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Dinner and Darts

The Rivendell Bar & Grille

Loretta orders an off-the-menu pasta special of tricolor cheese tortellini with ham cubes in a cheesy cream sauce. The dish is incredibly rich, and she loves it. Joe gets spaghettini salvadore, which the menu describes as "pescatore-style with clams, shrimp, scallops and calamari in a fresh tomato sauce." An oversize bowl arrives brimming with al dente spaghettini tossed with a wonderfully spicy sauce and lots of seafood. The mussels have been substituted for the clams, the shrimp are huge and perfectly cooked, and the scallops are sweet and juicy. The dish is a knockout, but it's so huge Joe can barely eat half of it.

It reminds me of a spicy pasta dish in New England called shrimp fra diavolo. Joe says his family didn't use the term fra diavolo, which literally means "brother devil," to describe fiery hot dishes. I think he said they called it seafood arrabiata, which means "angry" seafood, but I couldn't hear him very well because the band had started warming up.

I try the Rivendell's Angus burger, with lettuce, tomato, mustard, mayo and Swiss. It's decent but not exceptional. My usually talkative companion, silent tonight in the face of overwhelming volume, has a grilled salmon salad. This off-menu fish salad features a moist grilled salmon filet with nicely charred edges over salad greens in an oversize bowl with sesame-ginger dressing. The dish is similar to the insalata de tono capperi, which features grilled ahi tuna over greens with capers and toasted walnuts.

The spaghettini salvadore offers a daunting pile of seafood in a spicy sauce.
Troy Fields
The spaghettini salvadore offers a daunting pile of seafood in a spicy sauce.

Details

Spinach salad:$8
Filet mignon: $21
Wild mushroom ravioli: $13
Spaghettini salvadore: $11
Burger: $6.50
920 Studemont, 713-864-3700. Hours: Daily, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

The music group starts its performance with a prayer. And then the band members welcome everyone to this meeting of "Awakenings Off Campus." Evidently we've fallen in with some kind of African-American gang. I believe they call themselves "Methodists." The vocalists are excellent, but every time they sing the word "you" in a love song, they point heavenward. (Is this one of those secret hand signals?) We pay our bill and flee.


My last visit to the Rivendell is on a Sunday afternoon, and the place has returned to its quiet former self. I sit in an outdoor dining area surrounded by potted plants and peruse the brunch menu. The couple seated behind me orders a drink special called the bottomless pitcher of mimosas. It looks inviting.

At the waitress's recommendation, I order the three-layer omelette. It turns out to be a run-of-the-mill ham, spinach and American cheese version. My companion has the crab cakes, which are served in a red chile sauce but are otherwise unremarkable. The rest of the brunch menu consists of two kinds of migas, French toast, a variation on eggs Benedict, grilled polenta and huevos rancheros. I forgive the boring food because it's such a beautiful day to sit outside.

The Rivendell Bar & Grille seems to be having some trouble deciding if it's a restaurant, a sports bar or a church hall. And as a result, it's having a hard time establishing a crowd of regulars. No doubt that will come with time. Meanwhile, if you're looking for good food in a casual setting, you're in luck. It's not too often you find such classy steaks, salads and pastas in a joint with a pool table and blaring TVs.

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