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Simple Plan

Chef Randy Evans's idea for a "seasonal kitchen" at Haven mostly succeeds.

I was even happier to move to Haven's coffee service, which is its own kind of splendid production. Each drinker is offered a sleek, silver French press of his or her own, accompanied by a little metal container of cream, hammered in folds so as to resemble the milk carton you might remember from a school lunch.

To go with the coffee, we tried the coconut tres leches bread pudding and the Texas buttermilk and pecan pie. The former is an architectural tower of dessert, compact below with an ethereal meringue on top, all drenched in a caramel that manages to avoid sickly sweetness. The latter, a hybrid pie with a wicked-good crust, was served à la mode with Texas rum ice cream and two pieces of phenomenal pecan brittle.

Dinner at Haven has a different feel. What was a welcoming dining room by the light of day becomes too dark and "vacuous," according to my twentysomething dining companion, who was younger than the majority of patrons by at least a few decades. It was oddly disconcerting that, at dinner, we could no longer peek into the kitchen, making the space feel less personal and more generic.

The chef's play on dirty rice will have you scraping the bowl.
Troy Fields
The chef's play on dirty rice will have you scraping the bowl.

Location Info

Map

Haven

2502 Algerian Way
Houston, TX 77098

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Lower Shepherd-Kirby

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays, and 5 p. m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays

Crawfish tails, shrimp, shrimp boudin: $13

Whole okra, fried and grilled: $5

Baby arugula, peaches: $9

Texas cheddar burger: $12

Pulled pork, cilantro cider slaw: $13

Akaushi steak: $31

Allen Brothers fizz: $12

Haven

2502 Algerian Way, 713-581-6101.

Dinner was hit-and-miss. The house-made charcuterie plate, a veritable requirement at hip Houston restaurants these days, could teach some others a thing or two about how much is just enough. Exquisite lardo toasts, smoky tasso ham, a compacted pork trine with pine nuts, and grilled bread with perfect char set off two kinds of cheese (a gouda and the "drunken yodler," the rind of which is washed with Shiner bock) and a glistening little pool of blueberry compote.

Unfortunately, the novelty of pig's feet fritters did not compensate for their lackluster flavor. Garnishes were too meager to cut the dense meat compacted inside each fritter, which, to be fair, did feature crisp exteriors. I would have preferred a plate full of the boudin balls that came atop our dirty rice.

My shrimp and grits ran a little salty, though the grits themselves were perfectly cooked, and I did enjoy the small hunks of bacon that dotted the dish. A personal preference for a bit more spice with shrimp left a bit to be desired, but a quick switch of plates with my dining companion allowed me to swoon over his perfectly cooked Akaushi steak with its lovely demi-glace, leeks, mushrooms and potatoes. Very standard, but very well executed.

On all of my visits, Haven's kitchen suffered from inconsistency when it came to salt — sometimes too much, other times not enough — though the issue is less pronounced than when the restaurant first opened. The wine list features some reasonable, solid bottles, but it can't compete with what other restaurants of its ilk are offering. There are not enough options by the glass.

Still, I will return to Haven all summer long to see what Chef Evans crafts from hot-weather produce. And I'll be back in the more temperate fall to make good use of that well-appointed patio. Some restaurants are just plain charming, and Haven is one of them.

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