Archive for category He Said…She Said

He Said, She Said: Zelko Bistro

Monthly Feature
Time for another He Said, She Said for Carrie and me. Here’s how it works:
* We went to the same Houston-area restaurant at different times.
* It’s our first time eating at the restaurant.
* We read no previous reviews.
* Carrie wrote the review, and I react.

Atmosphere (4) The interior of Zelko Bistro immediately puts you in a calm, happy place. Bright and airy, the décor is simple with dark tables and banquettes contrasting with the light walls. Much of the interior is recycled or refurbished, including the bar and light fixtures. My only complaint was that the quaint interior resulted in tables that were VERY close together, as in 4 inches between our table and that of the neighbor to my left. Luckily, she was wearing some nice perfume! There is a nice patio area with 4 or 5 tables outside which allows for more elbow room.
The React: (4) Completely agree with everything Carrie wrote. Beautiful interior, but the tables are so close together. There was quite a wait when we went, so we sat outside in the covered patio area–well spaced tables.

Menu Selection (4) While Zelko Bistro may not have the lengthiest menu, it touts a variety of local, sustainable offerings. The single-page dinner menu offered a variety of salads, a couple of sandwiches, and 11 entrees (plus 2 off menu options), ranging from meatloaf to fish tacos to short ribs braised in Saint Arnold’s root beer. All sounded delicious. And the dessert menu? The 7 decadent sounding treats (OK…5 sounded decadent, but that’s only because I don’t really believe that macerated fruit or a cheese plate count as dessert) made it difficult for us to choose just two!
The React (4) Again, she’s dead on. Zelko didn’t have the biggest of menus, but they did have a nice variety. We went for brunch/lunch. I had fish tacos, Sara had the fried chicken, and Natalie got the potato soup. Pretty good variety.

Pricing (3.5) Entrees from $12 to $16, with the ribeye costing $22. Desserts were $6. Our meal of a shared two entrees, two desserts and two glasses of wine came to $65 with gratuity. I would normally give this a much higher rating for pricing, but the portion size was rather small. My husband’s crab cake was just that…A, as in 1, crab cake. No sides…unless you’re counting the one piece of frissee under it. Other entrees looked like they came with starch and veggies; however, I would suggest ordering a starter or salad with your entrée.
The React (3.5) Sorry, no controversy here…I agree with her again. Listen, were the prices high? Yes. But, given the area of town, quality of food, and trendiness of it all, you gotta expect this. My fish tacos were $12. Way overpriced, but I get it.

Taste (4.5) The delicious meal just left us wanting more! Even the bread to begin the meal was delish…bits of herby, grated-cheese covered goodness. I ordered the shrimp and grits and as mentioned, Warren had the crab cake. Both were scrumptious! The four shrimp were well cooked and seasoned. Maybe a bit on the salty side, but I’m a salt lover, so they were right up my alley. I’ve never been a fan of grits, but thought I should try this dish, and am I glad I did! The cheesy grits were creamy with bits of bacon and surrounded by a sweet soy sauce that mixed with the grits perfectly. The crab cake was very, well, crabby, with very little filler. And, again, the sauces – a sweet soy and a spicy Thai chili – were perfect accompaniments. Since we were not exactly stuffed, we shared the lemon icebox cake and the strawberry cream cake. Yum and yum!
The React (3.5) FINALLY! We disagree. My tacos looked beautiful, but unfortunately, were just way too salty. The pineapple salsa on top was a nice touch, but not enough to distract me from the salty tilapia. Sara’s fried chicken was excellent, and the potato soup probably was the most well-executed dish on the table.

Service (5) Our waiter was extremely knowledgeable. In addition to detailed descriptions of the dishes, he provided recommendations for both food and wine. The attentive staff also ensured that a glass was never in need of water and that an empty plate never sat in front of a diner.
The React (4) As mentioned, we were outside, actually the only people in the areas. At times, we were forgotten about. But, all and all, the service was solid.

