In the space that used to house Bistro Moderne in the Hotel Derek, famed restaurateur Piero Selvaggio has just opened the Houston outpost of Valentino (2525 West Loop South, 713-850-9200). Two weeks ago, he opened Vin Bar, serving a wide assortment of crudo (raw) dishes, adjacent to the fine-dining restaurant. Why did Selvaggio choose Houston? "Houston is on the verge of exploding as a restaurant city," he says. "You have more than just two or three famous chefs here, and there are lots of famous chefs in the making. People here love to dine out and they have a curiosity about wine. This is my kind of town, where people enjoy good food and good wine."
The restaurant's reputation precedes it. "Valentino's has been considered the best Italian restaurant in the country for many years," says Selvaggio. "It is not a trattoria, where simple food is prepared. Instead, we are serving contemporary Italian food, blending the flavors of all the regions of Italy."
Dish found the decor — in red accented with white and black — to be absolutely stunning. In spite of a menu that was somewhat limited, what we had was of the finest quality. A cuttlefish and borlotti (cranberry) beans appetizer had a depth of flavor that pointed to hours of preparation. The spaghetti bottarga (grey mullet roe) left the same impression. Finally, a black truffle-encrusted tuna, barely seared, was spectacular. The combination of first-rate ingredients, sumptuous surroundings and a brand name will end up costing you, though.
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