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Whirled Cuisine

Farrago

What I got was a crunchy sourdough pizza crust topped with tasty rotisserie chicken, roasted garlic and rosemary -- all blanketed by a solid expanse of melted mozzarella. I suspect the five thin slices of lemon were initially added to the top of the pie for visual appeal. The first triangle I picked up had half a lemon slice on it. The sour lemon juice and bitter pith provided a refreshingly robust accent to the oily cheese and mellow chicken and garlic. Emboldened, I ate a whole lemon slice on my next piece.

Ack! Maybe a whole slice is just too much. Or maybe lemon oil is one of those flavorings that accumulates on your palate. Whatever the reason, the second time around, the lemon rind flavor was so acrid I wanted to spit it out. The moral of the story: When eating at Farrago, listen to your server. He or she will know which bizarre garnishes need to be scraped off the food before it can be eaten.

But the easier alternative is to head for the build-your-own part of Farrago's pizza menu. The sourdough crust is top-notch, and with such uncutesy toppings as marinara, mozzarella, pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, onion, green peppers and garlic, it's easy enough to circumvent the silliness. Of course, there are lots of wacky options in the ingredient bin, too. Want to try to beat a fusion chef at his own game? How about Asian pesto, manchego cheese, pineapple, lemon slices and jalapeños?

Ignore the world food hoopla -- this is one of the best burgers in town.
Troy Fields
Ignore the world food hoopla -- this is one of the best burgers in town.

Location Info

Map

Farrago

318 Gray St.
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Restaurant > Fusion

Region: Downtown/ Midtown

Details

Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Farrago Burger: $9
Fish and chips: $12
Curried mussels: $10
Caesar salad: $6
Pizza: $12

318 Gray, 713-523-6404

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We had a bottle of Bonny Doon's Pacific Rim Dry Riesling with our chicken pizza. The big crisp, slightly sweet spice and melon Riesling flavor stood up beautifully to the unsubtle food. Farrago's wine list is exceptional in its unpretentiousness. There are more than 50 great wines here, and nearly all of them are priced for a weekday night. Sure, there are a couple of big bubblies, but there are also a lot of $25 to $30 bottles. And more than 20 wines are served by the glass.

Venturing cautiously beyond burgers and pizza, we sampled the goat cheese brûlée salad with toasted pecans, roasted garlic and tomatoes. The tiny patch of scorched spice coating on top of the little discs of goat cheese didn't add much; the cold roasted garlic cloves tasted like they'd been in the refrigerator too long; and the pecan fragments were few and tiny. Despite its affectation, the salad was exceedingly ordinary.

An imaginative mezza plate featured a wonderfully zippy Thai curry hummus. The oily mandarin orange tabbouleh didn't include much parsley, but it made a rich citrusy dressing for the small green salad on the plate. I would have preferred regular pita instead of the stiff whole wheat variety provided for scooping up the dips. Does anybody in the Middle East actually eat whole wheat pita, or was it invented by Whole Foods? But I suppose there's no point in being a stickler for tradition if you're going to order a mezza plate at Farrago.

Fusion cuisine can be great. But when it's not, it sounds like a bad ethnic joke. Witness Farrago's Spanish paella made with Israeli couscous and served with Mexican/French chipotle rouille -- I found it too bewildering to order.

My advice: Ignore the world food hoopla here. Farrago has a great crunchy pizza, an excellent Caesar, a list of innovative and inexpensive wines and one of the best burgers in the city. What else can you ask for in a neighborhood restaurant?

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