Overall Opinion (4.5) This very “Height-sy” restaurant serves great food in a beautiful atmosphere. And, you’ve got to love supporting a restaurant that is doing it’s part to support the community. We will definitely be going back, but will surely be ordering an appetizer or two!
The React (4) My dish really disappointed, but not enough for me to trash this place. I was very excited about my first visit to this very popular Houston restaurant, but in the end…I just ordered wrong. The next time around, I will definitely get the shrimp and grits. If you’re looking for good fish tacos, please go across the street to Berryhill’s.


He Said, She Said: Feast

Monthly Feature
Mondays are dedicated to restaurant reviews. This week, you get two opinions for the price of one. Time for another He Said, She Said for Carrie and me.

Here’s how it works:
* For the first time ever, we went to the restaurant at the same time.
* It’s our first time eating at the restaurant.
* We read no previous reviews.
* I wrote the review, and Carrie reacts.

Atmosphere: 3
Feast was a charming, converted house located on Westheimer. Decorations were sparse, but the classic accents (stained glass windows) gave the place a nice, homey feel.
The React: 4
I really liked the “less is more” approach to the decor. This place is cozy and gave you the impression that you were about to eat some delicious, simply prepared food.

Menu Selection: 4
Feast is all about offering various eccentric dishes that you wouldn’t normally find in restaurants. They had a nice selection of appetizers and diverse entree options. The menu changes often, but there are “Feast Favorites” that are standard to the menu. Good selection of various meats, but probably not the best place for a vegetarian.
The React: 3
Although there is a variety, the menu felt a little like variations on the bizarre. I don’t think that I am a picky eater…maybe not very adventurous, but not very finicky, and only 3-4 entrees I even considered ordering. The soups sounded yummy though.

Pricing: 1
Feast has several accolades under its belt. With that, usually comes higher prices. Factor in unique ingredients, along with it being a smaller restaurant in a trendy part of town, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for higher prices. For example, I paid $25 for pork cheeks.
The React: 1
I agree. The pricing was sort of what I expected given the hype, but after eating, I could think of several things I’d rather do with that $80.

Taste: 2
My pork dish was well above average. The meat was very tasty and tender. The sides were excellent as well. The problem came when I sampled my co-diners’ meals. Warren got the barracuda. As exciting as the fish was to talk about before it arrived at the table, it was just as boring to eat. It was a mild fish, cooked well…but severely lacking in the taste department. Plus, with all the bones, it looked like a bitch to eat. Carrie ordered the fish and scallop pie. This was a complete train wreck. One bite was all I needed and wanted–thick and again, tasteless. Sara ordered the liver. I have an aversion to liver, so didn’t try any. I overheard Sara use the word “Luby’s” in describing it. Almost forgot, we ordered the scallops and the meatballs for appetizers. Both were not good. Scallops didn’t taste like scallops and the meatballs were dry.
The React: 2
Again, in agreement. Nothing was particularly bad, but everything was sort of bland and lacked any oomph. My fish and scallop pie had the potential to be delicious. A layer bubbly, browned cheese covered a layer of mashed potatoes and then the main filling. Unfortunately, that was where the love affair ended. Nothing had any discernable flavor. And the barracuda Warren ordered? The bared teeth were the most exciting part of that dish. Tender and well cooked, but seriously lacking in any herbs or spices.

Service: 4.5
Nice, attentive waiter. He did drop water on me, and also a fork during dinner. But I’m not holding that against him. One negative, he said something like: “glad you enjoyed your dinner”. I don’t remember saying that I did.
The React: 4
While the waiter was certainly very knowledgeable, I will hold the dropping of things and his inattention to our actual comments against him. And, although the water was a “refill your own glass with the bottle on the table” situation, I would have appreciated him refilling the glasses. After all, it’s the little things…

Overall Opinion: 2
I probably over-hyped Feast. I was very excited about going (it was on my Houston restaurant bucket list), but it just didn’t live up to the expectations. The prices were way too high, the taste was way too low. I won’t be going back.
The React: 2
I, also, really wanted to like Feast. The concept of locally grown/raised food certainly appeals to me…too bad the food didn’t.


