January 10th, 2011

El Meson: Can I Dance with Your Dates?

Avoiding shopping is one of my moral prerogatives. Whether the goal is groceries or a new wardrobe, I always manage to find something to sidetrack me. Unfortunately, there comes a time when you can no longer put aside the trip out to the store. This day is just such a day and I end up wandering around stores aimlessly, trying to lend a fruitless hand in picking out birthday presents. As we were in Rice Village, I put on my best buyer’s face, but quickly offered an alternative: “How about a meal of tapas at El Meson instead?”

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Exiting the yuppie paradise that is Banana Republic, we found our way right across the street to the unassuming restaurant front of El Meson. Just a few doors down from the more lavish (and expensive) looking Mi Luna, my date and I were early for the dinner rush on a Wednesday night. No need for reservations, we were quickly seated in a booth much too large for just the two of us.

The interior of the restaurant is dark with splashes of neon tubing here and there, oil paintings hung about and a wall of wine at the back. The large space and abundance of tables create a bit of a disconnect with the tapas bars from Madrid that I remember, but the loud mashing of conversations and low light are enough to make me think that I transported myself back to a vacation of yore.

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Tapas at El Meson might be the perfect kind of meal. Sitting at the table looking over the robust menu, I began to realize that I was in charge of my own tasting menu. Unfortunately for me, too many options pique my interest. We order drinks to begin: Sangria, of course, and a couple of waters. The waiter having taken his exit to the bar, we set out to try to pare down the dishes of choice, hungry stomachs begging for one of each item on the menu.

Eventually, we make our decision… or “decisions,” as the case may be, on five items: Patatas Bravas, Jamon Serrano y Queso Manchego, Red Snapper Ceviche, Bacon Wrapped Medjool Dates and Pineapple Crabcakes. At first, I think that we’ve underestimated our order. Surely we will go hungry and have to order another round.

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As each dish is brought out to our table, I realize that hunger will be a distant memory after this meal. The ceviche, served in a martini glass, stands proudly over the rest of the table of tapas and we strike out at it at first, if only to silence its presumed hubris. As with every meal inspired by too-hungry stomachs, utensils fly around trying to sweep food onto the empty, personal plates we’ve been provided. But hunger is fleeting and so is my appetite as the first round of sampling is finished.

My date decides that she is no longer hungry after tasting a bit of everything, which leads me to a fork in my dining path: Shall I prove myself a glutton or toss in the napkin in defeat? Who shall I impress: the chef or my company? I choose to try to polish the plates left on the table, mostly because I’m overcome with an emotion I rarely address.

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I have fallen in love at El Meson. With my date. No, not with the lass sitting across from me; the bacon-wrapped, chorizo-stuffed, medjool date. Nothing else matters until the last of the five, toothpick-skewered delights has been eaten. Only then do I feel remorse for my actions, having not saved “the best for last” as is customary. I finish off the rest of the plates with a sadness in my heart and a longing in my soul.

We ask for the check, which is barely over $52. It’s a price I would be willing to pay ten-fold if only to have another chance with that candy-like goodness wrapped in bacon. At night, sometimes I think of them.. dream of them… pledge to make an honest date out of them. One day it will happen. One day soon.

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Where – 2425 University Blvd, Houston, TX 77005 [Google Map]
When – Mon to Thurs, 11am – 10pm; Friday, 11am – 11pm; Saturday, 11am – 10pm; Sunday, 12pm – 10pm
What – Tapas to take your breath away
How Much – Around $10 an item
Web - Website; Facebook

— Paul

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