I wasn’t particularly stressed when I went to dinner at Relish, located in that kind of Upper Kirby/River Oaks zone. Still, any agita I might have been carrying from the workday was swept away as I sat down.
It’s funny, too, because I can’t say Relish has much intrigue inside. Subway tile in the entrance and bar area leads to handsome wood planks in the dining room. Furniture is neither black nor gray. Morticia Addams would call it “off-black.”
New England-ish sconces illuminate, as do single votives at each table. Little Lime hydrangea cuttings brighten things a little, but the whole effect is muted to excess.
Maybe refined is a better word, as it describes most of the clientele, dressed as they are in River Oaks casual. In 2019, though, that could mean anything. I saw jeans. I saw cotton/poly sport separates. I saw diversity.
And I saw, and heard, a man of a certain age and position shouting business-speak and the occasional f-word into his phone as he sipped a scotch and soda. It was 6:30 p.m. mind you. His date, volubly unsure if he found her attractive, arrived later.
Well, if Mr. Rolex (overdue for cleaning) can have a cocktail, so can I. A Boulevard Bourbon Punch with guava berry liqueur and something called chamomile honey syrup seemed like just the ticket. It went down so easily.
A word of caution, or praise depending on how you like it: Bartenders pour heavy at Relish.
An appetizer of Fried Green Tomatoes was cut into bigger-than-bite-size chunks instead of slices, making it a bit awkward to eat. They were good nonetheless, with a light breading that didn’t quite coat the whole piece. A Creole remoulade nestled at the bottom of the dish for a spicy, smoky, and wonderful dipping sauce.
My eyes came out of my head when I saw my Pan Seared Snapper Puttanesca. The combination of the Italian preparation (jewel-like olives and multicolor grape tomatoes) with the Gulf filet was a showstopper. Eating it was just as delectable as looking at it. For its freshness, tenderness, and flavor, this is a frontrunner in this still-young 2019 for my favorite dish.
I came back for a burger. Relish’s is thick and meaty, topped in the usual tomato and pickle way, all sandwiched in a feathery Brioche bun. This one won’t beat the sheer decadence of Rodeo Goat but if you have a craving, it will be satisfied.
Truth is, though, there are a lot of this type of restaurant around town. And a good number of them are serving up what Relish calls “classic American food with Mediterranean influences.” Relish is a neighborhood joint that happens to be in mine.
Would I recommend Relish if, say, you lived in The Heights and it was just you and a close-by date? I don’t know if I’d make the drive. The Heights has its share of excellent neighborhood options. But if you were meeting friends from Montrose? Absolutely!
Relish Restaurant & Bar
2810 Westheimer Road
Houston, Texas 77098