A busy and inviting bar, suitable lighting — neither too bright or jarring, nor too dark so as to cause discomfort— a small but considerable wine list, and a menu created with thought. All good things, yes?
I experienced all that, and more, this past week in Houston, at Nobie’s, a welcoming (and, on the evening of my visit, my first to the restaurant, bustling) place set up in a former residence in a neighborhood street off of Kirby. It opened in the fall of 2016, so all things should be firing well, and based on my meal, they are.
I arrived earlier than my date, so took a stool at the bar. It was a Thursday, and all bottles of sparking wines are half off on that day. I ordered a Spumante (100 percent Arneis) from Malvira and was glad the bartender poured it into a wine stem. Light and fizzy, aromas of peach and white flowers, and pleasantly dry — no residual sugar here. Most of the seats at the bar were occupied, some guests with plates of food before them, others drinking only. Go to this bar, and if whisky is your thing, go on Wednesday, when all whiskies are half off.
We sat outside to dine, and began with a dish they’ve named “Bohemian Radishy.” Yes, there are lots of radishes on the plate, perhaps too many for the amount of crab dip served. (I write that because I loved the crab dip, all speckled with trout roe, and wanted more.)
Next came “Bang Bang Shrimp & Grits” and “Surf n’ Swine.” The former’s grits were definitely the stoneground variety, rich and creamy and dotted with hot sauce. The crustaceans were not overdone, something I encounter far too often in these parts, and I liked the crunchy texture provided by their shells.
The seafood and pork dish was served in a small cast-iron cocotte, and the clam and chorizo played off of one another marvelously. The pork was smoky and tender and reminded me of my great-grandmother’s ham and peas. What’s better than that?
Well, our dessert came close. A pie with an Oreo crust (minus the white filling of the cookie, thank goodness) topped with a decadently creamy and slightly salty peanut butter. Share this with someone you like.
First impressions matter, of course, and I’ll return to Nobie’s soon. Martin Stayer, who’s done the rounds of some fine kitchens in Chicago, runs the back of the house, and Sara Stayer, to whom he is married, has the front of the house under relaxed but professional control. The menu changes often, so consult it before you go. But do go.
Nobie’s is at 2048 Colquitt Street.