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Quintessential Houston Fine Dining

coming in late may and looking for the absolute best Houston has to offer, considering Catalan and Feast, what are your recs?

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  1. Love Catalan but a little worried about it since the chef is leaving soon and the sommelier they had left a couple of months ago. Hate to sound the alarm though since I have not been recently. $ for $ best restaurant I have ever been to from food to unbelievable wine prices.

    Marks is fine dining and Tony's is quintessential just not extremely interesting.

    3 Replies
      1. re: Mikeflan

        I know Catalan got a lot of good reviews here and other places, but I had two pretty bad meals there. I know they are changing their name, but are they closed during the transition?

        1. re: Lambowner

          FYI - Chef Shepherd at Catalan's left May 1st. The Chef that worked along side him will remain until Catalan closes sometime this summer. The space will then reopen as an Italian restaurant and Catalan's will be no more. Until then you can still go. No word as to their last day of operation. (this is per an email my husband received as part of thier mailing list)

    1. Da Marco is another consistent Houston fine dining favorite.

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      Da Marco
      1520 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77006

      1. What about Bootsie's in Tomball?

          1. Hugo's comes to my mind, everything underneath is solid

            1. Yes, Brennan's is a very special evening and exceptional food. Feast is fantastic, especially for the adventurous, although others will find plenty of expertly prepared salads, soups, fish, non-offal meat and vegetarian options to also learn to love Feast. But keep in mind it is a very casual atmosphere. For pomp AND great food, Brennan's.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Lambowner

                Brennans is good, but why go to a new orleans style restaurant when you are travelling to Houston.

                1. re: twyst

                  If you put it that way, why go to a Mexican or Italian restaurant while traveling to Houston? French, creole and cajun foods are the best out there if done properly.

                  1. re: texasredtop

                    I worked for the brennan family in several of their places in new orleans for 6 years while studying at tulane and then worked at the one here for a few months when I started grad school. They are fantastic restaurants. I just think that for people traveling here from out of town to try "quintessential houston dining", brennans doesn't fit the bill. FWIW I would feel the same way about recommending an Italian restaurant to a visitor, even if it was amazing.

                    1. re: twyst

                      What do you consider "Houston" food?

                      My fave fave fave dish in the entire world is Mr. B's bbq shrimp. The shrimp in the shrimp and grits dish at Brennan's Houston is basically the same but not enough of the gravy/sauce/pools of heaven. I've been to all of the Brennan's restaurants in NO except The Red Fish Grill.

                  2. re: twyst

                    I think Brennans is more gulf coast southern creole? It has its Houston touches.

                2. I'm interested in knowing more about Bootsie's, any insight?

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: dailybread8383

                    Its out in Tomball, thought it was alright, not too sure if i would make the drive to go though

                    1. re: dailybread8383

                      I know you hit up some pretty high end fine dining restaurants when you visited Dallas and as far as pure numbers, Houston certainly doesn't have as many restaurants that fit that category. To put it bluntly: in my opinion, fine dining isn't one of the focuses in Houston. Not saying that it isn't an avenue worth pursuing, but just keep in mind Houston's so unique since there are quality dining options spread across multiple price points, styles of atmosphere, and cuisines. The "absolute best" in this case does not necessarily mean fine dining, but I will give you some suggestions on fine dining places that might be of interest to you based on how you responded in Dallas.

                      (and disclosure: I live in Dallas now and grew up in Houston. I still closely follow what is going on in Houston as far as dining since to me, it's honestly way more exciting)

                      Bootsie's 3rd Coast menu focuses on molecular gastronomy techniques. You seem pretty well travelled so I can tell you now you can't expect something like... Alinea, L2O, WD-50. Big difference there if that matters to you. I think you'd have a good meal there, but you really shouldn't walk into Bootsie's expecting Michelin 3 stars.

                      Alison Cook's review:
                      http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/d...

                      Some other stuff to read:
                      http://www.29-95.com/alison-cook/stor...
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/767088

                      Definitely think you'd also enjoy Feast's tasting menu. The place is certainly a gem and the food is so interesting there especially if you are an adventurous eater. At the same time, they still have something for every palate, but you will really have a memorable experience there if you are willing to eat anything. You should also consider Reef for Gulf seafood and go to Hugo's to get Mexican food - both particularly strong points in Houston dining.

