Houston Restaurant Weeks: Backstreet Café

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What they're up to for Restaurant Weeks: Backstreet Café is taking a beverage-driven approach to Houston Restaurant Weeks and there's something for everyone. They have developed specific, three-course dinner menus for red wine, white wine, beer and cocktails. Pairings are an additional cost, but you can, if you want, order any of those menus without the pairings for $35. Going with the vegetarian menu garners you four courses instead of three. For lunchtime, select a more casual menu for $20.

I habitually order Sean Beck's white wine Pick of the Month during the summer before even looking at the menu, so I continued down that road on my visit with the white wine menu.

Service/Atmosphere: Backstreet's service was attentive and professional and that is in line with what I normally experience there.

Items that won't be on the regular menu: All the dishes on the white wine menu were also available on the regular menu.

Don't Miss This Dish: The starter for the white wine menu, Gulf Coast Beignets, were little wonders of ethereal, crispy spheres that somehow still held together a plethora of seafood. Inside was shrimp, crawfish tails, lump crab, bits of andouille, corn and roasted red bell pepper. It's one of the best dishes I have ever had at Backstreet Café.

Don't Bother: I could have skipped the entire rest of the menu and just stuck with those beignets. I couldn't really taste the prosciutto that was part of the main course, Chicken Milanesa. It had a crisp arugula salad on top, but the flattened chicken breast was just bland. The rice pudding with peaches and sugary crisped rice didn't bowl me over either, being both a little too sweet and, despite the pretty presentation, kind of boring. I love certain types of rice puddings, but it can be really hard to make them interesting without undermining the basic elements that make them comforting.

Final verdict: Yes, you do want to go to Backstreet for Houston Restaurant Weeks, but I would have one of the other menus. I'll have a hard time choosing between the red wine menu (with the long-standing favorite of mixed grains deeply roasted vegetables followed by roasted grilled quail, a dish they always do a great job on) or the vegetarian menu. The cauliflower steak is the main on the vegetarian menu and I've had it repeatedly. It's a thick cross-section of a whole head of cauliflower and the presentation is a work of minimalist art on a plate. You can enjoy the vegetarian menu with expertly selected wine pairings as well, so have at it. Oh, and if you're not eating vegetarian... have an order of those seafood beignets on the side.

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