Game On! Go Wild at Rainbow Lodge
Grilled North American Elk Chop, Sweet Potato Mash, Wilted Spinach, Berry Sauce ($45)
Photo by Christina Uticone
Our trip to Rainbow Lodge began with a gift certificate we received as a wedding gift ... in 2009. A thoughtful friend from New York did her research and said this seemed like the perfect place for two Alaskan transplants to Houston to go out for dinner. "Imagine a 100-year-old log cabin restaurant on an acre of grounds right in the middle of Houston!" says the restaurant's website, which describes Rainbow Lodge as "sophisticated but not stuffy." With an adventurous menu of wild game meats and an impressive wine list, it really should not have taken us so long to visit.
We took our certificate and set out to celebrate my birthday just before Christmas. The restaurant certainly is charming, with that warm and inviting log cabin-feel. I was in the mood to try something completely different and hoped that the menu would offer up something new for me to try. After all, I have eaten whale -- a bison burger wasn't going to cut it.
The most exciting aspect of Rainbow Lodge is the variety -- there is wild game to be had on every section of the menu. The starters menu includes a Wild Game & Fowl tasting plate and Rabbit Boudin alongside more standard options like crab cakes and a goat cheese plate. If trying something new is intimidating, this is a good place to start. I'm not too scared of wild game anymore -- a husband who loves to hunt and three years in Fairbanks cured me of my "meat comes from the grocery store" mentality long ago -- and I had a tough time deciding on an entrée. It came down to Elk Chop vs. Antelope Back Strap, and our server Dave encouraged me to go with the Elk Chop.
There is nothing to be scared of at the Rainbow Lodge, even for less adventurous eaters. If you're afraid of the gamey flavor you've experienced when trying other wild meat, keep in mind the finesse with which the plates are composed. I am a big fan of venison and moose, and I expected elk to taste similar, but I thought it tasted quite a bit like beef. The sweet potato mash and berries were sweet against the large, savory chop, and the wilted spinach paired nicely, just as it would with a big ol' steak.
If you aren't quite ready to take the plunge into elk or antelope, the Rainbow Lodge can ease you into wild game territory with entrees like seared duck breast, buffalo short ribs, or a mixed grill plate of venison, lamb, quail, and wild boar. It's worth stepping outside of your comfort zone for this kind of elegant, exciting, and elevated comfort food.
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