Local Spotlight

First Look at Sorrel Urban Bistro

There's so much to like about Sorrel Urban Bistro, the new farm-to-table concept restaurant that opened earlier this week, that I have to temper my excitement somewhat. I had the chance to preview the space and do a quick tasting before it opened its doors, and I was so impressed, I can't wait to come back for more.

First, there's the decor. Designed by owner Ray Salti and Executive Chef Soren Pedersen, the space feels clean, open, fresh -- a reflection, perhaps, of Pedersen's Danish roots. Large, eye-catching murals of vibrant-colored red, yellow and green vegetables above the bar, and large green bunches of herbs above the open kitchen space pop out against the bright white walls, while high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows bring in a soft natural lighting during the day.

At the bar and charcuterie area, specialty seasonal cocktails like fresh watermelon martinis will be offered, along with artisanal beers and wines on tap. Yes, you did read that right, so I'll say it again just so you know you didn't misread: wines on tap.

If you want wines by the glass, you will get them from the tap, while full bottles of more than 200 wines -- many of them organic -- will be available to order with your meal at a low markup of just 1.5 times the cost. The wines on tap reduce the waste associated with empty bottles, while the low markup on full bottles allow patrons to enjoy good wines with their meals without worrying too much about price.

Our tasting of seared halibut over Israeli couscous with prosciutto, white asparagus, fresh thyme, sundried tomato oil and micro basil, with a caramelized Meyer lemon was as gorgeous visually as it tasted. The flavors were savory, yet subtle, the Meyer lemon adding more of a fragrant essence of lemon rather than a tang. The halibut tasted "like it had been caught that day," remarked another taster. Pedersen says all the fish will be delivered fresh daily, and that this particular halibut had been caught the day before.

Our goat cheese panna cotta over red wine chocolate, with fresh plums tossed in Texas honey, and almond macaroon with some orange zest, was light and refreshing. I particularly enjoyed the farm-fresh quality of the plums, which were vividly red in color, and so juicy you could see the beads of moisture on the flesh of the fruit.

The two plates we tasted during the preview just barely scratched the surface of what Pedersen can offer. His continental style cuisine, influenced by experiences in Denmark and Europe, is clean and unfussy, yet stylish and well-balanced. Combined with the freshness of the ingredients -- fragrant herbs, vibrantly colored vegetables, sweet seasonal fruits, and quality organic meats and sustainable seafood -- the result is a menu that is so appetizing to read, it's hard to figure out what you don't want to order.

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Mai Pham is a contributing freelance food writer and food critic for the Houston Press whose adventurous palate has taken her from Argentina to Thailand and everywhere in between -- Peru, Spain, Hong Kong and more -- in pursuit of the most memorable bite. Her work appears in numerous outlets at the local, state and national level, where she is also a luxury travel correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.
Contact: Mai Pham