Arcodoro's a Houston restaurant that treats Restaurant Weeks like a true special occasion.
How many Houston Restaurant Weeks menus have you ordered from so far during HRW 2017? One? Two? Four? Good for you, and good as well for the countless number of your fellow Houston-area citizens who will be helped via the Houston Food Bank.
Restaurant Weeks is something which the city should be proud, and participation is fun and beneficial for one’s soul.
My Houston Restaurant Weeks journey continues this week with a look at Arcodoro, Efisio and Lori Farris’ restaurant in The Galleria that specializes in the cuisine(s) of Sardinia, that large island off the coast of Italy that in many ways is its own country. It’s a land of more than 400 breads, including the delicious and famed pane carasau, a thin and crisp creation whose long shelf life made it perfect for the shepherds who carried it with them while tending their flocks. It dates from before 1,000 BC, and is as good today as it was back then (you can experience it at Arcodoro now).
Other Sardinian staples include lorighittas, a braided pasta named after the iron rings used to hitch horses; fregula, small round balls of pasta perfect in salads; and seadas con gelato, a lightly fried puff pastry filled with sweet cheese served with ice cream. You can get all of these things at Arcodoro, and you should, because a recent evening spent there was full of tastes, textures, and flavors that linger still in my mind.
The great thing about the restaurant’s HRW menu is that there are four of them: meat, seafood, vegetarian, and Sardinian. I opted for the latter, and each course presented well, in all ways necessary. If you choose as I did, you’ll start with an amuse of bruschetta with tomatoes and mushrooms, a crisp and earthy beginning.
What follows is a delightfully refreshing salad of seared ahi tuna and arugula, plus cannellini, red onions, celery, and the crowning touch of briny and umami-filled bottarga. This is not a salad that you’ll forget 10 minutes after it’s gone. The peppery arugula was meant for the tuna, seared for seconds a side; the flavors flirt and court in a sensual manner, and your palate is the venue. The other ingredients have their place, because the whole is what great food always is: organically complete. Nothing out of place here.
Anzelottos Francesca are next; these round pasta pillows are filled with a creamy cheese and mint and served with a sauce of tomato and basil. The pasta holds its texture, the filling is rustic yet refined, and the sauce comforting and exciting.
The final savory course in the Sardinian Houston Restaurant Weeks menu is a suckling pig. No, not the entire animal, but a piece or two of tender, earthy, and slightly smoky pork that has been roasted in a wood-burning oven with myrtle leaves. On the plate are also potatoes and lentils. Savor this course, slow down, because you’ll want it to last.
The seadas con gelato are what you get for dessert. If you have outgrown overly sweet concoctions, you will appreciate this one. There’s not a lot better than a bite of something that offers crisp, dense, and soft all at the same time, and this dessert does just that. I recommend espresso at this point, and again, take your time. Finish with a mirto digestif.
The other three HRW menus at Arcodoro look equally as promising (click here to see them), and I had no choice but to order the pappardelle al sugo di coniglio, an item on the regular dinner menu, because I love rabbit. It’s a fine dish, with a pasta cooked well (still speaking of firmness yet almost silky) and depth that will make you smile.
Efisio is an authority on the foodways of Sardinia — I’ve begun reading Sweet Myrtle & Bitter Honey, his love letter to the flavors of his homeland, and if you like cookbooks with passion and poetry, get it — and he and Lori have, since opening Arcodoro in Houston in 1996, done much to introduce Texas to the multifarious island. Arnold Schwarzenegger even went to Arcodoro after delivering the commencement speech at the University of Houston this May, memorably dining with George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush. (This is one of George H.W.’s favorite H-Town restaurants.)
Houston Restaurant Weeks is the perfect occasion to get to know this restaurant better.
Looking for more Houston Restaurant Weeks intel? Check out these stories: