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Jul 31, 2011 09:50 PM

Houston Restaurant Weeks 2011

Starts Monday 8/1. Interesting choices.

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  1. i booked my reservations last night... Don't wait,, some are already booked every w/e thru aug....

    I've confirmed reservations for;

    Brasserie 19-D
    Trattoria Il Mullina-lunch-(-the lunch menu is friggin awesome-I've had there meatballs,, they were voted best in Houston recently)

    I may have missed on or two... Coincidently, my annual Cardiology visit is in Sept.... Yikes!

    2 Replies
    1. re: bornie

      One week down for restaurant week for me - this isn't sustainable. First up: Max's Wine Dive. Not sure what was going on with me picking this place. My house is undergoing a minor remodel, so maybe it was the paint fumes. File this under "seemed like a good idea." From top to bottom, an awful meal. Appetizer of mac & cheese --- definitely the best thing I had that night, and it was cold and left me ho hum (disclaimer -- I had nieces and nephews in town the same week, so my meal at Just Mac might have left me a little ODed on mac & cheese).

      Next up, an unforgettable tomato soup. This may have been the worst tomato soup I've ever had. I made a note that I would have actually preferred Campbells.

      Course three -- a kobe beef burger that was lacking in a lot of elements. The meat was fine, cooked perfectly, but still - it was missing something. Bernie's, this is not.

      Finally, a bread pudding. Too dense, too dry. Blah.

      Topping it off was a 30 minute wait with reservations on a Tuesday, a waitress who couldn't be bothered, and a painfully loud dining experience. Needless to say, I won't be going back.

      Next up, Hugo's. Hugo's somehow flies under my radar. I'm not sure why. I go to brunch there three times a year, and love everything about it, but somehow it is never in the dinner rotation. Everything about this meal was spectacular. I started with a delicious salad with squash blossoms, followed with scallops, and finished things off with a fine goat cheese cake with peaches. Spot on service, delicious cocktails, Hugo's was a hit. The pastry chef here is the bomb - really impressed with the chocolate cake as well.

      Tony's was our final entry into this week's culinary hat trick. Nice big room, with lots of space between tables. Big art of the wall. Most of it bad in a non-Ruggles way, but similar somehow (dated?) Lots of servers. Lot of confusion. Lots of time between tea refills, large lags between seating and menu, the overpriced $15 cocktails (no prices on the drink menu).

      The food was good, and some of it was great. The pasta starter was delicious, if tiny (stuffed pasta with parmesan), and the tuna/avocado appetizer was even better. The duck was good if a little dry, the halibut delicious if a tad inoffensive. Desserts were a cheesecake with praline topping (great) and a chocolate devils cake that wasn't my style. If not for the service lapses, this would have been *very good*. Another note here: stick with the pastas. I ordered a side of the bombolotti, which turned out to be (you guessed it!) mac and cheese, and it was incredible. The restaurant week menu here is a steal, as normal prices would have been around $65-70 for the three courses. Drink at Poison Girl before you come here. For $15 bucks there, you can at least get an incredible whisky.

      So there you have it. Hugo's -- 9, Max's -- 3, Tony's -- 7.


      1. re: Mikeflan

        Nice wrap Mike! I've stayed away from Max's due to the chef's terrible hygenic habits in full view of customers that sit at the bar.. Hadn't been to Tony's in a while (lunch a couple of yrs ago),, a little too stuffy..

        I got stuck in McAllen on Friday and couldn't get back in time for my Brennen's reservation. I did make it to Philipp's on Post Oak on Saturday night.. The Veal Picatta entree was spectacular,, best veal i've ever had (my gf shared her's with me).. I had the short rib ravioli entree,, which was quite tasty resting on a deep brown sauce.. The apps were terrific, pate, a sushi roll and a soup choice,,, and for dessert,, had the best slice of key lime pie ever! Good looking crowd and restaurant..
        Onward,,, Trettoria Il Molina in the Weston for lunch,, Trulucks and Brasserie 19 this w/e..

