Ava Kitchen & Whiskey Bar

Ava Coppa.jpg
Spicy Coppa and Taleggio.
We were recently invited to check out the new concept from Houston-based Schiller-Del Grande Restaurant Group, Ava Kitchen & Whiskey Bar. Located in the ultra-chic West Ave complex, Ava is definitely a see-and-be-seen kind of place that is perfectly suited to meeting friends after work for a cocktail and a nice dinner.

Like many of the newer restaurants around town, Ava has a menu broken into smaller plates that are great for snacking and appetizers, as well as bigger plates meant for sharing.

The Spicy Coppa and Taleggio was a "small plate" that would be make an excellent light lunch served alongside the accompanying crusty bread. The meat was fatty and fresh, the cheese was mild and creamy, and the whole thing was topped with a zesty fennel salad and lightly sweet dried mission figs. My only gripe was I wanted a more equal cheese to meat ratio, but then again I'm a huge cheese fan. And for only $10, this plate has an ample amount of good-quality meat and olive oil on it.

Ava Squid.jpg
The other small dish was an interesting assemblage of shrimp sausage, wrapped in squid and served on polenta ($12). Again, I was surprised at the generous portion size of the "small plate." I could easily make a meal out of this. The polenta had that perfectly creamy, but not at all mushy, texture which paired expertly with the tender squid overfilled with flavorful shrimp sausage.

My dining companion and I also tried two items from the "Plates and Grills" section. I tried the Rigatoni with Bolognese sauce ($14). Pasta aficionados, take heart, the rigatoni was a perfect al dente that stood up to the hearty, herby meat sauce. I will definitely be getting this again. I also took a bite of the Lamb T-Bone chops with Rosemary & Pomegranate Molasses served with a heap of roasted fingerling potatoes ($28). The meat was tender, flavorful and extremely juicy, an excellent complement to the roasted potatoes. The drizzling of sauce added an herbaceous earthiness to the dish and was also tasty sopped up with the leftover bread from the Coppa plate.

Ava Tarte Tatin.jpg
Though I thought I would not have any room, I couldn't help tasting the Caramel Apple Tarte Tatin ($8.50). This dessert is reason enough in and of itself to go try Ava. Really. The caramel sauce must have a pound of butter per batch, but calories be damned, it's freaking awesome. Paired with one of Ava's 50-plus whiskey or scotch offerings, you've got yourself a good end to the night.

Ava has a simple slogan printed on its walls: "Good Food Cocktails Wine," an apt description. Yes, the restaurant is show-stoppingly beautiful, with fuchsia velveteen couches, brushed zinc tables, and intricate lighting fixtures, but none of that matters unless it has the food and the service to back it up. And with decent prices, Robert Del-Grande's menu guidance, and The Grove's Rawad Semaan expertly taking on the role of GM, Ava may quickly become one of Houston's new favorite restaurants.


Location Info

Ava Kitchen & Whiskey Bar - CLOSED

2800 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Music


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11 comments
Tony
Tony

I recently went to Ava with a party of 8 and seven of the people there did not enjoy the food. The ambiance is great, but the food was less than desirable. I had a piece of fish that was the size of a small cookie along with three potato slices that was the size of a tack. If I'm going to pay $21 dollars for a small meal, I want it to taste special. It did not. The fish was average and the potatoes tasted like cardboard. In addition, they served bread that almost cost me a tooth.

If these guys want to compete with restaurants in Houston, they better step up their game or they will be out of business fast.

blackjackdavid
blackjackdavid

I went recently and found it surprisingly rough around the edges. Maybe he's still trying smooth things out from the opening, but I expected more from a RDG kitchen. Had the "Small Plate" of Gulf Crab Meat Cocktail and it was swimming in way too much "creamy avocado sauce." Avocado sauce? That should have been a warning. It was plated with just a spoon, no chips or bread or something to sop it up.

Ordered the Rigatoni and Bacon Roasted Pork Tenderloin for the main courses. Don't know why I looked at my watch when I placed the order but I remember it was 7:37. Lo and behold, six minutes later the food was on my table. Six minutes? I'm happy not to be kept waiting too long, but that's not enough time to prepare rigatoni and a pork tenderloin on a Friday night with a packed house. And it showed: the pasta was undercooked and the pork was tepid at best.

Had four different people, including the water guy, pour my bottle of wine at one point or another during the meal. Is that service, or just jitters? It is a beautiful space but with all the other new places coming on line now or very soon, it doesn't strike me as somewhere to return to all that often. Still, with such a prime location and RDG's name it's bound to succeed. Here's hoping that the kitchen will someday match the view.

Jesslover2
Jesslover2

How inspired!Looks like what Dolce Vita was doing about 5 years ago.

Kyle
Kyle

The whiskey bit got me interested, but http://www.avaalto.com/public/... that's not good enough so close to Downing Street. 1 rye, blah. The food sounds good, so good luck to them just the same. My friend Spencer did some of the metal work at West Ave and it looks really good.

Pedenhaddon
Pedenhaddon

Be glad your food took six minutes ... we ordered two salads which took over an hour. I agree completely ... very rough around the edges and surprising for a RDG kitchen. The owners should be on-site until this place is up and running smoothly.

Flicka21
Flicka21

or Stella Sola 15 months ago...

Westerlandzwei
Westerlandzwei

...and Caffe Bello was doing about five months ago.

But I'm sure that the reviews will be gushing, as these guys are good operators, and of course well connected to CultureMap.

Www Dog
Www Dog

Why would Houston press want to say anything positive about something with connections to CultureMap? Press usually demonizes CM.

Oopagrk
Oopagrk

'usually demonizes'? as in portraying CM to be the demonish devil himself? hardly. more like 'sometimes lightly rebukes' for silliness or nondisclosure issues, as far as I have seen here. but the commenters have been less forgiving on several instances, especially with regards to some of their columnists.

Kyle
Kyle

When did HP demonize Culturemap? Culturemap is featured periodically in Eating Our Words' blog roundup.

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