Sips & snacks

First taste: New happy hour menus and cocktail creations from Triniti and L'Olivier don't disappoint

First taste: New happy hour menus and cocktail creations from Triniti and L'Olivier don't disappoint

L'Olivier, cocktail, drink
Specialty cocktails at L'Olivier Photo by © Jill Hunter
L'Olivier-House Smoked Salmon
The house smoked salmon at L'Olivier Photo by © Jill Hunter
Triniti-Broken Clock cocktail
Triniti's Broken Clock cocktail Photo courtesy of Triniti Restaurant + Bar
Marcy, happy hour deals, December 2012, Triniti Bar Bites, fried chicken meatballs, waffle
Triniti's fried chicken meatballs Photo courtesy of Triniti Restaurant + Bar
Marcy, happy hour deals, December 2012, L'Olivier bar
L'Olivier bar Photo by © Jill Hunter
Triniti Restaurant
The bar at Triniti Photo by Debora Smail/RealityPhotography.net
L'Olivier, cocktail, drink
L'Olivier-House Smoked Salmon
Triniti-Broken Clock cocktail
Marcy, happy hour deals, December 2012, Triniti Bar Bites, fried chicken meatballs, waffle
Marcy, happy hour deals, December 2012, L'Olivier bar
Triniti Restaurant

Triniti and L'Olivier, two beautifully-appointed eateries relatively new to the Houston dining scene, have unveiled happy hour menus — and recent visits to both have proven them worthy of dressing up for work and sneaking out of the office early.

At Triniti, I started off the happy hour experience with some carefully-crafted cocktails from bartenders Sean Dougherty and Nas Mirizadeh. They introduced me to their new cocktail menu with house made tinctures (herbal extracts made with alcohol, for the uninitiated) such as buffalo fig and lemongrass.

Try the spicy yet cooling Mexican Standoff, with habanero tincture. Another interesting offering from the bar is the Negroni: Made with dark California gin, Campari and Cocchi Turino vermouth, the drink is served over a globe ice cube made with tea and spices.

 Chef Ryan Hildebrand has become known for his great dinner menu, and the new happy hour offerings did not disappoint 

Chef Ryan Hildebrand has become known for his great dinner menu, and the new happy hour offerings did not disappoint. The Devils on Horseback — roasted fig wrapped in candied bacon — was rich and delicious. The hot salmon sashimi featured a pairing of salmon with crispy capers (though I wish the dish had a little less caper oil). Beets and cauliflower made for a fun, light vegetarian dish. The tuna poke, however, made with Japanese nori and a southwestern avocado topping, could have used a bit more cohesion.

I recommend the Bar-Rista for an after dinner drink. This cocktail has Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognc with Frangelico, chilled coffee and cocoa nib. Molecular gastronomy enthusiasts alert: The foam on top is created with the help of xanthum gum.

By the way, if you're in the mood to take a long lunch, Triniti's reasonably priced lunch menu is definitely the one of the best-kept secrets in town.

Sips and snacks at L'Olivier

My next happy hour destination was L'Olivier, where I found another inventive cocktail menu. I had visited the fledgling French restaurant right when it had first opened, when the kitchen was still going through newbie hiccups. This time, it seems that the restaurant has definitely found its stride.

A favorite cocktail on the seasonal menu is the Autumn Old-Fashioned, made with Leopold Brothers' New York Apple Whisky, KB's mission fig syrup, orange collar, marasca cherries and angostura bitters. The clean taste of fig paired well with the whisky; even whisky purists might appreciate this cocktail despite the complicated list of ingredients.

 The cocktail menu at L'Olivier tries hard to be unique, but it's really the food that shines through. 

Another standout is the Cider Car, an inventive spin on the classic sidecar seasonal made with Daron Calvados, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curucao, KB's spiced apple cider and fresh lemon juice. The cocktail was not cloyingly sweet, and the acidity of the lemon juice kicked up the spiced cider a notch.

The cocktail menu at L'Olivier tries hard to be unique, and while there are some notable drinks, others — like the Blackberry Bramble 9 — were more standard fare. But it's really the food that shines through.

The best deal on the restaurant's happy hour menu is probably the pâté, a well-executed standard with black pepper and brandy and plenty to share between four. The smoked salmon risotto was creamy with a pleasant savory punch from the fish. There is probably nothing slimming about twice-fried skinny frites, but who can resist eating hot crispy potatoes out of a paper bag?

If you happen to linger past happy hour, be sure to try the fish of the day — I had the whole branzino a la meuniere with fried capers. It was expertly deboned and served with a divine classic sauce. The Floating Island is old school in the best way, crunchy sugar on top of a pillowy meringue.