Of course, it wasn’t my fault. Dinner invites happen, and I’m never one to decline simply because of venue.
A few columns back, I mentioned that I was done with Tex-Mex. But a couple of high-profile spots have opened recently, and aside from spending quality time with friends, I felt it my journalistic duty to try them.
I didn’t love Candente on my visit, though it’s a dictionary illustration of “promising.” It’s a Tex-Mex/Barbecue hybrid, really, from the owners of Pit Room next door on Richmond.
With that pedigree (and the recommendation of friends I trust) I expected greatness. And it started out that way. Guacamole shines – fresh, simple, creamy, the way it’s intended to be. Add-ins, like minced garlic (from a jar), pico de gallo and diced jalapenos are thoughtfully placed on the side.
The guacamole’s excellence asserted itself when on one of Candente’s tortilla chips. It needed to, as these chips weren’t warm and reminded me of Tostitos.
My first Premium Margarita hit my craving hard. Made with Espolón Reposado (as opposed to Blanco) and Grand Marnier (not mere triple sec), this frozen concoction woke me like no coffee can.
I had to order a second. Despite the server asking if I wanted the same drink, this one arrived on the rocks. I’ll never turn away good booze, but I beseech you to order frozen.
Given Candente’s barbecue connection, you’ll see brisket, smoked chicken, and short ribs on the menu. Houstonia magazine declared the Brisket Nachos the best in the city, so how could I go wrong? Well, these were a wrong turn onto the highway to hell.
Oh, the brisket was great, and there was lots of it. Not much cheese though. The tortilla wedges were soggy. And the whole mass was swirled with barbecue sauce. Not Pit Room’s spicy sauce. This stuff was treacly without a hint of heat. I hated these nachos. (And so much left for a doggy bag!)
Not as much as I loathed the new Original Ninfa’s on Post Oak, mind you. I presume the object was to recreate the ambience of the Navigation location for the Tanglewood set. No, I take that back. The object was to make as much money as possible with minimal effort.
In this generic, could-be-anything dining room, none of the Navigation charm made the trip. The menu’s the same, but the cooking is paint-by-numbers, by a kitchen that could use reading glasses. If Navigation puts love into everything they make, Post Oak could be your Aramark employee cafeteria.
Beef fajitas, while tender, were undercooked and cold. Chile con Queso was forgettable, decent in a city full of decent.
Chicken Flautas were uniformly crispy, impeccably bland. Contrast this with the flautas on Navigation – you’ll always get a burnt end, maybe a hot spot inside. But that’s cooking, not assembling, and why I’ll ways go back to Navigation.
Oh, and valet was $8. With a service fee on top of that!
4306 Yoakum Blvd. at Richmond
Houston, TX 77006, 832-886-8891
Original Ninfa’s Uptown
1700 Post Oak Blvd., Houston, TX 77050