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Sushi Pudding

You can bank on the salmon and chili tapioca at the Hotel Icon's Bank Jean-Georges

The best thing I tried is the slow-baked salmon with fresh-corn pudding topped with fried Thai-basil leaves. Salmon is 45 percent fat. Slow-cooked and served while it's still rare, it melds with the sweet corn pudding like a big pink pat of fish butter. The crispy basil leaves add some texture and a wonderful aroma.

The worst thing I sampled at Bank Jean-Georges was a lobster-salad appetizer. It came with half a small lobster tail in Thai seasonings. But the lobster was mushy, which is generally what happens when you cook a lobster that's already dead. So I explained the problem to the waiter and sent the dish back. He returned with another dish of lobster salad, with equally mushy meat -- made, no doubt, from the other half of the same dead lobster.


A whole lot of thought went into Bank's shaved salmon 
(front) and corn ravioli -- and both are damn good.
Troy Fields
A whole lot of thought went into Bank's shaved salmon (front) and corn ravioli -- and both are damn good.

Details

Hours: 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays; 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.

Salmon and chili tapioca $11
Ribbons of tuna $12
Corn ravioli $11
Fresh pea soup $8
Steak and frites $35
Salmon and corn pudding $22

220 Main Street, 713-224-4266

Along with the reception area of Hotel Icon, Bank Jean-Georges resides in an opulently decorated former bank lobby complete with high ceilings, stone columns, enormous arched windows and monumental statuary. It instantly has become one of the most elegant restaurants in the city. And yet its Main Street location and techno-jazz soundtrack create a hip, casual atmosphere where you can feel comfortable in a guayabera shirt and sandals.

The service was unobtrusive on my first two visits. But on my third visit, I got a young waiter with an attitude. First he gave me guff for not ordering bottled water (see "The Pushers"). Then, when I asked him to please send a wine steward over to help me select a glass of wine, he replied that he'd received wine training and would be happy to assist me. So I asked which wine from the very short list of wines by the glass would complement the duck. Predictably, he pointed to the two most expensive.

There was a Ribera del Duero on the list, which is a wine made from the same Tempranillo grapes found in the much more expensive Spanish riojas. It looked like a good deal, so I asked him what he knew about it. He described it as a "mild" wine. And he had no idea what grape varietal it was made from.

What this kid knows about wine could be summed up in four words: Order the expensive one. I wish restaurants spent more time teaching the waitstaff about food and wine and a little less time training them how to bloat the bill. When restaurants offer incentives to increase sales, waiters begin to sound like used-car salesmen.

But regardless of the spotty service, this is a restaurant you shouldn't miss. And I wouldn't put it off, if I were you. Excellent restaurants on north Main Street suffer strange fates. Saba Blue Water Cafe once had the most exciting fusion seafood in the city. The last time I checked, they were serving quesadillas.

We only can hope that Bank Jean-Georges will survive with its menu intact, because at the moment it offers one of the most exhilarating, thought-provoking dining experiences in the city of Houston.

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