State of Grace much like almost everything else in the River Oaks neighborhood of Houston is beautiful. It is worth taking note of the décor, color scheme and everything from the stamped concrete floor and place settings to the server’s uniforms. It is hard not to be smitten before you even begin your meal, but begin we must so let’s start with the Beast of Burden. This drink from the cocktail menu sounds quite formidable, but what is actually served is a flavorful drink in a petite champagne glass and is a very nice way to ease into the meal.
The menu is divided up into different sections and begins with small plates or what they call “Opportunities.” The Blue Crab fingers were large and very well-seasoned with herbs, garlic and bird’s eye chilies. Next was the “Oaxaca Cheese” served with bacon fat tortillas. Let’s just take a moment and honor what Executive Chef Bobby Matos has done to combine the time honored tradition of pork and cheese except this time the pork flavor comes in the form of a tortilla. The combination of flavors is what you’d expect from such a traditional Mexican creamy cheese – it was wonderful and came with a savory mushroom topping, as well as pickled vegetables.
For the main course I tried the Gulf Seafood Pozole and Mushroom Risotto. The pozole came with a large piece of snapper, head and tail-on shrimp, as well as large chunks of crab meat and hominy. The broth was very light, savory and the snapper was tender and easy to eat. The pozole was served with a side of crispy tortilla strips, cilantro, pico de gallo and limes, but that is all just secondary; the flavor is so good the dish really doesn’t need anything else.The Mushroom Risotto was a dream with the perfect creamy consistency you look for in a good risotto. The mushrooms added a nice meaty flavor and there was just the right amount of cheese.
Brussels sprouts are one of those vegetables that people either love or hate. If you love them, Chef Matos’ Charred Brussels Sprouts are an absolute must. They are crispy, paired with crispy pork belly, orange peel and chilies. When you take a bite you get a little bit of heat and the unexpected orangey taste. If you are one of those people that hate brussels sprouts, you should still try them for all the reasons listed above.These are not the brussels sprouts of your childhood – they are superb and you won’t be disappointed.
The only way to end such a decadent meal is with a great dessert and the Smoked Chocolate Sundae fits the bill. Just imagine a s’more paired with vanilla ice cream. When you finish this dessert (it is so good you will be scraping the bottom of the bowl) you’ll wonder why s’mores aren’t served that way all the time.
Chef Matos’ menu is “local whenever possible” and he makes as much as he can in-house. Everything from the bread to the pasta and even the meat curing is done at the restaurant. Matos is a California native who has worked at several restaurants in both California and New York. He came to Houston and worked at Tony Vallone’s Ciao Bello which was named best Italian Restaurant by the Houston Press.
Restaurateur Ford Fry is a James Beard Award winner and Texas native who has opened eight restaurants in the Atlanta area. Fry with Chef Matos at the helm have managed to fuse great seafood, modern Tex-Mex recipes with home cooked goodness in an atmosphere that could rival any in Houston. Although State of Grace is his first Houston restaurant, we can only hope it won’t be his last.