Creative Spanish dishes at Catalan in Houston
5555 Washington Ave., Ste. A
Houston, TX 77007
4/5 big beefy bone marrows
In continuing our attempt to relive our honeymoon gastronomically, John decided to take me out on a spontaneous dinner date. We’ve heard two of our friends claim this place to be in their top five, so naturally, we gave it a try. Since half of our honeymoon was in Barcelona, which is part of Catalonia, I was looking forward to reminiscing over some familiar foods. We arrived right before the dinner rush at about 6:45 and were not turned away nor did we have to wait despite our lack of a reservation. (We were, however, seated near the back at a table with wrinkly linens. But this didn’t bother us–we were there for the food.)
The menu is extensive, and everything sounded delicious albeit unfamiliar–there was no mac ‘n cheese in Barcelona as far as I could recall. Our waiter could not recommend any particular dish, saying “everything’s great.” Thanks for the help, buddy.
We ended up ordering three appetizers and one main dish to share. The plates were brought out one by one; we were not presented with the next until we were done with the previous. This aided in a slow dining pace which I enjoyed because it allowed for full concentration on one dish at a time. Our entire dinner conversation consisted of how the food looked and tasted–we felt like true critics.
The first plate was crab croquettes ($12) with a lemon zest sauce dribbled over it. A croquette is a small deep-fried little ball of goodness usually containing some variation of protein (meat or seafood), vegetables, dairy (cheese, eggs, etc.), and herbs. It is wrapped in bread crumbs before frying. Croquettes, which come from the word meaning “to crunch” in French, are originally from France but have since popped up all over the world. At Catalan, we oiriginally ordered pork croquettes but were told they had just been placed on the menu that night and were not ready. John and I exchanged glances. It didn’t seem very professional to print things on the menu only to disappoint your customers. Nevertheless, thinking back to the chicken croquettes I had at Paco Merlago (more on this later), I knew I wanted croquettes.
The croquettes were tasty but nothing to rave about. We thought it would be better if there was more lump crabmeat inside and less of the creamy filling. The lemon zest sauce added an interesting citrus twist to the flavor, but call me old-fashioned because I think I prefer a traditional croquette. I do commend the chef for trying something different. If it’s any consolation, I am not much of a fan of anything with lemon flavor, e.g. candy, cookies, pies.
The next dish was the bone marrow ($14) which is spread on a slice of toast and topped with a pickled onion. This was my first time to ever have bone marrow, and I must say, this dish blew me away. It tasted even better than foie gras. There is something delightfully rich about each bite. The marrow was salty, and its marriage to the pickled onion was perfect. John and I could not stop swooning over this dish.
Our last of the appetizers was the seared foie gras ($18) which was dressed in a blueberry jelly. John enjoyed the salty and sweet complexity (probably a testament to his love of PBJs), but I found the jelly too sweet. I like to taste foie gras for its fatty, substantial essence, and so to add anything that overpowers the foie gras usually results in disappointment for me.
Finally, our entree arrived: Bryan’s farm-raised fried chicken with redneck mac ‘n cheese and watermelon pickles ($24). I always judge fried chicken on its battered skin, and this fried chicken was pretty damn good. It tasted of a lot of herbs, and I like that (I like KFC’s original recipe, what can I say?). Even the white meat was fairly juicy. Redneck cheese, we were told, is a particular cheese from Texas. It tastes like a sharp cheddar to me, but not too pungent. It made the mac ‘n cheese taste like home cookin’ with a gourmet kick. I tried a bite of the watermelon pickles just to try it. It wasn’t too tart and tasted refreshing, but because John is much more of a watermelon and pickle fan than me, I gave him all of it. I’m sure he was glad to have more to himself.
John had a $12 glass of cabernet sauvignon, and after tax and tip, we ended up spending an even $100. Don’t get us wrong–we are typically cheapos, and this was much higher than we were expecting to pay for a Friday night dinner, but we are still newlyweds and still splurging on our dates. But I do think $100 for 3 appetizers and a shared entree with only one glass of wine is pretty high. Catalan is great, but for that price, we still prefer Mark’s. But because of the heavenly bone marrow and I give it four out of five big beefy bone marrows.
Disclaimer: I know the photos posted on this entire blog are sub-par, but for what it’s worth, either I (a blind person) am taking the photo, or we’re using an iPhone and not a nice camera. So please excuse the mess. I’m sure you can understand the Blind Cook’s blog won’t be the most visually appealing.