                      If you ever got to go to York Street in Dallas, I think you'd like T'afia too. If you follow celebrity chefs, Monica Pope was on Top Chef Masters.
                      http://www.tafia.com/2_TAFIA_FS.html
                      http://www.tafia.com/monica_center.html

                      1. re: air

                        Wow thanks so much, this is the response I was looking for! Im not sure if you can answer this, but would it be worth my time to drive to austin for a few days and eat at congress and uchi? Anyone else feel free to offer your opinion

                        1. re: dailybread8383

                          I just remembered one particular place since you did say you're willing to drive... I've personally never been but this should fall into what you seek.
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/596921
                          http://donnacooks.wordpress.com/2008/...
                          http://foodinhouston.blogspot.com/200...

                          Scott on DallasFood had a very detailed set of post with multiple meals there (the vegetarian ones sounded like the one to get), but I'm having a hard time finding them.. you might wanna consider it!

                          If you're just interested in Austin, strongly suggest you look at Franklin BBQ before any fine dining establishment there. In addition to the 'cue, there are also very clear dining standouts there apart from those kinds of chef-driven eateries; I'm talking about food trucks there that (I kid you not) put out better, or at the very least, more interesting food than some of the nicest restaurants in Dallas - specifically talking about Odd Duck here. Paul Qui does work for Uchi/Uchiko, but I'd honestly prefer to have the food from the East Side Kings truck over wading through throngs of people at the restaurants or stressing over getting a reservation! But different strokes...

                          Anyway sorry for the derail.
                          To answer your question, Uchi is a good starting point. You should also look at Parkside, Foreign and Domestic, and Olivia.

                          1. re: air

                            I'm no expert on Houston's culinary offerings, and have the sum total of 1 weekend's experience in Austin, but my feelings are these:

                            Houston's varied and various offerings offer many places with "soul", which to me means there is a connection between the person running the operation and what goes on in the kitchen. There are many places I like to frequent in Houston's vast Chinatown and other areas where the food has been exceptional - tastes like it was made by someone who cares about what they are doing - from hand-patted gordita's in the back lot of Canino's, to the many awesome taco trucks around town , to Banana Leaf (Malaysian), to the no-English name dumpling joint next to Arirang, to Savoy (Pakistani). Was in Austin recently, heard rave reviews for Torchy's and was sorely disappointed - would have rather gone to one of the taco trucks near the Mexican embassy (the white one few doors down form Happy Jalapeno). Tried a "Chicago Dog" at the Man Eat Dog trailer, and it was obvious that whoever thought that one up had not really eaten a Chicago dog. Tried the cupcakes form "Hey, cupcake!", and though better than grocery store cupcakes or box-mix cupcakes, I was not overlyimpressed, given the many good reviews I had read previously. Having said that, I realize my experience was a limited one, and I am looking forward to trying other eateries in Austin. We did dinner at Musashino (sp?) - great sushi, nice clean flavors and a change from the places that usually do crazy combinations in their rolls (which are also good e.g. Oishi on Richmond in Houston). My favorites in Houston are not usually the fine dining places, which although good, are not the stars of what Houston has to offer.

                            If you do go to Austin, consider a detour through Luling or Lockhart for famed Central Texas bbq. I don't think you will be disappointed, but it's not fine dining. In Houston, I would really try Hugo's - especially the Sunday brunch if possible. The flavors are amazing, and not the typical Mexican fare dished out at most places. Chinatownis a beast of its own - my head spins when I think about it.

                            My $0.02 worth. Hope you have a great time visitng!

                            -----
                            Banana Leaf
                            9889 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036

                            1. re: caliking

                              With regards to your comments on Chinatown - he had previously mentioned in his Dallas post that he is coming from NYC, so he's already got easy access to some good places. However, Vietnamese would definitely be much better down here, but I haven't really done a "fine"-style Vietnamese meal (cuz I tend to gravitate towards hole in the walls and dives), so that'd be a helpful suggestion for him too.

                              1. re: air

                                Definitely willing to drive, I'll be in Dallas the week before I'm in the Houston area and will hopefully going to Lucia, Tei-An and The Table at the Commisary. I've eaten pretty heavily in Dallas, but would appreciate any recommendations you might have. I'd also like some direction towards a great bar, I'm 19 and obviously can't drink, but some of my companions will. Oh, and I'm from Memphis so ethnic food would definitely be fine as our options are short.

                                1. re: dailybread8383

                                  Gotcha, guess I got you confused with someone that had a very similar thread and you may have just participated in it a little.

                                  I didn't realize The Table had already started service, so please post back how that goes. Good luck on the Lucia front too.

                                  For a bar, I'm guessing you mean cocktails? Big difference between a bar that specializes in those vs craft beer or a wine bar or a dive. Lots of quality cocktails and bartenders in Dallas, so if it's cocktails and you'd prefer newer places, look at Cedars Social and Marquee (Tre Wilcox's new restaurant)