Houston - Arcodoro - report
I was in Houston briefly for a trade show at the Westin Galleria. After searching around the board a bit, I posted a request for specifics at Arcodoro, Paulie's and Christie's. Even though I got two responses, that post appears to have vanished! And, I still find no specifics about the places, so here I post. Anyhow, before I checked in and got to work, after a 4 hour car trip in the frosty drizzle, I stopped in for a late lunch at Arcodoro.
Yes, it was 3PM. Yes, I was alone. I know this is not a server's dream come true, but the guy could barely be bothered with me. The dish I had eyeballed on the lunch menu on the website wasn't on the "intermezzo" menu I was handed, and although it was 2:58 (lunch served until 3) it was like pulling teeth to get him to ask the kitchen if I could have what I wanted. Plus, he grabbed the lunch menu and insisted I wanted something else... irritating. The hostess gave me a menu and wine list...I was contemplating one glass of wine, but the server never asked me, and after the push-me-pull-you match to order lunch, and since their "by the glass" options are very limited, I decided to skip it.
So first came a chrome cylinder full of different kinds of bread - some focaccia with olives and tomatoes, some kind of crusty bread, a yeasty knot, some thin cracker-y flatbread... all completely tasteless and boring. The olive oil and balsamic dip was so-so...I took a couple of nibbles and decided to pass. Luckily, the food took a turn for the better...
I had been eyeballing the: FREGULA BELVEDERE, described as "Sardinian cous cous with rock shrimp and shiitake mushrooms in a light saffron basil broth." The fregula was great - bigger than couscous or pastina, smaller than orzo, and ball shaped - perfect soup pasta. The broth was rich with the promised saffron glow - quite delicious. The shrimp were fresh and plump and the shitakes were fat slices of dried and reconstituted mushrooms, and that worked perfectly with this dish. Bits of fresh tomato floated throughout - a nice fresh counterpoint. I loved it.
The intermezzo menu had an interesting fish carpaccio - not the tuna that is listed on the web menu. I can't remember exactly, but I think it was sea bass, marinated with saffron and served with arugula, cannelini beans, an organic orange olive oil, and shaved bottarga over it. Although completely devoid of any arugula, the paper thin pieces of fish lined the plate, and heaped on it were some frisee, chopped scallions, the beans, and bottarga, with the oil drizzled over. This was wonderful. The fish was lightly scented by the saffron (not sure how they "marinated" it, but each transparent disc of fish seemed to have a vein of saffron running through it) and the olive oil, and the cannelini beans were the perfect foil - something to sink your teeth into while the ethereal fish slipped by. The bottarga (my first time having it) was not as strongly flavored as I had imagined, and I wanted more more more...it was delicious.
When I asked the server about the missing arugula, he went into this bizarre song and dance about how they "mix it all in." HUNH? This was the most UN-mixed dish...I rolled my eyes and decided not to order a pizza to go to eat later in my room. Probably should have done that anyway....
Food was great enough to make me think about returning...IF I am in Houston again for business and IF Dolce Vita isn't open...dying to try that place!
Thanks for the report! I've been on the fence for a long time about whether to try Arcodoro. It got rave reviews a couple years ago from both the Chronicle and the Press, and the menu looks very intriguing. That couscous you described sounds fabulous. However, it seems to be getting mostly mediocre reviews on b4-u-eat, and at those prices I'd definitely expect more than mediocre. Plus, most of the reviews (including yours) seem to have a common theme of poor service. So.. still on the fence!