A media tasting dinner at Laurenzo’s netted mostly hits (and a slight miss).
Here’s my usual “full disclosure” when a review is based upon a “media dinner”. Some members of Houston’s food blogging and magazine publishing media (including Sally and me) were treated to some new menu items in the Laurenzo family’s serious prime meat outlet in Houston’s Heights.
The Laurenzos are one of the best-known restaurant families in Houston (Ninfa’s, El Tiempo, y mas). As most who read my scrawls are well aware of Laurenzo’s, I’m only dealing with the items introduced at the dinner (it’s been one of my go-to spots for nice rare Prime Rib for years). In the words of someone I don’t know, talking about a Chicago restaurant that I don’t remember, Laurenzo’s provides “Rare beef well done”.
So, the dinner started with Beef Carpaccio ($15.99). The thin slices of Hereford beef tenderloin were drizzled with olive oil and a balsamic reduction and topped with baby arugula and shaved parmesan. Slices are slightly thicker than most around town, but tender and (I believe) twice the quantity of most. Very nice. I usually order this wherever it is offered. This was a hit.
Grilled Artichoke ($12.99) Hardwood grilled and seasoned with only salt and pepper and basted with butter, giving these a flavor far richer and tasty than could possibly have been attained by simple steaming. Served with house-made remoulade, these (while tasty) are kind of difficult to deal with and while I cook them at home, dealing with these requires a combo of knife, fork and fingers. The menu warns that there are limited quantities available, and while some at our table considered these a hit… due to the fact that they were very flavorful, they were only a slight miss for me, due only to the difficulty of dealing with them.
Maryland-Style Colossal Lump Crab Cake
Maryland-Style Colossal Lump Crab Cake ($18.99) Now, we’re talking…we’re lucky here in the Texas Gulf coast, to have Blue Crabs equal to those anywhere around the U.S., including Maryland. In fact during the late 80’s and early 90’s, Chesapeake Bay was so polluted and screwed up that many “crab houses” in the Baltimore/Annapolis area were serving crabs from Texas and Louisiana. These cakes were molded from “Colossal” lump crab meat and seasoned with Maryland spices (I recognize Old Bay when I taste it… and that’s fine with me), lightly breaded and pan fried. Key, in MY opinion is that Laurenzo’s follows the inviolable rule that crab meat should be handled only once! That’s when it is added to spices and the very smallest amount of breading needed to bind it. Served with house-made remoulade, these crab cakes are among the very best I’ve found in Houston. A big hit!
Jumbo Prawn Cocktail
(Here’s Looking at You, Babe)
While we’re on the subject of giant seafood, here are more of them. Jumbo Prawn Cocktail ($17.00) is jumbo saltwater prawns boiled in citrus and southern spices (I still think it’s Old Bay and I still don’t mind). It was served with a slightly spicy and tangy house-made remoulade and as well as a definitely spicy cocktail sauce. These were peel-um-yourself creatures that really were worth the effort.
Double Cut Lamb Chops
Big “hits” are the Double Cut Lamb Chops ($37.99). These four savory ribs were lightly breaded and pan-seared and finished in a mint demi-glace and a side of mint jelly. As it should be for nearly $40.00, these were MY stars of the evening. I make ’em at home and I still order them medium-rare in restaurants that know how to serve them. That’s the case here. Served with garlicky mashed potatoes, I repeat that these were a hit for all who tried them, especially me.
As Veal Parmesan ($21.99) goes, so went these. Tender and tasty, they were nicely presented and exactly what you would hope them to be. They were breaded in savory house-made Italian-style bread crumbs and topped with a flavorful marinara and melted provolone. They were served with Linguini Aglio e Olio (garlic and olive oil) and crispy garlic bread. They followed the wonderful lamb chops so I felt sorry for them. Still… they were a hit.
Sorry, Roland and Dominec, I was off taking a photo of your prime rib being carved when your chef announced to everyone else that this was a Veggie Burger ($13.99). It’s not like I ate it totally fooled and thinking that it was prime beef. I ended up deconstructing it right down to the patty trying to figure out what kind of meat it was and still couldn’t get it. I’m a carnivore and, frankly, love the mouth feel and flavor of a really good beef patty on a burger. BUT… vegetarians would LOVE this thing. But not me though, regardless of its great overall flavor (and its presentation’s eligibility for Burger Porn sites). The house-made patty was made from brown rice and black beans and finished in a barbecue molasses glaze. As with any Texas-style burger, it was piled high with tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, onions, mayo and brown mustard. That’s a Texas-style burger “all the way”, isn’t it? It was served with a kale salad. If you are a vegetarian, it’s a hit.
First dessert was a beautiful Strawberry Pie ($8.99). Piled high with fresh strawberries and topped with a white chocolate ganache. Fellow diners swarmed it like hungry sharks and I only had a strawberry carcass to photograph. The second dessert offered was my favorite, ranked by creativity. Pumpkin Bread Pudding ($8.99) was topped with ice cream dribbling down the side and I loved it. Both desserts were hits.
Houston, TX 77007