HEIGHTS NEWBIE MUTINY WINE ROOM may boast a wide (and at times exclusive-to-Houston) selection from the Napa Valley, but its owners started out with a single barrel.
Houston native Emily Trout and husband Mark Ellenberger celebrated their first wedding anniversary in 2007 by making a barrel of Syrah. After careers in international shipping and finance, the couple about-faced. They’d fallen in love with the hobby enough to start making their own wine a year later in Napa, where they spend their time when they’re not in Houston. Kagan Cellars went on to win a slew of awards, and this year the pair decided to expand their business and expose Houstonians to the Cali vino experience, including their own wine and that made by their West Coast friends.
So they opened Mutiny in their own Houston neighborhood in January. The large rustic space can accommodate big events or break down to a more intimate setup. There’s the tasting room with its neutral stone veneer and tongue-in-groove ceiling; a showroom-like, high-ceilinged dining room called the farmhouse with wreath-like lighting fixtures and a long, family-style table; and a large open patio with ample seating.
The wine list includes selections from Kagan, among them a silky smooth chardonnay and a well-balanced pinot noir with heavy oak notes on the back end. It’s a good idea to visit the tasting room and sample all the offerings before committing to a full glass at dinner.
Mutiny is a first-time concept for its owners, and dinner service feels a little like an afterthought—which makes sense because they decided to offer food only after conceiving the tasting room. Servers seem to know much more about the wine than said food, and that’s a shame because the grub is good enough here to overshadow everything else.
Chef Ari Weiswasser, whose résumé includes Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry in Napa, developed most of the menu, and Eduardo Alcayaga, previously of Goode Co., runs the show as executive chef. Alcayaga has a knack for light bites, like popcorn lightly doused in rendered chicken fat and curry powder; crusty-outside, fluffy-inside Texas toast topped with velvety chicken liver mousse; and peppery and colorful ceviche, a nuanced mix of delicate flavors, served up with purple potato chips.
“Rations,” or large dishes, include one obvious front-runner: the creamy Cacio e pepe–style risotto topped with a soft sous vide egg heightening the richness of the cheese-centric sauce. Other show- stoppers include the lightly battered, salty quail, which is soaked in buttermilk before it’s fried and set in a smooth onion béchamel, and the grilled jumbo Gulf shrimp served with a tropical pineapple Shishito vinaigrette.
Some dishes need more thought, like a finely charred octopus served with too few Tostones and bland sweet potato that doesn’t live up to the dish’s other flavors, or the Belgian chocolate truffle tart, which is on the dense side. But for a wine-first, food-later concept, I’m genuinely impressed by the well-above-average output of this kitchen. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with a little more time and experience under their belts.
We now have two more places in town with unique and thoughtfully curated wine lists and food that is worth celebrating in its own right. We’ll cheers to that.
What to order
- Gulf snapper ceviche
- Carolina Gold Rice “Cacio e pepe”
- Buttermilk-fried Texas quail