How Could We?
I was appalled and astounded to read Eric Lawlor's catty assassination of Bistro 224 ["Bad-News Bistro," April 30]. He totally missed the point of the delicious food and lower Westheimer ambiance, instead going off on a disgusting diatribe of so many irrelevant or barely relevant things. These include the waiter too friendly, waiter not attentive enough, waitress too attractive, room not crowded enough at lunchtime, neighbors including a porno store and an old laundromat, his knife was too big, the neighborhood had too many townhouses. This is sickening and unfair.
Any longer-term observer of lower Westheimer (and the HP has witnessed it all) surely must realize the Bistro 224 proprietor deserves a Houston Medal of Gallantry for creating an aesthetic restaurant space at the former site of a boarded-up crack house, and for toughing it out there, competing with the super successful La Strada, Ruggles, Michelangelo's, Aldo's, etc.
More to the point, only halfway through this "review" does the reader see anything about food! Finally, you note that it is elaborate ... delicious, but even this is written in an unbelievably twisted, nasty, negative way. Highly opinionated jerks like Lawlor shouldn't review anything. How could his awful criticism be at all valid when the Houston Chronicle consistently has given this restaurant raves? Lawlor needs a vacation (permanent?) and the Houston Press owes Bistro 224 a giant apology and retraction.
She's Appalled, Too
I am appalled at your inaccurate review of Bistro 224. The reviewer, Eric Lawlor, shows a startling unfamiliarity with cuisine and restaurants. It is hard to imagine when Mr. Lawlor visited Bistro 224. We have never encountered an empty restaurant.
Now, let's discuss some criticisms. I am particularly fond of snails. His "a mere six of them" is ridiculous. I have never seen more served in one order, here, in Europe or in South America. Where did he find a larger order? As for them "languishing" in butter, how else would he suggest they be served?
The crab cakes are a favorite of mine, and of several of my friends. If Mr. Lawlor doesn't like three sauces, he need only eat one. The pork tenderloin is excellent and is another favorite. My friends and I do not consider it "burdened" with the plum sauce, but the waiter or waitress would be happy to serve it unadorned. It's a shame Mr. Lawlor is bewildered by the presentation of the gravlax. Frankly, I'm surprised he knew that it was salmon. Finding it accompanied by chopped egg yolks, capers, chopped red onions and a wedge of lemon is certainly not unusual, and is welcome to many of us.
Mr. Lawlor may be a "dreadful snob where mussels are concerned," but it would be interesting to learn where he was served mussels that were not open. Likewise, I am curious about green beans so firm that they required a pair of pliers.
It appears that the dining experiences of your reviewer, Mr. Lawlor, must have been limited to fast-food restaurants. He obviously is not knowledgeable about fine dining. It is a shame that he has been allowed to criticize a restaurant as outstanding as Bistro 224.
He's Disppointed and Angered
I am extremely disappointed and angered by the unnecessarily vicious attack on the Bistro 224 in the guise of a restaurant review. Eric Lawlor, the writer of the "review," seems to have had an ulterior motive.
I have some questions for Mr. Lawlor that I, a frequent patron of the Bistro 224, would like to have answered. The first deals with that part of his "review" that was the most self-serving and baffling:
Mr. Lawlor, why was it necessary to mention the proximity of a laundromat and adult bookstore in a restaurant review?
It would appear to any fair-minded individual that the location of a restaurant does not affect its service or the quality of its food. You could have just as easily mentioned that Courtlandt Place shares the same neighborhood. As a matter of fact, it's just across the street.
If the location of Bistro 224 is going to be mentioned at all, it should be to commend the owner, Matt Khajehali. Are you aware, Mr. Lawlor, that the building housing Bistro 224 is a former crack house? Mr. Khajehali single-handedly turned the building into a safe, fine restaurant. I would consider this an improvement. Since valet service is provided at Bistro 224, it doesn't matter what neighbors it has.
My next question for Mr. Lawlor deals with his inability to either like or dislike the various dishes he reviewed: Did you like the salmon gravlax or not?
As a very frequent patron of the finest restaurants, I can assure you, Mr. Lawlor, that they also offer capers, red onion, hard-boiled egg and, yes, even lemon to accompany their salmon. If you were to go to the Brownstone for one of their fine brunches, you would see bowls of these set next to the whole poached salmon. These are served with the gravlax at Bistro 224 to give the patron options, Mr. Lawlor. It seems a shame to me that you, a restaurant reviewer, feel it's "the job of the kitchen" to make all decisions when it comes to the food you are reviewing.
Why would you make a snide remark about what you hear evenings are like at Bistro 224 instead of simply visiting there at that time? I have been to Bistro 224 on many nights when people were waiting patiently for a table.
