Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mia Bella Trattoria

The downtown brunch hunt brought us to the playland that is the Houston Pavilions — House of Blues, Lucky Strike Lanes, and, for our purposes, Mia Bella Trattoria.

The Italian restaurant can be found at several locations in Houston — including two in downtown alone — but we decided on the San Jacinto  location because it was, simply, closer, and afforded us a nice walk through Discovery Green on our way there.

Mia Bella is big on two things, if you judge by its advertising — unlimited pasta on Sunday nights, and, on the weekends, unlimited drinks (well, for $9.95, you get refills for .25 cents, which is practically free).

Feeling in the mood (or maybe it was the fact that I was surrounded by alcohol, thanks to Mia Bella's plentiful wine bottles lining the walls), I decided to start off with the drink special, choosing the Bloody Mary. It came with three olives (luckily, I, like half the population it seems, am an olive fan). There was also, intriguingly, salt lining the rim of the glass. I've only seen this with margaritas, so this was an unexpected touch. But I gave it a go, and was pleasantly surprised. The mix of salty and spicy (and, of course, vodka) was a nice jolt to wake me up this lazy Saturday. Unfortunately, as I soon discovered (spoiler alert!), my brunch was in for more salt than desired.

The menu offers more combinations of poached egg dishes than I thought possible — your classic eggs Benny, as well as poached eggs with chicken and mushrooms; poached eggs with spinach and artichoke hearts; poached eggs with proscuitto; poached eggs with crab meat over polenta. I could go on.

I opted for the latter ($9.95) — I've never had that variant of eggs Benny before and, armed with my very strong Mary, was feeling adventurous. The dish came with a couple strips of potatoes and a healthy offering of fruit. I tackled the fruit first, since the hollandaise sauce was running into the fat slice of watermelon, making it less appetizing by the second. Then I worked my way through the stack of polenta, crab meat and poached eggs. The more I ate, though, I couldn't shake the shear saltiness of it all. It was so overwhelming — and this is coming from someone who puts salt on McDonald's French fries. I couldn't tell where it was coming from (the sauce? Crab meat? Where!), so I isolated each element, and the clear culprit was the polenta. It was like a bed of crystallized salt and olive oil, and, like too much of a good thing often does, just ruined the whole meal.

With my permission, Stephen ordered my signature dish — the eggs Benny ($8.95) His dish was nearly identical to mine — the side of fruit, strips of potato, and a poached egg stacked high atop its meaty mound. Stephen was a big fan of the potatoes, but he would have liked to have seen more of them (at least three strips isn't asking a lot). The eggs Benny was fine, but just average — for self-described "upscale Italian food at affordable prices," they got the prices part right, but the food is no better than what you'd find at a run-of-the-mill diner.

With my bottomless drinks still in effect, I decided to go with a bellini towards the end of the meal.  And I'm glad I did. In lieu of a fatty, guilt-inducing dessert, the peach puree-heavy cocktail was a light, sweet, refreshing treat — with alcohol! I enjoyed it so much, I enjoyed another, and proceeded to pass out the second I got home from all that booze.

Verdict: Mia Bella Trattoria is easy on the wallet, but the food is more miss than hit. I'd be back for the bottomless drinks, and keep the bellinis coming.

No comments:

Post a Comment