    2. Started out with a bang today - lunch at Marks. It was excellent!
      I had the corn souffle and the seafood pasta. Both heavenly! My friend had the salad of summer fruits and the salmon - also great. The place was pretty busy for lunch so restaurant weeks (why don't they just call it restaruant month?) must be helping some.

      Look forward to reading everyone's reviews about their experiences.

      11 Replies
      1. re: DaTulip

        Yesterday lunch was at Benjy's in the Village and today was Sorrel.

        Benjy's - the tried & true lunch stop for us

        We both had the tuna tartare tacos to start. Excellent, if a bit of a large portion for me. I'd have preferred just 1 or 2 tacos as 3 put me over the edge for dessert.

        For main I had the crunchy nut crusted chicken. Very nicely done. Not at all dry and served with heavenly veggies - some of the best asparagus I've ever had. The only issue for me was again the portion size. In fact I'm having the remaining 1/2 for dinner tonight. My friend had the tuna Nicoise salad that looked good and she said was fresh.

        By dessert I was full, but had a few bites of my creme brulee - very good, and one of my friend's cherry bourbon bread pudiding - also good.

        All in all a satisfying meal. It will stay in the lunch rotation.

        Sorrel - This new resto (open about 3 weeks) is outstanding!
        It's gone into the space at the corner of W. Alabama & Greenbriar where something else (can't remember what) used to be.

        The Restaurant Week menu sounded a little uninspired, but I thought what the heck. Do note, a couple of things listed on the restaruant week site aren't on the menu and other things have been changed up.

        I chose the tomato soup, the sausage & peppers with pasta, and the grilled peach for dessert. My friend had the same starter and dessert, but had the smoked salmon arugula salad. Every dish hit the mark and then some!

        The tomato soup had a small dollop of creme freshe (sp?) and some lovely crunchy onions on top. There were chunks of tomato too in this light summer soup.

        The chef came out to tell us that the smoked salmon hadn't come in, but that my friend could have many other options to top her salad (scallops, shrimp, etc.). She chose the snapper. It was cooked perfectly and was great with the salad (I stole a small taste!).

        My main was not at all what I was expecting. I was thinking old school big kilbasa type sausage and peppers over spaghetti. It was nothing like that. It was a wonderful (I'm guessing made there) crumbly type sausage that was spiced beautifly. It was served over a bed of noodles, like an Italian stroganoff (without the cream sauce). It also had heirloom tomatoes rather than peppers. Maybe another kink with suppliers and being new, but it was great.

        The grilled peaches were a sublime summer dessert. Not too dried out and served with a zingy lemon sorbet and a light peach sauce drizzle. YUM!!

        The only odd piece of the meal was the wine we had by the glass. We each ordered a Chardonnay and strangely it tasted like applesauce in a glass. It wasn't aweful, just different. The server offered to exchange it, but we declined.

        I should note that the service was VERY professional. Helpful and watchful without hovering.

        An all around great experience. We will definately be back soon & often!

        1. re: DaTulip

          To each his own. I do not do the HRW, but rather contribute to the food pantry. These restaurants contribute $5 of your bill to the cause, and offer the bottom basement of their food. Send $20 in to the food bank and save yourself the trouble. You don't like the restaurant? It's because they are serving the worst they have! And if you don't like the staff, it's because they are overworked! Every year, it's the same conversation. Stop the madness!

          1. re: Lambowner

            Would disagree with you Lambowner... the restaurant week specials are often straight off the regular menu (i had a chance to compare last w/e and will again this w/e) and no matter,, i've had a chance to visit a few restaurants based on the lure of a scrumptous "specials" list offered and really haven't been disappointed. I had the meatball appetizer, Veal Marsala and canoli at Tratorria Il Molina at the Westin Hotel on Gessner for lunch the other day and it was absolutely terrific! The complimentary eggplant starter and breads were terrific. Service was attentive, not rushed.. $20 bucks,,, awesome!!!
            Viva Houston Restaurant Week!!

