Monday, December 25, 2006

Vic & Anthony's

She: We were invited to a holiday dinner at Vic & Anthony's (1510 Texas St, Houston), a big, extravagant steak house in the flavor of Pappas and Fleming's. I don't mean to sound overly harsh, but . . . I'm glad we went on someone else's nickel. I would not have been happy to have paid for the dinner we received. Pappas and Fleming's (on West Alabama) are much better steakhouses in Houston.

The parts of the dinner that I enjoyed most were the appetizers and the dessert. The broiled portabello mushrooms and the tomato & mozzarella were quite tasty, primarily because of the fresh mozzarella that came with both. (The tomatoes in the T&M salad could easily have been brighter; I've had homemade T&M salad with tomatoes from Whole Foods that tasted better.) The calamari was decent, but nothing to write home about.

For a salad, I had the Pear and Saga Blue Cheese Salad, and I found that the flavors in the salad were not quite balanced right. Mark's does a much better variation on this theme.

I'm glad that I filled my stomach with the appetizers and salad, because I was sorely disappointed with my steak, an 9-oz filet mignon. It came out less than warm, for one thing, and overcooked, for another (I had asked for medium, and it came out more like medium well bordering on well done). It was also not a very quality cut of beef; there were a lot of tendons and gristle-y parts running through it. I also found it lacking a lot of flavor. And although I know that many steakhouses drench their steaks in butter to give them flavor, I found the small pool of grease coating the bottom of my plate to be a little off-putting, especially since there was no corresponding flavor.

The sides that I tasted--au gratin potatoes; broccoli; wild mushrooms; and creamed spinach--were all decent, but nothing to write home about. They are certainly substantial (e.g., you get practically a full head of broccoli), so don't go too overboard when ordering.

For dessert, I had a selection of the sorbets (mango, apricot, and strawberry), and they were a refreshing course after an extraordinarily heavy dinner that failed to meet expectations. Again, the dessert was nothing to write home about, but the quality was much better than the rest of the dinner and I was pleased to see that the sorbet came out nicely chilled and not melting. It had clearly not stood melting in the kitchen while the rest of the party's desserts were plated.

The service we had was impeccable, but unfortunately, the food didn't measure up, in my opinion. If you're looking for a good steak dinner with all the bells and whistles, Pappas or Fleming's on West Alabama would be a much better option.

He:
Vic & Anthony's has been on my list of places to try for a while. Luckily, we were invited to a Christmas Dinner there and there just isn't a better way to try a restaurant than on somebody else's nickel.

The restaurant made a good impression as we walked in. It is tastefully decorated and attentive staff is on hand to greet guests. We sat at the bar for a while before moving into the dining room. They serve warm nuts with the drinks, which I thought was a nice touch.

The service continued to be excellent in the dining room. We were a party of about 15, but the wait staff managed to serve everyone quickly and efficiently. My only complaint is that the restaurant was so loud that it was difficult to carry on a conversation with the person sitting on the other side of the table.

I tried the Filet Mignon (what else?) medium rare, and we shared a selection of sides. The prices were comparable with Fleming's, Pappas, or Brenner's. Unfortunately the food was not. There was nothing wrong with any of the dishes, but nothing stood out as especially good either. The meat was a little dry and not as flavorful as I expected, but the sides were the real disappointment. We had mushrooms, various potatoes, spinach and a bunch of other things I don't remember. I thought most of them were bland.

The high point of the meal was the dessert. I picked the bread pudding, and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, who goes to a steakhouse for the dessert? On the whole, I think there are many better options for about the same money. My first pick would be Brenners followed by Pappas, although I haven't eaten there in a long time.

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