Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Honestly, this restaurant has it all. A gorgeous, contemporary yet warm space; wonderful acoustics (yes, you can hear your entire table's conversation even over the awesome Texas music); lovely service; clever cocktails ... and food that will make you slap yourself.
I can't begin without speaking of the house-made bread; tender, buttery and served with utterly delicious salt-studded butter. Trying hard not to indulge in more than once piece of the bread, we began with the shrimp corn dogs. The deliciously delicate yet crisp batter surrounds fresh shrimp served with spicy remoulade and two shooters of fresh lemonade. Perfect. We then split a gorgeous salad of torn greens tossed with a tangy black pepper dijon dressing accented with "fried green tomato croutons" (hell yes) and Texas cheddar. Really, really fantastic salad - and I do love a fantastic salad.
I chose the Escolar as a main and it blew me away. Screamin' fresh, tender, buttery and perfectly prepared (look at that sear!), it was the best fish I've had in ... I don't know when. As if the fish itself wasn't enough ... it sat atop a hill of creamed cabbage (where has creamed cabbage been all my life?) and a splash of brown butter, the varied textures and flavors sang in unison. Divine. We also enjoyed side dishes of fresh creamed peas and the amazing bacon spaetzle which is in and of itself a must-have. It's like a late-night stoner w/ the munchies fantasy come true of tender, tiny potato pieces and bacon and green onions and I don't even know what else but ... I like it ... a lot.
Not that we weren't full but we went a little crazy sampling desserts including a lovely italian cream cake accented with coconut ice cream that was subtle in it's coconut-ness. And that's one of the things that I took note of throughout the meal ... every possible subtle nuance is well-thought out; this cuisine is fussed over and cared about and refined and tweaked with an incredible attention to detail. Comments and feedback have been thoughtfully received.
Back to dessert ... We also enjoyed a goat's buttermilk pecan pie that was not too sweet because of the tangy filling - thanks to the goat, accented beautifully with it's side of pecan brittle and superb crust. But our favorite was the vanilla pound cake with it's fresh-made sauces of both strawberry and Meyer lemon. Chef explained that the strawberries were the "first of the season" from one of his many local farm contacts. I've never tasted strawberry-anything so sublime and the cake was so moist and delicious, it reminded me of my grandmother's which I've never been able to replicate nor experience anywhere. It is wonderful to know that Randy Evans is as serious about his cakes and pies and ice cream as he is about the cuisine he's so well known for.
In talking to Randy and Sous Chef Kevin Naderi, it is a pleasure to hear how much they care about the food and experience they are creating. When I asked about how they obtained such a superb sear on the fish they talked about their use of cast-iron skillets vs. standard restaurant pans (see pic). That explains a lot about this cuisine, so passionately prepared and beautifully presented.
We have some amazing food coming out of new kitchens in this town right now and I'm in love with much of it but I don't think I could love any of it more than I love what's happening at Haven.
Posted by Jodie Eisenhardt at Tuesday, December 29, 2009