saga food & wine

3017 milam St @ anita

went to saga food & wine last night in midtown brought to us by chef polo becerra of post oak grill and polo's signature. restaurant was slow except for 2 large parties on a friday night at 9 pm. we sat on the patio which was comfortable and had a nice ambiance. the food menu was presented on 2 stapled sheets of zeroxed white paper. the wine list, in a leather bounded binder, is impressive and the prices are even more amazing. we had 2 bottles of champagne, a moet white star for $50 and veuve cliquot for $57.

we only had appetizers, 2 of them were wonderfully executed. the lamb lollipops app is small (2 pieces) but cooked to a perfect medium rare and tasty. the lobster ravioli special of the day was better than the ravioli special at da marco’s where we dined for lunch that same day. the pasta was homemade and it was apparent in the taste and texture. it was rich, decadent, and amazing. the soup of the day, a chicken poblano chowder was dull and uninteresting. the vibe inside the main dining room is awkward. the decor is lacking and the huge refrigerator case, which contained bottles of wine and gelato, casts a harsh glare of fluorescent lighting. the wine prices and patio will lure me back for a full meal.

updated on 5/13/08: drove by saga today and they have rebranded as post oak grill midtown. what a shame that their new concept restaurant didn't succeed.


rudi lechner's

2503 s. gessner rd @ westheimer

rudi lechner's is a german restaurant on the west side of town. i went with a group of 5 friends the night before thanksgiving. we wanted to do something different and buffets just have a way of making my friend paul's eyes light up. that wednesday they were offering the $13.95 oktoberfest buffet. the goulash, 3 types of sausage, and roasted chicken were delicious. the salad bar was boring, the rouladen was a disappointment. it was dry and flavorless, although it looked sensational. the schnitzel was a little tough and dry -- i'm sure it's better made to order. the roasted potatoes and spaetzel were bland, the red cabbage was pretty good.

the band was cheesy and very loud from where we were sitting, but fun and added to the festive atmosphere. we had a great time, especially with the $2.50 draft beer special, but i won't be back anytime soon. this was a novelty dinner (we weren't expecting too much from the food). and it's just too far of a drive from inside the loop.


this is it! soul food

207 gray nr. bagby

"this is it soul food" is in the large shack next door to front porch pub in midtown. it is a cafeteria style restaurant w/ huge portions. choose 1 entree and 3 sides for about $11 -- a little pricey in my opinion, especially for a divey joint like this, but leftovers will be enough for another meal.

the oxtails and chicken and dumplings are both excellent, although greasy choices. they also have chicken fried steak, smothered fried chicken, fried catfish, blackened catfish, apricot glazed chicken, chitterlings, pork chops and much more on their menu which changes each day. some of the sides could be a lot better. the brown gravy on the mashed potatoes still can't mask the taste of instant potatoes. the green beans still taste canned even though they are joined by bits of bacon and onions. the mac and cheese is bland and could use a sharper cheese. the dirty rice is just too dirty for me (although i'm not complaining about that). but this is still some great comfort food.

the neighborhood used to be known as freedman's town or the fourth ward, which was houston's "harlem." the restaurant has not only survived the gentrification of the area, but must be quite successful since they are building a new restaurant next door that they will be moving into. i think they will be able to attract more midtowners after the new place opens. the existing place is a dump, although i think it has a lot of character and is charming in it's own way.

bistro calais

2811 bammel ln b/w w. alabama & richmond

i was excited about trying out this casual french bistro in the upper kirby area. i'm a total sucker for french food and my friend who just moved across the street said she loved the place. i did some research on their website, the prices looked reasonable, the menu interesting, and the restaurant itself very charming and quiant. i wasn't expecting an awful experience, but it happened just the same.

first of all, it took 10-15 mins to be greeted at our table. when we asked if we could order a half portion of the sweetbreads entree as an appetizer, our server assured us it would be no problem. 30 mins later when the appetizer should have been hitting our table, he came back to tell us the kitchen would make us a half order but would charge us full price. so we asked to see the menu again. he disappeared and it took 10-15 mins for him to come by the table again.

since they were out of escargot which he told us the first time we ordered, i opted for the french onion soup and my friend ordered the coconut shrimp w/ peanut sauce, which was on the daily specials menu. both of these dishes were terrible. the gruyere on top of the soup was excellent -- perfectly broiled into warm and chewy goodness, with the sharp and nutty flavor of a good gruyere, but the broth was remarkably sour. i was shocked b/c even the french onion soup at bennigan's (which i recall eating 10 years ago) was better than this version. my guest's coconut shrimp ended up being 4 battered and deep fried shrimp with coconut sprinkled on top. the peanut sauce was thick and sweet. the dish was confusing and heavy.

for entrees, my rack of lamb which was supposed to be served in a mint sauce arrived in a pool of brown acid. at this point, i started wondering if my taste buds were off, but my friend, who teaches food operations at the hilton college, confirmed that i was right. it was the first time i had rack of lamb that was almost inedible. when i mentioned it to our server, he seemed annoyed and said he would take it off our bill and walked off very rudely.

my friend had the roasted duck breast which came out chewy. it was still pink in the middle, so i was confused how it could be chewy. it was obviously cooked perfectly at some point, then sliced and sat under a salamander or in an oven too long waiting come to the table.

although the waiter was surly and generally annoyed with us, he comped our wine and the lamb off our bill. we tipped him well, so we didn't have to feel bad about never coming here again. we should have gone to cafe rabalais or brasserie max and julie.
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