Monthly Archives: January 2011

Restaurant Cinq at La Colombe D’Or


We hadn’t dined at this longtime Houston restaurant in many years.  It just didn’t come to mind when we thought about fine dining despite its well deserved reputation for having some of the best food and loveliest settings in town when it comes to private events.  But when we read about the new chef, Jeremie Robison, who had been at the Mansion in Dallas, and we had friends visiting from out of town who were staying in the Medical Center, it seemed like a great choice.   We were particularly excited to see the holiday decorations at this Montrose Boulevard architectural standout.

We weren’t disappointed.  Very few tables were filled on the weekday night but the ambience and service were warm and inviting.  The menu is divided between old standards that have apparently been on the menu for years and new additions from the chef.  Our friend raved over the butternut squash soup, and we enjoyed the appetizer duck tasting plate (the arugula confit salad was a standout).   Generously portioned entrees included a NY strip, grilled whole branzino, beef filet, and Chilean sea bass.  The beef was of the highest quality and perfectly cooked.  The delicate branzino was nicely done. 

The maitre ‘d couldn’t have been more gracious.  After dinner, he gave us a tour of the lovely bedroom suites and the top floor art gallery.

Give this place a shot, particularly for a special occasion.  There likely wouldn’t be a lovelier (and quiet) setting in Houston for a wedding proposal.   We look forward to trying Zimm’s Little Deck, the self-described fancy icehouse on Richmond, where the chef is also minding the stove.  

3410 Montrose
713/469-4750
http://www.lacolombedor.com/

Caffe Bello [Closed]


A new restaurant from the Vallone family, again housed in a former La Strada.  We’ve heard sufficiently mixed reviews about Ciao Bello on San Felipe that we haven’t been there.  But we decided to give its sister location on lower Westheimer a try, only because the chef, Michael diMaggio, was formerly at the now shuttered Rockwood Room, a place we’d really liked.  (Since we dined at Cafe Bello, the chef has left.)

While Tony’s keeps going strong, there isn’t much buzz about this new restaurant, which was evident in the relatively quiet scene we found one recent Saturday evening.  By the time we left, most of the tables were full, but we doubt they turned much during the evening.

Service was friendly and prompt from the hosts to the servers.  Wines by the glass were reasonably priced, which was a pleasant surprise.  The menu had a number of enticing options.  We started with a very tasty and unique pizzetta topped with oxtails, gorgonzola and mushrooms.   We moved on to try the goat cheese risotto and the rigatoni Bolognese.   Both were very good, with the latter chock full of meat which we particularly like.  We finished with the day boat flounder special, a deliciously fresh whole grilled fish filled with seafood stuffing, with a light beurre blanc sauce and grilled shrimp. 

322 Westheimer
713/520-5599
http://www.caffebello.com/index.cfm

Americas (River Oaks)


We aren’t big fans of the long standing Americas on Post Oak but recent press enticed us to try this new, hot and happening restaurant on West Gray in the River Oaks shopping center area.   We dropped our car off with the valet and took an elevator to the second floor.   We wouldn’t have expected this new location to be boringly designed, and we weren’t disappointed.  The Cordua Group continued the funky, eclectic, eccentric — you give it a name … decor of the original Americas.  This is a large restaurant, but it was packed on a recent Saturday evening.  And we had reservations which were clearly necessary.

Service was prompt and friendly.   We tried a couple of the specialty cocktails — the ciprihana and margarita.  Both were very good, as were the obligatory fried plantains that arrived shortly after we were seated.   Served with three sauces, we only liked the old standby chimichurri, and we weren’t quite sure what the others were.   Credit to the waitstaff who saw that we were going through the chimichurri quite rapidly (in our defense, the bowl was very smal) and brought us more.

We started with the taquito medley which included four taquitos with various toppings.  Our favorites were the short rib and  bacon wrapped quail, although the almost iconic softshell crawfish was also quite good.  The plaintain crusted shrimp didn’t excite us.   True to form, we couldn’t resist the potato crusted calamari, which wasn’t bad but also wasn’t great.  The jalapeno remoulade was forgettable.  We shared the crispy carnitas entree.   We were expecting bite sized pieces of pork, but we received two large chunks of slow cooked pork shoulder, slightly crisp around the edges, served on a very tasty creamy rice with peppers.  We ended up taking most of the pork home for lunch the next day, and it improved with a little more cooking.  The roasted vegetables and rice served family style were a nice accompaniment.

2040 West Gray
832200-1492
http://www.cordua.com/americas/