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Corner Table Restaurant Is the Place to Be in River Oaks

Former Ruggles chef Bruce Molzan's Corner Table Restaurant is the latest River Oaks hot spot.

Another night, the highly praised Paleo Zataar Chicken came to the table drowned in an overly sour, lemony sauce. The viscous sauce gave the chicken skin a slimy texture, which combined with the already squishy cauliflower puree to ill effect. I wasn't going to say anything, but my server pressed me for a verdict on the dish, appearing flummoxed when I gave him my true opinion. He mumbled something about letting the chef know, but in the end did nothing, and the dish was taken back to the kitchen virtually uneaten.

The non-Paleo dishes on the menu were generally superior to the Paleo ones. Of those, Molzan's simplest dishes — the ones with the least amount of ingredients on the plate — were the most ­pleasing.

His fried organic house-made pickles, for instance, came to the table on a simple wooden platter flanked by two types of dipping sauce. "These are yummy!" I exclaimed, enjoying the firm texture of the lightly sweet pickles with their crisp breaded outer shell. Molzan's signature crab cake, though unappealing visually (it looked like a browned hamburger patty drowned in sauce) displayed a great balance of texture and flavor. Generously portioned, the panko crust was light and flaky, while the spicy roasted pepper sauce had just the right amount of creaminess and ­savoriness.

Chef Bruce Molzan plates a dish of salmon with green ginger sauce.
Courtesy of Corner Table Restaurant
Chef Bruce Molzan plates a dish of salmon with green ginger sauce.

Location Info

Map

Corner Table

2736 Virginia St.
Houston, TX 77098

Category: Restaurant > New 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 Saturdays; closed Sundays.

Fried organic house-made pickles: $8.00
Chef's crab cake: $14.00
Avocado crab tower: $17.00
Greek salad: $11.00
Beet salad: $12.00
Foie Gras Kobe Beef Burger: $26.00
Short Rib Pizza: $18.00
Paleo fish tacos: $18.00
Paleo Paella: $29.00
Zataar Chicken: $26.00
Pistachio crusted flounder: $30.00
White chocolate bread pudding $7.95



View More:

Slideshow: A Closer Look At Corner Table Restaurant
Blog: Bruce Molzan is Back with Corner Table: This Week's Cafe Review


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The standout dish from all my visits was the Foie Gras Kobe Beef Burger, which I ordered for lunch on a Thursday afternoon. It arrived at the table open-faced, assembling to form a gloriously high tower of bun, meat, and fresh vegetables. Instead of melted cheese, Molzan layered in a piece of crispy quinoa parmesan cheese tuile, which gave each bite a bit of crunch. A bigger piece of foie gras would have been nice, but the overall combination of foie gras with port reduction, combined with the candied apple and ginger and a perfectly cooked, juicy medium rare patty, was insanely delicious. I smiled merrily as my friend took a bite of the corner I gave her, rounding her eyes and exclaiming "Amaze-balls!" If only all the dishes were that good.
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Wearing a flowing chiffon top in an attractive bright orange color, Lexington made a stop at our table to introduce herself the first night I was there. "My name is Darla, and I'm the owner here," she said as she inquired about how things were going. I appreciated the personal touch of that brief encounter. She was pleasant and gracious, like a hostess at a party. Having just finished our appetizers, we told her that everything was going well.

That was before we had the Greek salad with soggy lettuce and the salty paella that we had to send back. And it was prior to my subsequent visits, when we had a tasty but soggy-centered caramelized onion and short rib pizza, a disappointing beet salad, and my sour Zataar Chicken.

I can pick one dish from each of my visits that I liked unequivocally, but the rest of the dishes had problems. Something as simple as a cappuccino even went wrong: It came beautifully presented on a wooden platter with a chocolate spoon and a fantastic house-made macaroon, but they forgot the foamed milk on top, so I had to order steamed milk on the side.

