On the Table

Falling Hard for Savoir

The Heights restaurant offers a fun, creative menu and a wine list to match.

By Timothy Malcolm December 27, 2019 Published in the January 2020 issue of Houstonia Magazine

The "tandoori fajita," lamb in yogurt sauce with roti.

Image: Jenn Duncan

Recently I found myself sipping a funky little Côtes du Rhône red, dipping fried chicken skins into a five-spice foie gras mousse, and doing a little dance in my chair. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it means I’m falling for a restaurant.

In August former Tiny Boxwoods GM Brian Doke opened Savoir in the Heights, pairing an eclectic, gargantuan list of mostly French and Italian wines with the fascinating cuisine of Micah Rideout, who’s worked in the kitchens of Reef, Potente, and elsewhere. At the same time Doke also unveiled a wine shop and bar next door, calling it La Grande Rue and offering $10 wines by the glass—half-off during happy hour—along with a short menu of small bites. It’s a great place to hang out in itself, or to stop by for a drink before dinner.

At Savoir Rideout separates his whimsical dinner menu into three sections: Garden & Guilt, Dough, and Hearth. He isn’t afraid to double down on flavor, as evidenced by G&G items such as the aforementioned “chickerones” dish known as “chicken on quack”; the buttery, garlicky “potato principals,” in which thyme-scented potato skins are draped over confit-roasted fingerlings in a creamy puree; the “carrot away,” which delivers the vegetable six ways, from a minty, spicy cardamom curry to a foamy carrot air; and the “ribeye cruda,” essentially carpaccio with enoki mushrooms, sunchoke crumble, and a tasty black garlic balsamic.

Savoir has a robust wine list, and the "carrot away" presents the veggie six ways.

Image: Jenn Duncan

Sometimes Rideout’s experiments go a little awry. While I love the rustic, spicy flavors of the brick-oven-fired Spaniard pizza from the (you guessed it) Dough section of the menu, its wealth of ingredients—chorizo, soppressata, olives, Spanish onions, taleggio—overwhelms the thin crust. Next time I’ll try the simpler margherita.

Also under Dough is a good selection of pastas, my favorite of which is the cauliflower gnocchi with crabmeat and roasted cauliflower “mole,” followed by the delicious lemongrass capellini tossed with olives, capers, and a tart lemon sauce, and topped with crispy garlic bits.

While it’s true that a Hearth entrée of balsamic-cured duck with coriander-vanilla parsnips was a little on the salty side and could have been more tender, that’s an exception. Most offerings here hit the bull’s-eye, none more spectacularly than the “tandoori fajita,” a big hunk of lamb braised in bright-orange yogurt and served with warm toasted roti. The fun dish captures the essence of Savoir, I think.

The decor—French farmhouse-meets-industrial—misses the mark, if only slightly. The whitewashed brick walls, wood floors, high ceilings with exposed vent pipes, and open kitchen are handsome, but have the feel of an empty art gallery. It made me wish for a splash of color to match Rideout’s bold culinary adventures. That’s easily remedied, though. Savoir has the hard part—the excellent food—well-handled.

Savoir's comfortable dining room.

Image: Jenn Duncan

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