Get a behind the scenes look at La Casa del Caballo in this slideshow.
My friends and I ogled the giant platter of meat before us as if it were a mythical creature we had just discovered in the darkened depths of Montrose. The building on the corner of Westheimer and Taft has previously been home to at least three other restaurants — La Strada, Caffe Bello and, finally, Don Julio — that have failed to thrive for various reasons, but if nothing else, this meat, this beautiful hunk of cow, this will give the place a fighting chance.
I'd recruited three friends to join me at La Casa del Caballo Fine Mexican Steak House in order to justify ordering the restaurant's magnum opus, a $170 four-pound rib eye cap called tapa de lomo. I told the people who joined me that it was meant to feed six, and since we were four, we'd have to eat a little extra. Five minutes into our annihilation of the steak, I realized that they had taken my joke as a challenge.
"Here, use my head for scale," said one of them as I pulled out my phone to take a picture. The head was a good idea. There was a fork stuck in the steak, but it was a large fork and didn't accurately represent the size of the unruly mass of meat on our table. A human head, though? That would do quite nicely.
At nearly a foot and a half long, the gargantuan steak took up a significant part of our large table, and conversation ceased for a good ten minutes while my party first marveled at and then devoured the smoky, juicy helluva hunk of meat. We ordered it medium rare, and it was still deep pink in the middle, almost bloody and marbled with sweet, buttery fat. The massive steak knife cut through the rib eye with ease, and the smoky meat revealed itself to be tender, never chewy. It was simply and perfectly seasoned with salt and pepper and a little love straight from Mexico courtesy of the owner, Saltillo native Carlos Abedrop.
Not even 20 minutes into our feast, the massive steak was nearly gone. The boys eyed each other menacingly, then softened.
"You take it," said one.
"No, you take it," said the other. "I've already had..." he paused a moment to calculate, "...probably about a pound and a half."
Even as a party of four, we were able to eat every last bite of that cut made for six. I went home that night to a fitful sleep full of terrible, wonderful meat sweats. And it was so, so worth it.
Because La Casa del Caballo is not merely a steakhouse but a Mexican steakhouse, the menu contains brisket and enchiladas, lamb steaks and queso fundido, shrimp cocktail and coctel de camarón. It's not at all an unusual combination, especially when you consider that the inspiration comes from Saltillo in the state of Coahuila, where the cuisine tends toward a marriage of cowboy culture, Tex-Mex and classic Mexican offerings.
Coahuila is bordered by Texas to the north, Chihuahua and Durango to the west, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí to the south and Nuevo León to the east. Its cuisine reflects this diversity of influences, but it's best known for its meat. Lots and lots of meat.
Abedrop, whose childhood nickname was "Caballo," started cooking steak over a large barbecue pit in his backyard because he enjoyed the process and the social event of preparing food outside for his friends and family. His weekly steak dinners became so popular that they outgrew Abedrop's sizable backyard, and he was forced to consider something that for years he'd brushed aside when his friends suggested it. He should open his own restaurant.
La Casa del Caballo debuted in 2003 in a converted ranch house in Saltillo. It quickly became known for serving family-size hunks of choice meat on giant wooden platters and saw numerous businesspeople from Houston at its tables. Ten years after turning his hobby into a career, Abedrop has expanded to a second location, in Montrose, and though some Houstonians may balk at the idea of another steakhouse and more Mexican food, the business model seems to be working.
It's clear upon entering the building that Abedrop and his general manager, Roger P. de la Fuente III (what a name!), formerly of Capital Grille and Las Alamedas Restaurant, have gone all out to make the place their own. Though it's a Mexican steakhouse, the interior has a distinctly Spanish colonial feel. It's all deep red walls and sleek black chairs with wrought-iron accents and a clear horse motif. Slices of red stained glass lick their way up the staircase, mimicking the flames that surge up through the grill as juice drips off heavenly hunks of meat. The lighting is low and romantic, but curved booths give the dining area a comfortable, homey feel. That said, it probably wouldn't surprise anyone if a matador, decked out in full regalia, sauntered in and sat gracefully at the bar to celebrate a successful fight.