Review: The Capitol at St. Germain

9 Jan

Although I haven’t done this on my blog before, I had such an… interesting experience at a Houston restaurant this weekend that I thought I’d write up a little review. I plan to post parts of this on Yelp as well.

Jon and I have a group of friends who often go out to eat together on Friday nights – it started this summer when we wanted to try new restaurants in Houston, and we lovingly refer to it as “supper club.” With the holidays, we hadn’t all gone out in a while, so Friday afternoon we started an email discussion to decide on a place to try that night. I suggested The Capitol at St. Germain. It’s a pretty new restaurant (opened in Nov. I think) downtown, and after reading about it in the Weekly Yelp email as one of the best new places of 2011, and in CultureMap’s list of 10 hot, must-try restaurants for December, I was intrigued. The 20’s flapper theme sounded fun, and while I did read something about live music, I didn’t think much of it.

Everyone agreed to try it out, so we made a reservation for 8 people at 8pm. We were seated right away at a large round table… RIGHT in front of the stage. RIGHT in front of several huge speakers, which were blasting the sounds of a guy singing and playing guitar. Not a great start. Given the size of our group and our table, and the loudness of the music, there was no way we could have a conversation. We had to lean close and speak loudly just to be heard by the person next to us. To be fair, we didn’t have a problem with the music itself, per se, it was just too loud. The guy playing was actually quite good, especially some of his original songs that he played. We just wished the music had been much quieter – and I really don’t see a reason why it couldn’t have been. Even at the back of the restaurant, the music was loud and clear (emphasis still on loud). And really, the live music didn’t make sense with the rest of the restaurant – the upscale, classy, 20’s vibe was totally drowned out by the loud, unrelated music. Which only got worse when the singer-songwriter guy was followed up by a comical 70’s music duo wearing bright hippie shirts and sunglasses. Good for a laugh, but that was about it. My biggest suggestion for this place would be to turn down the music, and/or change the type of music to fit better with the restaurant theme (some jazz or even big band music would’ve been more welcome).

Moving past the music, on to cocktails. The cocktail menu was pretty basic, nothing too impressive sounding, so I went with a simple sounding Blueberry Martini. The menu said it included Stoli Blueberry, St. Germain, and Agave. So I expected it to be sweetened (I can’t drink straight up vodka anyway) but still not too sweet – I was expecting a martini. When it arrived (come to think of it, it took a while, even though we only ordered a couple cocktails and a few beers), the first thing that surprised me was that it was bright blue. Was not expecting that, and I’m still not sure what ingredient was blue. Then I took a sip, and was completely disappointed – it tasted like sugar water. It barely even tasted like vodka, or blueberry. Two other people tried it and said the same thing. Even though I rarely do this, I told the waiter it just wasn’t what I expected, and I didn’t like it, and asked him to bring me a different drink. He did, and they didn’t charge us for the martini, so that was good at least. My second drink was much better, although still really sweet.

The good thing that came out of this, and really the most promising thing of the evening, was that when he took my first drink back to the bar, we watched as the manager tasted it, mixed a new drink, made the bartenders taste both of them, held them up to compare (the one I got was significantly darker blue), and the bartender acknowledged that there was a difference. Especially in such a new restaurant, it’s great to see them trying to learn from their mistakes.

Now on to food. I had a cup of lobster bisque – it was fine, no lobster chunks which I would have like, but it was a little spicy, which I enjoyed – and the grilled chicken with pumpkin ravioli. I’m not really sure what to say about the chicken and ravioli. On the one hand, it was really good – cooked well, good flavors, and I really enjoyed it. But on the other hand.. it was almost unbearably salty. I liked it, but all I could think while I was eating it was how salty it was. Like my drink, I made Jon try it to see if I was crazy. I didn’t say anything first, just gave him a bite – his reaction was “mm, it’s goo..it’s salty.” Same as mine, so I knew it wasn’t just me. I also tried Jon’s dish – Spicy Shrimp Pomodoro (or something like that). It was alright, but the noodles were just about mush. Definitely spicy though, not sure I would have been able to eat the whole bowl.

Everyone else seemed to enjoy their food enough; no one was particularly happy or unhappy about anything. I’m not really sure how to summarize the review, other than – I was disappointed. Mainly because I really wanted to like the place, it had such potential. And I really think there’s a chance they can work out some of the kinks and be better. I almost wish we had waited a couple more months to try it – I can’t really say I’ll go back, but I hope it improves. Apparently there have been several different restaurants in that same spot that have failed, so we’ll see how long this one lasts. Everyone knows downtown Houston is known more for restaurants closures than restaurant success stories.

Has anyone else been to The Capitol? What was your experience like?

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