Scott Tycer opened his first restaurant Aries in Houston in November 2000 with much acclaim including “Best New American Chefs 2003″ by Food and Wine Magazine. His latest restaurant Textile was a brave experiment but the decline in the economy combined with the size and location of the restaurant proved insurmountable as Textile closed it doors on June 26, 2010. I was proud to be part of the last Chef’s Table to document the event.
Textile was in a former textile mill in a neighborhood full of older houses and the occasional industrial warehouse in north Houston well off the beaten path. With a maximum of 11 tables and 30 guests, reservations were all but impossible to get when the restaurant first opened in 2008. I met Lindsey, one of the chefs at Textile, through the Le Cordon Bleu alumni association. She invited me to visit the restaurant if I was ever in Houston. A few weeks later when the opportunity for a road trip came, I called and made arrangements to dine on a Saturday evening. She mentioned she might invite a friend of hers if he was available. I was a little surprised but pleasantly so when we actually became a table of six including Lindsey’s husband. There is nothing like good food and wine to inspire new friendships.
We were warned the air conditioning was on the fritz and the chefs table in the kitchen might be a little warm. Several of the guests were also chefs and all agreed that the kitchen was the best spot to be. The wine began to flow as the table became acquainted. Lindsey worked diligently to entertain us as well as serve a full dining room.
The amuse bouche was a tasty little shot of crawfish chowder. The smooth puree was ripe with cajun spice and reminded me of an etouffee sauce.
The salad course brought an heirloom tomato with a whisper thin slice of crisped
baguette and fried basil. Dressed with olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar, the plate was light, clean, and refreshing.
Next came another soup of corn puree and onion stock with a mini grilled cheese and tomato sponge. The soup sung summer praise to fresh sweet corn. The mini grilled cheese served as a delicious crouton but I was intrigued with the tomato sponge. The round bread was used as a sponge to soak up a fresh tomato sauce. No, it did not taste like soggy bread, more like a savory version of a cake soaked in syrup to moisten.
When I called to confirm reservations with Lindsey the week before, she had excitedly told me about the pasta dish she was working on. Spinach pasta with a sweetbread filling turned into tortellini, topped with dehydrated carrots, and served with a spoon of the onion broth. When she brought her proud new creation to the table with tears in her eyes she gave us the sad news of Textiles closing. Restaurants, it seems are almost as perishable as fresh produce. It is so sad to see the dedicated staff proudly working their last service here. Some will move to Gravitas, Textiles sister restaurant and eventually on to Tycer’s new gastropub which is in the works. I even heard a rumor that some may be coming to Austin to work at the Austonian with David Bull. The sweetbread tortellini were just as delicious as they sound, the rich filling wrapped in a feather light pasta. They tasted even richer as we realized that we were the last that would have them in that space.
Next course brought seared ahi with 3 kinds of caviar and a salad with haricot vert and ribbons of fruit. The ribbons were a cross between a gelee and a fruit leather, not too sweet and an interesting addition to the side. The ahi was perfectly seared and the fish eggs brought a pop of flavor as well as a beautiful garnish.
One more savory course of pork served with an apple puree and onion straws. The pork was moist and flavorful but quite honestly the details as well as the photography are getting a little fuzzy as the free flowing wine began to catch up to me. I wish I had the fortitude to soldier on with the staff to a final night out but the wine along with the finale of 4 dessert bites put the velvet hammer on me that sent me to bed soon after.
Plinio Sandalio is the creative genius behind the desserts at Textile. Because pastry is my background, I was excited to get a taste of his work. Perhaps because it was closing night, the desserts were more mainstream than the corndog dessert with mustard ice cream I had heard about but perhaps if he comes to Austin with David Bull to the Austonian as rumored, we will get to try his more playful side. First bite was a donut hole with a spoon of fresh berry jam, next a crisped square of pound cake with a refreshingly tart grapefruit campari granita, then a smoked chocolate brownie with spicy peanuts and decadent bacon ice cream, finally a truffle and in house made marshmallow. A fabulous end to a one of kind meal.