First Look at Sorrel Urban Bistro

sorrell halibut.jpg
All photos by Mai Pham
Seared halibut, Israeli couscous, white asparagus, sundried tomato oil, micro basil, caramelized Meyer lemon
There's so much to like about Sorrel Urban Bistro, the new farm-to-table concept restaurant that opened earlier this week, that I have to temper my excitement somewhat. I had the chance to preview the space and do a quick tasting before it opened its doors, and I was so impressed, I can't wait to come back for more.

First, there's the decor. Designed by owner Ray Salti and Executive Chef Soren Pedersen, the space feels clean, open, fresh -- a reflection, perhaps, of Pedersen's Danish roots. Large, eye-catching murals of vibrant-colored red, yellow and green vegetables above the bar, and large green bunches of herbs above the open kitchen space pop out against the bright white walls, while high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows bring in a soft natural lighting during the day.

At the bar and charcuterie area, specialty seasonal cocktails like fresh watermelon martinis will be offered, along with artisanal beers and wines on tap. Yes, you did read that right, so I'll say it again just so you know you didn't misread: wines on tap.

sorrel kitchen.jpg
The open kitchen area allows diners to see what's cooking
If you want wines by the glass, you will get them from the tap, while full bottles of more than 200 wines -- many of them organic -- will be available to order with your meal at a low markup of just 1.5 times the cost. The wines on tap reduce the waste associated with empty bottles, while the low markup on full bottles allow patrons to enjoy good wines with their meals without worrying too much about price.

Our tasting of seared halibut over Israeli couscous with prosciutto, white asparagus, fresh thyme, sundried tomato oil and micro basil, with a caramelized Meyer lemon was as gorgeous visually as it tasted. The flavors were savory, yet subtle, the Meyer lemon adding more of a fragrant essence of lemon rather than a tang. The halibut tasted "like it had been caught that day," remarked another taster. Pedersen says all the fish will be delivered fresh daily, and that this particular halibut had been caught the day before.

sorrel pana cotta.jpg
Goat cheese panna cotta, chocolate wine sauce, fresh plums tossed in Texas honey, almond macaroon
Our goat cheese panna cotta over red wine chocolate, with fresh plums tossed in Texas honey, and almond macaroon with some orange zest, was light and refreshing. I particularly enjoyed the farm-fresh quality of the plums, which were vividly red in color, and so juicy you could see the beads of moisture on the flesh of the fruit.

The two plates we tasted during the preview just barely scratched the surface of what Pedersen can offer. His continental style cuisine, influenced by experiences in Denmark and Europe, is clean and unfussy, yet stylish and well-balanced. Combined with the freshness of the ingredients -- fragrant herbs, vibrantly colored vegetables, sweet seasonal fruits, and quality organic meats and sustainable seafood -- the result is a menu that is so appetizing to read, it's hard to figure out what you don't want to order.



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Location Info

Sorrel Urban Bistro

2202 W. Alabama, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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24 comments
Cat
Cat

the food was overall very good (besides bread and dessert)- however, the service was terrible. Our waiter (and other personnel) serving us was (were) INcompetent. He did not know the menu at all and could not answer any our questions (such as 'what is the fish of the day?'). When we asked which beers they had, he told us they had Heineken so we ordered Heineken. We waited a LONG time to hear that they had no Heineken but a similar beer, Stella Artois. So we ordered Stella, and again waited for a LONG time to hear that they had no Stella but only two other beers. We ordered Dos Equis and waited again a LONG time to receive 2 bottles but no glasses. Before my husband was able to finish his beer, the waiter took his bottle, and although he clearly noticed that there was plenty of beer left, he took the bottle and left ... When two waiters gave us our two entrees, they had no clue which entree was which. The dessert was supposed to come with creme fraiche, and when I mentioned to the waiter that there was no creme fraiche, and that I had no fork or spoon, he said "Please give us a few days". Fortunately, we could take a fork from another table :)(Some of) The tables are so small, it is hard to fit two dishes and 2 glasses. It may be the reason why we didn't get glasses :)

Horatiomeyers
Horatiomeyers

Ok so off to Sorrel Bistro for dinner....and back home shaking my head. 

