Feast

Houston
Photograph by Debora Smail

I quite fancy the little drawing of a spotted pig on the menu at three-month-old Houston restaurant Feast. It’s chipper, that pig, its snout stuck in the air as if it were sniffing a mysterious scent. The critter should be your totem when you venture out to visit Feast, because its curious spirit will serve you well. Keep an open mind. Be daring. Try at least one thing you’ve never had before. I promise you won’t regret it.

Owned by Richard Knight and James and Meagan Silk, Feast occupies a comfy old house on scruffy but rapidly gentrifying lower Westheimer. The walls of the dining rooms are creamy white, with floors, trim, and chairs in dark natural wood. The contrast reminds me of Tudor-style cross-timbering, a happy coincidence, because Richard and James are Brits, and the philosophy they bring to Feast has an English origin.

But before I start yammering on about philosophy, I should let the menu speak for itself. See if you can figure out the common theme in these three dishes, which I sampled on a recent Saturday night: pork cheek salad, black pudding (right), and veal sweetbreads. If you answered, “That’s offal!” you are correct, old chum. And delicious offal it was, too.

Far richer than pork roast, the morsels of cheek snuggled up to roasted shallots on a bed of chopped dandelion greens. The black pudding came tricked out with fresh En­glish peas and a fried duck egg, the colors so vivid they glowed. As to the identity of black pudding, take a nibble. It’s good, isn’t it? Like breakfast sausage but more delicate. Now, would you ever in a million years have guessed that it’s made from pig’s blood? I thought not. And the sweetbreads, our third stop on the Variety Meat Trail, were fantastic. This pearly-pink organ meat soaks up the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with, in this instance generous strips of bacon with roasted potatoes and carrots (yum).

At this point, I know some of you are getting a little nervous. You’re saying, “All right, I’m game, but my friends are freaking out. What can they eat?” Short answer: plenty. There’s osso buco, shrimp, fish, coq au vin, and a delicious chicken tagine, or Moroccan stew. The salads and desserts are approachable too, like the En­glish treat lovingly referred to as spotted dick (stop that laughing, stop it this instant!). Feast’s version is a mince pie–like steamed pudding filled with raisins—plus the novel addition of apples—and topped with custard.

Given the amount of cajoling it takes for most people to even try organ meats, why would restaurant owners go to so much trouble? Because they think it’s important. Richard and James are big proponents of “nose to tail” eating. This is a notion popularized by their highly regarded compatriot Fergus Henderson, of St. John, in London, who advocates using every part of an animal, inside and out. But in the end, while it’s fun to dine on the edge and admirable to be a conscientious carnivore, the main reason to go to Feast is for the flavors. Yes, you will be part of something significant, but mainly, you’ll eat very well. After that, everything else is lagniappe. Beer & wine. 219 Westheimer Rd (713-529-7788). Open Mon & Wed–Sat 11–3 & 5–10, Sun 5–9. Closed Tue. $$–$$$

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