Fish by Steak
No, really, the main reason Chow, Baby hadn’t yet checked out Sam & Harry’s was the state of the wallet: thin. Sam & Harry’s has your basic steakhouse à la carte menu, wherein you think, “$35 for a rib-eye, well, OK, I guess,” but then you also have to pony up $7 for mushrooms and $7 for mashed potatoes and $8 for asparagus. If Chow, Baby’s gonna drop $57 on a steak dinner, it’ll go to Fred’s and get three of them.
But last week was Restaurant Week, and like everybody else Chow, Baby loves to get all gussied up, have a fancy meal, and get out with a bill in the double digits (or it would have been, if the beloved hadn’t decided to also taste-test most of the 50 wines available by the glass). First impression: Yay, the lovely and vivacious Laquintha Robinson (Readers’ Choice Best Host 2004) is still in the house! Second impression: Where’s this rumored quarter-million in renovation bucks? A new coat of paint, photos of supposedly famous people, and a missing fireplace were the only changes Chow, Baby noticed as we were led to the VIP (or so Chow, Baby likes to think) area behind the bar. Third impression: Not good. In an upscale steakhouse you expect efficient, classy, unobtrusive service (you know, like you get at Blade’s). What we got was the goofy earnestness of Woody Harrelson in Cheers, except with less basic competence.
Some of the Restaurant Week items are not on the regular menu, and in the case of the twin medallions of beef that’s a good thing: one adequate, the other overcooked to toughness, served with a clashing, too-sweet Maker’s Mark sauce and a surprisingly bland mustard cream sauce. The mashed potatoes were old-people food. The garnish of limp fried onions made Chow, Baby weep for Chef Brian Olenjack’s crispy red-onion strings. The whole plate lacked imagination and execution-and presentation, for that matter. Chow, Baby would have fallen asleep but for the rousing perfection of the adored one’s grilled salmon filet, a large, burstingly fresh, perfectly cooked piece of fish served with a charismatic lime-cilantro aioli. Sam & Harry’s makes a bragging point of their “jet-fresh” seafood, and if this salmon is representative, Chow, Baby will give the boys another chance – after they’ve trained their servers and located the spice rack.
How quickly we forget: For the third time in a month, most recently at La Flor de Acapulco (3025 Cleburne Rd.), Chow, Baby found itself exclaiming, “Damn! I didn’t know guacamole could be this good!” When in fact, if it’s done right (lime! lots of lime!), it’s good every time. La Flor does lots of things right, particularly in the seafood arena: cilantro- and avocado-topped ceviche ($4.25); delicate-brothed, big-shrimp soup ($4.50); a big platter of rice, fries, salad, and exquisite camarones mojo de ajo ($8.95). The décor is whimsical-colorful plastic-fish mobiles cheer what looks like an ancient Dairy Queen-and the service is solicitous if not English-fluent. The sole flaw: They’d run out of flan. But another scoop of that wonderful guac ($3) made a fine dessert.
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