I don't know what they serve to food critics but my food was terrible and I feel a little let down by the reviews.  I talked the place up to my wife and coworkers just to have them call me out on the lack of locally grown items on the menu....my fault for not scrolling down to see what Wary had to say. 

It seems that the waitstaff is very tense and a hawkish manager without a smile lurks around confirming my suspicions.  Ok so service is not that great based on the reviews  but I don't want to eat my meal with a manager yelling at my waiter because my water is half full.   I am from Europe and all I want is for the waiter to take my order and drop off the food.  I don't need him to entertain or refill my water glass every 5 minutes in the first place. 

I know they are trying hard but try being more laid back and just getting the food right.  First things first.  My tip is a small portion of the bill and I would rather good food with OK service to bad food and overattentive service.

Bmaxey
Bmaxey

Have eaten there three times and highly impressed with each visit.  I think Soren Pederson deserves a vote for chef of the year.

JarrodJM
JarrodJM

I went to Sorrel on Friday evening and while the food impressed, the service did not. Poor service combined with subpar ambience can tank an evening. I wanted to try a place that I thought would be a good date place for my wife and I. Boy was I wrong. Night started out with a whimper with the hostess seating us in a high-traffic area right next to the kitchen. Our waiter was awkward at best. My wife asked him what was in the cucumber and mint caipirinha. His answer? Cucumber and Mint. I asked him what beers they had. His answer? A lot. I had to get up and walk to the bar to see what was on tap. Sadly, nothing was on tap. From lipstick on my wife's glass to two dishes of mustard being brought out as a "dipping sauce" for our pommes frites, this place needs some serious work. My wife's comment: "Seems like the owners just pulled the waitstaff from one of their pizza joints." I'll give Sorrel another shot, but it won't be on a date with my wife.

Flibbergibbet
Flibbergibbet

Doesn't this guy own that pizza chain?What's it called?

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Thanks for all the props re: my photos!  For food, I find that indirect natural afternoon light is the best. Of course, the subject matter is also important. Chef Pedersen definitely knows how to plate his food!

wary
wary

Hm, halibut is a strange thing to feature in a "farm-to-table" restaurant on the Gulf coast. So are plums, actually. It sure makes me wonder about the sourcing of their ingredients. I hope they actually do support local farms and aren't local/green washing.

trisch
trisch

Beautiful photos! They have me salivating. And I just finished eating lunch!

Superflyg024
Superflyg024

Firstly, perhaps in Europe, the waitstaff does not pay attention to their guests --- in America it is different. I have dined at Sorrel several times, and am European myself. Firstly, the service was perhaps over attentive but excellent in every way. Unlike you, when I go to a restaurant, I would like to be treated like royalty, and at Sorrel they made me feel as such. The food was amazing and for those to argue would be ridiculous. Also, Europeans are known not to tip - so perhaps we shouldn't concern ourselves with that section of the critique. As for the hawkish manager? In my recent experiences at Sorrel, all I noticed was a talented manager, rather well dressed, and well spoken, who walked by the table to ensure my meal was served accordingly. In addition, the manager suggested a bottle of wine with my meal (as he is also very knowledgeable in both the food and wine industry), which turned out to be a perfect choice. Along with the amazing wines on tap, Sorrel features over 200+ label wines, which are a perfect fit for the food. Your only argument about the unhappy staff could be from the Chef or owner himself -- but in general most Chefs are rather serious people. Perhaps you may have a personal problem with this restaurant - as you have already posted reviews on several other pages -- which inspired me to rush towards Sorrel and see what the buzz was all about. :-)

Allanv1
Allanv1

More advertising? Don't be cheap find your own sources

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Thanks for sharing your experience, JarrodJM. The first two months of any restaurant opening, there are bound to be inconsistencies. I actually went last Wednesday evening (two days after it opened) for a birthday dinner based on my preview tasting, and we all had a fabulous time. But, we were focused on the food and each other and not the service.

