HOUSTON VOICE • DECEMBER 3, 1999
OUT ON THE BAYOU
Inside charm turns unappetizing
by KATHREEN LEE
When I discovered that CAFE NOIR is
owned by Carl Lewis, I first imagined a
sports bar, in the fashion of Wilt
Chamberlain's theme restaurants, or any
other concept establishment owned by
celebrities who have no right to go anywhere near other people's food.
While the surroundings of used car lots
and dilapidated buildings did nothing to
endear me to its isolated location, Cafe
Noir is charming inside with its cultivated
and simple decor.
Cafe Noir is elegantly decorated
with black and white photographs lining the key lime
painted walls, helping to
evoke a relaxed, sophisticated atmosphere
From the start, the
service was impeccable, with the host
wait staff and bus
crew all disposed to answer
questions from my dining
companion or me, even to the
specifics of the name of a particular
seasoning or sauce.
Our waiter had a trainee with him that
evening, hence his eagerness to please and
impress. He summoned his copious regalia
of waiting skills. Everything from delivering the specials-of-the-day spiel to delivering another Coke was done with a flourish.
My companion and I did appreciate the
prompt and thorough attention, despite the
Unfortunately, we didn't find the food
as pleasing as its presentation.
The evening started with Crabcakes
($8.75) and Merguez ($7), a spicy Moroccan
lamb sausage, skewered and grilled with
2606 Fannin • 713-659-5409
Value: /^S*-^ £
Scene: g> &>& £
Z Opt for bread, water at home
■ OK, if you really must
Fine for most
; Worth the drive, so live a little
As good as it gets
chilled mint sauce. The crabcakes were
greasy, and the pulverized innards created
a much-too-mushy consistency. One would
expect crabcakes to be thick and fluffy with
bread crumbs lightly sheltering a heavy
morsel, but the portions were too meager,
and the basil in the crabcakes was overdone.
One redeeming feature, however, was
the three different sauces, chipolte, buerre
blanc, and poblano, which were served
with the crabcakes. The three sauces outstripped the crabcakes and made them
The Merguez was much more
agreeable, with the skewered
bite sized sausages grilled to
a perfect smoky flavor.
While the spicy seasoning brought out
an extra tang in the
sausages, the mint
sauce that came with it
I resorted to dipping the
sausages in the three crab-
For the entrees, my companion
and I did not get what we expected. For
instance, my companion ordered the
grilled tuna steak ($19.50), which our waiter extravagantly described as marinated in
herbs and served with roasted vegetables
and peppered rice.
Much to her dismay, the tuna lacked
any seasoning and was so dry the taste
evaporated. My companion commented
that the vegetables were overcooked and
that the peppered rice had an "overly
nutty" flavor. She was not impressed.
I ordered the Peppered Penne ($14.75),
which is French Penne pasta tossed with
grilled salmon, roasted peppers, sun-dried
tomatoes and light lemon butter. But the
supposedly "light" lemon butter ended up
overpowering any other seasoning, and the
salmon also retained its heavy fishy odor,
which is usually not so pungent when
cooked correctly. The combination of the
two flavors were irreconcilable and made
the entire dish rather unpalatable. With this
rather unappetizing summation of our dinner, we decided to at least leave with something sweet.
For dessert, we chose the Chocolate
Pyramid ($7.95), a mixture of chocolate
mousse, chocolate cake and a negligible
amount of fresh fruit, all shaped into a
pyramid with thin sides of milk chocolate.
While the dessert was delicious, it did not
justify the price we paid for the dabbling
amount of mousse and cake, garnished
with a mere single split strawberry-
Carl Lewis should stick to what he
knows. While other dishes at Cafe Noir
may fare better on your palate, we don't
recommend that you sprint to find out any
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