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Fortunately, at Tony's, when the sun shines, the prices decline. Not to mention there's no time for the soufflé suggestion.
Houston, TX 77046
Region: Greenway Plaza
Truffle risotto: $15
Raviolo di manzo: $9
Diver scallops: $19
Asian tuna: $31
Veal chop: $39
Venison chop: $38
Crescent express: $17
Portobello salad: $12
A clever, three-course "crescent express" special is offered for a mere $17. Options include a soup or salad and your choice of entrée. My twin brother chooses the hand-rolled veal-and-spinach cannelloni and the soup du jour, butternut squash. The soup, remarkably rich, is a touch sweet. The cannelloni is a delight. "Much better than Olive Garden," Twin reports.
A lunch salad called burrata (think "caprese") could be used in a Ciesielski cooking clinic. The lesson: Ingredients are key. The mozzarella is so fresh, it falls apart and spreads across the plate, giving it the appearance of poached eggs. The accompanying olive oil, fruity and robust, adds to the illusion.
One thing the chorus of cooks never criticized the old Tony's for was the impeccable service. It becomes apparent why when I'm served a steaming bowl of lunchtime chili. After a busboy spoons heaping portions of red onion, jalapeño and cheese into my bowl, I ask if I can get any Fritos. Upon overhearing this, a back-waiter rushes to his captain to see about getting me some. I have to insist I'm kidding before they send someone down the street to grab a bag. Respect! On top of that, the chili is incredible. Big chunks of tender sirloin float in a marvelous, spicy brown and reddish hue. "Much better than Wendy's," I report to Twin.
Again, the bill offers a surprise. The price of the burrata, an appetizer ordered here as an entrée, is doubled. When the server, stellar all around, asked if we'd like it "a bit bigger," we said sure, never imagining "a bit" could've meant "Double it!"
This, coupled with the soufflé debacle, has left me a tad weary of up-sells at Tony's.
For instance, on the lunch visit, I ask our server about the soufflé's intended serving size. While we paid $44 for it, he tells me it would be perfect for a table of three -- bringing its price to $33. When asked if we'd be served the entire soufflé, cut into thirds, he said yes, we would. "Only not the bottom; the top of the soufflé is the part we serve." He went on to say the honking soufflé could also easily feed a table of six -- $66 for 16 eggs and a bucket of sugar. It's a marvelous spectacle, to be sure, but if you're going to order it, better do so with fewer people to get your dollars' worth.
But these squabbles are minor. When I report back to my cult of cooks, I'm going to tell them to eat at Tony's. Skip the soufflé, ask for dressing on the side (my portobello salad was woefully overdressed), and don't order apps as entrées. The experience will be well worth your hoarded pennies.
After that, of course, I'll call them all jotos while holding an eggplant to my crotch.
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