Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review: House of Blues in Houston

The Rundown:
The City: Houston
The Place: The House of Blues Houston
The Day: Saturday
The Time: 5:00 P.M. - 6:30 P.M.

The Review:
Planning to take in my first American soccer game and enjoy some Houston Dynamos, my friends and I thought it might first be appropriate to try and find a decent place to eat, somewhere fun and without too much fuss. This led us to the House of Blues, earlier than when their music gets going and at a lull in the day. Located in downtown Houston, getting cheap parking isn't the easiest thing if the parking meters are filled up, and that provided an initial obstacle. Still, it's not the House of Blues' fault that the city doesn't know how to zone their properties. We arrived in a small party of six, and were quickly seated, given the lack of diners at this hour.
Pictured: Empty.
I understand it gets much more lively during the evening, once the music is going, but I did not mind the laid back nature of the afternoon, allowing for a quick dining experience. Let me first go on the record discussing their drinks: A Jack and Coke I ordered. Mind you, I only had one, preferring to keep the bulk of my alcoholic indulgence for beer at the Dynamo Stadium. However, my drink was not too pricey. In a city that serves these for anywhere from six to ten dollars, I felt eight dollars was fair, and though the drink was not incredibly strong, I did not feel cheated on the alcohol served in mine.
Alcohol. The source of, and solution to, all our problems.
The House of Blues is a large venue, with more than enough space for a raucous evening filled with multiple diners. A huge screen at the front allows diners a chance to catch the game if there are no bands up, and an assortment of booths, tables and bar seating allows for multiple options suited to anyone's style. The lighthearted portraits and wall paintings give the House a lighthearted feel, while the open seating arrangements allow for a real sense of openness. Paired with the perfect lighting and wide open windows that allow for the natural light of the outdoors, and you have all the makings of a wonderful dining ambience. It feels fun and lively, and I can only imagine that gets better when the House is in full swing.
Really, it makes me want to come back for dinner service.
But let's talk about that all important, critical component: The food. Those of you that follow my reviews know my standards for excellence. I love a good meal, because, truly, who doesn't? I ordered a traditional ham and cheese BLT with a side of fries, nothing too complicated but perfect for a sunny afternoon just hours before the start of a soccer game. First up? Presentation. Although serving fries in a cup borders on pretentious, House of Blues makes the tray work. The side serving of cucumbers may seem extraneous, but it helps balance out and divide the dish against the large portions that are the BLT itself.  Overall it's about as interesting a presentation as you'll see on a traditional dish, and it looked appetizing. The fries didn't look like they were strewn about in a greasy lump and, thankfully, they weren't. The fries were golden, slightly browned, with just enough crispness. The flavor was perfect, with just enough seasoning and no sense of burn from too much application. But what are the sides if the main dish isn't any good? It's difficult to mess up a BLT, so let's tackle how House of Blues composed this dish.
The bread was toasted perfectly, always a good start. No sense of running juices that would have made it go limp or soggy, and the sandwiches held together perfectly. The bacon was cooked just crispy enough, not burnt, while the layers of cheese and meats are done perfectly. There's no sense of mess, of your sandwich falling apart. The sandwich is served in two towers, so initially it's hard to see that you pull them apart to make four separate servings. Initially I was perplexed about how to actually fit the damned thing in my mouth, but using my Sherlock like intuition I figured out the meal came apart into four portions. Perfectly sized, perfectly held together, great crispness where there should be and excellent layering of cheeses and meats. My only disappointment, where House of Blues fell short in their meal, was in the chipotle sauce. The BLT is such a simple dish in so many ways that the addition of a chipotle flavoring really intrigued me and would have brought the entire meal together with the right application. Unfortunately, it was so lightly applied that I got almost no taste of it. Remember, these are rather thick servings, so you want to apply enough that the sauce enhances the flavors without overwhelming them. Sadly I almost missed the flavor of it entirely during the first half of my sandwich. It was almost as if it had been applied only to one half of the sandwich. When dealing with thick, hearty portions, it is advisable to apply sauce just slightly more liberally. If I walk away unable to taste it on half the sandwich, that definitely indicates uneven application.
Houston baseball. We know how this will go.
 Still, for overall ambiance, pleasant service, fantastic fries, a good drink and an almost great sandwich, I can certainly recommend the House of Blues. I keep going back to those fries, but they were surprisingly excellent, and the sandwich missed the mark by just inches. What a shame. Still, a very good meal in a great setting with great staff. Here's to next time, House of Blues.

The Final Call:
Facilities: 5/5
Staff: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Drinks: 3/5
Food: 4/5

Overall: 4/5