Over Thanksgiving I had the good fortune of being treated to a meal at Reef in Houston, Texas. You can see on their web page that they've won a number of awards, and from what I'd heard the place would not disappoint.
The interior was modern and festive; the dining room was large but neither too crowded nor too loud. We were a large-ish group so we were seated at the back of the room in a tall booth with the most fantastic quasi-deco fabric. The only downside to the booth was that it was a little dark back there for picture-taking. It was great for a enjoying a nice dinner, but some of my food shots are pretty grainy.
Those of us who arrived early started out with the 3rd Bar Plateau, which is a sampling of "all things salty and raw." I was most curious about the raw oysters and clams, since I had never had either one of these. The oysters tasted ocean in a shell, which was a unique experience, but one I don't really feel like I need to repeat. I did eat several clams, however. The biggest surprise on the platter was actually the seaweed salad. Until this point I had never had one that wasn't slimey and underwhelming, and somehow this one had a much more appealing texture with a strong sesame flavor. Fantastic.
My remarks about the raw platter bring me to the only problem I had with Reef - while our waiter was extremely knowledgeable, particularly about wine choices, his explanations of the food were confusing. First off, I had trouble hearing him, and the place wasn't loud. So after he brought the raw platter to the table we had to keep asking each other what the various things were. And there were 3 or 4 sauces on the bottom tier that were not explained, and nothing on the platter seemed to require a sauce. So I'm not sure what they were or what they were for. Jumping ahead a bit, there were a couple other service issues that bugged me. Perhaps I'm old and cranky, because these are minor details, but they are things I notice in a lot of restaurants and they should be easy to avoid. First off, it drives me crazy when waitstaff takes some people's plates while others are still eating. I'm a slow eater, and I eat kind of a lot, and when everyone else's plates are taken away it makes me feel not only rushed, but also self-conscious about how much I eat, which is not how I should be made to feel in a nice restaurant. Second, my wine glass was taken away before the wine was finished. If I'd noticed there was more wine I would have stopped whoever took it. But for whatever reason about half the glasses in our group were taken away when we still had quite a bit of wine, which put those people who still had glasses in a strange situation. Why would this even happen in the first place?
For the entrée I ordered the Thai Style Whole Fish, which was roasted, yes, whole, with spices and vegetables. If you don't like picking through bones, this dish isn't for you. Personally, I enjoy the challenge. The fish had a great sour-spicey flavor that really crept up on me, so by the time I was finished eating my lips were tingling. They weren't shy with the vegetables, either, which I always appreciate.
Finally, the highlight of the meal for me, after eating an entire fish that is, was taking a peak in the open kitchen. It was orderly and efficient, with a lot happening at once in a small space - impressive!
If you'd like to see the whole set of pictures from the trip, they're right over here.