in detail: masraff’s

by ann

My dear friend Melissa celebrated her birthday yesterday. Aligning with Houston Restaurant Week, festivities were set at contemporary American Masraff’s. Flanking the bar, our sizable group was perfectly situated beneath the glowing fireplace elevated ten feet above and adjacent to the floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the patio. The table was burbling with chatter by the time Mat and I arrived. After saying hello to the birthday girl, Mat and I settled next to Kirk who has been confined in the great Wells Fargo tower for much too long. Amidst discussion of power walking as a questionable Olympic sport, the hazards of matchmaking friends, and sizeable biceps, we ate.

Kirk, Mat and I agreed that ordering different items and eating family-style was the best option. We started with appetizers: calamari seared and tossed with oyster mushrooms in a soy reduction; tender spinach leaves topped with caramelized onions, creamed goat cheese and a garlic vinaigrette; and a creamy shrimp risotto. The calamari was the winner of the lot: lightly breaded, the steak cut slices were buttery, tender and a pleasant departure from their scraggly, deep-fried siblings.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Entrees were NY strip steak paired with asparagus and a truffled gold potato; seared ahi tuna and diver scallops with lemon and pea risotto, sauteed baby zucchini and sunburst squash in a saffron emulsion; and house cured pork chops with ginger braised red cabbage, pineapple confit and drizzled with a char sue glaze. The entrees were good but one particular side captured my heart: the spud, hollowed and piped with its flesh fluffed and invigorated with truffle oil, elicited moans and an appreciative “oh my God” that was echoed down the table by Melissa. A coffee was necessary at this point to ward off chills and prepare for dessert.

Our last course was the much acclaimed crème brûlée; the molten chocolate eruption; and triple berry bread pudding with white chocolate, blueberry compote and cream cheese mousse. The crème brûlée, nestled in a butter roasted peach, was creamy and smooth; its crackly caramel top a foil to the custard beneath. As much as I savored each bite of the rich custard, I stole bite after bite from Mat’s two part dessert: an intensely fudgy cake that scalded my tongue with its volcanic temperature and then soothed with cool vanilla bean flecked ice cream.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Much love has been lost for upscale restaurants that provide pretentious service and scant portions but at Masraff’s the food was filling, the waiters warm, and the company fantastic. I felt a certain tenderness towards Tony Masraff as the white haired man-impeccably dressed, I might add- stopped by our table to inquire about the meal.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A fabulous dinner rounded out with laughs-and plenty of pictures-all around. Happy birthday, Melissa.