The Dark Night

The Worst Idea in Houston Dining

We like the food at Potente, but something else is making it hard to enjoy.

By Alice Levitt June 23, 2017

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A good idea to alleviate the suffering of a bad idea.

Image: Alice Levitt

I'm about to go all Ed Anger on y'all. I did some soul searching before electing to write this post. Am I just being old and cranky, like when I took my then-octogenarian father to a deli and he insisted that he wanted his sandwich on "club bread," despite the fact that neither I, nor the staff, nor my father knew what club bread was? Am I the old lady who thinks everything tastes too salty, or not salty enough, or that the type on the menu is too small?

My conclusion: I am, in fact, being reasonable for once. Because of my job, I usually ask to be seated in the brightest part of the restaurant so I can take good photos, but last week when I visited Potente, Jim Crane's upscale downtown Italian restaurant, I didn't think too hard about being escorted into the literal darkest reaches of the building. That's really all there is besides the bar area. It is spin-class-level dark inside, but there's no one in workout clothes ashamed of their bodies to warrant it. 

From hardship comes innovation: My dining partner and I were presented with what looked like medium-thick, leather-bound volumes, that when opened, turned out to be book-shaped lights with the bar menu inserted on top of each side. A cool trick, also employed with the dinner and dessert menus. 

I'd seen photos of the Instagram-worthy food at Potente—would there be illumination provided when the food itself arrived?

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Flashlights are good, actual lights are better.

Image: Alice Levitt

In a word, no. The light source for this photo was a server's flashlight. Yes, the servers carry flashlights. As you can see, this tuna crudo with frozen foie gras shaved over it is stunning. Caper berries, preserved lemon and flower petals mean that it tastes good—and consistently interesting—as well. But we eat with our eyes. There is no romance in groping under a lamb chop wondering what those vaguely vegetable-shaped things are underneath the bones. (Turns out they're vegetables, but I don't know what they looked like.)

With Danny Trace at the helm, fresh from his long tenure at Brennan's of Houston, the food at Potente is likely to continue to improve. But I'll only return if I can see my dinner.

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