It's already the middle of August and I had yet to try even one Houston Restaurant Weeks menu. That had to be remedied at once. I checked out the list of restaurants at houstonrestaurantweeks.com and made my decision, not an easy one considering the variety. Just reading the plethora of options made my mouth water. Still, I had to narrow it down, dear readers, and I chose to go with Bistecca. I had never been to the Italian steakhouse before and since one can drop some mega bucks at this elegant and sophisticated ristorante, trying the $20 HRW lunch menu seemed a perfect way to get a taste of the fancy life.
Houston Restaurant Weeks began in 2003, founded by radio and television host and producer, Cleverley Stone. It has since become the largest annual fund raiser for Houston Food Bank, bringing in More than $14 million since its inception. That's a lot of green, but Houston Food Bank is the largest food bank in America, so every penny earned during Houston Restaurant Weeks is much needed. For each $20 brunch and lunch menu, $3 is donated to Houston Food Bank. For the $35 and $45 dinner menus, $5 and $7 are donated, respectively.
I made the drive from the wilds of Cypress to the Westheimer strip and easily pulled into the small parking lot, prepared to hand the keys of my sweet ride to the valet. It's complimentary at Bistecca and necessary in that area. With a caution to the valet about my recently broken door handle, a victim of my brute strength, I headed through the doors into the air-conditioned comfort of the modern and bright restaurant. I was greeted and asked if I had a reservation. I said no, but since I was alone, I decided to take a seat at the bar. It was after the lunch rush, so there were just a few lingerers, including a couple of people at the bar.
Having done my online research, I had discovered that Bistecca also has a happy hour from 11 a.m to 2:30 p.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Lucky for moi, the happy hour red was Banfi Col di Sasso, a Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon blend that is a food-friendly vino. At $5 a glass during happy hour, it's also a bargain.
I asked for the HRW menu, but I already knew what I wanted as I had scoped out the menu beforehand. Most HRW lunch menus offer two courses, but there are a few that offer three. Bistecca is one of the three course menus and it is definitely a steal.
The first course choices were a gazpacho or the house-made goat cheese and beet raviolo with truffle cream and toasted almonds. With the 100 degree temps outside, I decided gazpacho sounded refreshing. I was expecting a small cup, considering that it was a three-course meal. However, a large glass bowl of tomato-ey goodness was set in front of me. It had a few baby shrimp and was garnished with small bits of avocado and mango. This was a tasty way to get my fruits and veggies. The vinegar in it was not overwhelming, which meant my wine did not get overwhelmed either. It tasted like a proper, traditional gazpacho.
For my main, or secondi as Bistecca terms it, I went with the seared salmon and lobster risotto. That was a hard choice to make, as there is also a veal braciola with herbed parmesan polenta on offer. I love polenta and I love risotto, but the seafood won out on this make-up melting afternoon.
When my entree arrived, I was floored by the size. The menu said it was a 6 ounce portion. If that piece of salmon was 6 ounces, then I am a size 6. And well, I am not. The skin on it was nice and crispy and it was topped with lump crab meat. That was an unexpected and wholly wonderful surprise. The risotto underneath was creamy and had a good amount of lobster. It was all sitting in what I imagine to be lobster bisque. On the dinner menu, it merits a $34 price tag. For HRW, Bistecca is not skimping on the portions, that's for sure.
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I had to limit myself to keep room for the dessert, so I had the leftover salmon bagged up for later. Another glass of wine was poured while I awaited my dessert. The HRW lunch menu at Bistecca includes a choice of Chef Alberto Baffoni's famous semifreddo. I chose vanilla, but there is lemon or mocha available as well. It came with fresh berries and a drizzle of caramel sauce and sea salt. It didn't look much like a traditional semifreddo and actually tasted more like frozen custard, except creamier. It was a pleasant way to end a three course lunch.
I left Bistecca feeling as if I had gotten a great meal at an exceptional price. When the valet asked if the white Mercedes was mine, I laughed. " No such luck," I said. " Mine's the white Kia Sedona." I was a minivan girl living in the luxury car world for an afternoon. And I might just be heading back for that veal braciola before Houston Restaurant Weeks is over.
Lunch: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday
Dinner: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday
Houston Restaurant Weeks
August 1, 2019 through September 2, 2019