verdict: friendly service, creative & good food, high recommend
it was a last minute decision to go to gravitas for the fourth HRW meal in a row this week. this was my first visit back to the restaurant in over a year in a half after a horrible experience with a bartender. i was a little hesitant about returning, but the HRW menu looked incredible and the restaurant is only a few blocks from my house. i ordered off the HRW menu, but my dining companion ordered off the regular menu.
first of all, when seated we did not receive HRW menus. the hostess said she would inform our server that we wanted the HRW special. the dining room was loud as usual. our server said the menus weren't printed and since i already knew what was on the HRW menu from reading it off the HRW website, i told her to just tell my friend. it was hard hearing her through all the din. if i didn't already know what was on the menu, i would have been annoyed. later we realized the menu was written on the large chalkboard along the wall. however, the descriptions and sides were omitted.
i had the shaved calamari and cucumber salad with lime aioli. the calamari was fried. the cucumbers were shaved lengthwise and a little soggy. the calamari was lukewarm, but still it was not a bad dish. there was noticeable acid and a mayo/aioli based sauce. the dish could have been amazing though if they deseeded the cukes or figured out a way to make them retain their crispness. the dish was creative though so i'm not complaining.
i was told the pork shoulder option was better, but i was in a seafood mood so i ordered the oven baked idaho trout which was a large portion and wonderful. the corn risotto was much tastier than the summer risotto at VOICE and the sauteed black kale was fab.
chocolate marshmellow tart was quite good and the marshmellows looked homemade, but our plate had peanut butter ice cream instead of the advertised bourbon ice cream. when we inquired about the missing bourbon ice cream, the server left to find out and returned telling us it was 86-ed, so they sent out some bailey's ice cream too.
much to my delight, we also got the steak tartare as an appetizer and it is hands down the best steak tartare i've had in houston. i am a raw protein fiend. there was not much detectable mustard in the dish but lots of reggiano. more shaved reggiano and baby greens topped the puck of raw meat. the crisp toast points were a good size and thickness.
my friend also ordered the grilled sea scallops with pancetta and roasted cauliflower. the cauliflower was a nice touch and i enjoyed the small amount of the dish that i tasted.
our server was friendly and patient while we enjoyed a leisurely meal. everything about the night was redeeming and made me look forward to my next meal there.
other chowhounds share their experiences elsewhere...
VOICE @ hotel icon
VERDICT: good service, good experience
review by S.L.
"Went to Voice tonight for HRW menu. It was good. The mushroom cappuccino is clever in presentation and tastes great. Wife had fish, I had the sous vide pork (flat iron steak was 3rd option-no thanks). Fish was good, definitely good with the sauce. The pork was exactly as someone else described it, basically not great. Really,they probably should have chosen a much fattier piece of pork (Berkshire?). The pasta stuff underneath with pancetta was great, could have eaten a lot more of that.
Dessert was the all spice ice cream with cake (interesting) and the vanilla with chocolate filled cake (ok). Service was pretty good, and the layout there was nice. I remember when it was called Bank, and it was a bit stuffier then, though the food was ok as well. Voice seems more of a lateral move, though the mushroom cappuccino makes me think they can really do something special if they wanted. Smart move showing us the rest of the menu, and would consider going back one day. Bar looks smart too."
review by K.D.
"I was also there tonight, and the one comment I want to make has to do with the stuffiness. The music was wildly eclectic from lenny kravitz to david bowie. I thought it was great. There was even scissor sisters in the bathroom!
We had each food at our table and no one didn't like anything, thought the salad was just a salad."
cafe annie (review by racheldowntown)
verdict: great service, not worth it
"A group of 4 of us went to Café Annie last night for the HRW. We were promptly seated, our waiter was very nice- service was great all night. We got a bottle of Vincent Vouvray at $39, so not too bad. The food, on the other hand, did not impress- I could have made every single dish at home. They definetly took their cheapest items and put them on the HRW menu.
We had the tortilla soup and potato soup, both of which were watered down and had no substance. The tortilla soup had no vegetables or chicken, just diced avocados and some measly tortilla strips. Took 2 sips and didn't eat any more. I got the shrimp entrée-5 large grilled shrimp with no flavor. I came with a spinach, jalapeno, onion, and watermelon salad. So random. Hubby got the flank steak topped with avocado puree which came with denny's like skillet potatoes. His steak was much better than my soggy shrimp- had a nice smokey flavor. The potatoes were so bad I asked for ketchup- ketchup at Café Annie!!
My dessert was berry cobbler with mascarpone cheese-it was a muffin- no joke. I am a dessert freak and I ate 2 bites and put my fork down- a FIRST in my book! James got the icecream sundae which was a scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, choc sauce, and some type of sweet bread that was a cross between pound cake and biscotti. I left unsatisfied with the food and value for the money- the crowd is good if you want to hang with River Oaks socialites, but not my scene at all.
Overall- I would not go back unless I was on expense account. Then I would order the most flamboyant items on the menu like fois gras……..bc their lower ticket items simply did not shine. We went home and I made a snack- after spending $115 for 2 people. Sad!"