Category Archives: Food Highlights

Steakhouses

UPDATED:  AUGUST 2007

Given the proliferation of steakhouses in Houston (and they keep coming), we feel obliged to weigh in on these amazingly popular dining venues.  A recent trip out to the westside to try Brenner’s, a Houston institution since the 1930’s that is now owned by the Fertitta conglomerate, has prompted us to give this meaty issue further consideration.  We haven’t been recently to at least a couple of the well known steakhouses (Ruth Chris, Sullivans) to provide any rankings.  In many ways, they are all so similar that it would be hard to rank in any event.   We haven’t had a bad experience at any Houston steakhouse.  There isn’t  much difference in the high quality steaks served at most places, so we distinguish based on starters, sides, and atmosphere.

Some random observations —

      —   Pappas:  Great place; right up there with Vic & Anthony’s; see our separate review.

      —   Bob’s Steak and Chophouse:  Clubby, old school, testosterone laden atmosphere; great steaks and sides; not so impressed with the starters and salads; see our separate review.

     —   Morton’s:  Recently tried the new downtown location and wasn’t particularly impressed; seafood starters were very good; wedge salad was huge, but not the best in town; steak was overcooked and sides were marginal, particularly the creamed spinach and overcooked wild mushrooms; service was attentive although our waiter seemed to be going through the motions and not particularly friendly; it would be fine with us if they cut out the shtick of having the waiter verbally relay the menu items and bringing the raw steaks and live lobster to the table

      —   Vic & Anthony’s:  This is one of our favorites.  The place is always packed and has a great clubby feel.  The calamari (as usual, one of our tests) is very good, as are the crab cake and wedge salad.  The creamed spinach (a steakhouse stalwart) and sautéed mushrooms are also well done.  The service is always consistently good.

      —   Flemings:  A similar atmosphere to Vic & Anthony’s — dark woods and brass.  One of the better versions of the wedge salad — full of creamy dressing and chunks of bleu cheese.  The creamed spinach and potatoes au gratin are great.  We have a friend who considers Flemings’ version of chocolate molten lava cake to be one of the better in town.  This place also has great service.

      —   Brenner’s:   We liked the retro, old house atmosphere at Brenner’s.  The starters are consistent with the retro decor — we were not impressed by the signature wedge salad with a sweet, pink colored blue cheese vinaigrette.  The french onion soup was delicious.  Although quite good, we weren’t bowled over by the signature german fried potatoes.   We also did not like the style of serving the steaks in a puddle of au jus — it sogged up the sides.  The wine steward was very helpful but the rest of the service was spotty (e.g., soup served with a teaspoon).

      —   Strip House:  The decor, a red burlesque motif complete with flocked wallpaper of nudes, is quite urban, as is the somewhat uninviting location — the first floor of a downtown office/retail building.  The lobster bisque is great; the clam appetizer is tiny and overpriced.  The truffled creamed spinach is over the top rich.  A recent special of creamed corn was wonderful.  One of these days we’re going to try the baked potato topped with caviar.

      —   Capital Grille:  We ate in the bar recently and enjoyed calamari and oysters rockefeller.  The atmosphere is clubby and sophisticated.

     




 

Calamari — The Test of any Kitchen

UPDATED:  FEBRUARY 2007

Yes, we confess that we really love this fried stuff, which many foodies might consider mundane.   After all, if you properly batter and deep fry pretty much anything, it can taste good.  So, we understand that many would not agree that it is the “test of a kitchen.”  But we try it everywhere we go.

# 1 — Carrabba’s — consistently the best in town; at least as the price keeps going up, so does the portion size and the lemon butter sauce is a welcome new addition to the traditional marinara.

#2 — Mockingbird Cafe — tender and tasty (also with a somewhat sweet flavor); stick to the chili aioli and nix the sweet sauce

#3 — Piatto — very crunchy with great lemon pepper sauce

#4 —  Oceannaire — tasty batter with very good remoulade sauce; didn’t like the pickapeppa sauce

#5 —   DaVino — crunchy and tender with good lemon caper sauce

Best of the Rest — Vic & Anthony’s (ask for the pepper sauce on the side); Bice; Capital Grille;Sorrento;Grotto;LaGriglia

O’kay, but Nothing Great — Joyce’s Oyster Resort; Farrago;Crappittos;Ninos

Disappointment — Ibiza (we had really enjoyed the calamari here in the past, but the last time we tried it –just a week ago — it was dry and chewy); Prego (also chewy); benjy’s (used to be very good, but change in sauces and chewy texture on last visit)