Revisiting three Houston restaurants with new menu focus
August 21, 2017 Updated: August 21, 2017 4:53pm
Opened in February, this high-end Italian restaurant from Astros owner Jim Crane experienced some wobbles during its infancy but now has sure footing since chef Danny Trace, formerly of Brennan’s, was hired several months ago. His menu is larded with indulgences – bring on the black truffles shaved tableside.
Sporting a big-money look, Potente offers cushy dining-room elegance and a private wine-room option. But its dramatic bar – huge, almost magisterial – steals the show.
Start with black grouper crudo with crushed pistachio, watermelon radish and a dollop of paddlefish caviar. Carpaccio of Strube Ranch wagyu with sunchoke relish and pickled chanterelle mushrooms also does the trick. Move on to house-made pastas (agnolotti with jumbo lump crab and brown butter powder, for example) or bolder dishes such as branzino with whipped cauliflower and Burgundy grapes or rack of lamb with Tuscan beans and Italian sausage. Big steak options, too, of course.
Craft cocktails and an arsenal of top-shelf whiskey are a given. But the wine list begs to be noticed – everything from Dom Perignon by the glass to a $3,500 bottle of Screaming Eagle Cab is available for high rollers.
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Trace also oversees operations at Potente’s sister restaurant, the adjacent, more casual trattoria Osso & Kristalla.
1515 Texas, 713-237-1515; potentehouston.com
HELEN GREEK FOOD & WINE
Executive chef William Wright has made the first major change in the menu since the restaurant opened to raves in Rice Village in July 2015, with a deeper immersion into modern regional Greek cuisine.
Unchanged since it opened, the clever design by Erin Hicks makes good use of a tall, tight, brick-clad space.
Though classics remain – the ultimate Greek salad, feta-brined chicken, grilled octopus – the new meze-focused menu offers small and sharable plates. On the docket: mussels in ouzo and wine sauce with fennel and mustard; grilled Halloumi cheese with ouzo-soaked watermelon and a pistachio/mint pesto; saffron lamb and beef meatballs with egg/lemon sauce; marinated feta with pepperoncini and Aleppo pepper; and a salad of fava beans, peas, baby artichoke and asparagus with Greek yogurt and an oil and lemon emulsion. Bonus: build-your-own gyro platters in pork and feta-brined chicken.
Let co-founder and sommelier Evan Turner take you through the wonders of an all-Greek wine list, the second-largest in the country.
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The Helen team also operates Helen in the Heights, a casual Greek taverna serving gyros, souvlaki, pastitsio, moussaka and more.
2429 Rice, 832-831-7133; helengreek.com
PESKA COCINA LATINA
A reboot of the former Peska Seafood Culture in the Galleria area, with a new chef, Chris Loftis, and a menu that now highlights Mexican flavors while keeping a strong focus on seafood and meat.
The retail marketplace at the entrance is gone, and the one-sided bar is now expanded to a more welcoming bar open on all sides.
Loftis’ menu includes appetizers such as smoked whitefish guacamole; Gulf fried oysters with Valentina aioli, bacon and pepperoncini; smoked short rib empanadas; yellowfin tuna tostada; octopus a la plancha; and queso fundido. A few entree options: seared snapper with fried artichokes; ancho chile blackened redfish with lobster cream; pecan-crusted grouper with jumbo lump crab and lemon butter; coriander crusted tuna with curry corn; and grilled hanger steak with Mexican gnocchi, queso fresco and cilantro salad.
Think cocktails with a Mexican spin, such as the mezcal margarita or the tequila Old Fashioned.
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Happy hour 2 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays means oysters on the half shell for $1.50 each; small plates priced at $6; half-price wine by the glass; and $7 cocktails.
1700 Post Oak, 713-961-9229; peska.us