There’s a Notes list on my iPhone that grows larger daily. It’s a list of restaurants in Houston I plan to visit. Last night I crossed one off of the roster, a restaurant about which I have heard a lot, good things. It’s called Roost.
I have been looking for a restaurant here with “personality,” which in my book means, loosely, “not slick and shiny, not a place that looks as if it belongs in a hotel lobby or was designed with ‘wow’ in mind.” Too often, I have found lately, more attention is devoted to wall hangings and shiny displays than it is to the food. Roost, however, has the type of personality I want. Small space, a bar at which two people can sit, lots of wood, simple tables and chairs, eclectic decoration on the walls. It’s in a house on a fairly quiet street in a residential area of Houston, and my dinner there was one of the most enjoyable evenings I’ve spent dining in this city thus far.
I arrived a little after 6 and waited for Angela at the bar, which overlooks a small room that has a pass-through to the kitchen. A Sixpoint (in a can, a tallboy) was my order, and I sat and drank and watched the activity as diners began walking in. Roost does not take reservations for parties of fewer than six, but outside the restaurant picnic benches provide perfect seats in which to wait for your table. The chef and owner, Kevin Naderi, was out out at those tables lighting the heat lamps.
Angela arrived, and we took our seat at a table along the back wall that gave us a perfect view of the dining room, which by that time was filling quickly, mostly parties of four, with a few couples mixed in. The menu at Roost has just been changed, and I was impressed: highlights to my eye were hanger steak, mussels in a red curry, an oyster stack, an off-menu special of redfish. And the “famous” cauliflower.
We ordered the cauliflower, the oyster stack, an order of the mussels, and the hanger steak, with a bottle of Hahn pinot noir. In short, every dish was very good, especially the fried cauliflower, with its sauce and pignoli and onions. (It is usually served with bonito flakes, but we asked from them on the side, though I later nestled them on top of each floret.)
The fried oysters were breaded perfectly, and the sautéed spinach under them was a great touch. The mussels were cooked well, full of flavor, which the curry (tomato-based) complemented ideally. Hanger steak medium rare with kimchi rice (a half order) and a runny egg came to the table with aplomb: nice temperature, fine flavor, though it could have used a bit of salt at the end.
Finally, the beignet-like round donuts and coffee ice cream finished our meal. (And a note about the service: Some of the best I have encountered in Houston. Not obsequious, informed, calm, and each plate came out with perfect timing. We were able to enjoy the meal in a relaxed manner. Someone has conducted great training at Roost.)