I posted a message on the Chowhound.com Texas message board asking where to go in Houston for a nice brunch. One person who replied suggested the Backstreet Café so I looked it up and reviewed the menu and decided to try it on my way to the airport before my flight home. Unfortunately, it’s Friday and so the brunch was unavailable, but my lunch was just lovely.
A nice combination of Mache, mint & cilantro leaves (great compliments to the peppery lettuce), cubes of caramelized pumpkin, pears and “truffled” cheese (not sure what kind of cheese – Manchego perhaps) and candied walnuts in a very simple vinaigrette – I think it may even have been just olive oil with a drizzle of balsamic – which was perfect because the flavors in the salad were really interesting, especially the cheese – the truffle flavor really came through!
’95 Chateau Marouline Rosé, France – light, crisp, dry – classic French style.
Seared Duck Breast
Spice rubbed breast, seared (cooked medium) and braised leg served atop butternut squash puree & sautéed spinach surrounded by a lovely jus and figs.
The duck was not too rich at all – the leg meat fell off the bone and the breast was very tasty and tender, the vegetables were very simply seasoned and the jus was the perfect compliment to everything on my plate.
’95 Benton Lane Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR – in the nose were notes of figs and raisins, it was a hearty pinot that tasted of cherries with a hint of rose and a chocolate finish (perfectly suggested by my server Chris).
A slightly warm blackberry cobbler with a sweet, biscuit-like topping with a small scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream – very simple and good – not too sweet and the berries were plump and tasty.
‘?? Don Bernardins Beaumes de Vanis Muscat – florals and vanilla, extremely smooth and not too sweet.
All the daily specials sounded terrific, the soft shell crabs – spice rubbed and sesame crusted (sautéed) were VERY popular – they looked great, they came atop mashed Peruvian Purple potatoes and sautéed spinach and topped with lump crab meat (looked like really good crab too – not Snow or canned) and a lemon, butter sauce – and I swear it was like at least a half of a cup of crab!! I passed on them because my server didn’t quote the prices of the specials which is a requirement for me in a new restaurant (flashback to the $38 crab cake LUNCH special at Houston’s in SF, circa ’99 – “they’re blue crabs from Maryland – flown in special” Hello? This is San Francisco – home of the best crab ever!! – Grrr… But I digress…
The other specials were Pan Seared Halibut with spinach and stone ground cheese grits (which I totally meant to order on the side and forgot!!) topped with crawfish tails in a white wine sauce and a couple of muscles and the third was… I forget, but I know it was also fish and had the pile of crab involved.
All in all a lovely experience, I sat outside on the patio next to the fountain, surrounded by trees and birds – oh, and other happy diners.
If you ever find yourself in Houston’s Riverside dist. Call and talk to Larry Bennett, the manager and he’ll take good care of you!
--Kimberly aka epicurgirl.
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