First Look at Pax Americana
|Photo by Mai Pham|
|A standout among standout dishes: The grilled honeydew. Order this.|
Grilled honeydew salad topped with hazelnut dressing and small blocks of feta cheese (when have you ever seen this combination) is at once ingenious as it is amazing --like a farmer's market take on Greek salad -- sweet and slightly smoky, firm yet smooth, the feta adding this salty pastiness to each wonderful bite. A savory tart is just a pleasure, the crust delicate and crisp and light against a caramelized onion and butternut squash center topped with roasted pear and tallegio.
Photo by Mai Pham Don't shortchange yourself by missing out on this goat ricotta dish.
A plain-looking white plate of goat ricotta is clearly the underdog -- until you scoop up the bits of preserved peach and sunflower rye and realize that it's like burrata or bufala mozzarella, only lighter, fresher, strikingly so. Simple and unadulterated, the quality of the ingredients take center stage in this wonderful peaches and cream-type dish.
The menu is short and well-edited, a front-side-only one pager that comes clipped to a plain recycled clipboard, divided into sections that are self-explanatory: shareables, vegetable, sea, land, sugar. It reads well, the descriptions good enough to make you want to order everything, or at the very least, spend some time trying to decide what not to order. Portions are smaller than conventional entree sizes, so that you can easily do two to three starters and mains per person (dishes range from $9 for dessert to $19 for sea and land dishes).
The space has a cozy bistro feel, with an attractive old-school style bar at the entrance and an excellent cocktail menu, containing fresh twists on classics. Our gin cocktail with fresh beet juice was excellent; a peach-colored mezcal-based cocktail with a white foam top was also very good.
Photo by Mai Pham We started off at the bar with an excellent Brut Rose.
The restaurant artwork -- borrowed from the private collection of one of the owners (there are three, including Shepard Ross of Glass Wall/Brooklyn Athletic Club and Dan Zimmerman La Colombe d'Or ), includes a genuine Andy Warhol of China's Mao Tse Tung. It's fancy, but in a way, symbolic. Across from Chairman Mao, on the opposite wall, is a back-lit metal sculpture in the shape of the United States. Pax, they seem to say to each other, as, all around, couples and small groups share creative plates, drink and conversation.
And just like that, Pax Americana soars to the front of the list of best new Houston restaurants of 2014.