Monthly Archives: January 2010

Haven (Closed August 2014)


Open now for a few weeks, this much awaited and anticipated restaurant was hopping on a recent Saturday night.  The first LEED certified (i.e., environmentally friendly) restaurant in Houston, it took some time to get it open.  The kitchen is manned by Randy Evans, formerly chef at Brennans.  Built from the ground up at the northeast corner of Kirby & 59 ( behind the aquarium store and Taco Cabana), Haven has a contemporary, yet warm and comfortable, ambiance.  (Similar in feel to Branch Water Tavern.)

Reservations are a must for prime time weekend tables.  Foodies are flocking.  We ran into three of our foodie couple friends dining there for the first time on the same evening.  Parking is an interesting situation.  There is a large lot right next to the restaurant that appeared to be entirely reserved for the valet service, at least at dinner. 

We started out with shaky service but things improved greatly once our waiter arrived.  We like the new trend toward artisanal cocktails but none appealed to us here, so we opted for wine from a varied (although not steakhouse sized), reasonably priced menu.

The menu is somewhat limited at this point.  We speculate Chef Evans’ idea is to do everything well rather than bite off more than the kitchen staff can produce.   The menu is already expanded from what’s on the limited website.  And the idea is to buy local, farm-to-market, seasonally available items, which is inherently limiting.

A number of the appetizers were intriguing.  Whether as a starter or a substitute for an entrée, we tried four of them.  The best of the lot was the baked oysters, out of their shells, baked in a ramekin with spinach and lardons in a light cream sauce, served with grilled toast wedges, this dish packed a lot of flavor and was a very generous portion.  It could easily have been a dinner entrée in of itself.   Our next favorite was the pork belly, a large, meltingly good chunk of meat, served on under seasoned creamed peas.  Runners up were the shrimp corn dogs (pretty much as described, cleverly sided with a shooter of meyer lemonade), with a nice spicy sauce, and chicken fried chicken lollipops, neatly served on mini biscuits with cream gravy (which we would have preferred a bit more of).  The only entrée we tried was the roasted chicken served with bacon spaetzle and crispy fried brussel sprout leaves.  A delicious comfort food dish for a chilly evening.  A number of desserts looked good, but we were too full.

How quickly will we return?  Soon but not right away.  We greatly applaud the time and money required for LEED certification, and the commitment to local, seasonal ingredents.  The food was very good, but it didn’t knock us off our feet.  There’s a large outdoor patio that will be inviting in the Spring, and dropping in for a drink and appetizers at the bar appeals.

2502 Algerian Way
713/581-6101
http://havenhouston.blogspot.com/

Masraff’s on Post Oak Lane


We ventured to this long-time Houston restaurant, cozily located in the woods on Post Oak Lane.  (We’ve heard rumors they’re moving.)  Four of us dined on a recent weeknight during the holidays.  A number of parties were going on and the bar area was quite lively.  Valet parking was a must, despite the large parking lots.
 
Our server was a little too familiar, particularly for the somewhat formal setting (Note to all servers:  if you must smoke, please ensure that your breath is smoke free prior to waiting on your table.)  When asked about wine selections, he pointed out only bottles in the $200 plus range, and, when decanting the wine, left too much in the bottle.  Allegedly for the sediment although it was not an old vintage; it was a 1999 Bordeaux.  And then he removed the bottle.  We asked him to bring it back, which he did.  (Contrast this with our recent experience at Pappas Steakhouse where the sommelier properly left the bottle on the table after decanting.) 

We started with four appetizers — seared calamari (nicely cooked with an Asian sweet and sour twist), butternut squash soup (declared to be very good), three mushroom ravioli (rich and delicious with a prominent mushroom flavor), and a salad.  We moved on to sautéed john dory, seared duck breast (generously garnished with foie gras that was perfectly seared), and sautéed bluefish entrées.  The food arrived hot at the table (a bugaboo of ours).  Everything was appropriately cooked and declared by all to be very good.  When the requested risotto substitution was not reflected on the plate, the chef sent out a piping hot separate order of wild mushroom risotto.

Some may find this comparison off, but Masraff’s has the feel of a sophisticated version of the now shuttered Confederate House, with more innovative, interesting food.  This place is not frequented by the trendy crowd, the clientèle is on the older side, the acoustics permit conversation, and the food is very good.  Now, if they just work on the attitude of the servers.


1025 S. Post Oak Lane
(713) 355-1975
http://www.masraffs.com

Branch Water Tavern


Another addition to the Washington corridor food scene, this new restaurant has a warm, cozy vibe and very good food.  Housed in a former pool hall, we dined here one recent Saturday evening.  We had reservations, which are advisable, but walk-ins would likely have been accommodated.  The bar area is good sized, with couches and coffee tables aligned along the wall.  As is popular nowadays, there’s a list of artisan cocktails.  We sampled and enjoyed two.  They were even willing to replace one to remove the anise-flavored liqueur at no extra charge.   Service was good, and our server was well versed in the menu.  Valet parking seems pretty much obligatory.

Shortly after we were seated, hot biscuits arrived.  A nice start.  We tried two of the snack items — fried olives and pork rinds.  The breaded, stuffed and deep fried olives arrived piping hot and were quite tasty.  Although Alison Cook dissed the pork rinds, we liked the puffy fried skin critters.  We moved on to the chicken fried oyster appetizer, which should have had “buffalo” somewhere in the name as the fried oysters were tossed in a spicy buffalo sauce and served on a celery remoulade slaw.  Call them whatever you want, just call us to eat them.

For an entrée, we tried the duck confit risotto.  The risotto was nicely cooked and well seasoned but not replete with pieces of duck confit.   We’d probably not order it again.  We shared another appetizer as an entrée — prawns wrapped in bacon on cheddar polenta, topped with a poached egg.   A nice comfort food dish, the shrimp were cooked appropriately, solidifying our membership in the plop a poached egg on pretty much anything fan club, but a little too much worcestershire in the polenta overpowering the flavor of the shrimp if you were trying to get a bite of both together.

All that being said, we’ll go back.


510 Shepherd
713/863-7777
http://www.branchwatertavern.com/