Service-wise, ours was solicitous, because we kept on having to send the server away. We were so busy talking, we weren't ready to order. We didn't really ask any questions other than what he thought was good. We drank wines by the glass that were on tap, and my friends enjoyed the Chardonnay. I couldn't find one I liked and ended up drinking cocktails. In fact, when my server noticed that I wasn't drinking my wine, he offered to replace it with something else, so I got a Watermelon martini instead.

There were a couple of things that could have been better, like the fact that the tables seemed quite small - there didn't seem to be enough room on the table for all the glasses and the food. Also, when we got there, the Coca-cola was totally flat. We saw a van labeled Coca-Cola drive up within an hour that incident, so I think it's taken care of.

For me, the food is the most important, and it's much harder to fix than service, so if you liked the food and are willing to give it another try, I'm sure they're working on the service, especially after reading your post!

PietraS
PietraS

Pepperoni's.As if Mr. Pepperoni were the main man.

Kimberly Park
Kimberly Park

Sorrel is a seasonal venue with menus changing daily.  It is sourcing locally whenever possible, otherwise sourcing the best from around the country and world.  For example, cheese offerings are half Texas and half imports.  Charcuterie offerings will be a mix as well.  As chef says, "How can you improve on Italian prosciutto? You can't."  Hope this helps.

Jim Ayres
Jim Ayres

I have to agree - that halibut photo is one of the most appealing food photos I've ever seen! 

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Thanks, Trisch!  I'm loving the farm-to-table movement. We went back for dinner last night (just two days after the first tasting) and our entire party of six had a great time, sampling most of the menu.  Can't wait to go back for one of his prix-fixe tasting menus! If you go at dinner, get the foie gras appetizer over brioche with Blackberry reduction. It was knockout. 

stwilhelm
stwilhelm

I was there on Friday as well, however I sat at the bar for a glass of wine and appetizer.  My understanding is that the service is to be "French" and those that I talked to said it was spotty at best.  I loved the seared fois gras appetizer, but found it as well as the bread with dipping sauce all "wanting" of a bit of salt.  A couple dining at the bar next to me ordered 3 of the appetizers which all looked wonderful, but they too, were asking for salt.

wary
wary

I would just say that that is not farm-to-table. I have no problem with the menu, just in labeling the concept farm-to-table. Farm-to-table implies no middlemen and items not flown or trucked in. You know - directly from the farm to the table.  This does not sound like that.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Just wondering, what do you mean by "french" service? Personally, I don't mind under-salted, because it can be corrected, whereas overseasoning/salting cannot. I can't recall how many soups and dishes I've had to send back because they were seeped in salt and completely inedible. A recent order of lobster bisque at Brasserie 19, for example, was so salty I had to send it back. I've noticed a trend towards under-salting, having experienced this at both Ava and Alto as well. In fact I mentioned it here in my writeup about Ava: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/.... If you do need salt at Sorrel they have a a cool tri-sectioned silver server with three colored salts for you to choose from - black (Hawaiian Ash), coral (I can't remember what it was, and white (French fleur de Sel). Maybe they wanted you to try their salt...  

Superflyg024
Superflyg024

By your knowledge of Haven's practices, it seems as if you must work for them...how convenient..

Allanv1
Allanv1

Very smart taking advantage of free advertising in somebody's else reviews makes me doubt of the veracity of your word's

wary
wary

Sorry, just to clarify, the first photo was, "Seared halibut, Israeli couscous, white asparagus, sundried tomato oil, micro basil, caramelized Meyer lemon". Nothing in that is local or seasonal, aside from the micro basil.

By contrast, I would say that Haven does do local and seasonal very well and sources directly from farmers.

I am not saying that Sorrel doesn't or won't - just that the featured items in this post do not support that.

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