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Strong Roots

This veggie-centric restaurant could become a Montrose mainstay after working out some kinks.

 See chef German Mosquera and his team at work in their beautiful, bounty-filled kitchen in our slideshow.

Roots Bistro is one of the few restaurants where I can leave completely stuffed and not feel bad about it. That's because the main component of all four meals I've had there since it opened in the old Cafe Moustache space in January has been vegetables.

Vegetables of all shapes and sizes and colors, in many different iterations each time: A plate of emerald-green sautéed Swiss chard one night, a dish of baby carrot-infused polenta another night, garnished with more vibrantly hued carrots on top. Even the desserts here are filled with vegetables, such as a stunningly silken avocado-chocolate mousse I've enjoyed on more than one occasion. At Roots Bistro, vegetables take center stage in the most unassuming way possible, charming and delighting with their elegant presentations and smart transformations.

The fig plate is $19.
Troy Fields
The fig plate is $19.

Location Info

Map

Roots Bistro

507 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Restaurant > Bistro

Region: Montrose

Details

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays
Kale and avocado salad: $11
Sautéed kale: $11
Heirloom tomato plate: $12
Baby carrot polenta: $12
Swiss chard and potato hash with fried eggs: $15
Celeste fig and Idiazabal cheese plate: $19
Sirloin pizza: $18
READ MORE
SLIDESHOW: Montrose's New Veggie Paradise at Roots Bistro
BLOG POST: Would You Pay $19 for a Plate of Figs?

It's unfortunate, then, that I have such great reservations about the place in general.

On one hand, Roots Bistro is a far more welcome addition to this end of the Montrose restaurant strip along Westheimer than its predecessor — a quasi-French bistro that felt like a relic from the 1980s despite being quite young — and it thrills me to see the place packed with neighborhood residents on evenings and at Sunday brunches, when the mimosas are free and the ceilings ring with patrons' laughter and loud, cheerful conversations.

The inviting patio (next to what will soon be Roots' sister venture, a juice bar) is lined with cute, painted gardening utensils in a nod to the veggie-heavy menu and chef's determination to source most of his food from local farmers' markets. The airy interior hasn't changed too much, but it somehow feels fresher and more vibrant, with pop-art paintings lining the walls and a newly opened kitchen that attests to the more accessible nature of the place.

On the other hand, that accessibility is hampered by an often indecipherable menu, capricious service and confusing prices. And these are three things that will turn diners off before they even get to the excellent, veggie-centric New American dishes that chef German Mosquera is serving from that bright, open kitchen.

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After a highly successful first visit to Roots Bistro when it first opened, when a friend and I enjoyed not one but two different plates of sautéed kale — each spicy yet earthy and rough yet smooth, beguiling in their simple treatments of the leafy green — and perfectly prepared gnocchi, I couldn't wait to head back a second time.

For that second visit, I brought a good friend who's been a food writer for as long as I've been alive. I probably built Roots up far too much, as our visit came quickly crashing down. We couldn't make heads or tails of many of the ingredients or dishes on the menu such as "lobstree" or "chicken crown." Our waiter was of little help, focusing mainly on flirting with my increasingly annoyed dining companion instead of getting straight answers from the kitchen.

"Lobstree is kind of like a lobster," was his bored reply to our question. And a chicken crown, it turns out, is a dish of two chicken breasts still connected by the breastbone. They were entirely new to both of us — and if we couldn't figure that out between two food writers and two Google-enabled smartphones, I'm fairly sure the average diner would be immediately put off, particularly by the gruff way that questions over the menu were answered.

Lobstree, by the way, still refuses to show up in the Google searches I run, still maddened, week after week. The best I can tell, it was a langostino. Either way, the crustacean we ordered was nearly impossible to eat, its tough carapace holding the meat inside with a vise-like grip that couldn't be cracked without banging the thing like a marrow bone against the table. The $15 price tag for one measly "lobstree" made it all the more offensive. And the broccoli gratin that came so highly recommended by our lovestruck waiter was a mess of oversalted, overspiced broccoli with nary a hint of dairy on top.

Goat pancetta was far better, the delicious bacon-like shreds of meat served atop a salad of wilted greens that offered a nicely sharp background bite to the gaminess of the pancetta. And we were both taken with Roots' offering of an Old and New World wine side by side for only $8, which netted extremely generous pours of each. This mirrors the wine list itself, which is appealing in its frugality and fun, helpful descriptions. Again, Roots could be quite accessible if it weren't for a few major sticking points.

_____________________

If I was wounded by the $15 lobstree, however, it was nothing compared to a recent brunch with my parents, patrons of an old-school brunching system in which dishes are accompanied by endless pours of coffee and enough food to have kept Jesus from having to make loaves and fishes for his buddies. They were quite taken, however, with a brunch menu that ranged from Texas veal breast and soft scrambled eggs to an heirloom tomato pizza. (Roots, it should be noted, has an excellent pizza oven and will turn virtually any dish on the menu into a pizza if you ask.)

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6 comments
Jen
Jen

This looks pretentious and overpriced. This is coming from someone who will pay a premium for good food but I'm getting fed up with places charging more just because they can - it's insulting. I'm also a bit confused because the headline and final paragraph do not match the tone of the rest of the article. It sounds like the restaurant needs to do more than "work out its service kinks and make its menu more user-friendly" as the food doesn't sound too great either. PASS.

Neal
Neal

I'll pass

Mimi
Mimi

I found the food to be above average, but not spectacular and I had a similar sticker shock when I left the restaurant still somewhat hungry after 3 small vegetable dishes, no drinks, and a $60 price tag. And the service was truly terrible!

Jodie Eisenhardt
Jodie Eisenhardt

I did love that kale! Sadly my next dinner there was a huge disappointment (in every way) and I have not been back. I look to you for guidance as things (hopefully) become consistent.

sbterry
sbterry

Thanks, Katherine. My jury is still "out", but may have to get by at some point.

Corey
Corey

Kudos to the professional waiters/waitresses out there; who actually check their libido at the door.

 
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