Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review: Amazon Grill on Kirby

The Rundown:
The City: Houston
The Place: The Black Walnut Cafe at Rice Village
The Day: Sunday
The Time: 2:00 P.M. - 4:00 P.M.

The Review:
Sunday once again found me out and about in the great city of Houston, looking for a meal on a warm summer day that was too hot by ten degrees. It can be easy to miss Amazon Grill when driving by, a result of a small sign and an unremarkable location in an area of town where there are many, many restaurants. I'll be up front, though. Missing out on Amazon Grill is missing out on a treat.
Honestly, it could almost be a Popeye's.
Something that stands out about Amazon Grill is the color. From its exterior to its interior, the emphasis is on bright, warm, fresh. I'm not too partial to yellow in general, but the overall vibe is vibrant, with large open windows allowing the sun in, providing a relaxing feel for patrons. A small seating and waiting area at the front sits just next to the order counter, removing any confusion as to where you need to go, and menus are in plain sight from the entry.

It's not much space, but hopefully you won't be waiting long anyway.

The seating provides a nice variety for all manner of customers. The interior is filled with booths and tables, as per any normal restaurant. There is an enclosed patio area outside, as well as a fully open area patio, which given the heat was being avoided by the patrons on this day. What's good about Amazon's approach is that they've provided something for everyone, a comfortable seat for every tye of customer. Ordering was simple enough, the counter clerks courteous and friendly, explaining the small details of the restaurant, and food delivery was incredibly speedy. There could be some slight more care at the front of house, and I never saw anyone that remotely looked like a greeter or a manager, which are all trifling issues unless you actually feel lost or in need to talk to someone in charge.

Have any seat in the house.
Let's get down to the food though, shall we? Provide as pleasant an experience as you want, it all collapses if the food is no good. First, house chips provided at the front sit under a warming light. This is one of my minor quibbles with the restaurant. After all, if you're paying for food, you'd rather not feel as if your chips or stale, having been warming on a platter for hours. From what I tasted, though, they were crisp, and the hot sauce provided was warm enough to tingle the tongue without burning.
Suspicious at a glance, but the taste was satisfactory.
My order today was a classic dish of southern flare, a three beef taco order with a side of blackbeans. Too often, puffy tacos are served soggy, bloated by grease and oil, dripping, the taco shell barely containing its contents. Not at Amazon Grill, my friends. This dish was a beauty.

Oh Happy Day.
The side dish, a take on simple black beans, is served over rice with a garnish of peppers and corn, with a morsel of plantains. Taken as a whole side, it is wonderful. The flavor from the beans and various sides blend together quite well. Salt, which I am obsessed with, was hardly needed. However, they nailed not only the flavor, but the presentation. When you think of black beans, you think dark, unappealing. However, served on a tray with many other colorful sides, the overall blend created a delightful image to accompany the delightful flavor.

A smashing start.
And as for the tacos? My tongue, be still. A side of garnish, sour cream and guacamole accompany the meal to the side, allowing you to choose what you would like to add to the tacos. The meat itself has a wonderful season to it, really enhancing the flavor of the beef. And the taco shell? Good gods, what a delight. Breaking crisply in one's mouth, flavored, not greasy, not crunchy like a chip, it broke apart with just the right give. Rather than spill its contents all onto the plate, the shell held just firm enough while crisply breaking, and with the mix of garnishes on top of the seasoned meat, provided an explosion of flavor. I was praising its wonders at the table.

What a wonder.
There are some slight issues on presentation in which the tacos nearly seemed to be overwhelmed by the sides, but that's a nitpick best reserved for other occasions. What matters today is this: Great tasting food, good presentation, speedy service, lovely atmosphere. That's the best you can ask for from a restaurant. One of my other minor quibbles would be on the delay between the time our party finished lunch and service came by to pick up the dishes, but again, really? If you avoid Amazon Grill because they took long to pick up your plates, you're avoiding it for the wrong reason.

This location receives one of my highest recommendations, easily.

The Final Call:
Facilities: 5/5
Staff: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Drinks: N/A
Food: 4.5/5

Overall: 4/5

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