I love the food at Vibrant, the next-wave, labels-don’t-really-apply eatery on Fairview. I recommend that you try it at your earliest opportunity.
When I hear of a new restaurant, I first check out its website. Not just to see the menu and get the hours and address.
I also want a sense of a restaurant’s aura. Funky? Sleek and chic? Quiet? Lively? Vibrant’s site graphics grab me. I’m a sucker for familiar, yet unexpected design. The site takes me back to new wave record covers of the earliest 1980s. Even a picture of the owners’ shoes seems a sly homage to Joe Jackson.
Many things about this era aren’t fondly remembered. But as 21-year-old kid spending hours flipping through albums at the McKinney Avenue Half Price Books in Dallas, Vibrant’s site takes me back to a place of innocence and curiosity.
Alas, the structure itself isn’t so vibrant. The reimagined McGowen’s Cleaners could be a restaurant… or an outpatient clinic, or your local vet. The building just doesn’t give off a sense of place, and the logo in the light outside is barely visible. (Plenty of free parking though!)
Inside, whites and muted desert sunset peaches make for a clean dining space but do little to liven the energy. Maybe a pop of color is all that’s needed. And yet, when you start sampling Vibrant’s marvelous food, all that fades away and you’re left with what truly shines.
A Toast Medley starter may come off as appeasing a current trend. But Vibrant’s version is more sumptuous and inventive than any I’ve ever had.
The toasted teff bread (a naturally fermented, gluten-free bread native to Ethiopia) is toothsome. Toppings include a house smoked salmon paste with sunflower ricotta (better than any mousse you’ll have at a party), tomato basil salad, and zucchini and shiitake with pistachio basil pesto.
Salad Rolls are an imaginative riff on cold spring rolls. They’re stuffed with avocado, daikon, carrot and cucumber — but mango and kiwi make them sing. I love the interplay of sweet and crunchy. I don’t love the almond butter tamari sauce; I understand getting away from peanut, and tamari is always an acquired taste.
I could eat Vibrant’s Lobster Quinoa Spaghetti every day. Quinoa noodles (so flavorful) are tossed with Maine lobster, white wine, basil, garlic, vegetables and a mind-blowing purple mustard green harissa. There’s just a hint of heat from the harissa, and the other ingredients blend effortlessly.
That Vibrant is gluten free, dairy free and refined-sugar free didn’t stop me or my friend from jumping into a Pear Almond Cake dessert. I’m not sure how they make the coconut frozen custard that tops the tasty spiced cake, but they do, and it’s all wonderful.
Our knowledgeable, gracious and (if I’m honest) handsome server Theo was a delight. In fact, everyone and everything at Vibrant is so meticulous, I’m so glad it’s here in the vibrant neighborhood we know as Montrose!
1931 Fairview Avenue
Houston, Texas 77019