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It's Hip to Be Square at Masraff's

Continental cuisine is over, so why would anybody want to eat at this retirees' hang-out on South Post Oak Lane?

I also sampled the wild, line-caught salmon, which was cooked perfectly to medium rare without even asking. It was served with creamy spinach.

The salmon went beautifully with the 2006 Santenay Burgundy I ordered. I had heard so much about the 2005 vintage in Burgundy, I was shocked that the 2006 had such bright fruit and tight structure. Santenay, at the Southern end of the Côte de Beaune, is a lot cheaper than the more famous communes further north.

For my entrée, I ordered Muscovy duck breast slices served over potstickers stuffed with duck confit and mushrooms, with a parsnip puree on the side and a sauce that tasted a little like Chinese five-spice powder. The dish of medium-rare duck and pillow-soft dumplings was sensational to begin with, but the sublime Burgundy made it even better.

It takes some chutzpah to serve steak tartare these days.
TROY FIELDS
It takes some chutzpah to serve steak tartare these days.

Location Info

Map

Masraff's

1753 Post Oak Blvd.
Houston, TX 77056

Category: Music Venues

Region: Galleria

Details

Lunch hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Afternoon tea hours: 2:30 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Dinner hours: 6 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 6 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday brunch hours: 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Steak tartare: $15.50

Eggs Florentine: $13.50

Filet and stuffed

cabbage: $25.50

Wild salmon: $23.50

Duck breast and

potstickers: $26.50

1025 S. Post Oak Lane, 713-355-1975.

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Among the disappointments at dinner was an appetizer of seared scallops covered with gobs of goat cheese. What a waste of scallops. The entrée called "roasted chicken roulade stuffed with asparagus, bell pepper, and goat cheese with Yukon Gold gratin and grain mustard sauce" was underwhelming. One of my dining companions ordered it expecting a delicate poultry dish.

What was set before her looked like a domed Russian Orthodox church made out of chicken. There was a round tower of thinly sliced potatoes topped with a tapering dome of rolled white meat. Sticking straight up into the air through the top of the chicken was a pinnacle of pointy asparagus spears.

And then there was the lobster bird — or was it a hat?

On my final visit to Masraff's, a companion and I split a lobster salad and a filet in bordelaise sauce. The lobster salad was a plate of greens and papaya slices with another one of those fried shredded potato baskets on top.

This time a romaine lettuce leaf was stuck into the air out of one end of the potato basket like a plume. The basket with lettuce looked like a bird with a big tail — or maybe a little pillbox hat with a long feather. What it didn't look like was something that a lobster ought to be inside of. The combination of lobster meat, asparagus and papaya slices was actually quite good once we disposed of the basket, although the salad dressing was too sweet.

The filet mignon was expertly cooked to medium rare, and the bordelaise was just the sort of over-the-top red wine and demi-glace gravy that we're too sophisticated to admit we crave these days.

The steak was sitting on top of a stuffed cabbage filled with soft-cooked leeks, diced potatoes and brie and covered with bacon and sun-dried tomatoes. The presentation of the steak balanced on top of the stuffed cabbage sitting in a puddle of mushroom chutney was ludicrous.

But I forgot all about the chef's silly inclination to stack and pack things once I tasted the leek, potato, bacon, cheese and cabbage combination with the steak and the bordelaise. Rare steak, French gravy and potato-stuffed cabbage — for a meat lover of Eastern European extraction like me, it was a bloody dream come true.

If I were to say that Masraff's feels like an oversized monument to nouveau riche insecurity and that the menu appeals primarily to River Oaks retirees in search of outdated Continental classics — then how could I rave about Masraff's killer brunch and awesome steak tartare? Or admit that I would walk ten miles on my hands and knees for another filet mignon and stuffed cabbage with bordelaise?

It's an enigma. But here's the awful truth: If Masraff's chef, whatever his name is, were to stop putting seafood in potato baskets and start making some killer frites, this restaurant would be scary-great.

Masraff's is so unhip, it's cool. And I will keep going back until Russell Masraff figures out who I am and throws my ungracious ass out the front door.

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