After more than a year in the making, countless months of recipe tweaking, many hours of agonizing over every decorative detail, three days of “friends and family” service, and a weekend of being quietly open for anybody who was smart enough to figure out what was going on, the Pass and Provisions will finally—make that FINALLY—open for real today, at 807 Taft, in Houston.
Well, actually, it’s just the Provisions half of the dynamic duo that will open. The Pass, in a separate dining room, is still being agonized over. But in six weeks, it will slide open its vast iron door and the two halves will be complete.
As anybody knows who has been following the saga in food media columns and blogs, the “P’s” are two restaurants in one. Provisions is the casual side, the Pass the fine-dining side. The Pass will be more exclusive, with 36 seats; Provisions seats 54. A bar area and outdoor patio will increase the chair count. (Prior to this, the space had been Gravitas, chef Scott Tycer’s lauded but ultimately doomed restaurant, which closed abruptly in January of this year.)
The chef/partners behind P&P are Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan, who have serious creds. (Between the two of them, they have worked at Aquavit, August, Fiamma, Auerole, The Modern, and Gordon Ramsey at the London. Also Viajante in the United Kingdom; Chicago’s C-House, and Houston’s Kata Robata.)
Last Friday they gave me a tour of the final preparations and treated me to a sampling of Provisions’s menu.
Gardner: “We will always have a ham of the day at Provisions. It could be an Italian ham like a prosciutto di Parma, a domestic ham that we are excited about, or something we made and cured in-house.”
Gardner: “This is thin-sliced prosciutto sitting on top of aioli that we have enriched with toasted pumpernickel crumbs. On top we have sprinkled dehydrated whole-grain mustard. We are huge fans of mustard.”
Gardner: “We are just trying to do simple, delicious food. You can see the ham being sliced. You can see the pizzas baking in the wood-burning oven, or a suckling pig—well, maybe a half or quarter suckling pig. The oven can get up to 850 degrees—that will make the skin nice and crispy.”
Gallivan, “We roast everything in that oven. When we put cherry tomatoes in there, they burst and create this delicious ‘sauce.’ We like a mix of woods—post oak, pecan, mesquite—to get a balance of smoke flavors and heat.”
Gardner: “This is our ‘everything bagel’ dish. The bottom layer is pickled cherry tomatoes. Then there’s a layer of smoked salmon and potatoes, then some crème fraiche with chopped red onions. The top is cream-cheese-chive foam. There are potato chips on the side that are dusted with ‘everything bagel’ spice—toasted poppy seeds, sesame seeds—it’s basically breakfast.
Gallivan, “We have purposely not released that many pictures, partly because we weren’t finished, but mainly because we wanted the final product to be a surprise.” Gardner, “We wanted a sense of drama. We want people to walk in without knowing what they were about to see.”
Gallivan: “It seemed important to pay homage to Antone’s, because it was such a Houston institution. The building originally was an Italian import company. The owner married, and his wife started selling po’boys. This is the actual sign that hung outside. The landlord still had it, and we redesigned it so it would fit inside.”
Gardner: “It’s basically a puff-pastry-wrapped terrine with marinated prunes, some liver forcemeat, then some pickled vegetables, and an upland cress salad.” Gallivan: “It starts with sweetbreads that have been roasted in a pan with loads of capers and parsley and lemon and other goodies. Then we layer it with the prunes, which we cook down with port wine and shallots and spices.”
Gardner: “The menu is a placemat that covers the whole table.” Gallivan: “In the middle of the room is one very long table with sliding leaves, which are the individual tabletops. They can be pushed together to make a communal table, or pushed apart (even removed) to make smaller tables.”
Gardner: “We put a little bit of a spin on everything—so this is house-made pasta flavored with harissa. We toast some garlic, sauté the shrimp, and top the whole thing with breadcrumbs and finely minced raw broccoli.”
Gallivan: “The wall in the dining room was a basketball court from a gym that was part of an old Baptist church in Dallas. Our decorator found it for us. She was amazing. We had a lot of ideas about what we wanted, and she took them and made them better.”
Gallivan: “This is our take on lemon meringue pie. We have pound cake as the base instead of a crust, with lemon curd on top. The flat white pieces are dehydrated meringue. Amarena cherries are the garnish, and we add a scoop of bay laurel ice cream. We finish it with a little bit of orange powder.” Gardner: “We love savory things, but we love doing the pastry side too.”
Gardner: “The building was pretty dark, and we wanted to warm it up. We made the windows in the dining room bigger, so we could take advantage of the sunlight streaming in. We also added this lighting, which is over the front door. If you want to, you can stay in the bar all night—you can get the full Provisions menu there. And of course you can eat in either of the two dining rooms.”
Gardner: “Before we found this location, we had been looking for over a year. The minute we walked in here, it felt right.” Gallivan: “The footprint was awesome. We took over a huge space and turned it into three small spaces—the bar, Provisions, and the Pass. Gardner: “We could see the restaurant we wanted to build. And now it’s real.” 807 Taft Houston (713) 628-9020.
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