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Home to Roost

Young turk Kevin Naderi explores his roots and his passions at this homey spot on Fairview.

Foodies enjoy Roost for this reason as much as they enjoy witnessing Naderi's ethnic twists on Texan dishes, like a homemade kimchi and egg yolk sauce that adorned a piece of seared Gulf amberjack one night. Another week, it was Texas-raised lamb made into kebab sliders with charred tomatoes and a saffron aioli that Naderi created while breaking down a whole lamb from Black Hill Ranch and using its ribs in a Japanese-inspired dish the night before. And for dessert, it's fried doughnut holes topped with coffee and dulce de leche ice cream, the fried bread drenched in a Persian honey sauce that makes it teeter gleefully over the edge of being almost too sweet.

Even beer fans are satisfied with an array of local craft beers like Karbach on draft and more serious brews like Brouwerij Huyghe's infamously strong Delerium Tremens, sold by the half-pint only. Wine fans, however, will find little to love at Roost — for now. The red-heavy list is still lingering from the colder months, and Houston's warmer weather these days isn't doing Roost's bottles any favors: The last three bottles of red I ordered over the course of three visits were woefully hot.

I mentioned this to Naderi, who admitted that there isn't enough ventilation — see: quirky old building problems — and that he was working on getting better wine storage in place. Better to stick with the whites for now, he told me. And with the summer coming on fast, that won't be a problem.
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Neighborhood residents walk over for the fish of the day.
Troy Fields
Neighborhood residents walk over for the fish of the day.

Location Info

Map

Roost

1972 Fairview St.
Houston, TX 77019

Category: Restaurant > Contemporary

Region: River Oaks

Details

Hours: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Pickles: $5
Soup of the day: $5
Bread service: $6
Roasted cauliflower: $9
Fish of the day: $18
Country-fried quail: $18
Doughnut holes: $6

READ MORE
SLIDESHOW: Kevin Naderi Comes Home to Roost
BLOG POST: The Changing Cost of Bread Service

Naderi seems painfully aware of the issues like these that his little restaurant is experiencing as it moves through the awkward adolescence that all restaurants experience. He hadn't even planned on opening a place of his own so early in his career, but couldn't pass up the opportunity when the building here at 1972 Fairview became available. He and his family own it together, although the restaurant's path is all his.

"It looks shabby," he recalls his mother saying of the dozens of old window shutters he used to decorate two walls in the restaurant.

"Shabby chic," he laughingly corrected her. But Naderi is a chef by trade — not an interior decorator, and not a maître d'. While the décor at Roost certainly fits its overall aesthetic of a cozy place to tuck into, Naderi clearly struggles with the front of the house. He's a chef by trade, albeit one of those rare chefs who's equally at ease in the hot glare of a dining room as he is on the hot line. This talent and his effusive personality notwithstanding, Naderi can't be in two places at once — but often tries to be anyway.

This can lead to some frustration on the front end, as many guests are left alone upon entering for far too long and I've witnessed tables receiving very spotty service unless Naderi is overseeing everything in the dining room. Likewise, when he's not checking up on the line cooks, the fish can come out overcooked, the soups underseasoned and his signature roasted cauliflower soggy and sad. Naderi wants to be the host as much as he wants to be the chef, but a servant can only have one master.

When he's in the kitchen, however, Roost turns out some staggeringly excellent dishes: a piece of perfectly grilled Almaco jack on top of dill-and-cucumber-spiked tzatziki that tastes homemade because it is, the delicate white flesh of the Gulf fish pairing wonderfully with the tangy, creamy sauce. Or those lamb ribs, done in a pseudo-Japanese hibachi style with a soy-ginger glaze topped with sesame seeds and perched over a mound of coleslaw made with a creamy ginger dressing.

It's these artful dishes that make me more prone to overlook the bad ones — not only because I know what Naderi is capable of at his young restaurant, but because I can see all the potential that Roost has within it.

On a recent Monday night, I arrived at 6:30 p.m. to find Roost already packed and was thrilled to see Naderi through the kitchen window, working the line in a ballcap and apron. I knew our meal would be excellent. And it was. In an ideal world, I'd see Naderi back there every night monitoring his kitchen and making sure the high standards he's set are being executed — he already does all of the charcuterie, pickling and a host of other prep work before each service, but the kitchen seems to need his guidance in order to pull it all together each night. And in that ideal world, Naderi would have hired a front-of-house manager who matches his own fierce work ethic so that he can be free to be the consummate host/chef that he has the potential to be.

Realistically, however, it will take more time for the restaurant to fully gel. When it does, I wouldn't be surprised to look back in a decade to find that Roost has taken a place in Houston's culinary firmament as one of the new classics of the young turk era.

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress.com

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17 comments
CastanedaHarry
CastanedaHarry

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Willowtrees17
Willowtrees17

Katharine, your review is spot-on, at least based on my experiences. The food is great when it’s great, but the constantly changing menu combined with less experienced front-of-the-house folks causes some minor problems. I’ve never succeeded in getting a second (mediocre) glass of wine despite an empty glass, and several dishes have come out without certain advertised elements. Fortunately, it’s all forgivable given the restaurant’s age and price point!

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

What a great write-up, Katharine. If I weren't already a fan, I'd definitely want to go after reading this. I don't think Roost is BYO anymore, though, is it? I thought that was only the first month.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Thanks! And - no, it's not BYOB anymore. Did I say that in the review? I can't find it if I did...

Nickhalston
Nickhalston

Parking is not an issue anymore since the ROOST's neighbor on the other side of Hazard has graciously given permission to park on his property on busy nights. It is just across street and a short walk from the resturant.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Nearly every time I've visited, I've parked in front of the townhomes at Fairview and McDuffie. And once I had to park at Fairview and Brun. No big deal; it's less than a two-block walk.

Beckett
Beckett

It's not the walk, it's parking in front of someone else's home.

Beckett
Beckett

Thank you, Katharine. I hoped it was a misunderstanding. Keep up the wonderful writing.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

My apologies. It's so difficult to read tone into comments on the Internet. And so often, the discussions lately have revolved around residents being angry that restaurants are opening and taking "their" parking away, that I jumped to conclusions. My apologies, again.

Beckett
Beckett

Btw, the attacks on me here and on Twitter? What's that about? I asked a simple question because the info was not in the article and I didn't see it on Roost's page. Nickhalston, thank you for being nice. I will park where you said. I love Montrose and I wish I could afford to live there.

Beckett
Beckett

I agree 100% but the last time I parked in front of a residence in Montrose ( was going somewhere other than Roost) I got towed for blocking a private drive and my car was nowhere near the edge of that driveway. My car is really small. Was really just wondering if Roost had parking that I didn't know about. Sorry to upset everyone.

Flip
Flip

Someone else's home who DOESN'T OWN THE STREET IN FRONT OF THEIR HOUSE NOR DO THEY OWN THE EASEMENT!

CMN
CMN

You must be lost. I think you mean to be talking with the city on getting your street converted to permit parking. Good luck with that.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

You mean...on a public street? In a densely populated area that's long been a mix of commercial and residential spaces? Those people have driveways and garages in which to park their cars/guests. I'm afraid I don't see the problem here.

 
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