Review: BCN Taste & Tradition, Houston
BCN Taste & Tradition is a popular Spanish restaurant in Houston that recently had a 3-week waiting period for a Saturday-night reservation. I love Spanish food, and was really excited to try BCN Taste & Tradition, so we returned to Houston and again met with our friends, Marlena and Cezar, in hopes of repeating another night of fabulous food and fun. (You can read about our last outing in Houston here.)
I think I know Spanish food pretty well. My husband is from Spain, and we’ve eaten at countless Spanish restaurants all over Spain and in the United States. I cook Spanish food at home and, if do say so myself, I’m pretty good at it. I’m a big fan of José Andrés’ restaurant, Jaleo. I’ve been to three locations and have never been disappointed.
If you’ve been to a lot of Spanish restaurants and are expecting a festive atmosphere, tapas, paella, and pitchers of sangria, be aware that you won’t find any of that at BCN. BCN is located in a house built in the 1920s, and it has a quiet, formal service. I’d say it was almost stuffy.
Although you can’t get a pitcher of sangria for the table, they do sell it by the glass, so we each ordered one to start our meal in a celebratory fashion. The sangria was excellent. It was a little fancier looking than most, with two beautiful berries and a piece of star anise on the top, and it was a perfect beginning to our meal. Later, when we were trying to decide on wine, the waiter was nice enough to let us taste a few before making the decision.
For appetizers we ordered olives, smoky roasted eggplant, and the special of chipirones, which is small, fried squid. The olives were fine. The eggplant was OK, but disappointing as it was just a cold roasted vegetable salad with no detectable smoky taste. The chipirones were like any fried squid, but came with only a lemon to squeeze over them. They were OK, but nothing to write home about.
For an entree, I ordered the bomba rice cooked in squid ink with mussels, clams, and scampi at $38. I was hoping for paella, and this was the closest I could get. It was rice cooked in a tasty broth with mussels, one clam, and one langoustine, of which you get a shrimp-sized tail. I guess there isn’t much meat in the legs, as they didn’t provide tools to get it out. It was not a soup, but a soupy rice, and it was very tasty.
Jorge and Marlena ordered the Spanish cod with tomatoes, olive tapenade, cornichons, capers, and cod chicharrones for either $36 or $38. Spanish cod, or bacalao, is salt-cod. Chicharrones are kind of like pork rinds, but in this case it’s the skin of the fish. They loved it and said that all of the flavors came together perfectly, but as you can see from the photo, the food didn’t amount to much, and they were still pretty hungry after they finished their dish. They each got approximately 2 1/2 bites of fish, so it was just a taste.
At this point, we would have decided that it was a decent, but expensive restaurant. But we haven’t yet talked about Cezar’s dish. Cezar was drawn to the suckling pig, a la Segoviana, at $58. The price of this entree gave him pause, as it would just about anyone, but it sounded so good! Jorge had this dish a few times, even in Segovia, and assured him that it was pure melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. Cezar was hoping it would be worth the money, and I was hoping that it would not be served with the head on like it sometimes is, and that they would carve it up and just serve the meat on the plate. When they set the dish on the table, I think all of our hearts sank. There was no head (thankfully), but there was also no pile of meat.
For $58 he got a slice of pork. A slice that was about the size of a pork chop. Not a big, fat pork chop like you get in nice restaurants, but a regular skinny pork chop that you get at your average grocery store. I’d guess that the edible portion of meat came in at about 3 1/2 ounces. There were 2 1/2 slices of potato, cut in half and artfully arranged next to the pork, along with a smear of apple puree. He said it was very good, cooked perfectly, with crispy skin and moist meat. But the knowledge that he spent $58 for a slice of pork did not sit well with any of us. In our minds, the restaurant suddenly went from expensive to egregious — not anywhere in the realm of being a fair value for what you get.
We were still hungry, so we had to order dessert. Jorge and I split the Tarta de Santiago, which came with a glass of Muscat for each of us. It was a normal sized dessert. The cake was good. It was not quite as dense and tasting of almonds as what we’re used to, and we didn’t care for the bitter lemon marmalade on the side, but the Muscat was a nice touch. Cezar ordered the crispy fillo dough with creme Catalán. Marlena is gluten-free, and had to pass. It just wasn’t Cezar’s night. Although his dessert was good, it was also very, very small. I’m not sure why, as fillo dough is not very expensive. And his dessert didn’t come with a glass of Muscat like ours did, which made us feel bad.
After spending a small fortune, we left the restaurant still hungry, buzzed because we didn’t have enough food to counter the effects of the wine, and annoyed by the feeling that we were gouged — especially on the pork dish. Although the sangria and the entrees were very good, the appetizers and desserts were just so-so, and the prices were too high for the small portions. We ended up raiding Cezar and Marlena’s fridge later and had a good laugh over it, but we aren’t likely to return.
BCN Taste & Tradition
4210 Roseland St, Houston, TX 77006