This restaurant hit the Houston foodie scene with quite a lot of buzz, with its ownership the same as the folks that own Revival market just down White Oak in the Heights. Quite casual, no reservations, the focus is on the food. Both Saturday evenings when we’ve eaten at Coltivare, we’ve arrived a few minutes before the 5:00 opening time as the restaurant was full within less than an hour. There’s both indoors and outdoors dining. The bar area is small and fills up quickly. (We had friends who noted that, while they had to stand outside on the sidewalk waiting for their dinner, the local mosquitos were feasting quite well.) At first, there was no valet parking, but apparently even the most laid back restaurants in Houston require valet parking as it’s now available here, which is likely welcome, particularly later in the evening, when the local street parking fills up.
Coltivare is no exception from many restaurants nowadays with its interesting cocktail menu. We tried the bourbon-based Ava Crowder (a slightly citrus twist on a manhattan) on our first visit, and now we’re devotees. Such fans that we haven’t sampled the wine list which we understand is quite interesting and reasonably priced. We’ve had no issues with the service on either occasion.
The food has been outstanding. The menu changes over time. Feeling contrarian, we didn’t try the roasted cauliflower on our first visit even though pretty much every table around us ordered it. We succumbed on our second visit and, yes, it’s very good, with pine nuts and golden raisins, but it didn’t strike us as overly creative. On our first visit, we tried the bycatch baccala; as its name implies, who knows what type of fish it was but it was quite tasty spread on grilled bread (although not on the menu for our second visit). We also really enjoyed both the chicken liver mousse and grilled leek salad (with pancetta and a poached duck egg) on our first visit. But one of the real standouts has been the calamari salad on our more recent visit, marinated and grilled, with olives and various greens, it was really good. If sweetbreads are on the menu, we usually try them, and Coltivare’s crispy sweetbreads pair well with the salty anchovy and horseradish tapenade-style accompaniment. We also enjoyed the pepperoni pizza. (We know, kind of boring but, when pepperoni is homemade from Revival market, it’s really good.) We could not, however, figure out why they threw a salad (greens and shaved parmesan) on top of the pizza. When you’re going pizza old school, better to stick with the tried and true.
Like Provisions, Coltivare is serving some of the most creative, flavorful food in town in a comfortable, casual setting. We like to see a kitchen take risks, even if we don’t love every dish, and we like that the menu keeps changing. Now, if only they took reservations and had a larger bar area …3320 White Oak Drive 713/637-4095 http://coltivarehouston.com