Culinary Countdown

Speaking off the toque: Shelly Drought is the executive chef of the Houston branch of Liberty Noodles [909 Texas Avenue, (713)222-2695]. She was asked to explain how a restaurant in downtown Houston's burgeoning restaurant district calculates prices.

Q: Being a touch wicked, we picked the spicy noodle tenderloin, a menu item that goes for $21.95 à la carte. How does the dish of noodles end up costing a diner that much?

A: We actually lose money on that item, but it is very popular.

Eight ounces of Texas beef filet mignon choice tenderloin costs $9. The sauce, made with imported Thai black soy sauce, oyster sauce, canola oil and homemade chili mix is 60 cents. The vegetables (jalapeño peppers, roma tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, white onion, garlic, broccoli florets and Thai basil) are $1.50. The total cost of these ingredients is $11.10, plus a five percent allowance for waste, equals $11.65.

Restaurants typically mark up dishes three times to cover additional expenses. Liberty's markup includes the cost of its premium downtown location in the Rice Lofts owned by Post Properties, hard and soft costs, interest in loans to Compass Bank, and its competitive salaries for our strong management team. The superior quality of the food products correlates with Liberty's award-winning wine list.

An average check at Liberty for a single diner is $25 including wine, entrée and dessert. The portions are generous, and sharing is not only encouraged but popular. Based on the presentation, quality, quantity and restaurant atmosphere, Liberty is an affordable dining experience.

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