HOUSTON VOICE www.houstonvoice.com
C dining j.a. chapman
The ambience leaves something to be desired,
but exceptional cuisine with a South American flair
makes Meson del Sol an extraordinary find in Houston
South American flair
APRIL 8, 2005 17
Pf ^« -Hi
"I FEEL LIKE I'M AT A BANQUET
hall," my dining companion remarked as
we took our seats in the spacious dining
room at Meson del Sol.
Simple white walls with innocuous
decorations, a dance floor in the center of
the room, industrial carpet, and ivy-
topped Roman columns definitely leave
the impression it's a reception hall.
Which in fact, it is.
The owners rent out the space under
the moniker of Hacienda del Sol for parties and corporate gatherings. And with a
stunning view of the downtown skyline,
and an outdoor deck, it's a great setting.
But the rest of the time it's a restaurant. And that's why we were here.
Meson del Sol specializes in South
American cuisine, with nods to other gastronomic influences. Italian pastas make
an appearance, as do Caribbean, Tex-Mex,
Creole and Hawaiian dishes. There's
something for everyone.
They start you off with chips and salsa.
The chips are homemade from tortillas,
and the salsa is chunky and full of flavor.
The appetizer menu is not your typical
collection of starters. The patacones with
cheese ($2.99) are worth a try. Mashed
green plantains are flattened into patties
and then deep-fried and topped with
shredded cheese. The patacones are thin,
crispy and tasty, but the cheese adds little.
I preferred mine plain with a little salsa
Be sure not to miss the excellent Peruvian
ceviche ($ 7.99) - tilapia lightly marirfated in
lime, red onion and cilantro. The fish is tender and perfectly done. It's served with avocado slices, mango salsa, and crackers.
There's plenty to share with friends.
The tilapia in chipotle sauce ($15.99) is
one of the house specialties. The fish is
lightly breaded, pan seared until just
flaky, and served on a creamy, spicy chipotle sauce. It's simple, but well executed.
The polio de la casa ($12.99) is also worth
a try. Grilled chicken breast is topped
with a creamy spinach and mushroom
sauce that's full of flavor. The chicken is
fork-tender, and the sauce is packed with
spinach - no skimping here.
The Caribbean shrimp ($15.99). done in
a creamy tomato based Creole sauce, were
a touch overcooked, but still tasty. And
the Serrano's rib eye steak ($16.99), a generous cut of black-angus beef, was cooked
exactly to order.
MAIN DISHES COME WITH STIR-FRIED
vegetables, which were spicy on one visit,
bland on another, but always tender crisp.
Also on the side, the fried sweet plantains
are not to be missed. Tender, very sweet
and crispy on the edges, they are quite
simply some of the best I've ever had.
Because of its proximity to a school,
Meson del Sol is BYOB. If you bring your
own wine, they'll open it for you and provide glasses. They'll even keep your bottle
of white cool and top off your glass.
Just because alcohol isn't served does
not mean drinks aren't available. The
homemade fruit juices are among the hidden gems at Meson del Sol. A wide variety
of fruits is used, from the familiar strawberry to the more tropical passion fruit.
Made either with water ($2.49) or milk
($2.99), they're cool, refreshing and filled
with flavor. The milk version is almost
like a dessert smoothie, and indeed is a
perfect way to round off your meal.
The service at Meson del Sol is efficient,
but the wait staff isn't always well informed
on the menu. They are friendly and helpful,
however, and will do their best to find an
answer if they don't know it offhand.
The food at Meson del Sol is excellent.
Fresh ingredients expertly prepared make
it worth a visit. But the ambience leaves
something to be desired. The room seems
quite empty when only a few tables are
filled, and the linens, silverware, and china
seem more typical of a catered event than a
fine restaurant. It's an odd juxtaposition.
Even with the banquet hall feel, Meson
del Sol is worth a visit. A restaurant of
this quality where you can bring your
own alcohol is an unusual find.
Meson del Sol
1220 Taft St.
Scene: WW 1/2
r ■= Stay home and eat cereal
W W = Well, if you really must
W W W = Fine for all but the finicky
W W W W = Worth more than a
WW WWW As good as you'll
find in this city
Additional Parking Available
Next to Hollywood Video
OPEN for Breakfast,
Lunch and Dinner with a full bar
7 DAYS a week
Early Morning and Late Night
Size Doesn't Matter.
1220 Taft Street
Houston Texas 77019
Full Service Catering
Carry Outs & Delivery
From Breakfast to Late Dinners