Mr. Lawlor, why should I respect your opinion? It became readily apparent when reading the "review" that for some unknown reason, personal attacks were being levied with little or no regard for telling readers about the restaurant.
Did you know, Mr. Lawlor, that Mr. Khajehali is planning to donate all proceeds from the opening night of his new restaurant to an AIDS cause that is in the most need of financial support? He has been asking me as well as other patrons for suggestions for several months now. I wish him the greatest success in his endeavors and hope that the misguided prose of an unknown "reviewer" doesn't do harm to one of the nicest places I've had the opportunity of visiting.
John E. Marcellus, M.D.
Were We in the Right Restaurant?
Eric Lawlor's review of Bistro 224 started me thinking that maybe he was in the wrong restaurant. My husband and I have been going to Bistro 224 faithfully for more than three years. We have watched this lower Westheimer restaurant emerge from a rundown building to the lovely place it is today through hard work and determination on the part of the owner and his family. Lower Westheimer still has a few problems, but take a better look, Mr. Lawlor. There is an art gallery across the street, along with Michelangelo's and Aldo's restaurants, and the "shop that sells crystals" is in a beautiful old home -- hardly a "dwindling pocket of funk."
To say that Mr. Lawlor's review of Bistro was harsh is an understatement. The review was vicious and downright mean-spirited. True, the waiter should not have made the comment that he did, but Mr. Lawlor should have asked to speak to the owner or manager right away, and I can guarantee it would have been dealt with in an appropriate manner.
Lunch business may be lacking, but the evening business at Bistro thrives. And, yes, sometimes you even have to wait for a table. We have eaten just about everything on the menu with the exception of the snails, and everything has always been exceptional. In fact, two years ago, Bistro 224 catered our daughter's large wedding reception (not at the restaurant) and people who attended are still telling us how great the food was!
Wait, Here's Someone Who Likes Him
I just finished reading Eric Lawlor's most recent restaurant review. Your choice of Lawlor as a restaurant critic was an excellent one. He is a wonderful, witty and engaging writer. I look forward to reading his reviews -- whether they are positive or negative. His honesty and objectivity are refreshing, and he lends humor even to the worst possible dining scenario.
These restaurant reviews provide a real public service, and I thank the Houston Press for providing them. Keep up the good work, Eric; you are a worthy successor to Alison Cook.
Um, But Not These Folks
After reading the review of Bistro 224 by Eric Lawlor, we wonder if this is the same restaurant we enjoy so much. We take issue with your review of Bistro 224. We have eaten there on numerous occasions and have found the food to be well prepared, outstanding and professionally served. The portions are very generous and beautifully presented. We have sent many friends there, and they have had nothing but praise for this restaurant. Not only is the food delicious, but the noise level has always been low, and you can talk to your guest in a normal tone. We feel this review is most unfair and could ruin this very fine restaurant. We hope that your readers will try this fine restaurant for themselves and will enjoy it as much as we have.
Beverly and Dr. David Sufian
Celine and David Hecht
Of Olympic Caliber
Wow, a fight over municipal bond advisory fees, er, "conflict of interest," between Rodney Ellis and Allen Crosswell refereed by Bob Randolph [Insider, "Tiff at the Midtown T.I.F.," May 7]. Houston hasn't seen anything like it since Paul Bosch staged Friday Night Wrestling down at the old Auditorium.
I also remember when Bob resigned from his post with the old Midtown Development Association, which only had a little private money, and very professionally billed the new Midtown Development Authority, which had a ton of former city and school district tax money, for his work with the former for the latter.
Man, if bus-station con artists, high-rise shysters and secular snake-handlers ever stage an Olympic tournament, we will nail down that sucker event for sure!
John Robert Behrman
No Special Interest Here, Huh?
Congratulations to Russell Contreras on a bang-up job ["Frontier Fiesta," April 30]. I found it intriguing that he failed to quote (or explain the lack of quotes from) UH organizers, alumni or other Frontier Fiesta advocates regarding the issues Mr. Contreras raises in the article. The lone statement from Dr. Munson and "school officials" is used in what appears to be "penmanly" theatrics, painting them as unknowing and uncaring. What Mr. Contreras fails to convey is UH's continuing attempt to show that it is a world-class school with several nationally recognized programs, is nestled in the fourth-largest city in the U.S. and is blessed with diverse demographics. As a UH alum (BSChE, 1993), I witnessed the rebirth of Frontier Fiesta, and as a member of one of the largest (and possibly the most diverse, at the time) traditional Greek-letter fraternities, I witnessed the fun, camaraderie and school spirit that the event inspired among all who participated. Those who boycotted or derided the event offered no suggestions or solutions; they argued irrational, emotional points. According to your article, some very insensitive things have occurred at the event; it is right for you to bring these to the surface, but let us change, not destroy, what could be a great asset to the school. To term the event a celebration of genocide is simply irresponsible: The frontier days of the U.S. certainly may have had their share of reprehensible deeds, but because "the U.S. tried to extend its borders all the way to the West Coast," we all have the right to air our opinions. In order not to sound like a soapbox-using, Machiavelli-quoting, flag-waving, blind patriot, I will conclude by saying that these people were not interested in a solution, only in conflict for conflict's sake. If, in fact, this event deserved an article, it deserved one with an impartial sampling of parties involved. Bravo, Mr. Contreras, you attempted to show that UH chooses to ignore the needs of large groups of students, when it appears, beneath the surface, that large groups of students actually choose to ignore the needs of UH.
