nice note as Lenny graciously offered us one of the extra loaves of olive bread. Then, we headed over to the Dessert Gallery a couple doors down on Kirby.
We may not race back to Pesce, although sitting at the oyster bar made for a fun experience. From its initial opening, Pesce has been the high end, place to be seen seafood restaurant in Houston. And it seems none the worse for the wear now that it’s owned by the Fertitta group. So, we have removed Pesce from the “Disappointment” category.
3029 Kirby Drive
FIRST REVIEWED: NOVEMBER 2007
This is a brief entry as we did not actually eat at Pesce. Rather, we had made a reservation on Wednesday for 8:00 Saturday evening. At 4:30 Saturday afternoon, we received a call that the restaurant was overbooked, and they needed to cancel our reservation. That’s a first for us in 25 years of dining in Houston. They did offer us a 9:00 reservation, which was late for us, and we didn’t, in any event, have confidence it would have been honored at that time. Pesce is a large restaurant, and it’s hard to imagine they couldn’t have accommodated two persons at the reserved time. At least they could have offered to comp our bar tab as we waited for the table. The whole situation didn’t sit well with us. We guess Tillman Fertitta’s financial struggles have resulted in a lack of investment in reservations software or competent reception staff. Or perhaps he made last minute plans to entertain a large group of lenders.
We haven’t yet established a category for New English, particularly for a restaurant that has adopted the “head to tail” style of cooking that requires using as many parts of the animal as possible. The two English-born chefs also own Taverna, a well regarded restaurant in Conroe, which we haven’t had the opportunity to try. This new Houston restaurant is located in an old house on lower Westheimer that has housed a number of different establishments, including Aldo’s and most recently, Chez Georges. Gone are the lace curtains and white tablecloths from the prior inhabitant, replaced by dark woods and English hunting scenes with a contemporary spin. We had a reservation, which wasn’t necessary on a recent Saturday night. There were a moderate number of diners, but the place was far from busy. Valet parking is the only real option.
The wine list is limited but reasonably priced. Although we weren’t particularly impressed with the wines by the glass that we tried, served in tumblers, the price was right at about $6-7 a glass. They also have a full liquor license. Service was good, and all our items were delivered piping hot and fresh from the kitchen.
We wanted to like Feast as we appreciate chefs trying to do something different. The menu changes regularly and there were blackboard specials. There’s an emphasis on organ meats and other items, such as blood pudding, not regularly found on restaurant menus. There were plenty of choices for the less adventurous eater, although even the more recognizable items were prepared with interesting twists and flavor combinations. And we note that the hoof to tail concept didn’t seem to extend to offerring the premium cuts of meat. For example, we recall short ribs but no steak; chicken hearts but no chicken breast. You get the picture.
With an open mind, we tried some of the more unusual dishes. An appetizer of blood pudding, made with pig’s blood, had a spicy intense flavor like sausage. It was served on top of a slab of roasted pork and then topped with a quail egg. This dish was enough for a meal. One bite was sufficient for one of us while the other finished off the dish, declaring it to be very enjoyable. The one-biter tried the daily special of duck livers served with spinach and raisins in a grand marnier sauce. This was also an appetizer that could have made a meal. More delicate in flavor than chicken livers, the duck livers seemed more poached than sauteed, and the sauce was a bit too sweet. Only one of us will eat poultry livers, and, upon reflection, she declares they are more suited for pates or pan fried without a sauce (bringing to mind the Salade Landaise at Max & Julie’s).
For entrees, we ordered the goat shoulder pie and the scallop pot pie. The goat shoulder pie contained thick, rich braised goat meat topped with mashed potatoes and baked in the oven, like a shepherd’s pie. The scallop pot pie had wonderfully fresh flavors in the vegetable filled cream sauce and a nicely prepared puff pastry top, but, after some hunting, we found only four scallops the size of large bay scallops. We mentioned this to the waitress who didn’t seem to care, and we doubt she said anything to the management. We weren’t angling to have the $20 dish come off the bill or to be offered anything complimentary, and, indeed, neither of those occurred. We didn’t have room for desert.
The restaurant’s website says they are trying to “summon the spirit of a family meal shared around the kitchen table of an old-fashioned European family farm.” That may be the challenge when serving American diners who are not used to seeing chicken hearts, beef tongue, and neck of lamb on their kitchen tables. And, while the prices aren’t as high as some of our upscale restaurants, they weren’t low either considering the cuts of meat and poultry being used. This is not a restaurant for children, the squeamish, or mainstream eaters. But, if you want to sample the cooking of two chefs who have the courage to serve some of the more innovative food in town, give it a try.