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Foodie flavors minus the pretension: Buzzed over Roost wows with great bread, cheap wine and a casual vibe

Roost is a modest, but charming little place. Photo via Roost/Facebook
The tiny interior of Roost, in the former Latina Cafe space, seats only about 50 people. Photo via Roost/Facebook
Bread service from Slow Dough Bread Co. Photo by Sarah Rufca
Roost's roasted cauliflower with miso sauce, pine nuts and mint is tasty and addictive Photo by Sarah Rufca
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Organic curried lentils topped with seared diver scallops and grape raita Photo via Roost Houston/Facebook
The goat cheese-cake with tomato "jam" and olive oil Photo by Sarah Rufca
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News_Roost_organic curried lentils_diver scallops_grape raita

I feel a little bad for Ryan Hildebrand. While his gorgeous, long-anticipated Triniti was supposed to be the toast of the holiday season, the most buzzed about restaurant at the beginning of the year was Roost, a modest but charming hole-in-the-wall on Fairview that chef/owner Kevin Naderi seemed to open almost accidently.

I know a girl who was taken to Roost on four consecutive first dates in a two-week span. It's just that kind of place: Casual and cozy, new but under the radar enough to be hip.

The modern American menu is both approachable and elevated, and the wine list is probably the best reasonably priced collection in town — and that's when the restaurant isn't offering BYOB. It's everything good about foodie haunts, minus (most of) the pretension.

 The divine roasted cauliflower seems likely to become Naderi's signature dish. 

The bread service (which nearly every table seems to order) is somewhat brilliant in its simplicity: A leafed loaf from Slow Dough Bread Co. (the exact bread changes nightly) served with a selection of housemade flavored butters. While the honey butter is sweetly indulgent and the apple butter adds some unexpected complexity to the carbs, there's nothing like foie gras butter, with its rich savory essence the perfect foil for a light spread and the mild bread flavor.

The locally sourced menu changes every month or so, but the divine roasted cauliflower seems likely to become Naderi's signature dish. Though it looks like the a pile of wood shavings, the browned cauliflower perfectly meshes sweet and savory, with a distinct but mild Asian flavor from the miso dressing, pine nuts and mint. It's truly addictive.

There was also the goat's cheesecake, which was more like a tart, fluffy biscuit, topped with thickly soaked and macerated cherry tomatoes and olive oil. The sweet but muddled fruitiness and the tart cheese flavor of the cake were delicious, perfect foils.

If Roost has a weakness, it's in the more traditional entrees. The trio of seared diver scallops, of which I'd heard raves, were marred by an unappealing, sandy texture which seemed exacerbated by the room temperature lentils on the plate. A flat-iron Angus steak was cooked perfectly and had a great texture, but was nearly ruined by a super-salty mushroom ragout served atop the meat.

On the other hand, a tilefish special was delicious and simple, just a perfectly cooked fish, a hint of butter, a handful of cilantro and a spicy sofrito sauce for a Mediterranean vibe.

Considering the epic hype and the resulting crowds, it seems inevitable Roost would have a few bumps in its early days. But the enthralling combination of beautifully made, modern comfort food, global flavors, affordable wine and a warm, laid-back ambience make Roost the kind of restaurants that will draw in fans from the neighborhood and beyond.

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