Soma - Houston
did anyone read this article in the chronicle today about robert gadsby, formerly of noe? he is at soma now, the new place that opened on shepherd/washington by the azuma folks: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/d...
i've been to soma twice now since it's soft opening several weeks ago. i had higher expectations since it is owned by azuma and i want to see this place succeed b/c of the location. personally, i think there is much better sushi in houston than azuma, but the location is within a 5-10 min drive of my house and i'm excited to see washington street become the new, hip part of house with all the recent openings of bars & clubs.
back to soma, my first visit was on the 4th day they were open. the sushi was mediocre, although the fresh salmon was wonderful. i don't normally order rolls but the soma roll was listed on their sushi menu as having cilantro and onion in it, so i couldn't pass it up. it came to the table with tempura crunch all over it and there was no onion or cilantro flavors to be found. disappointing.... on my second visit, a week and a half later, again, the sushi was mediocre. they did have a live scallop special where they served it 2 ways and it was excellent. but both times, the quality of the sushi was worse than azuma (and i've frequented both locations). it seems to me that they have a different seafood purveyor for this establishment?
the non-sushi menu is all gadsby's doing. i have to say that is was very strange seeing a kitchen full of non-asians back there. the menu is creative. think truffle oil, quail eggs, fois gras.
my first night, i ordered a hot place with ny strip loin and potatoes. the steak (about 4 oz.) was chewy, although cooked a perfect medium-rare. the potatoes were similar to an au gratin, but less saucy with a nice buttery finish. it was apparent to me that this dish could have been heavenly, if not for the low-quality of the meat. i think this small dish was $18. i would have gladly paid $25 for it with a better piece of beef.
on my second visit, the non-sushi menu had changed, although it was still printed on normal white copier paper stapled together with the word "DRAFT" stamped on it. there was a fois gras terrine with raw tuna on there that i could not pass up. it sounded interesting, scary even. it was served just like a slice of a terrine. there was a large hunk of tuna in the middle and fois gras wrapped around it. it was served with a mango relish. no regrets, it was very interesting, much better than i could have ever imagined, but a novelty. fois gras is much better in more classic preparations.
soma is already reeling in big crowds. expect a wait. expect a large bar crowd. expect loud techno music. give it a try, but stick to the non-sushi menu. they still have a lot of kinks to work out and the chronicle article says that gadsby will work on the sushi menu when he is done with the main menu. but really, he just needs to find a new fishmonger,some sushi chefs with better knife skills, and add a few more rolls for the not-so-serious-sushi-eater types.
We went with a group the other week. We made a reservation for six people, for 7 pm. When we arrived, our reservation was nowhere to be found. (We had even specifically requested a certain server). The staff tried to shove us into a 4 person booth with a chair on the end. That didnt work, so they shoved us into another somewhat larger booth.
I'm sure that the copied menu pages with DRAFT stamped on them was meant to be edgy or whatever, but it really just looked lazy and unorganized, especially in view of how the rest of the evening shaped up.
The orders were lost, a tray of drinks spilled on the table and laps. It took us nearly three hours to eat. We had to get up and get our own silverware. The manager never came by once. We cancelled half our order.
The sushi was served with OLD tasteless, nearly brown, ginger. The fish was so-so fresh. Not as good as I would have expected, it was obvious that they had gotten their fish order on Thursday (it was Saturday). But like the above post, it was mediocre over all.
Now, the food, when we did get some, was good and interesting. However the service was so incredibly bad that it completely took away from it.
One of my dining companions owns several restaurants in the area and took the opportunity to use the experience as a teaching lesson for his own waitstaff, a very strong lesson in what NOT to do.