BEST CELLAR A lair for urban animals, Houston’s Cava Bistro feels like a wine cellar in a city where basements are as rare as igloos. The place has been open less than three months, but its rustic rock arches look hundreds of years old. By the light of chandeliers with little mocha-colored lamp shades, a friend and I pored over the wide-ranging menu and extensive wine list. Chef Fidel Perez doesn’t shy away from mixing countries and cuisines: A complimentary loaf of French bread came with a dish of chile-de-árbol-and-roasted-tomato salsa spiked with cumin and cilantro. For our first course, we tried ahi tuna tartare, which played with the elements of a modern sushi roll, including wasabi aïoli, black sesame seeds, and morsels of lump crabmeat so big I shuddered to imagine the size of their original owner (just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water . . .). We turned to Italy for the next course, a combo of grilled portobellos marinated in sweet balsamic vinaigrette and irresistible mascarpone polenta drizzled with truffle oil. Detouring back to France, we ordered beautifully cooked scallops with sautéed leeks and shiitakes on crisp puff pastry with an over-the-top-rich butter sauce. Bottom line: Roll the dice. You’ll dine well whatever continent you land on.
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