            1. re: Lambowner

              You are right, to each his own. I eat out almost every day at lunch spending an average of $15-20/day. I'm happy that in August at least a portion of that can go to a good cause. Not that it matters, but I also volunteer at the HFB several times a year and give directly as well.

              I disagree about the food quality. I do not think the restos give you "the worst they have". In fact, like Bornie I have had very good to excellent meals at all of the places I've been this year and in prior years. At a minimum I'd say you're at no more risk of hitting an off meal at these places during HRW that just a normal dining experience.

              1. re: DaTulip

                Agree to disagree. I give to lots of charities. I don't want to pay $35 just to give $5 to a charity and get rubber chicken and a three course meal I would never order otherwise. It's all a racket to promote restaurants. Seriously?? Send in your cash to the food bank!

                1. re: Lambowner

                  But Lambsy my dear, what you aren't taking into account is that not everyone can afford to eat at these types of restaurants every day. Having this promotion allows some of us to experience a restaurant, (hopefully several), that we might not otherwise get to.

                  That's not true for everyone of course, but I am certain that every service this month will find numerous first time diners in all of these restaurants.

                  And in the meantime, a certain portion goes to charity.

                  AND, to top it all off, our friends on this board will come back and report and we get to read about it and relish the meals vicariously.

                  It's a WIN-WIN-WIN situation for everyone concerned.

                  Unless they get a crappy meal, in which case charity still gets theirs, and we still get to hear about it.

                  In any case, you have to admit that it's good for Chowhounds, (all rights reserved).

                  After all even if one of our friends gets served a "rubbery piece of chicken" for charity, that's good info to have on a place.


                  1. re: DoobieWah

                    We did go to a restaurant this week that offered the HRW deal. The snapper I ordered was overcooked and worse, fishy. As in past it's prime. Did not do much for my opinion of this event. In this bad economy it seems unfair to comment on that, publicly naming the restaurant, as I imagine some restaurants feel pressured to join and lose money in an already low profit margin industry at a time when getting by is already hard. And yet, due to that experience, we won't likely go to that place again. Lose, Lose. Sorry for my downer attitude, but I don't get why people don't just donate a few dollars to the cause instead. Fund raising these days is all about getting something for your donation, which is not a donation. So be gone, all you elementary school silent auctions! Kidding, of course.

                2. re: DaTulip

                  Awesome experience at Trulucks last night.. GF and I enjoyed apps of Cesar and Crab and Corn chowder soup,, a Cioppino (seafood stew of mussels, calamari, crab, fish in a tomato broth on the reg menu for $26), I had the blackened Redfish Ponchartrain, a huge chunk of fish,, smothered in lump crabmeat and crawfish tails on a bed of a rice stuffing (on the regular menu for $34). Enjoyed flights of white wines (4 2oz samples of a mix of Spainish wines). Desserts of mini cupcakes consisting of one chocolate, one carrot cake,, w/coffee and,, 5 chocolate chip cookies (to go). This is a handsomely lit restaurant at night,, leather seats/booths, live background music coming from the bar side.. Terrific service (Debra)... Highly recommended,, an 11 on a 10 scale. BTW, Trulucks does a 1/2 price drink/food happy hour every night, I believe it starts at 430p-7pm daily. Will see what all the fuss is about at Brasserie 19 tonight..

                  1. re: bornie

                    Haven't been to Trulucks Houston in a while, glad to hear it's still great!
                    Look forward to your thoughts in B19 too. We liked the food, but nothing really stood out. Good wine list. Definately a see & be seen place. Valets made sure to park my VW away from the Mazaratis, ferraris, etc. :-)

                    1. re: DaTulip

                      B19 is a terrific restaurant DT!!!! Recently voted one of the best restaurants in Texas by Tex Monthly.. Just back,, app,, Diver Scallop brought tears to my eyes,, 10oz B19 Steak and frites ($$39 on reg menu 14oz's) and choc multon cake with whipped cream/icecream.. Bottle of Geyersville Zin 08 for $42. GF,, Trout, creme brulee and diver scallop.. Huge wine list of affordable wines... Terrific bar for noshing and drinks.. Open airy restaurant,, busy with RW dinners but very contolled and well managed.. I can see myself enjoying a big bowl of their famous B19 Onion Soup and a glass of red on future restaurants... Extensive wine list for everyone's pocket book,, $32 and up.. Can use the rest IPad to select at your leisure..

