Pax Americana

Friday, February 13, 2015
How is everyone's February faring?

For a perpetual February-Hater (guilty as charged!) I'd say mine is going pretty darn well.

(Despite the fact that as you read this this I'm on Day 3 of a 3-day fruit and vegetable juice(ish) cleanse and am writing a blog post on food which makes me feel a whole new level of empty inside).

My February has been going well because it's been pretty warm out for the most part (pause for me to knock very loudly and forcefully on wood), and I've been extremely busy with the 40 Days of Yoga Program at Big Yoga, exciting stuff happening at work, and having visitors coming into town!

Last weekend, my boyfriend Jon's friend Mark came in for a visit from San Antonio with his fiance Kelly. I made reservations at Pax Americana for the four of us, along with Jon's friends Blake and Katie (this is the awesome group I went with on the New Braunfels wine tasting tour back in November). I had been wanting to try the relatively new, much raved about restaurant for a while, so I was really excited to go.

I'm going to shoot straight with you here: It was sort of a letdown.

Yes, we had an awesome time with each other, and there definitely were certain aspects of the restaurant that I really liked, but for the high price of the food and the high expectations I went in with, I was a little disappointed. And I know it's totally crazy and out of character for me to say anything negative on this blog because a) I generally love everything, and b) if I don't love something, I shy away from writing about it. BUT. I feel the need to tell my truth.

So let's get into the nitty gritty here.

The BAR.

We got there an hour before our reservation to sit at the bar and enjoy a few libations with each other. And I really loved the bar. The whole interior of the restaurant is alluring. It's minimalist, yet quirky, sleek, yet simple. The bar itself is large and inviting. And y'all? THEY HAVE COCKTAIL ONIONS. I was able to sip on my martini in pure onion-garnished bliss, and I loved every sip!

Jon got their Vermont Mule because he's obsessed with mules, and this was also really exceptional. Garnished with a fresh sprig of fragrant rosemary, the mule contained honey which became more pronounced the further into the drink you got. It was refreshing and sassy.

Once our table was ready we were escorted to the back room, which houses three large tables. We ordered three appetizers from the "bread" portion of the menu: the beef tartare, the roasted bone marrow, and the creamy goat ricotta.

While I didn't eat the bone marrow or tartare, everyone reached a consensus and ranked the appetizers as such: 1) creamy goat ricotta, 2) beef tartare, and 3) roasted bone marrow. As a whole no one seemed super jazzed about the bone marrow.

What I can tell you from my own experience is that the creamy goat ricotta was fabulous.

Combined with a brussels sprout and herb salad, radishes, pickled green strawberries, and ujukitsu (lemon) marmalade, the ricotta was paired with a sunflower rye made by Common Bond.

The ricotta spread was sweet, silky, and tart. I normally gag at the sight of rye bread, but this bread was fluffy and had a nice kick to it. Paired with the spread, it was quite lovely, with several different exciting layers.

As a vegetarian, I've got to say the veg offerings at Pax are lacking. The only option I could see was basically to get a couple of different little salads as my entree - Which I honestly didn't mind doing since I'd heard so many great things about the food there (and since the ricotta appetizer was so great). So I went with the acorn squash and the roasted beet & arugula salad.

I was so pumped about the acorn squash, combined with chamomile-golden raisin puree, vadouvan spice, toasted pepitas and pecans, and sorghum. And look at how beautiful and vibrant it is! Unfortunately, this salad was very one-note. The acorn squash was overpowering, and essentially took over the whole dish. I would have thought the crunchy pepitas would have been a nice touch, but they were so tough they made eating the salad a bit of a challenge. All in all, it was a beautiful dish to look at, but a boring, unexciting dish to eat. I would definitely not order this again.

Fortunately, the roasted beet and arugula salad was outstanding. Combined with pickled shallot, fermented butternut squash, nasturtium, buttermilk blue, pecan gastrique, and Texas honey, I could not get enough of it. The smooth blue cheese was borderline spicy and was paired beautifully with the plump, juicy, sweet beets. The rest of the subtle ingredients served as the perfect backdrop to the beet/blue symphony starring on the plate. As a stark contrast to the acorn squash, I would definitely order this again.

Mark loved his fried chicken, Kelly loved her brisket, and Blake liked his octopus but wished he'd gotten the fried chicken. Jon and Katie ordered the red snapper. But what Jon got delivered to him was the brisket, and what Katie got was the grouper because, "oh we don't have snapper today."

It's funny how no one ever told Jon and Katie they were out of snapper, yet they were able to order it anyway...

They ended up bringing Jon the grouper, and he was not crazy about it. I tried a bit of the gnocchi that came with it, and it tasted like...nothing. It was fluffy and full and soft and creamy, so when I took a bite into it, my first reaction was "Ooh!" But after the initial bite I realized it had no taste at all. And there's nothing sadder than a tasteless gnocchi.

Look, I waited tables for 3 years, so I know you have your bad days. But at a restaurant that is considered to be one of the best places to eat in a cutthroat food town like Houston, I do expect better. The menu was never explained to us, when we asked specific questions about the wine we were met with a curt, non-informative response, and it seemed like our server was more focused on and concerned about the loud, boisterous, large birthday party at the table next to us. Moreover, the food really was hit or miss. Some dishes were sensational, while others just fell flat.

I can definitely see the potential here. The dishes are so creative, and the atmosphere is vibrant. And you know me, I want to love everything! I just unfortunately couldn't love this place. Based on all of the buzz Pax has been getting, I hope this was a rare experience. I do think I'd go back to see if it can be all it's hyped up to be. Hopefully I can have the experience everyone else seems to be having!

Cocktail onions. Catch on, Houston.

Pax Americana on Urbanspoon


  1. Apologies in advance for being a total pedantic former bartender:

    1. HA! No apology needed. I actually have ordered Gibsons in the past, but I didn't know if vodka would make it something else since Gibsons are typically made with gin. So I guess I could either continue to order my vodka martinis with cocktail onions, or start ordering Gibsons specifying it to be made with vodka? I'll opt for whichever one makes me look less like a goober. :)


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