Houston’s Best Pasta?

This Montrose Restaurant Has a Serious Contender

BY // 03.21.19

Every now and then, I taste something that is both familiar and novel at the same time, a dish that touches memory and known sense, and also tells my palate something new, something transformative. The ingredients are all known to me, and I am intimate with their aromas, textures, and flavors, but a eureka moment is also involved.

What I am eating, experiencing, is completely new, and I love it.

This very thing happened to me this week, and a dish of pasta was the cause. It’s on the menu at Nobie’s, and if you enjoy food that arouses good memories and tells you a new story about what it means to live to eat, you need to try it.

One thing that needs to be known: Martin Stayer, the chef and co-owner at the Montrose restaurant, respects and loves pasta, and this orecchiette is no trifling thing. His kitchen produces, night after night, Nonno’s Pasta, a dish of tagliatelle (accompanied by a very good bolognese and parmesan cheese) that would please even the most demanding pasta aficionado, and the other flour, egg and water courses I’ve ordered at Nobie’s have been, without exception, far better than good.

Pasta should have integrity, and the ones served at this little restaurant on Colquitt in Houston do. They are never limp, they are seasoned properly, and are in no way merely on the plate (or in the bowl) to convey sauces.

The duck orecchiette that took me on a culinary journey down memory lane and was at the same time an epiphany is bright on the palate, and its lemon curd and pistachio pesto, both full of richness but in no way cloying, and the crisp, fresh peas feel and taste good in the mouth. The duck, slightly salty, becomes a miracle when it mingles with the pesto.

Duck confit is one of my favorite foods — click here if you want to know how to prepare it at home — and the one on this dish is a worthy one.

Some great things come from Slovenia, such as this wine, a blend of Tokaj and Friulano.

One thing you’ll remember about this menu item is its firm yet supple pasta, made by hand, with a rich and toothsome character. If you take the time to deconstruct a single orecchiette, letting it linger in your mouth for a minute or so, you’ll discover how wonderful pasta can be. No starchy noodle is this ear-shaped beauty.

So you have a nearly perfect pasta, along with other ingredients that each stand on their own and marry to create a dish that comforts, excites, arouses, and satisfies. One can demand nothing more from food.

Oh yes, you’ll want a wine pairing, and I can offer this: order a bottle of Klinec Jakot, and take that trip to vistas both old and new.

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