December 21st, 2011
Roost: Claiming a Perch at the Top
In 5 Words: Fresh, Local, Cozy, Plaid, Farmhouse
Ah, walking distance. Which for me is approximately 100 yards, but I can’t downplay the convenience of living somewhere bars and restaurants pop up like a game of whack-a-mole. Although I live in the land of plenty for a walking man, chef/owner Kevin Naderi’s project Roost stuck out. The guy has a Havenly pedigree, but how was he going to turn what was once a shabby Cuban restaurant on Fairview into something worth bragging about?
Even on foot, I started to make hoity-toity, preemptive judgments about the parking situation, which is a far cry from good, but walking in shut my trap. I could see that the parking was just another way that Roost lived up to its name. The lot is appropriate for the number of patrons the small restaurant can accommodate, creating a feeling of exclusivity and coziness.
Naderi- who I can only describe as one cool dude- gutted the place entirely. It takes some severe attention to detail to turn a space aptly described as a shoebox into a place of escape and respite…a roost. The place resembles something John Denver might sing about- like a farmhouse, but without the manual labor and smell of livestock. In fact, the only smells you’ll catch whiff of are the spectacular, farm/ranch/local-body-of-water-to-table grub being meticulously prepared less than 20 feet from your table.
On the Monday night I decided to treat myself, Roost was nearly filled to its antiqued rafters. Candles lit personally by your plaid-clad sever and the glow from fishnet light fixtures created a sense of downhome charm that would have been downright romantic if I hadn’t gone stag. Admittedly, the servers’ uniforms are a bit corny, but to get all philosophical, I suppose that’s a back-handed jab at convention and stodginess for a place in the $12-25 range. Besides, I came to eat, not to pretend I give a crap about what my waiter wears.
I was immediately greeted by an attentive member of the wait staff who was spot-on all night. I don’t see the service ever slipping either, simply due to the space not allowing for tomfoolery (I’ve waited years to use that term). Everything, from the waitstaff to the bar to the kitchen, is in plain sight for the friendly and humble Mr. Naderi to peruse as he greets tables and shoots the bull with customers.
I quickly skimmed the menu, and despite the classic appeal of shortribs and flat iron steak, I landed on the seared diver scallops, served with curried lentils and…wait a minute. Let’s do this a little differently and treat ourselves to dessert first. Don’t worry, I’ll be brief. For the price point, the doughnut holes with crushed pistachios, honey rose-water syrup and powdered sugar may be the best dessert in Houston. Yeah…I said it. Not too sweet. Crispy on the outside, piping hot and gooey on the inside. They are out. Of. This. World.
Now back to those scallops. They came out as thick as pork chops and you can taste the freshness as you break through the slight crust from the sear. They’re served with locally procured greens and lentils, but it’s the zing of the tart curry sauce that makes the earthy sweetness of the tender shellfish pop.
Roost is soon to serve a full menu of beer and wine, but they’ve taken their temporary BYOB bull by the horns and were offering a good red and white wine the night I popped in. In other words, don’t let the fact that you didn’t think to bring a sixer stop you from enjoying what they have to offer. Even though they’ll probably have booze in time for those holiday dates, such stopgap measures are just another way Roost does whatever it takes to embody hospitality. They’re menu will change bi-weekly, but the crowd favorites will stay put. The Houston-bred art on the walls will come and go too as soon as people buy up the Stephanie Machete photos that hang there now.
I left Roost full from big flavors and the warmth of a friendly reception. Even if it’s a short distance, walking home from a place you don’t really want to leave is never easy. But there’s always the return trip. Roost won’t be going anywhere any time soon, because a restaurant that packs that kind of character punch will certainly claim a perch at the top.
Where – 1972 Fairview, Houston, TX 77019
What – Fresh, local grub. Intimate date spot with surprising character.
Wear – They certainly won’t turn you away, but like we said- potentially intimate date spot. Take that how you will.
How much – Appetizers run $5-12, entrees run $12-25, desserts sprint $5-8, booze is-a-comin’!
When – M-TH, 4-10 p.m.; F-S, 4-11 p.m.; Doing lunch soon; CLOSED SUNDAYS
Web – Website coming soon, but for now- Facebook