What's the second best restaurant in Tanglewood? It's a question I've been pondering since I learned that Dish Society, a farm to market concept in the Gables complex on San Felipe, would be opening.
Clearly, Latin Bites is the best restaurant in the neighborhood that sits between the Galleria and Memorial, but after that, are there any places that draw people from other parts of Houston? Maybe Fountain View Cafe for the thin, crepe-like pancakes or BYOB fave La Vista.
Given the relative paucity of options, Dish Society seems poised to become a top destination, and not just because the Gables contains a built-in customer base thanks to its 300 apartments. Owner Aaron Lyons may have wanted to open in Austin before deciding that real estate options in Houston were friendlier, but the restaurant shows a local's dedication when it comes to sourcing the best ingredients.
The menu's bottom section reads like a who's who of the Urban Harvest market: Atkinson Farms, Black Hill Ranch, Gundermann Acres and more. In conversation, Lyons can explain which ingredients come from which purveyors. Operations manager Trent Patterson and executive chef Johnny Romo can be found on Saturday at the Urban Harvest farmers market checking out the latest in fresh meat and produce.
The menu's bottom section reads like a who's who of the Urban Harvest market.
That commitment extends to the beverages, too, with Greenway coffee and Texas craft beer available. Wines are from small producers, and the Maine Root sodas are supplemented with a few non-alcoholic cocktails.
Dish Society offers counter service at breakfast and lunch with full service at dinner. The decor features lots of yellow accents, with staff uniform and coffee mugs to match. Of course, Lyons sourced well there, too, tapping Collaborative Projects of Underbelly fame to help with the design.
At a media dinner this week, Romo and his crew displayed their skill with those ingredients in a wide variety of dishes. To start, the kitchen presented mussels ($11) steamed in Saint Arnold beer with tomato, kale, onion and garlic and Slow Dough pretzels ($6) served with queso. My tablemates and I devoured the pretzels but didn't seem quite as enthusiastic about the mussels. They tasted perfectly fine, but we still had a lot of food coming so no one seemed to be in a hurry to finish them.
The entrees rewarded our restraint. Of the four I sampled, the chimichurri steak ($13) and pork tenderloin ($14) earned the most praise. Lyons said Romo won the job when he prepared those two dishes during his application. The steak came topped with crispy kale that provided a nice contrast with the meat's natural flavor and the chimichurri's garlic kick. Crusted with Greenway coffee and cooked medium, the pork tenderloin and its side of mashed sweet potatoes had us fighting for second and third tastes.
My half roasted chicken ($15) arrived moist and took most of its flavor from a dijon mustard topping, but the skin needed to be crispier to achieve true greatness. I enjoyed the slightly salty roasted potatoes, but the grilled asparagus were too limp and skinny to leave much of an impression.
Desserts are personal-sized and reasonably priced at $4 each. A very tart, refreshing curd made from market-fresh tangelo (orange, grapefruit hybrid) demonstrated the kitchen's flexibility at working with seasonal ingredients and a willingness to mix it up when good produce arrives.
Whether Dish Society becomes the second best restaurant in Tanglewood remains to be seen, but diners who are looking for a restaurant with a casual atmosphere, quality ingredients and reasonable prices would do well to check it out.
Dish Society is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday for breakfast, lunch and dinner; 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner on Saturday and Sunday.