Textile

Houston

It’s not just me—restaurant names are getting weirder. To wit: Wink, Latitude 28°02’, t’afia, N9NE, rise no°1, Seventeen Seventeen, and *17. But chef and restaurateur Scott Tycer is the winner in the quantity department, alone being responsible for Aries, Gravitas, and Pic. By his usual standards, the name of his newest venture—located in an old fabric mill—is positively logical. He calls it Textile.

In terms of size, Textile is compact, 32 seats in a spare but warm latte-colored room. In terms of ambition, it is considerable (Tycer didn’t get on Food & Wine’s list of best new American chefs of 2003 by kicking back and taking it easy). As the food goes, the dishes span the range from head-swimmingly delicious (a handful) to quite yummy (a lot) to “oops” (a few).

When asked to put a label on his food, Tycer says “French American.” To that I would add “contemporary” and mention his fondness for the occasional Asian ingredient. But whatever the tag, the reality translates into appetizers like silken Maine day-boat scallops on top of a potato latke (think heavenly hash browns) with a crème-fraîche velouté tarted up with apple juice. Equally winning was his sherry vinaigrette–dressed endive salad with a strip of crisply fried pork belly on top, bolstered by lime-spritzed mashed avocado on one side and a king’s ransom of pearl-like lump crab on the other. It was so good that instead of sharing, I wanted to run off to a corner and eat the whole thing myself.

I mention starters first not only because they’re the opening salvo but also because they’re the stars of the menu (something about apps’ small size and free-form nature seems to inspire chefs’ ingenuity). By comparison, my interest in Textile’s entrées ebbed and flowed. At the high-tide mark were two hearty meat dishes: butter-tender lamb medallions in a sumac-kissed Madeira sauce and a perfectly cooked and sliced USDA Prime New York strip steak. At medium tide came a Japanese-inspired preparation of Kona Kampachi: a mild, sweet white fish served raw with an acidic drizzle of Yamaya soy sauce and yuzu juice. Finally, low tide rolled in: a mound of quasi-leaden Parmesan-spiked gnocchi and a poached spring chicken that inexplicably ended up dry and bland despite being browned in duck fat.

But things came roaring back with dessert, and how. All the sweets, by pastry chef Plinio Sandalio, were clever, and many were worthy of a modern-art museum. But the one we all crushed on was the Coffee and Milk, a wild send-up of French toast made with petite slices of sweet bread, a scooplet of milk sorbet, a bacon-scented streusel topping, and puffs of coffee foam.

As we were leaving the restaurant (after a three-hour stint—they definitely need to pick up the pace), we all agreed that our ideal meal here would be a round of appetizers and desserts, boosted by several bottles of wine from the intelligently chosen list. As for the name Textile, it didn’t even seem strange anymore. As somebody joked, they can call it whatever they want as long as they call me in time for dinner. Bar. 611 W. 22nd (832-209-7177). Dinner Tue–Sat 6–11 (last seating at 9:30). Closed Sun & Mon. Reservations required. $$$–$$$$ W+

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