By JOHN DeMERS
If any of your favorite Houston restaurants Inside the Loop have seemed a tad less busy the past couple weeks, it may be because everybody you know has been eating (or at least drinking) at the new Eddie V’s Prime Seafood in the West Ave development.
I was there last night, along with everybody I know – and a whole lot of people I don’t. And even after sampling the original Eddie V’s in downtown Austin some years ago, and embracing the newer location (or “store,” as they say in the biz) in west Houston at City Centre, I was more than a little blown away. If you love a quiet dinner at an out-of-the-way table in a restaurant nobody knows about, the new Eddie V’s on the edge of River Oaks is probably not the place for you.
For one thing, there’s been a striking adjustment in the restaurant’s design and flow. All Eddie V’s so far have separated the dining room from the bar with considerable distance, and maybe a wall or three. That meant, in the clever words of one regular, the bars were usually too noisy and the dining rooms were usually too quiet. The West Ave setup has been re-configured, so that both parts seem connected, the spirit of one flowing naturally in and out of the other. Put simpler: the dining room finally gets to join the party.
Last night, with the sounds of commerce for background music, we recorded an episode of Delicious Mischief with Eddie V’s GM James Powers and exec chef Robert Rhoades. Talk about knowing your menu: with training at the CIA up in Hyde Park, Rhoades has cooked at the original Austin location, then helped open a new one in Dallas, and then spent time learning the local ropes at City Centre. For the radio, we tasted and talked about Eddie V’s (no-bread) crabcake with lush but pungent remoulade, the incredible Point Judith fried calamari served kung poa-style with roasted cashews and crispy noodles, and the simple but totally delicious rendition of New Orleans redfish meuniere. I was impressed that this young chef knew the old veal stock trick, using it in the meuniere sauce on fish the way Arnaud’s pioneered decades ago in the French Quarter.
Once my microphone was put away, we ordered more things before the chef sent out something I’d had the nerve to suggest: using the same meuniere sauce with the tiny, sweet Nantucket bay scallops – an amazing idea, if I do say so myself. After that, we worked our way through appetizers like the Maine lobster tacos and the cracked Jonah crab claws, plus entrees like the sautéed Florida grouper done-up Vera Cruz style with plum tomatoes, olives and red chiles. Somehow, there was also a steak at the table: a medium-rare 16-ounce USDA Prime New York strip, that miraculously appeared with two of Eddie V’s 14 sides. These were the French fries with Parmigiano Reggiano and chive and enough lovely asparagus to make a risotto for 32 people.
To the dulcet tones of groans all around, I went ahead and ordered dessert – the famous Eddie V’s spin on bananas Foster that involves flaming the caramelized bananas atop a moist butter cake with butter pecan ice cream. No, I didn’t have any room to eat it. It was just for the photo, really. And then I ate it anyway.
Photos: (above) Florida grouper Vera-Cruz style; (below) hot bananas Foster butter cake.