Since my husband and I moved to Houston, every time we've driven by La Colombe d'Or Hotel, I've said, "We really have to check that place out sometime." When I ask a Houston native about the restaurant, they always say, "Oh yeah! I went there for my"...and then name some special occasion: 16th birthday, graduation, rehearsal dinner, anniversary party, etc. As most of our dining out consists of the last-minute, come-as-you-are variety, we never made it to CINQ--the restaurant at La Colombe d'Or.
A media tasting provided the opportunity to put on a pretty dress and heels and head over to CINQ. We enjoyed a glass of wine in the library, wandered upstairs to see the unoccupied rooms, and then moved on to the art gallery before dinner. After we were seated, a slightly tipsy woman from the next table came over, sat down, and proceeded to tell us what an amazing meal she'd just had, and how good the service was. Annette said, "I have eaten amazing food all over the world, and I can't understand why this place" -- she waved her hand around, indicating the empty dining room -- "isn't packed right now."
CINQ isn't quite what I expected, and from what I can tell they are in the process of figuring out what they want to be. But if the food is any indication, the staff at CINQ is up for the challenge.
Before dinner we chatted with Chef Jeremie Robison, and I relayed my story about Houstonians who know CINQ and La Colombe d'Or as a special-occasion restaurant. Robison nodded knowingly -- it clearly wasn't the first time he'd heard that. "CINQ is not just for special occasions," he said, offering to cook us a selection of dishes from their "Classics" and "New Ideas" menus. Manager Rich Arnold paired each course with wine, and chatting with him is worth the price of admission itself, especially if you love wine.
Among the highlights were the salads: the Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese from the Classics menu, and a Watermelon Salad with tomato and Pure Luck goat cheese feta from the New Ideas menu.
Being slightly obsessed with watermelon and feta salads at the moment, I was pleasantly surprised that the goat cheese didn't overtake the flavors of the watermelon and tomatoes. I'm not the biggest goat cheese fan in the world, but the Pure Luck cheese was mild and slightly sweet.
Another favorite came from the New Ideas menu: a scallop atop a fried green tomato, cucumber, tomato, crispy parsnip with whole grain mustard vinaigrette. The cast-iron sear on one side of the scallop created a fun textural experience from the top, down: velvety scallop, crunchy parsnip, and cool, tender vegetables. Rich served us a Pierre Jouet champagne along with the scallop to create what was certainly my favorite food/wine pairing of the evening.
Among the other dishes sampled were Braised Octopus, Scallop on Fried Green Tomato, Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass, and the King of the Menu: Braised Short Rib with a sunchoke puree, ratatouille, crispy shallots and fried parsley. Delicate seasoning and luscious, marbled fat combined with the herbaceous kick of the fried parsley had me battling my husband for the last bite. Each dish proved to be interesting and delicious.
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After the meal my husband turned to me and said, "People just need to eat this." I'm not sure if he or Tipsy Annette put it best, but will say this -- if CINQ is an "old-fashioned" favorite from your past, I think it's worth another look.