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 2021, though, that could mean anything. I saw jeans. I saw Lululemon. 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 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 concoction curiously called Third Coast called me by my name. Who could resist pineapple-infused rum, lime, ginger, and agave with a dash of bitters? It went down so easily.
A word of caution, or praise depending on how you like it: Bartenders pour heavily at Relish.
Something called Beets & Blue sounded like a good fall appetizer. A Gorgonzola cream is poured over roasted beet bites, with candied pistachios, lemon zest, and arugula strewed about. Top it with a seriously delish maple lemon vinaigrette, and this dish is a winner any time of year.
My eyes came out of my head when I saw my Gulf 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 one of my favorite dishes in the city.
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 other burgers in town but if you have a craving, it will be satisfied.
Truth is, though, there is 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!
2810 Westheimer Rd., Houston, Texas 77098