I've talked up the brisket nachos at Candente, the Montrose Tex-Mex restaurant from Sambrook Restaurant Group (The Pit Room, 1751 Sea and Bar, etc.), and not just once. So, this won't be yet another nacho-fest.
(But...let's just say I had them again and they were once again phenomenal, earning rave reviews from everyone at my table.)
Now, after repeated visits, I want to talk about how Candente feels. I like that there's no attempt to be something it's not—save the roving mariachi band and other Mexican traditions for authentic mom-and-pop places that already feel like home around Houston (for me, it's Tony's in Timbergrove). Here, there's a mural way in the back with sugar skulls and pops of vivid color, plus an advertisement for Tequila Espolon. The rest of the dining room, which is just humongous, is accented with bright orange.
Around the busiest time on a Saturday night, the restaurant was packed, and food came about 10 minutes slower than expected. Also, the final bill was slightly alarming—an $18 premium cocktail is hard to swallow (well, the booze isn't), and $12.50 guacamole? Well, okay.
The good news is Candente more often than not satisfies a hunger for Tex-Mex. I've become a big fan of its smoky roja salsa, the chile con queso is among my favorite in town, and the homemade corn tortillas of the crispy tacos have that slightly sweet zing I love. Also, the beef fajitas are just about perfect.
I still have yet to go all-in on the large-format dishes and unique surprises, like the Tampiquena, a 9-ounce Niman Ranch prime rib topped with cheese enchiladas, or the duck carnitas with raw tomatillo sauce. But when looking for a weekend spot for a family-sized Tex-Mex dinner, I say Candente satisfies a welcome once-in-a-while craving for big flavors and mesquite-smoked meat. Plus, it wants to be that place anyway. There's character here, and I'm glad it sticks to it. Go big, but be careful with the drinks. If you're looking more for a weekly haunt, I'd probably still turn to mom-and-pop.