I am a restaurant's worst nightmare — a diner with good intentions. I often lament the fact that an interesting establishment is closing but often don't frequent it until it decides to go out of business — and then I rush to make a reservation.
Alas, there are lot of Houstonians like me, judging from how crowded Feast was over the weekend.
Even though I had been planning to return to the innovative restaurant on lower Westheimer since chef/owners Richard Knight and James and Meagan Silk announced seven months ago that they would be closing, I only made it there as it counts down its final days. The restaurant, which introduced nose-to-tail dining in Houston, was among the first to credit local suppliers on the menu, and maintained the most innovative menu in the city over the past five years, will close after the last meal is served on Friday (June 14).
The menu on this past Friday night, as usual, was innovative, with lots of animal body parts not usually found on the menu of most Houston restaurants. Among the intriguing offerings were such starters as pork rillettes, beef heart tartare, fat on toast, and a terrine of pork, lamb, prune and juniper. Main course selections included crispy roasted pork belly, beef tongue with mustard mash and mustard greens, and wild boar with a spiced chocolate and fruit sauce.
The menu on this past Friday night, as usual, was innovative, with lots of animal body parts not usually found on the menu of most Houston restaurants.
Having grown up in a half-Lebanese family, I am used to steak tartare (or kibbeh nayyeh, as we called it), but I had never sampled beef heart tartare and was eager to try it. The consistency was much looser — it looked like it had just come out of the meat grinder — but it had an intoxicating flavor that brought out the carnivore in me. Everyone at the table agreed the mix of flavors of terrine worked perfectly together as we gobbled it up.
The spicy sweetness of the chocolate sauce complemented the meaty texture and taste of the wild boar while the braised shoulder of beef in a rich brown wine sauce was so tender it fell off the bone. A main course of pork ribs, cooked to perfection, came with an order of bubble and squeak, a mix of mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts that caused my friend to exclaim, "Now this is the way to eat Brussels sprouts!"
The food is so hearty that we each took home part of our main course (the wild boar tasted even better the next day) and no one in our foursome had room for dessert, although the molten chocolate cake and Spotted Dick ( a steamed suet pudding containing dried fruit, served with custard) was tempting.
Since the restaurant did not renew its liquor license, it's been BYOB since June 3, which certainly kept our tab down. (Dinner was less than $40 each.)
The crowd was the kind that every restaurant craves — young (the average age at ever table — except for ours — looked under 35) and adventuresome, judging from the many different entrees that floated across the room.
But the bottom line is that not enough diners frequented the restaurant on a consistent basis, Silk told the Houston Chronicle a few months back. And I must admit, as much as I have enjoyed several meals at Feast since it opened, it's not a place I often think about returning to, particularly during the summer months when I consist on much lighter fare like salads and grilled chicken.
Yet, the Feast trio were truely ahead of their time, paving the way for new restaurants like Underbelly and Oxheart that have received rapturous reviews. And there's a bit of a silver lining in the closing: Knight is staying in Houston to join forces with Down House's Chris Cusack, Joey Treadway and Benjy Mason on a new restaurant in the Heights that will open later this year or early next year. We bet it will be innovative, too.
The Silks are heading to Brooklyn. Houston foodies wish them well and owe them a big thanks for broadening the city's culinary scene.
And if you're a procrastinator, the reservation number is 713-529-7788.