Mai Pham 2017-07-01 13:58:08
ODE TO MOM Houstonians love to root for their own, so when Travis Lenig, a Houston native who grew up in Memorial and went to culinary school at the Art Institute, announced that he would be opening his own restaurant, the support poured in. By Mai Pham The way Travis Lenig tells it, the idea behind Field & Tides Restaurant + Bar started six years ago while he was chef de cuisine at Liberty Kitchen in the Heights. At the time, Lenig’s partner, Christopher “Chico” Ramirez, was director of operations for Liberty Kitchen, Petite Sweets and nowclosed BRC Gastropub, and the two would talk about the future—about opening their own restaurant and how they would do things if they could do it their way. So when the Zelko Bistro space came up for lease, the duo jumped on it. “We thought for sure that someone else had beat us to it,” Lenig says. “But we immediately put in a letter of intent, and though there were several other bids, the landlord liked us, liked our idea and went with us.” From the moment you step into Field & Tides, there’s a warmth and friendliness about the place that welcomes you with open arms. Because it’s such an intimate space, you feel as if you’ve entered someone’s home. Custom-crafted oak tables and whitewashed chairs by craftsman Gino Vian of Merchant & Market are complemented by navy tufted banquettes along the walls. A low-hanging antler-adorned chandelier in the center of the room—conceptualized by Ramirez’s wife, Wyndy Ramirez—adds character, while a handsome copper-topped bar to one side of the space buzzes two or three people deep on busy nights. When it comes to his food, Lenig shies from labels. “I wanted to be able to put [out] a menu that I wanted, from my heart,” he says. What he came up with was a mostly American menu with strong Gulf Coast and Southern components. Hints of Italian, French and Asian can also be found throughout. Ultimately, he says, “it’s food that I believe in, food that is straightforward. Honest food.” For starters, it doesn’t get more honest than Lenig’s pimento cheese fritters— golden-fried orbs served five to a plate on a bed of red pepper jelly. This adult version of the classic cheese stick has become one of the chef ’s runaway hits. Another appetizer, of crispy fried Brussels sprouts, wins hearts for a masterful balance of textures and flavors, the bitterness of the sprouts tamed by a chili-honey glaze in between umami-filled bites of plump, cornmealcrusted oysters. For summer, there’s also a bright, terrific crowd-pleaser of ahi tuna poke. Lenig has been making the dish for years, so he knows what he’s doing. Sashimi-grade ahi and avocado are marinated in sambal-honeysesame sauce and served with crispy wonton chips. It can be shared, but it was so good that I could have easily finished a whole plate of it alone. Ditto for the simple salad of fresh local greens from Lenig’s in-laws’ Huckleberry Farm in Round Top. When you get into the larger dishes and entrees, Lenig offers choices meant to appeal to mood and palate. From the tide comes panseared scallops served over a bed of crab and shrimp risotto with a chive beurre blanc. Pecancrusted flounder, meanwhile, offers a slightly Creole spin when topped with crab and tasso butter. Those looking for meatier options, from the fields, get their pick of roasted venison rack, duck confit, roasted chicken, hangar steak and more. My recommendation would be the doublecut pork chop with Creole mustard demi-glace, served over Hoppin’ John rice. If it sounds a little too fancy, it’s not. One of the best things about Field & Tides is that it’s unpretentious. A resident of the Heights for the last six years, Lenig wanted to put food on the menu that brings back memories. “My mom was a chef,” he says with nostalgia in his voice. “This isn’t food that she did, but this is an ode to her. It’s the food that she would have wanted to do.” WHY GO Native Houstonian Travis Lenig and partner Chico Ramirez bring classic and contemporary American food to a cozy, unpretentious, historic Heights home. DRINKS A Texas-focused craft beer menu, affordable 34-bottle wine list and craft cocktails by Beverage Director Monique Hernandez will keep you happy. Try the lavender-colored Rip Tide made with Botanist gin, maraschino cherries, creme de violette and lemon juice. PARKING Complimentary valet at the entrance as well as street parking within the neighborhood FIELD & TIDES 705 E. 11th St., 713.861.6143, fieldandtides.com PRICES Appetizers, $6-$15; entrees, $12-$32; desserts, $6-$8 HOURS Mon.-Thu., 11am-10pm; Fri.,11am-11pm; Sat., 10am-11pm; Sun., 10am-10pm
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