                      Finishing up restaurant week next wk at Marks for dinner,, then,,,, its back to Van Loc's for bowl of Bun,, Barnaby's for burgers, Paulie's for meatloaf and shrimp blt sandwich, Cafe Fendee, Niko Niko's, etc....

                      Its been expensive but fun to indulge in this month long food fest.... Back to reality soon!

                      I did try Greatful Taco's on Shepherd this afternoon for lunch.. Tasty, tacos,, of chx mole, beef w/sesame, carribean jerk chx! Terrific vibe,, 60's music from Fogerty to Jim Morrison,, young crowd.. Plenty of salsa varieties to satisify your personal "heat" range. service is friendly..

                      Van Loc Restaurant
                      3010 Milam St, Houston, TX 77006

                      Niko Niko's
                      2520 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006

                      1. re: bornie

                        Thought I would add my $0.02 about our HRW dinner at Stella Sola.

                        We had a "stella"-r meal! The cocktails were decent and different from the usual. Wife had the pappardelle app which was very tasty - nice pasta, bright flavors with olives. I had the marrow, and it was the largest marrow app I've seen. i have liked Max and Julie's version in the past. Tried it at Catalan last, and it was dreadful - the marrow tasted like it had been in the freezer for a year. But Stella's was plate-lickin' awesome. Served with some toast and a pickled slaw/relish that cut the richness of the marrow perefectly. I highly recommend the NB Ranger IPA to go with it. For mains she had the Berkshire pork loin, which was very good, though a tad overdone for my taste. I had the Texas quail stuffed with suckling pig - the stuffing could have been seasoned more robustly, but the quail was donw well.

                        And then the desserts - I had the pistachio pound cake. Wife had the affogato - salted caramel gelato, candied walnuts, with a chocolate espresso sauce. And the portion was LARGE. I could have had just her dessert and gone home happy. Come to think of it, I did eat quite a bit of it.

                        The waiter was attentive but not hovering. We sat outside since the inside was loud and we weren't in the mood for the noise. We had a very pleasant evening, and would definitely go back. Everything we had tasted fresh and was also on their regular menu. We even got a peek at the brunch menu and we are thinking of trying it some Sunday.

                        Highly recommended for HRW... and even after.

                        Stella Sola
                        1001 Studewood, Houston, TX 77008

          2. Went to Brennan's today with a nice group. Food was outstanding as was the service. Most had the HRW menu with the turtle soup & shrimp with grits or the pork. Some ordered off the menu - soup of tge day (crab & corn bisque) & beef Bourguigogne. Oh my! We all shared if course. Three lovely lagniappes too - the fried oyster French toast, a small mint julip, & a scallop stuffed with chicken fried bacon over a nice risotto with bacon gastric. I'm stuffed, but can't wait to go back!

            4 Replies
            1. re: DaTulip

              Brennan's was on my list but couldnt make it darn!!! maybe i can still pull it out.. Did ya see any rubber chx around?

              1. re: DaTulip

                DaTulip - were you at my table? Alex visited us to say hello, and all those amuse bouche were served to me too. It was a shame to skip the traditional Bananas Foster for dessert but OMG I was stuffed!

                1. re: Cheflambo

                  That was me. I was there with my two work friends who are both in the Houston CH group. What a great time! Thanks for organizing!

                  Bornie - no rubber chicken in sight.

              2. the $$$ #'s r in,,, Houston Restaurant Week (month) brought in $800k to the Houston Food Bank. A nice financial boost to a increasingly needy organization.. Congrats to all the restaurants that participated and its patrons!