He Said, She Said: Mockingbird Bistro

French toast with bacon

Monthly Feature
Mondays are dedicated to restaurant reviews. This week, you get two opinions for the price of one. Time for another He Said, She Said for Carrie and me.

Here’s how it works:
* We went to the same Houston-area restaurant at different times.
* It’s our first time eating at the restaurant.
* We read no previous reviews.
* Carrie wrote the review, and I react.

Atmosphere (5)
Mockingbird Bistro has a sort of casual, trendy-goth feel; dark and romantic with unique features, such as gargoyles throughout. Nice bar with a small lounge area. The tables are simply set giving the dining room a neat and clean feel.
The React (4.5): I agree, beautiful decor. I loved the exposed brick, and the tile behind the bar was nice. Heck, the bar itself was nice. Would have given a 5, but it was just a tad too goth and a little too dark inside the restaurant.

Menu Selection (4)
As a meat eater, I found the menu selection to be more than adequate with many creative and yummy sounding choices. However, my vegetarian friends may be limited to soup and salad, as there were no vegetarian entrees on the current menu. According to the website, the menu is updated seasonally, so maybe there will be more options for our veggie-loving friends on the next menu. The current menu offers several appetizer options from the omnipresent calamari to the less common veal sweetbreads. Entrees ranged from salmon to a kobe beef burger, crispy duck breast to a braised lamb shank. There is a large wine list with plenty of by-the-glass options.
The React (5): Carrie is dead-on with this, especially with the impressive selection of starters. We went for brunch, but they also had the lunch menu available.

Pricing (4.5)
Appetizers range from $8 (onion soup) to $23 (fois gras); Entrees from $21 (chicken, of course) to $36 (tuna, steak, lamb). Our meal of a shared appetizer, two entrees, a shared dessert and two glasses of wine came to $150 with gratuity.
The React (3): It’s hard for me to react to her prices because we went at a different time of day. I ordered the French toast ($12). Felt like $10, even given the nice setting. Sara’s Mountain trout was a ridiculous $21 for lunch.

Taste (5)
SO good! Our calamari (yes, I know…not very daring) was some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Maybe it was the graham crackers that the chef adds to the coating? The crispy, light breading and tender squid served with a sweet soy glaze and spicy remoulade were delicious. Our entrees also hit the mark. My scallops had a nice crust but were melt-in-your-mouth tender. The parsnip puree was a unique side topped with a nice little bundle of asparagus wrapped in bacon. And, as we all know, everything is better with bacon! My hubby’s 16 oz bone-in ribeye special was a perfect medium and well seasoned. The sides of broccolini au gratin and mashed potatoes with cheese, sour cream, and bacon were outstanding. Our flourless chocolate cake – like eating the center of a truffle – was the perfect VERY rich, chocolaty ending to an amazing meal.
The React (3): Our meal could not get any more average. Nothing was bad and nothing stood out. The best thing I had were the complimentary, pre-meal frites. Those were delicious. I’ve had better French toast at IHOP and Sara’s trout was moist, flavorful, but overall–boring. In all fairness, due to her shellfish allergy, it was lacking a crawfish sauce.

Mountain trout

Service (5)
Mockingbird Bistro’s service was topnotch. There was a slight seating snafu when we first arrived, as it appeared that several groups came to dine at the same time, resulting in a backup at the door. When the chef saw this situation, he immediately directed several of the wait staff to assist in seating guests. Our waiter was very friendly, offering suggestions and seemed to take real interest in our dining experience. He also went out of his way to surprise my husband with his pre-ordered birthday dessert.
The React (5): Great service. Our waiter was still in training and he did a fine job. They even had someone there to hold the door open to lead you into the bathrooms. Nice touch. Although, I’m always a little freaked out when there’s more people working in the restaurant than there are customers….this was the case.

