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Feast Is Bloody Brilliant

I stuck my neck out, as it were, on a dinner visit to Feast with fellow food writer Paul Galvani and his charming wife Chris. Paul grew up in London, Chris grew up in Germany and both are extremely fond of offal dishes. Paul also has a weakness for traditional English cookery.

For starters, my tablemates and I gnawed on three confit duck necks. There is no elegant way to eat this appetizer, which is why it was served with a finger bowl full of water and extra napkins. The meat that I managed to get off the skinny bones tasted okay. The braising sauce that was left behind on the plate was actually the best part. We sopped it up with lots of sourdough.

We also sampled an ox heart cut into thin strips and roasted. It was tasty, if a little tough. For our entrées, we got the suggestively named coq and tongue pie, which tasted like a good chicken pot pie with a few extra chewy bits — and the dish called steak and kidney pudding.

The cassoulet with confit duck leg is sensational.
Troy Fields
The cassoulet with confit duck leg is sensational.

Location Info

Map

Feast

219 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Restaurant > European

Region: Montrose

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays through Saturdays. 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays.

Fish soup: $8

Meatballs: $7

Cassoulet: $23

Pork belly: $19

Three-course lunch: $16

219 Westheimer, 713-529-7788

We shared an amazing bottle of 2005 Spanish Navarra from Santa Cruz de Artazu with dinner. The Grenache grapes in this wine came from 80-year-old vines, and the wine's highly concentrated flavor was silky smooth. The wine went well with the duck necks, the ox heart and the pot pie, but when I tasted the steak and kidney pudding, I wished I had a beer.

Almost two years ago, in a review of Firkin & Phoenix pub ["Blame Canada," January 11, 2007], I reported on an unpleasant experience with urine-scented steak and kidney pie. "My biggest regret about the Firkin experience is that now I have to establish whether I hate steak and kidney pie, or if Firkin & Phoenix's was poorly prepared. Which means I am going to have to eat (and smell) some more of it," I wrote at the time.

After that review appeared, Paul Galvani invited me over to his house for some properly prepared steak and kidney pie, but somehow I never got around to it. So when Paul and I found ourselves at Feast with steak and kidney pudding on the menu, I knew we had to order it to put this matter to rest.

The pudding was a bland, doughy mass. The steak beneath it was overcooked, as is the custom. The combination of steak, gravy and pudding tasted fine. But the lima bean-sized chunks of kidney smelled like pee. I insisted that Paul eat a large piece. As he fished it out of the pudding and lifted it to his mouth, I could smell it from across the table. As he chewed, I asked him to tell me it tasted great — which he did.

So now I can say without a doubt that I hate kidneys — in pudding or pie.

For dessert, we ate the raisin and pastry roll called "spotted dick," which was served with custard on the side, and a wonderful version of sticky toffee pudding, which resembles a syrup of melted candy poured over a piece of cake. Paul almost teared up as he ate the toffee pudding — he said it took him back to his ­boyhood.
_____________________

Opinions about Feast vary wildly. Most adventurous eaters and Europeans adore the place. When I quizzed people who told me that they found the food uneven or unimpressive, all of them confessed to ordering red snapper or flounder. Feast is not the place to eat Gulf seafood. "Rustic European Fare" is the way Feast describes its cooking and, for the most part, you are best off sticking to foods of that description.

I hated the kidneys, but I would much rather visit a restaurant that pushes the envelope on fine dining than one that panders to the timid. I am really looking forward to eating at Feast over the holidays — as the weather gets colder, this kind of food tastes better and better.

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