FROM THE STYLIZED LOGO TO THE LAST SPOONFUL OF THE TROPICAL RUM COCONUT PANNA COTTA THAT CHEF JACOB PATE WHIPPED UP IMPROMPTU WHILE I WAS LICKING MY BOWL OF JASMINE RICE CONGEE, EVERYTHING ABOUT THE SUCCESSFUL AGRICOLE’S MONTROSE-AREA VENTURE IS LOVABLE. THE NAME NIGHT HERON – AFTER THE BIG BIRDS THAT ROOST IN THE BROAD OAKS OF NEARBY NORTH AND SOUTH BOULEVARD – LOVE. LOCALS REFERENCE THIS NEIGHBORHOOD SPOT AS THE NEST – LOVE. FROTHY EGG WHITE, TARRAGON, SOTOL BLANCO MARGARITAS – OH, YEAH – LOVE.
So much love comes as no surprise. The wizards of Agricole Hospitality and the creators of Night Heron, Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber, stole my heart years ago with the cozy, acclaimed Coltivare. This dynamic duo also conceived the successful Revival Market and the clever and ever-popular Eight Row Flint. They have that magic touch. In all their establishments, they create a concept, study history, develop an environment, hire good people, cook dynamite food, work like hell and whip up mighty fine cocktails – without ever breaking a visible sweat. Cool and calm, talented and totally dedicated to hospitality excellence, local sources and sustainability. And simple common sense. No valet parking at Night Heron. (Or Revival or Coltivare or Eight Row Flint, for that matter.)
And these trademark trends continue on at Night Heron where Chef Jacob Pate (formerly of Coltivare, most recently from Nobie’s) presents a small menu with worldwide appeal. Snack foods like the smashed and crispy fried Massaman Curry Potatoes with the most wondrous housemade ketchup (from the get-go, ask for an extra ramekin or two of the ketchup). Or the creamy smoked cheese dip with a combo of tasty fried wonton skin crackers and little rings of taralli (texture-wise think Italian bread sticks). If sharing the cheese dip, be sure to nab some of those cipollini onions before your tablemates devour them all. The perfect cocktail accompaniments are the Turmeric Chicken Frites – slightly tangy from a buttermilk marinade; crispy, crusty exterior; moist, succulent chicken breast interior – excellent finger food.
And the cocktails are perfect. Contemporary riffs on classics. Even the ice is big cube, old-school style.
Don’t try to pigeonhole the menu offerings – this is global fusion food at its casual finest. Hints of Vietnam and the Mideast in the juicy Salt & Pepper Pork Ribs tinged with sumac and lemon. You will lick your fingers, and you should suck the bones.
Splurge on the pan-roasted sirloin salad: rare beef from 44 Farms with crunchy scallions, garden fresh peas, tasty green beans, cold somen noodles and hints of heat from Serrano slices, all delightfully and aggressively dressed with tangy Asian flavors. And the Jasmine Rice Congee – soupy, soul-satisfying comfort food topped with buttery local mushrooms, seasoned crunchy almonds, a smattering of crisp bacon, pungent scallions and a perfectly poached egg – gets the biggest love from me.
For those less adventurous, the Smoked Cheddar Burger with the everything-topped bun and those smashed Massaman Curry Fries will do just fine.
The menu is short; the food long on thought and flavor. Do yourself a favor and one night grab eats at the bar. Noticing my penchant for Campari, the bartender expanded my knowledge and palate with an introduction to Fernet liqueur.
Keeping it local, five Houston craft beers are on tap. And a plethora of bottled suds are on the menu. GM Julie Rogers (formerly bar manager at Coltivare) knows her beer; she is a certified Cicerone®, the beer world equivalent to a certified Sommelier.
More good news: The kitchen stays open until 11pm Monday thru Thursday and until 1am Friday and Saturday nights. There is a brunch offered Saturday and Sundays. Seating options vary from bar stools to benches, wire mesh patio chairs to a comfy leather couch. On the interior walls is a shelf with some fascinating foodie books: Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey; Pork & Sons; and Jacques Pepin’s Complete Techniques.
Go now because some time in June, if all goes as planned, you will be forced to make a choice between even more fine Agricole establishments to frequent. Opening in EADO will be Miss Carousel, Indianola and Vinny’s.
Summer in Houston will be redefined. And delicious.
1601 W. Main St. | Houston, TX 77006