Oh wait, I must be confusing myself with Matt Damon (a common misconception).
Last week, before catching a showing of "The Martian" (really good movie. REALLY good) at the Sundance theater in downtown Houston with Jon and our friends Blake and Katie, we all grabbed dinner at the nearby Batanga.
(P.S. If you're curious as to how much money the U.S. Government has spent "saving" Matt Damon in his various movies [fictionally of course], you can find that out at this link. Hilarious.)
Batanga is a lively and fun Latin-inspired tapas restaurant with an enormous, downright magical patio. It was a gorgeous, crisp, Houston autumn evening, so we sat outside and ordered a pitcher of sweet, fresh, smooth sangria to share before starting in on the food.
Our server was incredibly bubbly and friendly, and we talked through the menu with her. While the others ordered a few different meat/seafood dishes, there were also plenty of vegetarian food options to have as my dinner, as well as share with eachother.
The pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese rolls) were fun, bite-sized starters. The texture of each cheese roll was dense and similar to that of a coconut macaroon. Paired with the preserved guava, the sweet/savory result was simple, yet delightful.
We also split the marinated olives, which were bathed in citrus, rosemary, and lime. I am a big olive fan, so I definitely liked these, though I didn't think they were out-of-the-ordinary food. They were salty and fleshy, and I did appreciate the wide variety of different olives in the mix, however.
The cauliflower & chayote casuela, topped with manchego cheese and toasted bread crumbs was another fun dish. There appeared to also be some zucchini thrown in, and the vegetables had a crisp, crunchy texture. The melted manchego added a lovely creaminess, which wove everything together nicely.
I had high hopes for the eggplant fries, but they mostly fell flat for me. Topped with cumin, mint, honey, and queso fresco, the soft (slightly soggy) breading and large spears of eggplant overpowered everything else. Perhaps if the eggplant was cut into smaller strips and the breading was lighter and crispier, all of the ingredients would have come together better. But as a whole, we all agreed that we could take or leave this food item.
The mushroom croquettes served with truffle aioli, on the other hand, were wonderful. What was interesting about these is that the mushrooms inside the croquettes were finely ground up, creating a texture akin to ground beef. They were incredibly rich, so one or two was plenty, but they were bursting with earthy mushroom flavor. The silky, decadent truffle aioli was the perfect compliment to the crispy croquettes. This was probably my favorite dish of the whole dinner!
And for the record, tuna lovers: Jon absolutely adored the tiradito (yellowfin tun + avocado + aji panca ponzu), pictured above!
After we finished dinner, we still had a little time to kill, so I ordered a pineapple mojito, one of their specialty cocktails.
Jon said he could only taste pineapple, but I definitely caught a hint of lime and mint in my drink. It was super refreshing and served as a nice farewell-to-summer drink!
While I wasn't completely floored by all of the food we had for dinner at Batanga, there were some dishes that I really enjoyed. What really sells the place for me though, is the atmosphere. Whether you dine inside the industrial, dim, sexy interior, or outside on the open, beautiful patio (during these milder Houston fall evenings), you can't go wrong. The service was great, and it's for sure a fun dinner option when dining out with a group!
We should probably send Matt Damon some croquettes.