Monthly Archives: August 2015

Salt Air Seafood Kitchen

It’s a foregone conclusion that this place would be packed from day one — it’s owned by the same folks that have brought Houston Ibiza, Brasserie 19 and Coppa.  Thus, no surprise, even in July — when many of the crowd that flock to these restaurants are out of town — Salt Air has been hopping since it opened a couple weeks ago.  We ventured in early one recent Sunday evening.  The large square bar in the middle of the restaurant was sufficiently inviting that we passed on our reserved table.   (Goes without saying that reservations are a must right now.)  Like one of its predecessors at this location (Pesce), Salt Air has an open kitchen environment with the raw bar in the center of the restaurant.

The menu is expansive and somewhat eclectic — everything from multiple raw bar selections to hot fish, seafood and vegetable offerings.  It’s clear the restaurant strives for freshness, with many of the fish and seafood choices changing based on availability. Don’t expect a lot of fried seafood, although there are a couple small plates of fried claims and calamari.  If you’re looking for something cooked, grilled and steamed items seem to prevail with the fish and seafood items.

Certainly, we’ll return as we only tried a couple dishes — the fried claims (served with a gribiche sauce) and the octopus carpaccio (not really raw, but steamed and very thinly sliced).  We enjoyed both dishes, although the octopus could have done with more of the taramosalata sauce, and the gribiche sauce could have had a little more tang given its traditional ingredients of mayo, pickles, capers and herbs.   The fried claims were very well executed (not the least bit greasy and and the portion size a very good value for $10), but the crust was a little heavy (perhaps because it’s cornmeal based?) for our taste.   The same crust perked up when used on the salt & pepper calamari, which we sampled from the plate of the guy sitting next to us.  Our neighbor also wasn’t too thrilled with the crust or the asian-based sauce served with the calamari, but the latter was remedied with a quickly brought remoulade sauce.  The woman sitting on our other side raved about the tuna tartare (on quinoa) and the seafood salad (same tuna with the addition of cold shrimp on greens).  We’ve heard good things about the lobster bisque (lighter than most traditional versions), the steak tartare, and the roasted carrots.  (The bok choy and avocado were not touted with as much enthusiasm.)

3029 Kirby

713/521-3333

www.saltairhouston.com

Bramble

Houston foodies have closely monitored Randy Rucker’s various restaurant endeavors over the years, starting with his ahead-of-the-times laidback manor to Bootsie’s Cafe in Tomball.  Chef Rucker has returned to the Memorial Area (yes, outside the loop but at least within the city of Houston) in a former Italian restaurant on Voss near San Felipe.  Just opened a few weeks, Bramble, like Rucker’s prior restaurants, highlights local ingredients in a casual, contemporary setting.  We understand the menu changes regularly and, understandably, with a new place trying to get its footing, the menu offerings were somewhat limited.   The cocktail program needs a little work as we didn’t find our drinks as balanced as we’d like (one with rum and the other with bourbon).  The wine list was small but reasonably priced.  We had no issues with the prompt and courteous service.

On the evening we were there, for starters, we tried the roasted corn with cotilla cheese (delicious) and the roasted sunchokes (well executed, but a little bland).   For our main courses, we went with the marinated grilled quail and shrimp and grits.  Both dishes were quite tasty but under cooked.  We sent the quail back, and it improved with some more time on the grill.  We couldn’t fault the creamy grits and sauce, but one of the three jumbo, heads on shrimp was close to raw.  We fully appreciate a chef’s concern about not overcooking the ingredients, but a little more time turning out the main courses would have been a good thing.  Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the pickled greens au gratin side dish; the rich cheese was a delicious foil to the tartness of the greens.

We’d read a review of Bramble that suggested Chef Rucker is playing it safe compared with the dishes he turned out in his prior life.  We don’t really fault him for that, particularly with a new restaurant.  But the pickled greens dish hinted to us of the creativity for which this chef is known.   And we’d note that we really liked Rainbow Lodge during Chef Rucker’s brief stint there where he managed to beautifully execute (with a twist) a number of more traditional dishes.

No reservations (we got there early and the place filled up quickly) and parking wasn’t a problem.

2231 S. Voss

832/819-0332

www.restaurantbramble.com