I Was Happy for a Few Hours at Saint Genevieve
Fried Green Tomatoes, Apples, Crab Ravigote.
Photo by Joanna O'Leary.
The last time I went to Saint Genevieve, I very much enjoyed their creative cocktails and not just because one was named in the spirit of a Dickens novel. And while drinking your dinner is okay once in a while, this girl also needs to eat (preferably a lot) when the sun goes down.
Little birds had told me that in the year since Saint Genevieve's opening, the happy hour (4 to 8 p.m., Mondays through Fridays) had become increasingly busy. And while the lounge's shimmering lights and dark, gilded interior are lovely, I had no interest in standing shoulder to shoulder with other patrons. So, I dragged (well, they didn't need that much convincing) three girlfriends with me on a rainy Tuesday night in the hopes of avoiding a crowd. Fortunately, we were one of just three tables for the first three-quarters of our visit, and enjoyed optimal attention from the waitstaff and a low wait time in between courses.
In addition to their regular $5/$6/$7 happy hour menu, Saint Genevieve offers $22 pitchers of select cocktails on Tuesday nights. After much demurring ("I don't care; what do YOU want?"), we finally settled on a pitcher of the "Audrey" (vodka, lavender and lemon juice over ice). It was "sweet and beautiful just like Mrs. Hepburn," but also (like Mrs. Hepburn given her lithe figure) very light, which meant I finished a tall glass in short order.
My next drink, The Black Orchid (orange vodka, crème de violette, lemon juice, peach bitters), was richer in flavor and definitely stronger in proof. Heavy crème de violette tones were reflected in the cocktail's deep purple hue. The drink also happened to match my pants and top, always a bonus.
Lest the Audrey and The Black Orchid get to my head, I focused on my first small plate, the fried green tomatoes. As you run down SG's menu, you'll see less exotic (re: boring) options, such as hummus, guacamole and wings, but then, BAM, out of the blue, there's lavender and goat cheese puffs, herb gnocchi tots and reuben empanadas. The fried green tomatoes seemed to be somewhere in between, especially with the addition of the crab ravigote and green apple slices. I don't think I've had a more pleasant summer appetizer this season. The thinly breaded tomatoes were light and crispy, pairing well with the crab, whose briny flavor was readily enhanced by the aioli, garlic and mustard.
It's hard not to like fried chicken, but especially easy to love this version.
Photo courtesy of Tiffany Halik
Other press and online coverage suggested the Mumbai Fried Chicken was among the more popular "divine plates," and though I generally try to push myself to go the road less traveled when it comes to ordering at restaurants, I followed the masses that Tuesday evening. The MBF was not what I expected. More sweet than savory, and crunchy rather than crispy, the white meat chicken could have benefited from an overnight marinade and a deeper fry given its slightly tough, dry texture. Delicious watermelon pickles, however, saved the dish from total desiccation, and the citrusy tamarind batter was a nice change from the standard cornmeal-buttermilk blend.
After all the fuss I made about a quiet, non-crowded Saint Genevieve experience, I was, thanks probably to that Black Orchid, feeling rather rambunctious by the end of the evening. Some faster-paced music and energy from the masses would have probably encouraged me to go for yet another round. I look forward to visiting Saint Genevieve again on a clear weekend night when I have a little more leeway to let loose.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.