Cafe Piquet on Bissonnet is easily one of the best Cuban restaurants in Houston. Part of my family is from Puerto Rico, and while the two cuisines aren't identical, we know great picadillo and tostones when we order them.
As Anamaris Cousins Price noted a few years back, Cafe Piquet has always been about a love story. Sadly, one of the main characters, Guido, passed away in an accident. His wife, Nelly, and their daughter carried on with the business, but the grief and sadness were palpable in the restaurant. The food began to slip, the customer base began to dwindle, and we were somewhat relieved to acquire an excuse to not go anymore -- a child at the precarious age at which we couldn't take him to any fine restaurant.
Fortunately, my wife and I recently achieved the ability to dine with our well-trained lad, and even have a drink. The first hankering that came to mind was Cafe Piquet, as my wife knew she could at least get a goblet of the cafe's exceptional sangria and some of her favorite comfort food -- tostones (fried plantains) as good as her mom's, and black beans with rice.
We were pleasantly surprised to see the parking lot full of cars on a recent Friday night, and were actually pleased to have to wait in line to get a table. What was going on here? We ordered sangrias, which were promptly brought out, and my wife took a sip. "I swear to God," she said, using a phrase common to New Yorkers when they taste something awesome. "This is great sangria."
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I had to agree. Cafe Piquet's sangria is a perfect balance of fruit juice and wine, and while many versions of sangria look like submerged fruit salad, the best-tasting additions to a sangria are lemons or limes, and apples.
Cafe Piquet has a new menu, and a new vibe. Nelly is there, laughing sometimes, and directing the service, which is trying its best to keep up with the larger crowds. My wife ordered picadillo, the classic Cuban ground beef dish, with her tostones, black beans and rice. She noted that they were better than ever.
I ordered the fried red snapper, which brought back olfactory memories to my wife of her childhood. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, the fish needed only a squeeze of the provided lime.
We went back the following week, and the food was just as good, and the crowds even larger, with long tables of families. Cafe Piquet began, as the sign above the kitchen says, "Because two people fell in love," and love is keeping it going strong.