Dimassi’s, Houston, Texas (Katy Freeway location)
December 26, 2007
Dimassi’s, Houston, Texas (Richmond/610 location)
December 29, 2007
If it were up to me, I’d probably eat Mediterranean food every single day of the week. So when two separate groups of friends wanted to try Dimassi’s this past week, I eagerly accompanied them.
The original Dimassi’s location at Richmond and 610 has been a favorite haunt of mine since high school. The decor has changed a few times over the years, from the original “Assisted Living Facility Bland” to the current design scheme, which looks like my Egyptian friend Amin’s mother’s sitting room, if the sitting room were the size of a high school cafeteria. Not exactly beautiful, more quirky and fun and a testament to the heritage of the owners and patrons. But even with the changing decor, the food has remained consistently wonderful despite the fact that it’s all served buffet-style. I attribute this to the vast volume of people flowing in and out of this location daily; the food has to be fresh, since it’s going so quickly.
The newer Dimassi’s location took over the old west Houston outpost of King Fish Market after Chris King decided to pursue other ventures (which, by the way, what the hell? where are you, Chris King? I miss your crazy local commercials…). King Fish Market was a big loss to our restaurant scene: always busy and always good, it was a favored happy hour location for the entire neighborhood and an easy and pleasing answer to the age-old “…I don’t know…what are you in the mood for tonight?”
King Fish Market was cheerful and welcoming inside, so when I heard that Dimassi’s would be filling out the abandoned restaurant, I was elated. Now I wouldn’t have to brave Galleria-area traffic when I craved good baba ganoush and falafel! But when I first entered the reinvented space, I was disappointed to see that the Dimassi’s redecorating team had torn out the beautiful stained glass bar (I know that there’s technically no need for a bar in a Middle Eastern restaurant, but I’m sure it could have been repurposed as something…) and replaced the entire area with hideous, commercial kitchen-grade flooring and three extremely unaesthetic buffet tables. The walls had all been repainted with dark clashing colors and random lamps and wall art had been hung haphazardly throughout the now-derelict looking facility. It looked absolutely, unredeemably hideous.
The food, however, was exactly the same. It was consistently delicious, from the perfectly seasoned hummus and the savory roasted cauliflower to the lamb kebabs and the delectable baklava. It was disorienting to have the exact same food but in a dark, mostly empty Dimassi’s. It was like a Dimassi’s from an alternate universe.
Since then, I haven’t exactly been a regular at the Katy Freeway location. But this week’s visits to the two restaurants made their differences stand out in even starker contrast than usual.
This past Wednesday, we went to Katy Freeway Dimassi’s during the busy lunch hour. The restaurants on either side were packed to bursting; Dimassi’s parking lot contained only five cars. Inside, the main dining room was forlornly empty save for one table with two Middle Eastern gentlemen. The food looked and tasted fantastic, but we ate awkwardly: every time one of us said anything, the echoing effect of the empty room made it sound as if we were in a canyon.
Since the food is still as good as ever, the only thing to which I can attribute the lack of customers is the unwelcoming, heinous interior. Unfortunately, in west Houston, you have to cater to the unsophisticated, Ethan Allen-bred decor palates of the locals or else they probably won’t frequent your joint, no matter how good it is. I wish that I could say I’m above this petty predisposition, but when there are endless other restaurants where you can eat surrounded by other human beings and in slightly more pleasing decor, I find myself eating at those places more often than not.
The original Dimassi’s, however, was heaving with people even at 2pm on this past Saturday. What a departure from the Katy Freeway location. There were big groups of friends, tables full of families, couples on dates, older women fresh from post-Christmas shopping at Neiman’s, young and old people of all varieties persusasions. It’s the kind of place where you want to tuck in and spend an hour or two catching up and enjoying the bounty of food in front of you. You feel at home there.
It’s a shame that the west Houston Dimassi’s hasn’t taken off as I’d hoped it would. We certainly need all the ethnic flavor we can get over here, and I’m not just talking French, Italian and the occasional Nit Noi.
So tell me… Have you eaten at both Dimassi’s? If so, why do you think that the west Houston location is so devoid of customers?