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Reef - what should I know about it

Hey guys....thinking of taking my gf to Reef for her birthday, but I've heard some mixed reviews about it (I always expect some dissent about these things, but am hearing more than I think I should about a F&W Best New Chef).

1) Is this a great spot for a celebration dinner?
2) If so, does anyone have any "insider's tips" about dining there?
3) Any must-try's on the menu?

I'd appreciate any help you guys can offer. Thanks!

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  1. Their creme fraiche cheesecake is awesome.

    1. Do not order fried mac and cheese. Not as a joke, not to "just try it", no. My experience wasn't in any way great. Not horrible, but not a birthday meal imho.

      1. FWIW I took my gf there for her birthday and she loved it. I don't have any insider tips since that was my only time there so far. I will say I disagree with LeroyT on the fried mac and cheese. We both really liked it and I would definitely order it again if I go back at some point. I will say I was a bit underwhelmed by my fish, but not in a bad way really. It was very good, I guess I just expected more. My gf had a whole Thai fish that was delicious though, so there's that. (That was a special, not a regular menu item.)

        It's not really a romantic restaurant, if that matters at all to you, but it's a pretty cool interior design.

        1 Reply
        1. re: gastrotect

          Thanks...and I know what you mean about being underwhelmed at times in restaurants. Generally, if I can make the dish, then I'm a little disappointed to be eating it there. I'm not really a fish person, but my gf is very interested in trying the place...so we are going barring a bad health dept inspection :)

        2. We really like Reef and have been a few times. To answer your questions:

          1) I think it's a great celebration place for a group more so then a couple but I do believe you can make it special for just the two of you. Call the restaurant when making your reservations and let them know that this is a celebration dinner. Personally I prefer a table off to the side and not in the middle of the room. It can get loud and very crowded on a Fri or Sat night, but maybe your girlfriend likes to be in the center of everything. If your girlfriend is into wine ask for a table by the glass wine cellar/room.

          2) My only insider tip is if you decide to go at the last minute (which you wouldn't in this case) and you don't have a reservation or there are no tables available, eat in the bar. I wouldn't recommend this all the time since we felt a little like we were at the kids table but we were able to linger and order off the dinner menu.

          3) I too love the macaroni and cheese. Actually that's usually my entree along with a salad. I also love the shrimp shooters. The red fish on the half shell is my husband's favorite but occasionally he will order something else. If your girlfriend likes wine and you know her likes their wine list is extensive. I'm always overwhelmed by it so I then tend to order the same wine. You could check it out ahead of time and in this way make the evening a bit more special also. We've had a couple of the desserts, the panna cotta strawberries and sorbet and also the no minors milkshake both are very good. You can share either.

            1. Reef is not a romantic venue. It is VERY LOUD in the restaurant. If you are going for the food only, I like the crispy snapper, the gumbo is very good, soft shell crab when they have it. The french fries are crispy, hot and whimsical. A tiny dessert shake is fun and tasty.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Lambowner

                Thanks for everyone''s input...I'll let you know how our visit was in a couple of weeks.

              2. I didn't care for the sliders much at all. French fries were the frozen kind, they should be ashamed. If you go, get the milkshake. It's served for dessert in a shot glass. It's a brandy freeze and oh so so so so delicious. The only part of the meal I had that was memorable.

                6 Replies
                1. re: texasredtop

                  Texasredtop, look again. Those fries are fresh, never frozen, and double fried.

                  1. re: Lambowner

                    They were 100% frozen from the bag and not double fried. Even frozen from the bag can be salvaged if cooked crispy, these weren't even that. I can tell the difference across the room if they are fresh or not. I usually ask but didn't think I needed to at Reef. Perhaps it was something that happened just that day, I don't know. But to spend my money there again when the only thing worth the trip was the milkshake, nope, won't do it. I can make a brandy freeze at home.

                    1. re: texasredtop

                      IF the fries were frozen then it was a one time deal because the fries there are NOT frozen.

                      1. re: bhoward

                        That could very well be true but the ones I had were 100% frozen from a bag. My sliders were not even very good and I had heard others rave about them. The remoulade sauce was very good and I dipped my sliders in it because I wouldn't eat but one french fry. I don't care for Chili's but when we eat there I always get their sliders because they are pretty decent. I would eat the Chili's sliders over the Reef sliders any day.

                        I can't explain what happened. I waited so long for us to have to dress-up for something so we could stop at Reef and eat and I was so disappointed, well, except for that milkshake. The molten chocolate cake wasn't anymore than okay. My husband said his fish was very good while eating it but never mentioned it again or mentioned going back there again. Believe me, I was terribly disappointed. We were there at lunch on a weekday.

                        Something else I remembered, we had an appetizer that was pretty good, but our waitress forgot to turn our order in for our lunch. We had an appt on Post Oak and were almost late. She was very nice and apologetic, that is how I got the free milkshake which just made me swoon.

                        1. re: texasredtop

                          I would guess, without knowing, that a restaurant of this calibre would not serve frozen fries in place of fresh. In the event they ran out, they would just say so. I wish you had sent the fries back and asked for better, instead of posting this.