Overall Opinion (5)
I love, love, love Mockingbird Bistro! Unique atmosphere, outstanding food and impeccable service make me wish every day were a special occasion and reason to enjoy a culinary treat.
The React (3): I’d go back for a drink, but nothing about the food made me want to make a return visit. There’s just too many other quality restaurants in that area that offer a superior product at comparable prices.

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He Said, She Said: NOE

Sea Bass

Monthly Feature
Mondays are dedicated to restaurant reviews. This week, you get two opinions for the price of one. Time for another He Said, She Said for Carrie and me. But we’re changing things up!

Here’s how it works:

* We went to the same Houston-area restaurant at different times.
* It’s our first time eating at the restaurant.
* We read no previous reviews.
* I wrote the review, and Carrie gave her React.

Atmosphere: 1 Star
How does a restaurant in one of the nicer hotels in the city get one star? Because they had a private party the night we went, closed down about 80% of the restaurant and shoved us to the side next to a bachelorette party. There was nothing special about this typical hotel setting restaurant.

The React: 3 Stars
Granted, I, too expected more of Noe…but 1 star? The restaurant is intimate, dimly light, but very hotel-y. Nothing outstanding, but it’s not as if there were cockroaches crawling on the walls…

Menu Selection: 0 Star
Wow, my first zero star EVER! NOE had almost no appetizers (pretty much just salads), limited entrees, and no desserts. Oh, and because of the all the parties in the hotel that night, no specials.

The React: 2.5 Stars
Wow…Kevin’s tough. 0 stars? Really? I, too, anticipated a more extensive menu, especially for appetizers. However, there were several entree options ranging from chicken to fish and several cuts of beef. The sides all sounded yummy (I think there were 6 or 7 options) and the dessert menu featured about 8 desserts ranging from chocolate mousse to our choice, the bananas foster ice cream cake. One gripe about the wine list…while there were extensive bottle options, the by-the-glass options were only listed by type, leaving me feeling like we were being fleeced even more than usual on the wine.

Pricing: 0 Star
I ordered the Bison Short Ribs…$27! And they tasted no better than just about any barbeque I’d ever eaten. They screamed average! The meat was tender, but damn, $27! Our bottle of Messina Hof was $35. We dropped nearly $200 for average food.

The React: 2 Stars
I agree that for the quality of food, the price was high. And, I’m never a fan of having to order sides separately. It was expensive and nothing was outstanding.

Taste: 2 Stars
My wedge salad was delicious, as was my creamed spinach. The short ribs, as stated, were just there…nothing special, and very fatty. Sara’s sea bass was potato crusted and fairly tasty. I tried a bite of our friend’s steak. Guess what? Average.

The React: 2.5 Stars
My entree was definitely the highlight. A large portion of perfectly cooked sea bass with a crunchy potato crust. Delish! It was served with yummy asparagus and squash and carrots that were so undercooked that I couldn’t even eat them. Warren’s ribeye was very average. We both felt that we’d had better from some of the better chain steakhouses in the area…sad! Our sides of garlic, jalapeño smashed potatoes and the vegetable casserole both had good flavor, but the casserole needed about 10 more minutes in the oven, as the center was room temp. Our bananas foster ice cream cake…so good!

Service: 5 Stars
Our waiter was the best part about the evening (our company as well). He had a nice sense of humor, was honest, and very attentive. If only the food had matched his level of service.

The React: 3 Stars
Again, nothing outstanding. Our waiter was very polite, but really offered nothing else to our meal.

Overall Opinion: 1.5 Stars
Average food, boring atmosphere, and high prices…I’m never going back to NOE. Ever.

The React: 2.5 Stars
Very average overall experience. But, like Kevin said, when you’re dropping this much on a meal, it had better be something special. This was not.

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