Top

dining

Stories

 

The Taste of Trying

Sorrel Urban Bistro serves modern farmhouse cuisine in a pretty space. So why is it so hard to love?

Sorrel isn't for everyone, in that regard. Not everyone is going to be charmed by seared duck breast on blue corn blini or flounder with vodka-spiked basmati rice and a cantaloupe salad. To each their own. But for those of us who are intrigued by such menu items, Sorrel should make it a little easier to tell what we're ordering. The dinner menus and the weekday lunch menus are more helpfully constructed, with standard "starters" and "main courses" sections, so this shouldn't be tough to do on the weekends, too.

That day, for instance, our waiter told us that a flatbread with sorrel pesto — the same lovely pesto that's delivered along with Texas olive oil and a sun-dried tomato pesto with your bread service — was "more of an appetizer." We ordered it only to find that it was enormous, and better suited for a main. The flatbread was good for a few bites, then the pesto became overpowering, its oil soaking the bread through and through. We turned to our main courses.

My roasted quail was beautiful, stuffed with purple potatoes and wilted, red-edged Swiss chard that made for a striking rainbow on the plate. The potatoes, however, turned out to be mealy and overcooked. My friend's burger with white Cheddar was equally lovely on the plate, but also overcooked — a shame, as the salty-sharp white cheddar and simple dressing of farm-fresh lettuce and tomato were otherwise fetching. His burger came with an enormous side of pommes frites — which would have been nice to know before we ordered a side of the fries, which turned out to be completely extraneous.

The diver scallops are a favorite.
Troy Fields
The diver scallops are a favorite.

Location Info

Map

Sorrel Urban Bistro

2202 W. Alabama
Houston, TX 77098

Category: Restaurant > Bistro

Region: Lower Shepherd-Kirby

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays though Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10:30 p.m. Fridays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Three-course lunch prix-fixe: $24
Five-course dinner prix-fixe: $65
Animal Farm salad: $9
Fried Gulf oysters: $10
Red snapper: $28
New York strip steak: $32
Semifreddo: $6

READ MORE
SLIDESHOW: Modern Farm-to-Table at Sorrel Urban Bistro BLOG POST: Treat Them Fancy Ingredients With Some Respect, Okay?

Related Stories

More About

"Why didn't the waiter tell me my burger came with fries?" my friend despaired of the twiggy frites that now covered our table. The waiter had been exceptionally helpful in our cocktail selections — an excellent "skinny" guava-rum concoction for me, a summery hibiscus margarita with black salt rimming the edge for my friend — but fell short when it came to the food, just as the kitchen often does.

It recalled my first visit to Sorrel many months ago for brunch, when the waiter had neglected to inform my friend that her "breakfast sandwich" would actually be deconstructed and — when finally assembled by her bleary, angry hands — the size of an English tea sandwich. Nor had the waiter told my other friend his "biscuits and gravy" were actually of appetizer size, measly half-dollar-size biscuits topped with drizzles of gravy. You don't do that to a hungry Texan boy expecting a full breakfast.

Thankfully, Sorrel seems to have remedied its portion sizes since then, and the frustratingly misleading menus do actually show signs of improvement as well.

On a recent weekday afternoon, I went for the $24 three-course "Innovation Menu," a lunch tasting menu that I'd recommend for both its value (Sorrel can otherwise be quite pricey, in spite of reasonable beer and wine prices) and its inventiveness.

Like the rest of the menu, it changes every day due to Chef Pedersen's whims and the food's own seasonality, but this most recent incarnation saw tender duck confit shredded and draped atop fat chunks of fried green tomatoes for a first course that was large enough to function as a main. The entrée itself — marsala-spiced diver scallops on top of cilantro-saffron rice in a creamy pan sauce — was my favorite dish at Sorrel to date. The scallops were seared off but still pillowy inside, the saucework again outstanding. Simple lime sorbet carved into abstract roses finished the meal on a third high note, the entire lunch a triumph.

It's meals like this in which I can really see the appeal of Sorrel, and which make me eager for return visits — with caveats firmly in place. Perhaps the reason I'm harder on Sorrel for its consistency issues is that I feel it should know better: This is a slick operation, with a chef and an owner who both know their way around the business. Owner Ray Salti is responsible for the extraordinary Ray's, a modern hunting lodge-style restaurant in Fulshear, and the Danish Pedersen has a strong pedigree to back up his classical European style blended with a smartly updated take on farm-to-table dining. They both have the chops to make this work; I just don't know what the disconnect is.

Take away those silly TV monitors in the dining room, trim down the opaque menu a bit and make the dishes that remain more transparent. Keep it as fresh and simple as the sunny dining room — the right ingredients are already there, after all — and I think Sorrel could become a knockout. Just stop trying so hard, kid, and be yourself. You're already halfway there.

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress.com

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
7 comments
dwayne129
dwayne129

Late last year/2013, their Chef was awarded Top Upcoming Chef which will be aired on a cable food network which acknowledges his talent AND Sorrel. His passion in cooking, long hours preparing your food experience and food creativity is top notch and I brought family and business guest to Sorrel.

A recent surgical cancer treatment which this chef will overcome,  was actually fired by the Sorrel owner. Your blood runs cold mister. We are absolutely shocked!!!
Karma is a MF'er and you're DISGUSTING. I wont return and I've notified all guest that I brought into your restaurant. Pathetic Small Person You Are !!!!!

Bmaxey
Bmaxey

Sorrel opened last summer and quickly became my favorite restaurant. And still is. Oversalting? Not heard that before but have heard comments how they purposely undersalt - and provide a trio of different salts for the asking.

While not a big salad person, last Wednesday I ordered seared ahi tuna salad at Sorrel, mmm it was so damn good I had to tell everyone in the office.

sbterry
sbterry

Interesting that your fish was over-seasoned. I have only visted Sorrel once -- I ordered to appetizers at the bar -- both were in dire need of that "pinch" of salt. The couple sitting next to me were having the same experience with their choices requesting salt. They were promptly brought out salt servers containing 3 different types of finishing salts. My thought at that ttime was it would have been better to have used "finishing" salts in the kitchen prior to delivery.

Jim Ayres
Jim Ayres

Living as I do in a sea of dining ghastliness punctuated by Ruchi's, Zake, Cafe Adobe, AKA and arguably Ruggles Green, I was hoping Sorrel would be different. I haven't yet walked over to try it, but this very fair review actually makes me want to. They've certainly kept their business since opening, so I'm looking forward to seeing what awaits when I visit. (I have been to Triniti and love the place; the comparison will be interesting.)

Feldman
Feldman

I don't know... I really like the TV monitors. It's so unlike any other place and as a diner who frequently eats alone, it's entertaining to see food being prepared.

GUEST
GUEST

Jim,Please come back and share your thoughts when you do. I ran right away last Summer when Sorrel opened and I have kept going back. (I like the TVs . . . love the bar . . . love the food, never a problem . . . the decibel of sound and flighty wait staff could be addressed). I ran to Triniti, as well. It also grabbed my heart . . . and my wallet! Whoa.

 
Loading...