                          1. re: Lambowner

                            Well, the waitress forgot to turn in our order so we were getting very pressed for time to make a meeting on Post Oak. At that point, I had no other option than to pick through what I had. Had it not been for the good remoulade sauce to dip the sliders in, I'd have been hungry when I left. The waitress never mentioned that there was only one french fry missing from the plate when she grabbed up our finished meals. You'd have thought that would have been a clue that something wasn't right.

                            If they would have said no fresh cut fries, I'd have changed my order completely saving me from the sliders also. I love fresh cut fries and they are hard to mess up so if they are fresh cut, I almost always get them. If not, I get something else.

                            I also wondered since we'd sat there 30 minutes between appetizer and finding out our order wasn't turned in, were they in a rush and I just got a slapped together dish? Still, the meat on the sliders was just nothing better than average and my husband's dish seemed okay to him.

                            None of that meal was my fault. I didn't order anything special, just straight off the menu, no substitutions, no changes to the menu version. I've played it over and over in my mind and it never adds up to what others say about Reef and the raves the dish I had has gotten from others. It just doesn't make sense. But regardless, it happened. Trust me, I'm was way more disappointed in my meal than you are that I would express it here.

                2. I had dinner tonight at Reef. I had:

                  Snapper Carpaccio, Grapefruit Agra Dolce, Garlic Bruschetta
                  Steamed Shrimp Salad, Haricot Vert, Spiced Pecans, Sherry Vinaigrette
                  glass of Belleruche Rosé

                  The grapefruit completely overwhelmed the carpaccio. This dish could have been better, a lighter touch with the grapefruit and a tiny drizzle of really good olive oil & a sprinkling of sea salt would have made it much better. The garlic bruschetta rocked. Just how i like it, thin, grilled to perfection.

                  The shrimp salad had an off note: the shrimp didn't taste fresh. I couldn't taste any sherry in the vinaigrette at all.

                  Both dishes left me flat. I mean really: the grilled bread & the wine were the best things. What's up with this place? New chef? Bad chef?

                  This place exists at a level where NONE of their dishes should suck. And less than fresh seafood & a wildly out of balance dish just shouldn't happen.

                  I'll take Stella Sola and Haven over this any day.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: malarkey

                    I had a similar experience there last year at lunch and won't return. On top of the food being less than acceptable for such a highly rated restaurant, our service was screwed up and almost made us late for an appointment. I don't understand how some people get such excellent meals there and we ordered two appetizers, two entrees and one dessert and the only thing worth consuming was the milkshake that the waitress gave us for forgetting to turn our order in for over half an hour. The milkshake was in a shot glass so it wasn't much but it was heavenly. It's a Brandy Freeze. Everything else was just sad.

                  2. I took a friend there for her birthday last year. The restaurant is noisy and lacks ambiance. The food was not memorable but the horrible waiter was. Neither of us has ever encountered such a caustic person.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Flahoolick

                      I forgot to mention that Bryan Caswell is a semifinalist for 2011 James Beard Best Chef: Southwest.

                      1. re: Flahoolick

                        Bryan Caswell would never, EVER, serve frozen french fries to anyone. Everything at REEF is prepared fresh. I've been in the kitchen several times, and eat in this restaurant every chance I get. The fried mac & cheese may not be everyone's favorite, but I enjoy it EVERY time.

                        1. re: Cheflambo

                          But fried mac & cheese does not make Reef a good seafood restaurant.

                          My meals at Stella Sola, on the other hand, have rocked. Isn't this where he's cooking now? IMHO they need to pay attention to who's in the kitchen and the fact that the quality has slipped considerably. I also thought Little Bigs was bad.

                          1. re: Cheflambo

                            I am not nor have I ever been a liar. They were frozen, I am 100% sure. Like I said, the milkshake is out of this world (a Brandy Freeze) but everything else was average or below average. I would never consider eating there again. Everything was NOT prepared fresh that day. Even though it took them an hour or more to get our entrees to us. While Caswell may be a great chef, I sure hope it wasn't him preparing my food the day I ate there.

                            1. re: texasredtop

                              it probably wasn't him, TRT. A common problem when a star chef starts expanding & opening other venues is the quality of the food starts to go downhill at the restos he's not cooking at anymore. Unless he can find an exec chef to take his place who mirrors his own style & taste level, it's bound to happen.

                              1. re: malarkey

                                I understand that but it still gives "him" a bad name. He should be training and overseeing anyone associated with his name or lose credibility. It's not right to charge people those prices for a bad meal. I had the same problem with John Besh and one of his famous restaurants.

                              2. re: texasredtop

                                Redtop: I am certain that no one posting on this thread is calling you a "liar". I tend to think, as others do, that you have made an honest mistake. That is okay--even I have been mistaken before!

                                1. re: bhoward

                                  Yes, I made a huge mistake by spending a lot of money on lunch at Reef. But it's a mistake I won't make again :-)