My wife and I visited Feast (200 block Westheimer) for the first time for Saturday lunch. I must say I had long seen their menu posted online (and indeed the Houston CH chapter had reported good things happening there) and I liked the sound of “Rustic European Cuisine.”
For a start their building is very nice location. Sort of Arts and Crafts old house with lots of wood pillars, nooks, crannies, alcoves and creaking stairs with portraits. You overlook (on the highway side) an equally old and eclectic part of a downtown Houston thoroughfare.
So the meal. Nice to have le menu du jour as well as their standard favorites. It always makes one want to (as the Michelin people used to say) “encourager le chef” by ordering those specials, but as it happened we both tended towards the standard items for whatever reason. I ordered the “black pudding, fried egg, peas & mint” appetizer followed by braised oxtail. My wife ordered fish soup followed by cassoulet.
The wine and spirit list was extensive but a tad pricey. A ½ or full carafe option for their house red/white would be a huge improvement as buying by the glass always sucks imo as you are perpetually and immediately worried about refills. This was the case here. I did not want a full bottle, but ordering three separate glasses disturbed the flow of the meal a bit when they needed refilling.
Bread and butter were presented (good bread) but no amuse. We should probably have ordered some olives (which are listed as extras) or some such amuse of our own accord as we arrived late and hungry.
Fish soup was proclaimed a bit poor by my wife. Lukewarm and without the expected (as per in France) option for a refill from a mini-tureen. It was one bowl, and not a huge bowl for $9. The rouille was fine and with plenty of tangy garlic bite however.
My black pudding, egg etc was OK. Can’t miss with peas and mint flavor combination of course. I could have used the egg being more runny as egg yolk and black pudding is another match made in heaven a la peas and mint. But the yolk was rather solid and I missed that. The black pudding was apparently sliced from a 1” sausage of it from where I did not have the chance to ask the chef or waitress. I have not seen “black pud” sold in the likes of Central Market or HEB+ so I wonder the source. That said, thin-bore link black pudding is not the same as the 2-3” round fat ones one gets in the UK. More prone to dryness which was a slight drawback of mine yesterday.
My wife’s cassoulet was disappointing. I tasted it and found it dry and lacking the essential “cooked-downness” (and seasoning and depth of flavor in general) which may be a function of making in small batches I don’t know. More goose grease would have been (always is) welcome to moisten it up.
My main course was a truly outstanding braised oxtail. A large end of the tail and the tip served with perfect mashed potatoes and a single deliciously and perfectly cooked top-quality carrot. This was a standout. The broth was good too. Here at last one can see why this is on the list of standard items.
Curiously there was no espresso available for afterwards but a pressed coffee was, which was nice but I just happen to like to end a meal with espresso and a spirit. Another outstanding item was the sticky toffee and date pudding. With clotted cream, albeit a pretty small dab of clotted cream. The pudding was the kind British schoolboys dream of and I loved it as did my wife. It would have been better with scuds of cream or custard or something but was perfectly AOK all the same.
No cheese appeared to be an option, again, a shame.
I had an Armagnac which was quite generously portioned and went well with the pudding. $14 per glass.
The Spanish Tempranillo ($7.50) wine was adequate and actually was a good choice with what I had. The wine list looks nice but as I said, did not seem to have many budget options which (for what it’s worth) I find encourage me to buy the next up from budget bottles. But if the “entry level” bottles are pricey I don’t move up which is a shame.
Overall my wife loved the fixtures and fittings, the table placements and such but we did not leave (oxtail and sticky pudding excepted) completely wowed either. The price for the meal was fair enough. $118 + tip. I did not feel gouged for the quality and ambience at all. Something was just missing that could have pushed this into a rush-back-immediately column but it’s hard to quantify what it was. Maybe, it is that curious feeling of being cosseted and pampered I think. As a solo diner across France I am almost always aware of this as a factor without which the patron or his wife judged the meal a failure (for them and me both). Just mentioned for what it is worth. Service was perfectly good and capable. But I did not feel “cosseted”~a strange and archaic word, but lack thereof is I think why so often meals can leave one rather flat feeling.
There were some interesting diversions when we observed what seemed to be an itinerant fish salesman show up with a pickup loaded with coolers which the owners/chefs came out to peruse his fishy wares and I think bought some eventually. That was a nice demonstration of this being supplied from varied and interesting sources nto some big corporate delivery truck.
Also diverting throughout the 2 hour plus meal was a mobile car detailing service cleaning a red panel truck across the street. I wish I had jotted down their number as they are surely THE MOST comprehensive car detailing service in existence. And that red panel truck (they had started already before we sat down and still had not finished when we left 2.5 hours later!) the cleanest one in the city by a large margin. Roof, wheel wells, not a square inch was missed. Even Feast’s parking valet (like myself) was very impressed at their thoroughness.
As to the meal then. This is a very nice room. I like the UK butcher aprons on the waitresses which telegraphs good vibes from that revered trade. The presentation is nice. Perhaps even though doing a brisk enough trade the menu extends beyond the ability to have every dish at its absolute peak.
My wife glumly reminisced of a cassoulet at Toulouse Bus Station (literally a little café there) that is her benchmark.
This is one of the better meals I’ve had in Houston but it left me with just a little vacuum which will probably prevent me romping back and becoming a regular. Sorry to say.
Incidentally they are open today for Sunday Roast lunch which I expect will be a really nice rendition of roast lamb with all the trimmings (was there Yorkshire pudding?). Normally they have been closed Sundays so I do not know if this is a regular thing or one-off but they are open today Jan 11 for lunch.
Thanks for reading.
219 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX 77006 713-529-7788
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