It’s funny, but the only time I have gone to Brennan’s Houston was during Houston Restaurant Week. With my family ties reaching into Louisiana, I am a very hard sell when it comes to seafood and Creole cuisine. On a not-so-funny note, my experiences at Brennan’s Houston would have never occurred had they not recovered so quickly from their 2008 fire resulting from Hurricane Ike. In approximately 16 months, Brennan’s Houston was up and running again. Brennan’s Houston is the sister property of the famous Brennan’s in New Orleans, which opened in 1967.
Upon entering this hot spot, you are almost immediately enticed by the mound of pecan pralines sitting near the hostess stand. I have yet to pick one up on my way in or out and it’s not because I haven’t been tempted. If you continue on pass the hostess stand, you would enter the bar where you may also prefer to be seated for dinner. Traditional in design, the drinks served are decent, but nothing to write home about. In the dining area, if you can have your pick, choose the mustard colored high back chairs. From what I could tell they are only available for parties of 4 people or less. They offer a ton of privacy and I will admit to feeling pretty cool sitting in them. The ambiance is great and truly reminds me of a New Orleans style restaurant and feels very “Bourbon-ish” with the floor to ceiling windows that peek out into the busy downtown streets. The architect and the designers that brought Brennan’s back to life really did a great job.
Now on to the food…
Brennan’s in known for their Brennan´s Classic Turtle Soup (splashed with pincipe pio sherry). I am personally not a fan of turtle, but those that have dined with me and tried it have enjoyed it. I know you’re going to say “it tastes like chicken”, but I still opted to pass. During my last visit, I began my meal with the Gulf Coast Shrimp and Grits (served with homestead stone ground grits, New Orleans style barbecue sauce and St Arnolds beer aioli). I enjoyed the texture of the creamy grits and the barbecue sauce was both tangy and mildly spicy at the same time.
For the entree, the Shrimp Haute Creole (served tableside with fire roasted trinity, charred local tomatoes, fresh basil and toasted garlic “Jazzmen Rice”) was selected as well as the 6 Oz Petite Filet of Beef (served with local yukon gold potatoes, roasted oyster mushrooms, caramelized onions, bacon tomato jam and barrel aged Brennan´s worchestershire). Although the Shrimp Haute Creole sounds like a really fancy dish, it was merely a shrimp gumbo. It was supposed to be served tableside, but my waiter chose to make the dish on the other side of the room. So much for “serving tableside” huh? The 6 Oz Petite Filet of Beef was average at best but I blame the overzealousness of the dish; not the quality of the beef. But, that’s what I get for going to a Creole seafood house and ordering steak.
For dessert, I sampled the Strawberry Shortcake (served with summer berries, buttermilk biscuit, imperial sugar and vanilla whipped oak farms dairy cream) and the Classic Creole Bread Pudding (Rio grande organic pecans and rye whiskey sauce). Unfortunately, the buttermilk biscuit on the Strawberry Shortcake was as hard as a day old dinner roll. I would have preferred a soft, fluffy pastry or something similar to a sponge or pound cake but I digress. My recommended dessert hands down would be the infamous Bananas Foster. Now, I am not a fan of cooked bananas, but I dig this dish! It’s so amazingly good and is a must-try when you visit. Bananas Foster is what they do, and they do it well (just had an L.L. Cool J moment).
The service is a mixed bag. On my second visit, I felt rushed, but my first visit was the opposite. Overall, I really like Brennan’s. Would definitely return? Absolutely. I would never let a few inconsistencies keep me from enjoying one of Houston’s top dining destinations. Just stick to the Creole driven dishes and close out the night with a Bananas Foster and you will be good to go!