By Jim Ayres
I met a friend recently for dinner at Traveler’s Table on lower Westheimer. It’s a restaurant that may not have the PR pull of Houston’s big players, but still, it has found an audience. The place was jam-packed on this Thursday night.
Traveler’s Table’s website tells us “We seek to modernize and elevate traditional dishes by making them lighter, brighter, and full of flavor… what we call, ‘curated global cuisine.’ While we may use a bit of creative license from time to time, we still try to stay true to the spirit of the originals.”
In other words, most of the dishes here would not be called authentic. For the most part, however, they’re still damn good! And that’s what we’re after, right?
Two intriguing appetizers started our feast. I loved the excellent if a tad sweet, Mexican Street Corn Soup. The corn is creamed with a few whole kernels popping up every now and then. The supporting ingredients — epazote, lime, and cotija cheese — brighten the umami corn flavor considerably.
Argentinian Provoleta proved to be a decadent way to share an appetizer with friends. Smoked provolone cheese is melted right there on the skillet, and you’re invited to take a wedge of nicely grilled toast and dig right in. Roasted peppers, chimichurri, and honey flow in cheesy harmony as you chew.
Of our two entrees, one was a big winner while the other missed the cruise ship. Brazilian Shrimp Moqueca is a fantastic dish from start to almost finish (I couldn’t eat it all). Coconut milk and white wine sauce, spiced with cumin and paprika, is a perfect topping for fresh grilled shrimp, while a sofrito and perfectly cooked jasmine rice make this a complete meal.
On the other hand, Tea Smoked Duck was a letdown. A small portion of fatty smoked duck is accompanied by a rather pedestrian collection of sides (bok choy and sesame noodles). I’m not sure what purpose the lauded taro foam served, but we both agreed the tamarind plum sauce was a welcome foil to the smoky flavors.
To go with our meal, we selected a Prunotto 2017 Barbaresco. This spunky wine has a youthful vibrancy. According to Wine Enthusiast, “Aromas of violet and iris mingle with forest berry and crushed herb in this sleek, savory red. The bright palate shows juicy red cherry, blood orange, and star anise.” Isn’t that smart?
And to end our meal, who could resist the comfort of New Orleans Bourbon Bread Pudding? My companion proclaimed this bread pudding to be as good as the one at Commander’s Palace. High praise indeed, but well deserved as a salted caramel sauce and pecan praline bits (and the accompanying house-made ice cream) make this a must-repeat happy ending.
I thoroughly enjoyed traveling the world at Traveler’s Table. The menu is categorized by region (South America, etc.) and you’re sure to find something or someplace to drool over!
Houston, TX 77006