Friday, October 19, 2012

Review: The Tasting Room Houston City Centre

Wine Bars are all the rage these days.  Viewed  as a more haute version of the Craft Beer Pub, they appeal more to women than men.  Yet many of them are a Kitchen lab for Bistro Gourmet versions of bar favourites like slider burgers, wood-fired pizzas and so forth.  In addition, well paired plates of meats, cheeses, vegetables and fruits can make for a gourmet snack when paired with the right wine.  Or various dishes paired with the right wines can make an above average meal exceptional.

Late Lunchers enjoying some Vino
Houston has many of these wine bars like Vintropolis in the Carillon Center, Max's Wine Dive on Washington Avenue, The Napa Grille in Sugar Land and The Tasting Room, which has locations in Uptown Park near the Galleria, West Alabama near River Oaks, Kings Harbor near Kingwood and Houston City Centre near Memoral/Spring Branch.  I'd heard from a couple of fellow food hounds about how wonderful the Pulled Pork was on the Summer Lunch menu.  A couple of female colleagues indicated that they love going there for a late lunch to chat and enjoy the wood fired artisan pizzas.  And a few Wine connoisseurs I know said it was a good place to try various regional wines in a relaxed atmosphere.  Finally, one guy I know who likes a good burger said the TTR California Burger served with melted chedder,  avacado, applewood smoked bacon and field greens was exceptional.  That sold me, so I headed on over for a late Friday lunch and here was my experience:

TTR California Burger
First of all, we had a warm, not hot, sunny afternoon and the patio was crammed.  Folks sipping Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Merlot, chatting it up and enjoying the mild fall Houston weather.  I chose to take my lunch inside so I could get the lay of the land here.  What I saw was a mixture of Urban chic and Reclaimed wood, with metal, etched glass, and chalkboards, with a wide open kitchen and a wood fired pizza oven. Overall I found the dining area to be clean and inviting, warm, but not too folksy.

Etched Glass--Fancy! 
Being the burger junkie that I am, I went with my friend's recommendation:  the TTR California Burger.  A proprietary beef blended patty, served with melted cheddar cheese, apple-wood smoked bacon, avocado slices, field greens, sweet pickles that looked home canned, lettuce and tomatoes, on a Slow Dough Bun.  It's served with natural cut fries--for $1.00 extra you can get them tossed in truffle oil and parmigiana cheese.  Yes, please.

This was a very tasty burger.  The meat was a little peppery, not excessively seasoned, and had good char on the outside but was still quite juicy.  The Veggies were very fresh, the bacon sweet and crispy yet chewy.  I chose to pair the burger with a class of the New Harbor Pinot Noir from out of New Zealand.  This red wine was a little dry for a red, had a bit of an oak essence, and a couple of layers of flavour I couldn't identify.  I know I liked it, that's for sure.  If I'd had a beer, I'd have paired an Oktoberfest or a Porter with it.  Beer is more my thing, but I am partial to Pinot Noir for red wines and Pinot Grigio for white wines.  And this was a good Pinot Noir.

The service was a little slow, but was attentive and did make regular call backs.  The food came fresh and hot--it wasn't warmed over or undercooked either.  Overall I had a nice, relaxed lunch that was both delicious and fresh.  Nothing to complain about in my book.

Notice the Wood Fired Pizza Oven by the kitchen
Report Card for The Tasting Room at City Centre:
TTR California Burger: A
Truffle Parmigiana Fries: A
New Harbor Pinot Noir:  A
     Speed: B+
     Friendliness: A
Atmosphere: A-
     Dining Area:  A
     Men's Room:  Incomplete

Overall Grade: A-

And FYI:  I will definitely be back soon to try one of their artisan pizzas.

The Tasting Room has 4 locations in the Houston area.  I went to the one at:

818 Town and Country Blvd., Suite 100
Houston, TX 77024
(281) 822-1500

And remember to Eat Happy, Y'all!!!

The Tasting Room Wine Cafe on Urbanspoon

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