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. Brennan's Houston is the sister property of the famous Brennan's in New Orleans, which opened in 1967. Another funny thing to 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!
I have visited Brennan's Houston twice, once with my girlfriends and once with my hubby. When you first walk in you are almost immediately enticed by the mound of pecan pralines sitting near the hostess stand. I have yet to pick one (or a few for that matter) on my way in or out; but they sure look great. If you continue on past the hostess stand, you would enter the bar. Traditional in design, the drinks served are decent, but nothing major. In the dining area, during my two visits, I had an opportunity to be seated in two different areas. If you can have your pick, choose the mustard colored high chairs; from what I could tell, they are only available for parties of 4 or less. They offer a ton of privacy and are pretty cool to sit in! The ambiance is great and truly reminds me of a New Orleans style restaurant. It feels very "Bourbon-ish". 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, I know, it tastes like chicken :-). 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). This was good and had a pretty good flavor. For the entree, the Shrimp Haute Creole (served tableside with fire roasted trinity, charred local tomatoes, fresh basil and toasted garlic "Jazzmen Rice") was served 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. The 6 Oz Petite Filet of Beef was average at best. But, that's what I get for going to a Creole seafood house and ordering steak. This is usually a big no-no in my book as I feel restaurants are good at what they are known for; with the exception of those serving general American cuisine.
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). First, let me be totally direct. The so-called buttermilk biscuit on the Strawberry Shortcake was as hard as a day old dinner roll; seriously! Maybe that was their "take" on a Strawberry Shortcake, but I like a soft, fluffy pastry or something like a sponge or pound cake. Whatever, you use...make it soft man! :-)
The service was a little below average. The Shrimp Haute Creole was supposed to be served tableside, but I see the guy making the dish on the other side of the room. So much for "serving tableside" huh? I felt rushed. Overall, I wasn't really feeling the vibe I received while dining there. I put that comment more on the waiter than on the training provided by Brennan's Houston. My first visit was the opposite.
I can't complete my review without telling the masses about the infamous Bananas Foster! Now, I am not a fan of cooked bananas (ha-ha), but I dig this dish! It's so amazingly good. It is something you must try when you visit. Bananas Foster is what they do, and they do it well (just had an L.L. Cool J moment; I will fill you in later :-)).
Will I ever visit Brennan's again? Ummm...probably not anytime soon. Not with all the great places that Houston has to offer. Now, if they are running a special dinner or when Houston Restaurant Week rolls around again, maybe...just maybe. Until next time...it's not just about the food; it's about the experience.
~ Urban Swank, Shanna "Urban Girl" Jones