Houston Restaurant Weeks: Tony's
What they're up to for Houston Restaurant Weeks: Three-course dinner for $45, including bread and amuse bouche. Some dishes require a supplementary fee. Tony's will donate $7 to the Houston Food Bank for every dinner sold.
Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg After taking last year off, Tony's is back for Houston Restaurant Weeks.
Service/Atmosphere: Tony's Restaurant set the standard for fine dining service years ago, so it's no surprise that when you walk in, you're greeted by Tony Vallone's wife, Donna, and later by Vallone himself. Though Tony's recently underwent a small facelift, adding a mural and re-doing the floor in the bar, the atmosphere is still a little stuffy as befits the mostly older clientele, but the staff, like sommelier Scott Banks, will tailor their service to your level of ease and relaxation. The food comes out swiftly, and should you want it, there's always wine available to pair with any given course.
Items that won't be on the regular menu: Tony's is offering a great selection of dishes that aren't on the nightly, non-HRW menu. Tortellini modenese, handmade pasta filled with prosciutto and mortadella with a tomato and cipollini sauce (cipollini are wild onions), is one such dish, served as an appetizer. It's a bright, refreshing pasta option, thanks to the amazingly tangy tomato sauce. Seared speckled trout with a light mustard sauce is also a HRW exclusive, and it's a wonderful filet of fish with a mild, vinegary sauce punched up by large mustard seeds that pop in your mouth while you chew. The staff will recommend this dish should you want seafood. For a $12 supplement, you can order the center cut truffled medallions of beef with a smear of mashed potatoes. Cooked to an ideal medium rare, the beef virtually melts in your mouth. A floating island desert is also offered for HRW, and it comes with vanilla poached meringue and Grand Marnier cream.
Someone was so excited he started eating before I got a photo.
Don't miss this dish: My two favorite dishes are also found only on the HRW menu (for now). The risotto appetizer is simple--a Piave risotto (Piave is a hard, aged cheese similar to Parmesan) with a drizzle of 25-year-old balsamic vinegar. The risotto is perfectly cooked so it's chewy and textural but not gummy or raw. The cheese adds funk and an earthy dimension, while the vinegar adds acidity to brighten the dish. Individual chocolate soufflés are available for an $8 supplement, and I highly recommend you order one for dessert. Tony's offers individual truffle soufflés from time to time, as well as massive, jaw dropping dessert soufflés, but the individual portion of airy chocolate is a real treat.
Don't bother: We were underwhelmed by a small portion of praline cheesecake for dessert, not because it was bad by any means. It was just somewhat basic and a very small serving compared to what we'd gotten the rest of the evening.
Final verdict: A three-course meal for two people (that left both of us stuffed) including two supplementary dishes (the beef and the soufflé) came out to $115 with tax, an incredible value for a meal of that caliber at a restaurant like Tony's. If you've never been because you're reluctant to shell out the amount normally required for an epic Tony's meal or simply because you've never found the time, check out the Houston institution during Houston Restaurant Weeks. And be sure to say hi to Tony while you're there.