When I walked up to Cook & Collins, I realized I had been there before. Actually I had been there several times before but it looked different, the whole block looked different. The Midtown space has been several mediocre Mexican venues. Behind it was a gay country western bar now a smoke and strobe-lit hoochie mama bar. Further afield, a grungy neighborhood bar is now a VIP bar with an actual red carpet. Apparently, a lot changes in a year.
Half of the seating is outdoors with big ceiling fans. If its a nice night, patio seating is ideal if only for surveying the parade of nightlife. Inside seating still has remnants of the former Mexican venue incarnations – heavy wooden tables, large Satillo tiles, warm tones. Every place in Midtown can be a scene on weekends and Cook & Collins is no different; it does not strike me as a destination for a romantic evening, more a warm up for throwing down later.
Its difficult to classify the food offerings here, maybe Americana, but a good portion of them saddle up to Southwestern with the occasional additions of Hatch and Ancho Chile. In any case, the offerings were all wins
Tuna, Salmon Tartare : Interesting flavour mashup: small diced salmon, chunky cut tuna, watermelon and wasabi-panko fried peaches all under a light soy drizzle. Sweet, salty, crunchy, melty. A surprisingly good combination which peaked the tongue’s interest without obfuscating the flavour of the fish.
Short Rib Barbacoa : Dried chili braised beef short rib atop a masa corn cake atop a tomatillo based sauce. The lot sprinkled with feta and cilantro. A few people in our group did not like the consistency of the short rib; its soft, fall-apart tender. I liked the consistency of the rib paired with the density of the masa cake and the slightly acidic-salty sauce. This dish, while not on the regular menu, has been so popular during Restaurant Week, chef is considering making it permanent.
Peach Upside Down Cake : Credibility for this dish was established by my co-diners who watched me eat almost half of it. Not being a dessert person or someone who likes sugar is testimony. The cake is moist but not sweet, the vanilla creme is likewise rich but not sweet. The peach reduction pooling up the bottom of the plate? Sweet, very sweet but that the presentation was deconstructed allowed me to by-pass it almost entirely.
That covered the Cook part of Cook and Collins. If you want to explore the Collins part look to the drink menu. I saw the many renditions of Tom Collins but decided to investigate the ‘Ghost of Jacob’s Punch’; an intriguing combination of Pisco, Whiskey and lemon simple syrup. I asked for light syrup and I got it – it was great, Pisco-dominance made the drink a compelling, egg-white-free version of a Pisco Sour, perhaps with a little more depth thanks to the whiskey
Excellent. I noticed that their server-patron ratio is fairly high, particularly since we were there during a weekday. Our server was extremely personable without being intrusive. Good servers quickly gauge the mood and pace of a table and he had us profiled exactly right.
Moderately priced for the Midtown area, otherwise high. The regular menu puts apps in the $10 range and mains in the $25 range. This would a value play for Restaurant Week since its $35 for app, main and dessert.
Dinner: August 2014
Cook and Collins | 2416 Brazos | HTX 77006