Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: Sorrel Urban Bistro (13 for 2013)

Farm to Table is a concept that has been bandied about a good deal in places like Vancouver, BC; Seattle, WA, Los Angeles, and San Diego.  It's a great concept that surrounds locally sourced food and sustainable business practices, mixed in with gourmet dining.  In Houston, Sorrel Urban Bistro has been one of the flagship restaurants to apply the concept, and it's been on my short list for too long.  Thankfully, I was able to work out a few things and paid them a long overdue visit recent.  But first, a little background info from their website:

Born out of a shared vision to bring affordable farm-to-table dining to Houston, restaurateur Ray Salti and Executive Chef Soren Pedersen have collaborated to create Sorrel Urban Bistro, a casually elegant, fresh design featuring an ever-changing blackboard menu of organically focused cuisine. Sorrel represents the second culinary collaboration between Salti and Pedersen, who also are partners at Ray’s Grill, a highly-lauded farm-to-table concept in Fulshear, TX, 20 miles West of Houston.

In addition to a diverse daily menu selection featuring local organically grown produce and meat, sustainable fish and wild game, Sorrel offers a charcuterie bar with a wide variety of salami, sausages and prosciutto, both imported and housemade, along with artisan Texas cheeses, handcrafted breads and more.

Beverage service includes seasonally inspired cocktails, artisanal beers and 200 plus wines (25 percent organic).  At Sorrel, it’s not just about taste, it’s about enjoying a culinary experience – the opportunity to indulge in fabulous sensations and artful presentations by Executive Chef Pedersen – in a contemporary, casual setting unique to Houston.
Scallop with smoked salt
Okay.  You don't need to use any more such language to persuade me to  drop in, Mr. Salti and Chef Pedersen.  Especially with the concept of Farm to Table and emphasis on doing business with local craft breweries, wineries and farms to supply the food.    I'm coming in for a bite or three!!! I perused their dinner menu and had an intense internal debate between doing a five course meal with wine pairing or ordering a la carte.  As I'm someone who likes to mix things up,  my colleague and I chose to go a la carte from the menu.
Tempura Fried Egg yolk 

The kitchen started by offering us a couple of nice appetizers--a scallop sashimi with smoked salt, sliced green onions and field greens which was fresh, had a delicate texture in the fish, but was bold and tangy with the smoked salt and the greens.  We were then served a fried tempura battered egg yolk with Dutch salt and savoury veggies.  The server was nice to warn us to cut it slowly as this yolk burst slightly and ran, kind of like how fellow Food Blogger Mijune Pak likes it as well.  It was also a nice morsel to enjoy prior to reading the menu.
Braised Game Penne 

We perused and saw several items that got our attention.  After inquiring as to the game meat in the Braised Game Penne Pasta, but having a hard time choosing, my colleague and I agreed to split that dish with the Seared Duck Breast with baby bok choy.  The server showed a good deal of common sense and had the kitchen split both dishes into two portions, and serve the two portions on two plates.  This was a nice touch and scored several points from me on the service score.
Seared Duck Breast

The Braised Game Penne Pasta was completely decadent, full of flavour and was the star of the two main dishes.  There was wild boar, duck and lamb in this dish.  The sauce was full of umami, buttery, creamy goodness, had nice savoury seasoning blended in and some very hearty mushrooms in the mix.  The amount of meat in the dish was very generous and was an absolute delight.  The Seared Duck Breast was an interesting contrast to the Game Penne.  The baby bok choy and other vegetables were well prepared--crunchy and chewy at the same time. The duck was very clean tasting, with a lot of herbal and citrus notes.  Quite good and satisfying as well.

Brioche Bread Pudding
For dessert we had Brioche Bread Pudding and  Cranberry Milk Chocolate Fritters.  Again, here was a contrast of tastes, textures and flavours that were a complete delight.  The Brioche bread pudding was a little jiggly and had a wonderful whiskey caramel sauce.  It was firm in the outer portions, but had what seemed to be a creamy centre.  One of the best Bread Puddings I've had in a while.  The Cranberry Milk Chocolate fritters were crunchy, sweet, had the slightly sour twang of the cranberry mixed in with the crunch and the mild yet sweet chocolate.  It was a like a high end chocolate cake doughnut holes dusted with cane sugar, and cranberries.  An ordinary idea made extraordinary with some wonderful touches of creativity from Chef Pedersen.

Milk Chocolate Cranberry Fritters
The service at Sorrel is top notch.  We were greeted at the door and ushered in.  The staff allowed my colleague a couple of small tasters of the wines before they made their choice.  The made good recommendations and were properly attentive, without using aggressive beverage service.  I felt like we were treated with courtesy and caring, and that the staff genuinely wanted us to enjoy the meal and wanted to ensure we had a good dining experience.  The dinner was served at a leisurely pace so we could enjoy all of the courses, and there was no pressure to hurry up or any stacking of the courses.  Wonderfully timed and properly friendly.  Well done, Sorrel.  Well done.

Report card for Sorrel Urban Bistro:
     Appetizers: A
Wall of Wine at Sorrel Urban Bistro
     Braised Game Penne Pasta: A+++
     Seared Duck Breast: A-
     Brioche Bread Pudding: A+++
     Cranberry Milk Chocolate Fritters: A
     Friendliness: A
     Pacing of Service: A+++
Atmosphere:  Modern Bistro with accents of Houston and Farm to Table: A
     Dining Area: A+
     Kitchen: A (Could see right into it and had a TV showing the kitchen area interior)
     Men's Room: A-

Overall Grade: A+     

(For those of y'all keeping track: 2 of my 13 for 2013 down--both great--11 left to go!) 

Sorrel Urban Bistro is located at:
2202 West Alabama (at Greenbriar, one block west of Shepherd)
Houston, TX 77098

Restaurant Hours:
Closed Mondays
Tue.-Sat. Lunch: 11am-3pm
Tue.-Thurs. Dinner: 5pm-10pm
Fri. & Sat. Dinner: 5pm-10:30pm
Sunday Brunch: 10:30am-3pm
Sunday Dinner: 5pm-9pm

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

Sorrel Urban Bistro on Urbanspoon


Daniel Anthony said...

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Muhammad Amir said...

I was able to work out survival warehouse emergency food a few things and paid them a long overdue visit recent. But first,

Jonathan Harlan said...

The Wall of Wine says it all: I'll visit the place! Nice storage, and beautiful collection of wines. Just thought of a new way of storing the wines at home.-Jonathan

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