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In spite of the upscale atmosphere and overly attentive waitstaff (I can place my napkin in my lap on my own, but thanks for trying), the restaurant doesn't give off an air of stuffy exclusivity. On one of my dining excursions, I sat next to a Spanish-speaking couple who insisted on sitting nearly on top of each other in a booth and using their fingers to lovingly feed each other bits of steak. On another occasion, a toddler wandered up to my table asking if we'd seen his mother, who had apparently excused herself to go to the restroom without him. It's an eclectic crowd, and the food represents that inclusive attitude.
Queso fundido, hardly a steakhouse staple, has its roots in El Paso and northern Mexican cuisine, but there it is on the menu next to the classic shrimp cocktail. Quesadillas and enchiladas filled with Chihuahua cheese connect the menu to Saltillo's neighbor to the west, while the steak and lobster (surf and turf to those of you who only eat steak at Outback) represents a decidedly American sense of decadence. For those who don't eat red meat, there's plenty of chicken with chipotle or salsa borracha; various riffs on seafood; and even some beautifully crafted and quite tasty salads. If it's at all possible, I suggest you save room for dessert, too.
The chopped salad has a distinctively south-of-the-border flair with grilled corn and queso fresco, but the dried cranberries and candied pecans add a nice, sweet crunch. Every time I chomped on one of those salty-sweet pecans made in-house by Abedrop's wife, Vanessa, I glanced at the salad bowl to make sure I could give myself a second, then a third serving. The wedge salad is a masterpiece thanks to the winning combo of blue cheese and jalapeño bacon. If there's one thing I love more than jalapeños, it's bacon. Top that with buttermilk-avocado dressing, and you've got yourself one heck of a (almost healthy) meal.
302 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006
The huachinango red snapper, probably the best of the seafood offerings, also provides a Latin twist with spicy garlic sauce, Mexican rice, and perfectly grilled colossal shrimp and jumbo lump crabmeat. After having an almost spiritual moment with the crabmeat (Thank you, God, for crustaceans!), I decided I must go back and try the steak-and-lobster combo. This meal hasn't happened yet, but I'm already dreaming about it.
La Casa del Caballo has a number of Mexican-inspired sweets that pair well with the rest of the menu and are very well executed. A weak spot is the somewhat dry torta de chocolate, but the espresso flan and Caribbean dark rum cake are sinfully good. They caused my party and me to slouch down in our chairs a little and allow our bellies to distend to make room for just a few more bites. All desserts are served with a side of arroz con leche, which is deliciously refreshing in its simplicity.
Though the meat and seafood (and flan) are the stuff of glorious dreams, my friends and I all agreed on one thing: We'd seen Tex-Mex done better. It seemed as if every Tex-Mex-inspired dish was served in a pool of grease, which I welcome as an old friend when I sit down to a plate of average Tex-Mex food with pasty flour tortillas and a bowl of complimentary chips in front of me, but the golden puddles of fat are less appealing at a steakhouse hybrid that does everything else so well.
Skip the queso, the cortadillos tacos and even the rather tasty enchiladas and go straight for the meat. Even if you don't generally eat red meat. Just try it. Ease yourself in with the beef carpaccio, cut paper thin and topped with a slice of juicy red jalapeño and a shaved curl of aged parmesan. These flavors mingle in a broth similar to ponzu sauce but possessing more...more...je ne sais quoi. No, really, I don't know. I asked what was in it, but they wouldn't tell me. I think there's sherry vinegar. And orange juice. Red wine? It's hard to say, but it really doesn't matter, because I ended up dipping the extra corn tortillas in the magic juice to sop up every last drop.
All steaks are served with slices of zucchini, squash and bell pepper that possess a hearty, smoky flavor usually reserved for barbecued meat. They have clearly been cooked on the same mesquite grill as the steak so as to take on some of its delightful char. The meat also comes with chunks of roasted, skin-on potato, lightly salted, crisp and barely golden brown on the outside but soft on the inside. The accompanying pinto beans stewed with lard are so creamy that they practically melt in one's mouth. On top of all that, the rib eye cap is served with a hearty helping of asparagus, also grilled over mesquite wood until just tender enough to be chewed but not wilt.
As if this weren't enough food, La Casa del Caballo serves four miniature cups of house-made salsa with any dish you order. I got the impression that they change from time to time, but when I dined, I was treated to a hot yet emphatically flavorful habanero papaya puree; diced red onions mixed with orange juice, lime and a little heat; ranchera salsa; and a bright green avocado and cilantro cream that was sadly just a tad too light on the cilantro. Try them all on every item you order, because each one brings out different flavors and new dimensions of the meat and vegetables.
That hunk of meat doesn't look particularly great. I am confident I can cook a steak as good or better in my backyard for 30 percent of the price.
Love those classy !!Lunch Specials!! banners hanging from their building! This from a place that asks you to drop a few hundred $....
@MadMac Thanks so much! :)
With such talent I can't imagine why you'd be reading restaurant reviews when you clearly don't need a restaurant.