The famous Ruggles white chocolate bread pudding, my go-to dessert for as long as I can remember, was not the molten-hot, silky-smooth center with golden crispy top that I remembered. The innards were more like a curdled custard, and the top was white and almost stale in taste and ­texture.

And then there was the snapper and crab chowder, which came with Gulf crab and red snapper, along with tortilla strips and sausage. If you took a bite with the tortilla chips, it tasted like a tortilla soup; if you took a bite with the sausage, it tasted like gumbo. My friend liked it, but for me, the chowder had an identity crisis — it didn't know what it wanted to be, and it was trying to do too much, much like the restaurant itself.

"The menu needs to be edited," my companion pronounced at the end of my first meal there. The oversized menu currently offers eight categories: appetizers, soups, salads, burgers, Paleo, pastas, pizzas and entrees. On top of that, there was an extra daily specials menu on the side, offering at least ten more choices. Shortening the menu would allow them to focus on execution, creating more ­consistency.

Not that it seems to matter. Every year, there's that one restaurant — the one that's anointed by the public as the "it" place to be. Whether it's the menu, the Molzan name, the Ruggles legacy, the location, the decor or the owners, Corner Table is definitely River Oaks' darling of the moment. Let's hope that more of the food there soon matches up to all that positive momentum.

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11 comments
zebra56
zebra56

The last time I went to Ruggles the waiter added an extra $30 to my already generous tip.  When I called and complained the manager wasn't at all outraged, other than they'd gotten caught.  Never went back and won't go to the new place!


Keene38
Keene38

same Cat, slightly different Spots

jimbo1126
jimbo1126

With tax and tip, that's a $30 burger!!!  It better be good.

Looks like the Zataar Chicken and the Paella are already off the menu.

nebbiobaro
nebbiobaro

Nice review, Mai. I would only quibble with your last point. Far from "the public" anointing Corner Table as the place to be, it's a few socialites and influencers, along with their cadre of followers who have endorsed it as the place to be. However, their fickleness will soon prevail, whether this season or next, and Corner Table will meet the same fate as places like Los Tonyos, for anyone who remembers Tony Vallone's descent into Tex-Mex or Mex Mex or whatever madness it was. 

Because once the butterflies abandon the place, it really will be 'the public' that judges the merits of the restaurant, and knowing Molzan's rather scant culinary talents (especially compared to our new crop of Houston chefs/cooks) it won't be long for this world.


Stuart48
Stuart48

Why would The Press waste money on a place whose "star" chef is a thief? Not to mention a self idolizing jerk. Fried pickles? Invented by whom for what? The first place I saw them was in a disastrous joint out on FM 1488 twenty years ago. Just a BS idea. Cheaper than fried green tomatoes, I suppose. 


Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

Let's hope not that the food improves, but rather that it goes under so Molzan will find a new line of work.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

This guy is obviously an greedy @ss clown; the chance of him ever seeing any of my or my friends money would be zero. Refuse to patronize any one's restaurant who knowingly screws their employees out of their rightful money. 

Mai Pham
Mai Pham topcommenter

@nebbiobaro I don't necessarily disagree with you, but an FB interaction this morning illustrates another facet of what I mean by "the public." Commenting on someone else's wall (he's not my personal acquaintance), a person on FB made the following observation: "Yelp reviewers give it 4 out 5 stars. Food looks visually good. I will have to try anyways."

mabrey34
mabrey34

@Mai Pham  

I'm not sure that's the best rebuttal to Nebbiobaro's point, if his/her point is that tables are filled mainly by socialites and those driven by elite opinion. I mean sure, I guess some average Joe's are coming in and Yelping and FBing the place, but that doesn't mean the business isn't 90% fueled by ladies who lunch and their hen-pecked high society husbands/boyfriends. I'm seconding the feeling that this place doesn't enjoy a love of public or popular opinion. That's not the reason it's often full. Liked your review btw!

 
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