Houston Restaurant Weeks: Hearsay Gastro Lounge

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What they're up to for Restaurant Weeks: Three course lunch for $20 and three course dinner for $35. The price is right and the historic, brick and mirror-walled space is stunning. The lunch entrée selections are the Hearsay burger, grilled salmon and chicken picatta. All entrees come with side items.

Service/Atmosphere: We visited for lunch at 12:30 p.m. on Friday and it was 100 percent packed with a short wait (even with a reservation). The service was friendly and earnest but it could not make up for the lackluster food and incompetently made cocktails.

Items that won't be on the regular menu: For lunch, the chicken picatta, grilled salmon, chocolate cake (different than the Domino cake) and cheesecake are only available on the HRW menu.

Don't Miss This Dish: If you are going to go for lunch, The Hearsay Burger might be the best bet. I recommend starting with the beet salad, which was the best part of our meal. The burger comes with fries and the third course is dessert (but don't get too excited about that yet). Not in a burger mood? The second choice is the grilled salmon. The competent preparation compensated for the accompanying salty mushroom risotto and steamed asparagus with nary a trace of seasoning.

Don't Bother: Skip the overcooked chicken picatta with hardly a trace of lemon. The worst part of the meal were the desserts, which seemed like they came from a wholesale service. The cheesecake was standard issue but the chocolate cake was mushy with far too many layers of frosting and too little cake.

Based on our experience on Friday, don't bother getting a cocktail to go along with your meal. For our party of three, two of the drinks were watered down and inaccurate. Why would anyone put jalapeño in an El Diablo (where the heat and spice should come from ginger) or shake a Manhattan variant (called the "Manfiggen") to the point that it's the color of iced tea? We also weren't informed until we sent the two seriously flawed drinks back that they were out of a key ingredient: the fig-infused bourbon for the Manfiggen. I'm still not sure what they used instead for the replacement drink and the second El Diablo was worse than before, not better. We were informed there were trainees making the drinks. I sympathize with needing to train bartenders, but there should have been some expert supervision before those drinks made it out to customers.

Final verdict: A disappointing visit. The last time I was there, it was much better. I can only assume it was an off day, but my companions and and I agree that we are in no hurry to go back. Regardless, kudos to Hearsay for participating in a very worthwhile cause.

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