Best Salad Houston 2002 - Quattro
The lunch salad with scallops, listed on the menu as "pancetta-wrapped Maine diver scallops, warm salad of watercress, jicama and wild mushrooms," tastes as big as its name. First you notice the scallops: three big fat ones, wrapped in pancetta, and the salty Italian bacon pairs beautifully with the sweet shellfish. Then you assess the "salad" part of the equation. Those scallops surround a small, warm mound of jicama slivers, wild mushrooms and watercress. When you eat a bit of everything at once, the combination of textures and flavors is so entrancing (chewy! soft! crunchy! salty! sweet! peppery!) that for a minute you forget about Quattro's impressive view of the George R. Brown Convention Center. You forget to enjoy the restaurant's hyperstylish interior. You forget even what you were telling your lunch partner just a second before. Maybe it's not fair to classify this dish as a salad -- it could count as a light entrée -- but chef Tim Keating obviously doesn't fret about such petty distinctions, and neither will you. In fact, you'll wish more salads took themselves so seriously.