BY MIKE PUCKETT
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Salento Bistrot is located in one of my favorite areas of Houston, the Rice Village, as well as another location on the Rice University campus. The Rice Village is located southwest, just a few miles from downtown. Not only is this a very prominent area of Houston, but it is filled with a number of great eateries, pubs and cool boutiques and shops. If you haven’t made it to the Rice Village…let’s just say I am giving you one more very good reason to check it out!
There’s only so much time to take advantage of beautiful weather in Houston. So, it was nice to see so many people out on the patio enjoying a glass of wine and small plates with friends when I arrived.
Once at the Salento Bistrot, you walk through the doors and instantly know what you have in store. The décor has a European feel, along with a definite Latin American influence. The vast selection of wine is in plain view as the bottles sit beautifully shelved for display. This is the type of place to spend a late afternoon or evening with that special someone… creating a foundation through enjoyable conversation and excellent wine.
With smiles from ear to ear, we decided to start off with the Large Tray. This Cheese Plate comes with four types of cheeses (we chose the Bleu d’ Auvergne, Smoked Gouda, Brie and Bel Paese) served with bread, herbed olive oil, grapes and walnuts. As you can see in the photography, this Cheese Plate is literally a piece of art. If you have been following my reviews for any length of time, you know I have a passion for blue cheese. So, naturally this was my favorite. But, I highly recommend this selection because it combines different textures and flavors that are very unique to each other and that get your palate talking! This enjoyable cheese plate was paired with a 2013 Drylands Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. I must thank our server for that!
Salento Bistrot is the perfect place to sit with a glass of wine and enjoy pleasant conversation… and nothing goes better with that than hummus and tapenade! So, we got a traditional hummus dish served with roasted red pepper tapenade and olive bread. You must start with this appetizer; it was very good.
My favorite starter was the Filet Mignon Bites. Maybe it is my nature as a man, but when you taste this dish, you will understand exactly what I’m talking about. The Filet Mignon is perfectly cooked and crusted with cracked peppercorn, topped with sautéed onions and served with honey mustard. Every bite is better than the last. What a great way to enjoy mouth-watering steak without ordering a full entrée! Our server paired this starter with a glass of Sean Minor 2012 Pinot Noir – a very medium-bodied wine with berry nuances – the perfect pairing for these juicy filet bites.
What eating experience is complete without a salad, right? We ordered the Soup and Salad to get a feel for what I could order for a light lunch. Ha! Like I know what that is! The Baby Arugula Salad was a delicious combination of walnuts, green apples and Manchego cheese tossed in house dressing and served on a bed of baby arugula – fresh, smart and simple. The soup of the day was Butter Squash. Both soup and salad were totally enjoyable.
Another great lunch choice is the Brie & Prosciutto Sandwich. This awesome sandwich is built with layers of Brie, Prosciutto, tomatoes, spinach and avocado slices between slices of olive bread and served with your choice of chips, salad or soup. This is not your average sandwich, but is exactly what you can expect from Salento’s, a little different… a little better!
Now, for the entrees! The aroma is wonderful and hard to put into words. I love having a small group of friends join me on these eating escapades… it allows me to try everything (almost) I want while plus I get an idea of what others think as well. Besides, I wouldn’t be able to fit into these places if I didn’t! LOL.
The Spanish Margarita Pizza was one of those items I couldn’t resist. What goes just swimmingly with a Yangarra Shiraz 2012, you might ask? How about a unique Margarita Pizza made with olive oil, garlic, basil, fresh tomatoes, Mozzarella and Manchego cheese. The Manchego cheese, a Spanish cheese aged between 60 days and two years, was what made this pizza unique in a very delectable way. What a great touch guys… Delicious!
For our final entrée, we sampled the Montreal Steak Tacos, a great example of the Latin flare I mentioned earlier. They were prepared with perfectly-cooked beef tenderloin, mixed peppers, onions, mushrooms, artichokes, poblano, avocado aioli with Bel Paese, a side of black beans and tomatillo sauce. I hate to toot my own horn, but toot toot! Check out the photography of this dish. It literally says it for me… and it doesn’t take a thousand words. Just one “Impeccable”. This is my go-to entree here!
Surprise, surprise. I couldn’t decide on just one dessert… so, as a table, we chose two to share. It was a very good decision.
We picked the Flourless Chocolate Cake and it was very good. This dessert is great for those who are on a gluten-free diet. But, keep in mind – it is not on the Atkins diet. Ha!
The Santiago Almond Cake is a local fan favorite here and I can see why! Also known as Torta de Santiago (in Galician) or Tarta de Santiago (in Spanish), this delectable cake has a sweet almond flavor which is elevated with lemon zest. The top is decorated with a beautiful layer of powdered sugar. Like everything else we enjoyed here, the Santiago Almond Cake is almost too exquisite to eat. Almost!
My experience at Salento Bistrot was unbelievable…and this feeling was shared by the whole table. Everything is amazing: from the outdoor seating, where you can enjoy people watching and enjoyable conversation, to the fine wine and cuisine that keeps you coming back for that favorite menu item. And they serve breakfast, too! Oh, well… I guess I will just have to make another trip. Ha! Stay tuned and find out how it goes.
PHOTOGRAPHY: MIKE PUCKETT
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