September 30th, 2010
A Visit to Julia’s Bistro
I’ve passed Julia’s Bistro multiple times in my visits to different Midtown destinations. Each time I said to myself, “I wonder if it’s any good?”. Reviews on Yelp have been so-so, but then again, it is Yelp. However, thanks to a TravelZoo promotion I finally took the initiative to try it out and form my own opinion.
The part of Midtown where Julia’s Bistro sits is undergoing some changes, with a lot of new stores and restaurants going in on Main Street. Julia’s stark white paint with black trim make it look sharp on the corner and is part of the reason I have been curious to try it. When you step inside the simplicity stays but the colors change, with deep reds covering the walls. It’s a tad confusing, because the overall look is not what I expected for a Latin restaurant concept. Not that I was looking for pinatas or castanets, but a simplistic font for the name and even more simplistic decorations kind of screwed with my head. It was refreshing and got my hopes that the focus was on the food.
Our interaction with the maître d’ was short and sweet. He showed us to our table and, after informing him we were there with a coupon, he brought us the special menus as well as an interesting and assorted wine list. Julia’s has a few signature cocktails, including a “Pomegranito” or pomegranate mojito along with the wine and usual beer choices.
The TravelZoo coupon was for a four course “tasting” menu for two at a set price. Looking at the standard menu I figured the tasting menu had to have a few good choices on it and disappointed I was not. I had informed the staff that I have a shellfish allergy and they were happy to oblige.
My first course was crepas de huiltacoche or “corn smut filled crepe”. Huiltacoche (also known as the “smut fungus”) is a corn disease caused by a fungus. In Mexico it is considered a delicacy and after having it, I can see why. The crepe was perfectly prepared with a thin outer layer surrounding the huiltacoche filling. The cream sauce that accompanied it was light, though a tad salty, which slightly overpowered the filling. My wife started with an apricot glazed duck taquito. The duck was delicious and the habanero aioli it was served with was the perfect complement and gave a little needed heat.
The second course was the least exciting. The choices were a black bean soup or a summer salad with watermelon and pecans. My wife went for the well-prepared black bean soup, though a tad oversimplified for what I was expecting. My salad was fresh and had a great citrus dressing but I was hoping for more queso fresco.
Our mains arrived soon after our second course plates were taken and I was mostly happy with what came out. I had rainbow trout in a passion fruit sauce with sauteed mushrooms. My wife ordered chicken wrapped in bacon, stuffed with cheese and portabello mushrooms, and covered in a poblano pepper sauce. Needless to say, she made the better choice. I should point out here that there was one thing missing from my dish, the baby shrimp. Our waiter had pointed out that it wouldn’t change the flavor of the dish if they were missing so I ordered it sans-crustacean.
The fish was well cooked with a great texture and flavor, but the sauce overpowered that flavor and kind of killed it for me. The seasonings that they had used were perfect for trout and it was a bad choice to use a fruit with so much flavor in such a large amount to go along with the fish. Not even the shrimp (if you’re into that sort of thing) would have been able to compete with the passion fruit.
My wife’s dish on the other hand was a study in well-balanced flavors between protein and sauce. The poblano pepper sauce had tad bit of heat that evened out perfectly when it met the chicken, bacon, mushrooms, and cheese. I was very happy with this dish and jealous I did not order it for myself. Both of our main courses came with green beans and smashed potatoes and it should be noted that the smashed potatoes were awesome. They had a lot of heat to them but were perfect with each of the main courses.
For dessert I had the Brie crepe topped with a fig chutney while my wife had the chocolate cream topped with whipped cream. Neither was spectacular, but both were strong. The Brie they used completely overpowered the figs, knocking the dish off balance. The crepe was to perfection just as in the appetizer, but overshadowed by the flavor combination. My wife’s chocolate cream received no complaints, although jaws didn’t drop either. The cream was light and fluffy and just filling enough without being a stomach buster.
Overall, Julia’s Bistro could be served better with a few little tweaks to make it a dazzling dining destination. Their experimentation and incorporation of unique ingredients that most people know nothing about gives it a solid base to build from. With a little bit of work I think they’ll have a fantastic, “must eat” Latin concept.
Where – 3722 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002 (map)
What – A new take on Latin cuisine
Wear – Business Casual
How Much – A little pricey
When – Lunch: Monday-Friday 11am-2pm
Dinner: Monday-Thursday 5pm-10pm; Friday and Saturday 5pm-11pm
Web – Website