This week Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Alison Cook awards stylish newcomer Triniti ?? while the Houston Press' critic Katharine Shilcutt writes up Heights oyster bar Liberty Kitchen. Both women found much to like about their subjects, with a few reservations.
Cook praises Triniti's dining room, writing "there is no better-looking dining room in Houston at the moment." She even name checks the restaurant's architects for both the open kitchen and exterior design.
Turning to the food, Cook finds much to like with chef Ryan Hildebrand's menu. She's especially enamored by a $95, nine-course tasting menu that "did not put a food wrong from start to finish." She also highlights a torchon of foie gras and anything labeled "lamb belly." Plating is important at Triniti, too; "Much of the food here is [gorgeous]," Cook proclaims. Even pastry chef Jose Hernandez receives praise for his "sculptural filled chocolates as good as any in town" presented in a "clever wooden drawer" that also contains macarons and gelled mango spheres.
Cook lists the issues that prevent Triniti from receiving that coveted third horseshoe. First, she finds the menu's graphics difficult to decipher. Then she faults erratic execution in certain unbalanced dishes such as a "Foie Gras Breakfast" where the sides overwhelmed the duck liver. She noted similar problems at lunch but concludes that she's "eager to see what Triniti will do next."
Turning to Liberty Kitchen, Shilcutt struggles to characterize chef/owner Lance Fegen's restaurant, writing "I don't entirely understand the bent of the restaurant ... although I admit to liking it most of the time." She calls the interior "inviting" and "beguilingly casual."
Much of Liberty Kitchen's food appeals to the critic, especially the washtub sized serving of gumbo, oysters from across the country and milkshakes with frozen custard from sister restaurant Petite Sweets. She proclaims the $12 Liberty Burger to be the best possible realization of a Big Mac.
Of course, she does find some problems. First, Liberty Kitchen's pricing seems erratic. The large gumbo is $8, but a small oyster stew is $7. "The vast size difference between the two is baffling considering they're only $1 apart in price." She also faults the restaurant for having too large a menu; she writes that "there are so many dishes that it's no wonder the consistency of the food is schizophrenic from day to day." Not actually deviled eggs and overcooked catfish get singled out as particularly poor.
She concludes by wishing that "Liberty Kitchen would pick one direction and run with it" but notes that the place is so packed every night that it probably won't have to.