Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Great Expectations for Lunch at Feast

Today M. and I went out to celebrate my birthday. Yes it was back in April, but good things come to those that wait. At the recommendation of my new found Houston Chowhound friends (see links on the side), we went to Feast for their three course lunch, priced at $22. I had great expectations, not only because of the discussion regarding where I should go for a special birthday lunch, but another member had written about her marvelous experience at a wine dinner there last night.

We had 11:30 a.m. lunch reservations, usually we eat early to miss the crowds, but we picked a day that there were no crowds (there should be, but I am getting ahead of myself.) Feast is located in an old house on Westheimer in the Montrose section. Immediately upon entering one feels transported to the old world charm of Europe. Nothing felt hurried and we had a chance to really dine.

M. and I both ordered a glass of Albert Bichot Pinot Noir, 2006. The bottle was presented to us, we were given a taste and then generous portions were poured. It was a lovely wine, my only complaint is that it was room temperature, which is to warm for me in Houston. At $8.50 it was the most expensive wine by the glass I am not complaining, just noting) and for $29 one could have the whole bottle, which is more then I dare drink in the afternoon. There were several reasonably priced bottles to choose from, if one was interested.

Please see below for the complete lunch menu today.

For appetizers, M. choose the salad of fennel, pears, peppers and cilantro. It was a wonderful melody of flavors and textures. The one bite I had just oozed a mixture in my mouth of tastes that blended together in harmony, yet maintained a certain distinctiveness that added to the taste sensation. I had the scallop and monkfish escabeche with almonds and caperberries. If I may digress, escabeche is similar to ceviche, seafood in an acidic marinade, but from the recipes I found on the internet, escabeche uses poached fish and in ceviche the fish is cooked by the marinade. Back to my dish, the escabeche was wonderful; the blend of the tangy sweet and slightly tart marinade with the fresh taste of the scallops and monkfish was a melding of delight on my palate. At this point I was happy to call it a day, as I had eaten enough food already.

But no, I continued on to the main course. M. had the salmon, fennel, and red potato served in an aluminum foil sack. For some reason I never tasted it, but I smelled it (perhaps because I was engrossed in my own dish), but she raved about the smell as she opened the parcel and then the taste as she gobbled down every bite. I am sure her dish was good, but mine was over the top.

Before coming to Feast, I kept thinking about going to a British restaurant. All I could think about was fish and chips and Indian food, certainly not haute cuisine. I thought of the old joke:

Heaven is where the Police are British, the Chefs are French, the Mechanics are German, the Lovers Italian and it's all organized by the Swiss.
Hell is where the Chefs are British, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, the Police are German and it's all organized by the Italians.

But this is not just a British restaurant, it is more of an eclectic continental one with a huge nod towards Spanish (as in Spain) cuisine. In fact I thought this restaurant was too out there for M. She admitted, despite having traveled widely all over the world, that she is not an adventuresome eater and had some trepidation about the food at Feast. I say all this as a preamble to the description of my main course. I ordered the duck leg with sweet bread ragout, braised leeks, and potato cake. The meat had been removed from the duck leg and was nestled on top of perfectly cooked sweetbreads laid on a potato cake and covered and surrounded by a delicately flavored ragout cream sauce.

I had gone to heaven and the chef was British and the joke was wrong.

How do I describe my first bite, the mixture of slightly gamey, stringy duck, with the crispness and softness of the sweetbread covered by the cream sauce? (I could not get the potato cake in the same bite.) It was a spectacular sensation of multiple textures and marvelous flavor with not one over competing for the other, not one demanding too much attention, together a chorus of delight rang out on my palate. I wanted to lick the plate at the very end, besides the fact that it is gauche, I had dessert coming up and I had not a clue how I could eat another bite.

For dessert I had the chocolate mousse cake. It came on a bed of warm cream. It was not too sweet and while I would have been happy to end such a meal with fruit, it was a wonderful finale to a spectacular meal. M. had the bitter orange tart with custard. I might have ordered this, but I never feel it is a birthday meal, if I do not have chocolate for dessert. Hers was a wise choice. The bitter orange tart was two slices of orange on pastry with just enough sweetness in it to not be to bitter. I liked the accompanying custard, but M. didn’t care for it, I suspect because it was not the traditional sweet custard we are use to. We finished off with coffee, served in French Presses. Can you believe we dined for almost two hours? I had been transported to Europe.

I do not know why the place is not teaming with people, except that I surmise it has to do with economy. The meal was outstanding, the service not hurried and the atmosphere cordial and inviting.

Between you and me, I ate so much for lunch, I feel like I may never be hungry again. lol

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Today's Menu

Lunch - Wednesday July 23

Pork, Cous Cous and Harissa Soup $6.95

Fish Soup with Rouille and Croutons $7.95

Salad of Fennel, Pears, Peppers and Cilantro $6.25

Scottish Smoked Salmon, Horseradish and Dill $9.95

Scallop and Monkfish Escabeche with Almonds and Caperberries $8.95

Red Cabbage and Pork Salad with Capers and Parsley $6.95

Brawn and Picalilli $7.95

Terrine of Pork, Prunes and Sweetbreads $6.95

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Lamb Shank Pie with Kale and Anchovies $18.95

Salmon, Fennel and Red Potato Parcel $18.95

Pork Confit Tart, Duchess Potatoes and Braised Celery Hearts $17.95

Fish Pie: Cod Sole and Salmon in a Cream Sauce, topped with Mash, served with Minted Peas $17.95

Braised Beef Shank with Prunes, Mushroom Risotto and Roasted Eggplant $19.95

Faggot: Giant Pork Meatball, Mashed Potato and Grilled Zucchini $17.95

Duck Leg and Sweetbread Ragout, Long Beans and Potato Cake $19.95

Tongue in Breast: Beef Tongue rolled in Pork Breast, Potato Gratin and Braised Leeks $19.95

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Cherry and Clotted Cream Ice Cream $5.95

Lime and Angostura Sorbet $5.95

Honey Wheat Cake with Butterscotch Sauce $5.95

Pear and Ginger Crumble with Custard $7.95

Chocolate Mousse Cake $6.95

Bitter Orange Tart $6.45

Set Lunch: 3 courses for $22


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Let me be the first to congratulate you on your new blog. I throughly enjoyed your descriptions of the food and I can not wait until I taste some of the food myself.

neverfull said...

welcome to bloggerdom! great review. that duck leg & sweetbread dish looks and sounds heavenly!

Food Princess said...

Thank you - I have been blogging for a while, but this is my first public one. Glad you enjoyed the review, soon you will be talking about food as a first hand experience again.

Misha said...

It's beyond comprehension that Feast doesn't have a huge crowd every night. I think it's one of the best restaurants in town.