Restaurant Reviews

The Lymbar: Houston Restaurant Weeks Lunch

The Chicken Shawarma Taco Arabes is loaded.
The Chicken Shawarma Taco Arabes is loaded. Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Houston Restaurant Weeks, which launched August 1, is heading into its third week so we figured we needed to brave the heat and head for a new establishment before the annual fundraising event ends September 4. Having already tried Dario's Steakhouse & Seafood on our side of town, my companion Classic Rock Bob and I decided to venture out to downtown Houston. After sampling Chef David Cordua's beef kofta empanada at a media event for Galveston Island Wine Festival, we were looking forward to trying his restaurant, The Lymbar, which opened in December 2022.
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Blanche Devereaux and a vintage Underwood greet guests at The Lymbar.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
A little online research told us that there was parking right across from The Ion, where The Lymbar is located.  We made an extra circle around, unsure if the parking lot was private or not. We spotted an attendant who said we could park anywhere, as the lot at The Ion is open and free for customers. That's always a bonus for downtown.
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The memorabilia-lined shelves share a family's history.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Upon entering The Lymbar, we were surprised at the intimacy of the space. It was smaller than I expected and definitely in keeping with its theme of a vintage living room. Though there are floor-to-ceiling windows, the shades were pulled down to keep out the blazing August sun. This meant the room was dimly lit by unique lighting fixtures with an array of Edison-style bulbs adding to the retro feel. A wall of family memorabilia, including Cordua's personal collection of comic books, added to the hominess. CRB was impressed by the Defenders #1 and the Sub-Mariner #2.
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Comfortable sofas and chic lighting fixtures blend retro chic with contemporary comfort.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
We were sat at a table right next to the bar. There were only a couple of other tables at one o'clock in the afternoon. After five minutes of waiting, our server arrived and asked for our drink order. Not much of a greeting but, okay. He did bring us water in pretty vintage-style cut-glass tumblers. I don't know if it was the heat, but after having a long sip of the ice cold and tasty agua, CRB and I looked at each other and said, "Now that's some quality H2O," a la Adam Sandler in The Waterboy.

I am usually not a clock-watcher when it comes to dining out but after 15 minutes of no cocktails, Classic Rock Bob said, " I think those are our cocktails behind me on the bar." And he was right. Our two drinks sat barely three feet away from us. CRB could have grabbed them  by barely leaving his chair. Eventually the bartender called our server's name and he grabbed the drinks, pivoted, and sat them on our table.
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The cocktails are refreshing, if a little pricey.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
My cocktail was the Pisco Punch. It was filled with crushed ice and was a tart and refreshing drink. I don't know if the garnish of cloves was really necessary, however. They are just something to get caught in the straw.  CRB's Bananera was served neat and was a sweet beverage with Plantation dark rum, banana liqueur and brown sugar. Though the cocktails are listed as $12 on the online menu, they were actually $13 and $14 respectively.

We had given our server our order and awaited our first course. Classic Rock Bob meandered over to the wall of nostalgia and was engaged for a bit by a personable young man who talked to him about comic books.  We wished he was our waiter as ours seemed to be a bit on the laid back side. In fact, much of our service was provided by other staff. We did learn our server's name because other employees were using it so often to remind him about his tables.
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A kale salad balances the Monte Cristo carbs.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The HRW lunch menu at The Lymbar reads like four courses, but it's served as three. For the first two courses guests can choose from three empanadas and three salads to be served together. Since I had already tasted Cordua's beef kofta empanada, I chose the Monte Cristo version while CRB opted for the spinach and halloumi. When our plates arrived, my Monte Cristo empanada was served with raspberry vinaigrette and the kale and peanut salad I had ordered. I would have liked a little more dressing on my salad and the  texture of the curly kale could use maybe a softer green, like spinach, mixed in to break it up a bit. There were plenty of chopped peanuts and shredded cabbage for contrast.

The Monte Cristo empanada delivered on the expected flavors. The meat and cheese melded together was more like a soft paste which I assumed was easier as a filling than chopped bits of ham and turkey. The best part of it was the crispy pastry. With the slight dusting of powdered sugar, it tasted as a Monte Cristo should.
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We like it saucy.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
CRB's spinach and halloumi empanada was delicious and the accompanying bearnaise sauce, with a slight sweetness of tarragon, worked beautifully with the spinach filling. I dipped some of my kale leaves into the bearnaise sauce for a treat.

CRB had ordered the Baby Gem Caesar for his salad. I stole the avocado slices on top and then stole some of the salad as well. The homemade dressing was amazing, though CRB though it was overdressed. I disagreed because the creamy dressing was so yummy with the pecorino cheese and the toasted panko breadcrumbs. I have a thing for sauce.
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Chicken bites get two tasty sauces.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Which is why I really liked the two that were served with CRB's Chicken Chicharrones for the third course. I tried to talk him into the Gemelli Pasta, which I still think would have been a better choice. The chicken was fried well but it was more of a bar snack.  However, the golden bbq sauce and the tamarind sweet and sour were two reasons to order the dish. Despite 25 years of marriage, CRB and I are still like chalk and cheese when it comes to food.  He preferred the golden BBQ while I really liked the tamarind sweet and sour.

My third course was the Chicken Shawarma Taco Arabes. It was rather messy eating though the thick tortilla held up to the multitude of ingredients. The marinated chicken chunks were topped with tzatziki and a generous amount of pickled red onion with a drizzle of chimichurri. There was a lot of flavor going on so I really could not taste the chimichurri itself. CRB and I both thought that our third courses were a little salty.
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A good wine at a good value is always a welcome thing.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
We didn't really want more cocktails, so we ordered a bottle of wine to go with our meal. We chose the Marques de Caceres Excellens Cuvee Especial Rioja from Spain. We have enjoyed different riojas from Marques de Caceres over the years because they are inexpensive and easy-drinking. We had never had this particular one before and I have to say, it was better than ones we've had previously. Even though it was fairly dry, it was still smooth and fruity for a Tempranillo. Though the ABV was 14.5 percent, it didn't taste strong. The Lymbar sells it by the glass for $12 and by the bottle for $36, which is a really good value. And it was served on the cooler side, which I appreciated.
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The alfajores are rich, buttery cookies.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Surprisingly, the wine actually went well with the desserts we were served. I had chosen the alfajores, which are shortbread cookies filled with dulce de leche. The cookies were thin, soft and buttery. With the caramel filling, they were extremely rich and I could only manage to eat two out of the four.  Maybe that was because I was managing to eat CRB's tres leches. The menu describes it as vanilla-laced soaked sponge cake and soaked it definitely was. The cake somehow kept its structure despite being drenched in milk and topped with meringue. Despite not being a dessert person, this was a highlight of the meal for me.
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The Lymbar's tres leches is a moist and light delight.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The HRW lunch ($25) is a great deal at The Lymbar with the standout features being the crispy empanada pastry, the flavorful sauces and the not-gonna-find-it-better-elsewhere tres leches cake. Though our server this particular day was somewhat lackadaisical, the rest of the staff were on the ball and made up for his relaxed attitude. To add to the family affair, David Cordua's father Michael Cordua, the renowned restaurateur, was walking through the dining room keeping an eye on things. The living room feel was further enhanced by an employee inexplicably singing Christmas carols.

Perhaps it was just wishful thinking in the dog days of a Houston summer.


The Lymbar
4201 Main
713-485-6230
lymbar.com

Houston Restaurant Weeks 2023
August 1 through September 4
houstonrestaurantweeks.com
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.