Bistro Provence

Location:  Bistro Provence
Date:  November 14, 2007
 

Robb Walsh, who is quite possibly my favorite food journalist and who we Houstonians can proudly call one of our own, has a timely review of Bistro Provence up at the Houston Press.  I say “timely,” because I just ate there for the third time two weeks ago.  I had mixed emotions about my last visit, so I’m glad to see that a professional food critic has vindicated my feelings about the place, whether he knows it or not.

We took my Day Job boss to Bistro Provence for her ten-year anniversary with my company.  Since there were six of us, I called the restaurant the day before our lunch to make sure that they could accomodate six people during their busy lunch rush.  The person who answered the phone sounded harried and uninterested at the same time, even though I made sure to call around 3:30 pm (hoping to catch them in between the lunch and dinner rushes).  He snootily told me that they don’t accept reservations, something of which I’m very well aware, and I told him so.  He responded with, “Okay, then you know we don’t take reservations.  Just show up and you’ll be seated.”  And then abruptly hung up the phone.

The next day, the group of us showed up at 12:30.  The parking lot was full, as always, but we were heartened by the fact that several tables outside on the popular patio area were empty.  Inside the restaurant, several other tables were empty as well, but they were all two-tops: nothing large enough to accomodate our group.  Every table seemed to be inhabited by — quite fittingly — actual French people enjoying their traditional long lunches with bottles of wine.  The boss loved the quaintness and “authenticity” of the place, and she happily agreed to wait for a table.

…this was a bad idea. Continue reading Bistro Provence

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The Red Lion

Location:  The Red Lion Pub, Houston, Texas
Date:  November 10, 2007

If you formed an opinion of the Red Lion strictly based upon the piss-poor grammar and misguided attempt at political humor showcased on the front page of their website, you probably wouldn’t be too disillusioned during your visit to their actual restaurant.  I, however, only recently discovered their website and was therefore unprepared for the disappointment that awaited behind the heavy, wooden doors.

Before we begin, let me kick things off by saying that I love English cuisine.  I might be in the minority on this, as most people seem to think that English cuisne is too starchy or bland for their tastes.  But give me a steaming Cornish pasty or delicate Yorkshire pudding any day of the week, and I’m hot to trot.  I don’t find English food to be at all bland, provided that it’s been prepared correctly.  Like anything else, it can be cooked appallingly poorly and presented in a likewise unpalatable manner (such as Scotched beef, which can easily look like someone sicked up on top of a pile of mashed potatoes).  But when it’s done correctly, it is something delivered straight from the Gods of Comfort Food Heaven.

I’d been to the Red Lion on many, many occasions prior to this evening’s meal, but always for a pint or two of Boddington’s after dinner or before a movie.  Once, Richard and I made the mistake of ordering their $4.00 papadom basket, which sounded like a deal amidst their sea of overpriced menu items until we received our basket and saw with great chagrin that it contained exactly three papadoms, each roughly the size of a small corn tortilla.  That should have been my first indication that you don’t always get what you expect at the Red Lion. Continue reading The Red Lion