An open letter to the 100 KRBE Radio Research Callees ["Played Out," by Hobart Rowland, April 23]:
Due to the intense firestorm of controversy generated by my letter oftwo weeks ago, I hereby resign from my position as President and CEO of Houston Radio Critics, Inc.
As you might recall, I wrote a letter labeling the KRBE research callees "a bunch of lemmings following each other over the cliff." After much regret and many sleepless nights, I have decided to step down from this lofty position. In this age of political correctness, I admit my remarks were very insensitive. What I should have said is, "Those 100 people KRBE supposedly calls for their research must be like a giant herd of wildebeest, rumbling through the plains of the Serengeti, wildly stomping on each other as they cross the river."
My deepest regrets.
P.S. I would also like to apologize to any lemmings or wildebeest that I might have offended.
Spotlight on Todd Snider
Thank you for putting a well-deserved spotlight on Todd Snider ["Dream So Real," by Rob Patterson, April 30]. He's a helluva songwriter, a good guy and the best performer in rock music today.
Hey, He's an Eclectic Kind of Guy
Todd Snider seems to have the Press reviewers scrambling. The Press review of his premiere, Songs for the Daily Planet, cast Snider in the Ray Stevens mold, writing "novelty" songs. Now you've got him as a cross between Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Graham. What's next, a mix of Up With People and Kiss? (Having seen his act this week, I'd add a little Joe Cocker. Great act, by the way, good opening group, too, the Bottle Rockets. Festus, Missouri?!)
What If We Still Don't Get It?
You know, it took me a while to ponder the review we received from you ["No Laughing Matter," by Lee Williams, April 30]. Everyone else in the entire Houston area seemed to get it; what happened to you? I'm sure you are a talented writer, for the most part, so why are you using Eating Raoul as your public forum on hate crimes? The show is a caricature of life in the mid-'70s, not Jerry Springer! And I loved the question about why everyone else thought it was funny except for you. Well, probably because you are in the minority, my dear! (If one person equals a minority.) And as for the comment about our cast being a bunch of Nazis, there are three Jewish actors in the show who practice their faith regularly, and more than a few Christians. We can all take a joke -- can you?
This isn't about the neighborhood the theater inhabits, or the gay-bashing in Montrose (since Body Positive came with a sold-out house to one of our previews, which Gerry LaBita so graciously donated to the cause). How come we get standing ovations? Maybe you need to take life a little less seriously and learn to laugh a little more.
I certainly am not afraid of you, but some people think your opinion holds some merit and were afraid to write to you. I credit you for at least having an opinion, I'm just not sure it is of the same things we are speaking of -- you of hate crimes in America, I of innocent comedy. And I have to wonder if your opinion of the show and the neighborhood the theater inhabits would change if we were to do the show at Stages? My dear, we are not all white, we are all different people of different religions and ethnicities doing a light, fun comedy, and doing it very well, I believe. Thanks for your time.
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Focusing the News
A round of applause for the author of "The Mean Spirit of Texas" article [by Tim Fleck, April 30] and to you all for putting it on your web site. The sad thing is that most likely the two men will settle instead of going to court -- after all, they have to worry about getting new jobs. God forbid that their future employers might think that they expect to be treated fairly as human beings on the basis of the relative quality of their contributions! Actually, the two men do fail to contribute -- that is, if contribution consists of generating sex appeal. The real issue here is whether the focus of the news should be to entertain or to inform, because if the news was intended to inform the viewer, then age discrimination would be unnecessary. The EEOC will continue to face cases such as that of Mr. Getter and Mr. Uhl; Houstonians will continue to have no choice but to watch local news of little substance; reporters will continue to have to compromise themselves in order to make a buck -- all of this will occur until the purpose of the news, to entertain or to inform, is decided once and for all.
Missed a story? The editorial contents of the Houston Press, dating back to July 1, 1996, are available on-line at www.houstonpress.com/archive/ index.html.