Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chrstmas Dinner 2011

Christmas Dinner 2011 was held at benjy's on Washington Street.  All were in attendance except for Lauren and Carol.  

I must say... this is now my favorite restaurant.  Everything was wonderful.  The staff was the nicest and most accommodating that I have ever encountered.  This is a VERY trendy bar and restaurant where I would not have been surprised if the staff were rude and uptight, especially since this is such a happening, "place to be seen", Washington Avenue hot spot.  I shall share examples of the awesome staff as I recount the evening.

 Mary, Janet and I arrived first and started at the upstairs bar.  At 6:30 pm, it was packed.  There was plenty of seating and standing areas and an outdoor patio.  The menu featured happy hour drink and appetizer specials.  Mary and I had the blood orange margaritas that were delicious!  The drinks were a bright orangey pink color, very sweet and with a hint of tequila.  YUM.  The waiter brought us water with our drinks, which is uncommon in a bar, but very appreciated and a nice touch.

At our reservation time of 7, the maître d' came upstairs to find us and told us we could have a table or a booth.  He seemed to really care which we preferred.  When we went downstairs and met Tonya he told us the booth was almost ready.  Upon sitting we were gives a triplet of munchies:  sugared cranberries, two types of sliced pickles and a wonderful flat bread.   Each item had us guessing as to how it was prepared and the waiter was happy to tell us.  He said the sugared cranberries were raw cranberries soaked in simple syrup (he told us that simple syrup is sugar and water HAHA) and then rolled in plain sugar and air dried on trays and "thrown in Tupperware".  The berries were tart and sweet and delectable.  The pickles were mild and the flat bread was very thin and crisp and like nothing I have ever had.  It was an usual pairing of treats but all delicious.

For dinner, Mary and I ordered the crunchy nut chicken which was 2 slices of a chicken breast coated in nuts (when asked, the waiter mentioned about 10 nuts) and served with potato gratin, asparagus, corn reduction and a balsamic vinegar sauce.  It was very very good and a huge portion for only $16.95. 

nut crusted + marbled potato gratin
+ sweet corn reduction 16.95

Janet had the:

local shrimp + lump crab + forest
mushrooms + piquillo cream 17.95

I did not sample the ravioli, and the plate was beautiful with large shrimp piled high.

And Tonya had the:

jalapeño-potato cream
+ warm brussels sprout salad 22.95

Tonya shared some of her ribs with me and they were AMAZING.  So very tender and flavorful.  The brussels spouts were delicious as well.  Next time, I will order the ribs.

A manager took our dessert orders and this was part of the entire restaurant staff working as a team.  I often saw others helping the waiters get their orders in ASAP to ensure food arrived quickly, which it did.  For dessert, I had read in reviews that Mom's chocolate cake was the one to order.  I like chocolate, but it is not my favorite desert.  I asked the manager about the banana pudding and if it was worth it.  Because yes, I have been places before and asked about desserts and was steered away from one, ordered it anyway, and was very disappointed.  Why would a restaurant have a sub-par offering on the menu?  The manager told me "get the banana pudding".  I did.  Mary ordered a challah bread pudding with white chocolate ice cream and Janet and Tonya ordered the chocolate cake.

When the desserts arrived, the waiter brought an extra chocolate cake for me and Mary to share!  How wonderful and totally unexpected!  The cake had two huge pieces, so I know Tonya or Janet would have given Mary and me a bite (we all shared our entrees).   Instead, Mary and I enjoyed our desserts as well as the cake.

The banana pudding, pictured below, had a silky, sweet meringue and the pudding tasted as if it had some peanut butter in it.  It also had peanut butter cookies rather than vanilla wafers.  On the side were two homemade peanut butter cookies and two homemade chocolate chip cookies.  All were wonderful.

The chocolate cake was divine with a ganache like chocolate icing with pecans and it was served with homemade vanilla ice cream.  

I highly recommend benjy's.  The staff is wonderful, the food is reasonably priced and delicious and there is great people watching of the young and hip of Houston's inner loop.

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