Midtown Houston went from bad area to destination neighbourhood in the span of a decade. Its long been knocked off the top of the list but it seems to have settled on being a good place for the early career set working downtown; ubiquitous McApartment complexes, some decent bars and some truly memorable restaurants now pepper the landscape in the southern shadow of downtown’s skyline.
Damian’s has weathered all the Midtown transitions without missing a beat. In my father’s day this was a grown-up place for oil execs to take other oil execs for dinner – suits queued up their 6-figure cars for valet parking, ate too much, drank too much and made deals.
I had never been to Damian’s so I was curious if, given the changes in Houston, it would still be a suit-laden business destination. Short answer – no. In fact, despite being a much older crowd, it has become, with the rest of Houston, much more casual.
Sophisticated, white tablecloths, servers in white button-up jackets and ties. Judging by the number of birthday presents adorning tables, an event destination. While the inside is deceptively large and open, soundproofing keeps the white noise at a minimum. It is a dressy place, largely patronized by the River Oaks set, but my jean-clad partners and I were greeted warmly by all.
Excellent old-world Italian with occasional new-world twists. Excellent wine selection, albeit obviously heavy on the Italians. Full bar.
Sweet Potato Ravioli. I was trying to relate the qualities of freshly made pasta vs. store bought pasta to a friend. However, I was not able to articulate the qualities to her satisfaction. There is a texture and feel to fresh pasta that is different. You know its – fresh. In any case, the ravioli here tasted freshly made, the slightly sweet sweet potato filling was good contrast to the slightly salty butter-sage sauce. Good thing they only came four to a plate.
Flounder Pizaola. I knew beforehand the kalamata olive and caper based tomato sauce might overshadow the taste of the flounder. The sauce was applied in the center of the fish, leaving the ends sauce-free. The fish was fresh and grilled naked, quite tasty solo. However the sauce, topped with grilled shrimp added a welcomed savory depth. There was too much sauce but it was easy to move it aside or use it as seasoning for the accompanying sauteed green beans.
Also excellent, old-world Italian. The white-jacket clad server was quite personable but he noticed we were in conversation so he gave us time without being explicitly told. Dishes came out in 20 minutes and seemed to appear with little fanfare or need for acknowledgement. Plate recommendations flowed as if each dish was a well-known friend. Wine suggestions were spot on.
Edging toward high but comparable quality justifies. Sweet Potato Ravioli, Flounder Pizaola and a glass of Santa Marghertia Pinot Grigio – $46.
Dinner: 18 January 2014
Damian’s | 3011 Smith | HTX 77006