Chronicle veteran food critic, Alison Cook took to the swanky Galleria-area Ristorante Cavour inside the boutique Hotel Granduca and gave it "??," which translates to "very good; one of the best restaurants of its kind," and here, in quotes, is why.
It's a "soft-hued little bandbox" with "soft greens and rosy burgundies, its embracing upholstered wing chairs, its subdued gleams of silver and gold."
"This is the way fine dining felt once upon a time" and "Tony’s feels like a roller derby in comparison."
"The price of admission to this curiously charming Italianate theme park is dear. With entrees ranging from $30 to the mid-$40s at dinner, Ristorante Cavour [...] is one of the most expensive restaurants in the city." But it "can be a worthwhile splurge."
A lunch dish of fish was "a modest but satisfying triangle of silvery-skinned fish poached in a tart, ringingly pure broth touched with bergamot," and "has that clean, mineral taste."
"The result tastes as gorgeous and fresh as it looks on the plate, and it’s not overcooked by a single iota."
A ravioli impressed due to the "the extraordinary springy texture of the green and yellow pasta squares."
A "show-stopping risotto" held Cook's attention as "crisped blobs of marrow burst into an opulent rush of deeply flavored beef fat."
"Formal, reserved, occasionally a bit chilly, it’s bumpier than I’d expect at these prices."
"The wine service is particularly poor."
It "has the potential to be a three-star restaurant or even better," if only they'd "step up their game."
Round two comes from Houston Press critic Katharine Shilcutt, who took a decidedly less formal route at Salvadoran restaurant, El Petate.
It "has the sort of languidly lazy look to it that would inspire a postprandial nap" and a "vacation-like feel."
A signature Salvadoran dish, pupusas are "made to order, hot and thick and tinged with a lovely char around the edges" and served with a condiment called curtido, made of "cabbage and carrots, shredded and immersed in a slightly spicy vinegar base that brings a bright and welcome crunch to the soft pupusas."
A dessert empanada was "indecently gooey."
She recommends the salpicón de res, "the vegetables are raw white onion, radish and cilantro, all of which combine with the soft shreds of salty meat to pop like bright fireworks in the background."
One of its draws is "the sense of community found during a busy night in the small restaurant," when "everyone's happy."