It took us a little time to get to this new Houston restaurant, declared by Texas Monthly to be the best new restaurant in Texas in 2008. Voice is located in the Hotel Icon in downtown Houston. While the restaurant is in the same location in the hotel lobby as its predecessor, Bank, the layout and decor have been redone. The restaurant has a more open feel, with a large circular bar in the center of the lobby, opening into the restaurant. The Whiskey Bar, which was located in the lobby balcony when the hotel first opened, has since been closed. While Bank’s decor was updated but more formal, taking its tone from the old time elegance of the former bank lobby in which the hotel is located, Voice has an elegant, but more contemporary feel. We loved the comfortable high backed arm chairs that circle many of the tables, although they did inhibit the people watching.
The restaurant was full on a recent Saturday evening. We had a reservation and were seated promptly. Although the bar looked inviting, we appreciate not being ushered right away to the bar in an effort to increase the liquor expenditures. The service was fine, although the cocktails took a little longer than preferable to arrive, and there was quite a delay after we ordered desert. But, overall, we have no complaints about the service. It was friendly, but unobtrusive. As you would expect, the prices were on the high end. Think Tony’s and Mark’s. On a positive note, the wine list was reasonably priced and had quite a number of selections under $100.
There were four of us, so we were able to try a number of dishes. Two diners started with the signature mushroom cappuccino soup. Served in a mug, with a frothy truffle foam on top, it deserves the accolades. That was some creamy, rich, intense mushroom’y flavor. Yum. The special sweetbread appetizer was tasty but small. One large crispy sweetbread on top of mushroom puree. And the sauces on the plate were cold. The final appetizer tried — gnocchi with morels and prosciutto — was declared very good, “just like my Italian grandmother would make.” (But, Top Chef fans, what would Fabio do?)
On to the entrées. We went for meat. The pork tenderloin special was three small pieces and nothing special. The rack of lamb was perfectly cooked but, interestingly, served off the bone, making, again, for a small portion. And we have no problem politely chewing on bones, even in the nicest restaurants. The beef filet and bone-in ribeye were better sized and nicely prepared. The mashed potatoes were noted as particularly good. Our only service glitch came when we waited quite some time for the warm chocolate cake. And it was not worth the wait. Nothing molten or even particularly moist about it.
Best new restaurant in Texas or even Houston? Not in our opinion. We had a wonderful evening with friends and the setting was very inviting, but, for food, our vote goes to Textile. Or Max and Julies.
220 Main Street (at Congress)