Tuesday, June 21, 2005

French Dip By Any Other Name

On Friday night, I went over to Houston's in the Riverside Square Mall, Hackensack, with Gena. We were meeting up with G-Doll's hubby, Mike, and her brother. Mike and Gena had raved about Houston's a couple of weeks before and given their proclivities for dining out and good food, I felt that their judgment could be trusted on this restaurant. Still, it's hard for a place to live up to such rave reviews.

Riverside Square Mall is turning into quite the eatery - there's a Cheescake Factory, a Morton's, a seafood place, the name of which escapes me, and Thai Chef has recently opened up a branch. Houston's is a popular destination; long waits are the norm. Gena's brother is a regular, though, and so we only had to wait about 40 minutes or so (apparently 2 hour waits are not out of the ordinary). While we waited at the busy bar, Mike recommended the cosmo, which I can attest was quite excellent. The bar at Houston's appears to be quite the singles scene for north Jersey, with fake breasts in abundance. Phil and I recently had a conversation about the Jersey girl - reality versus the stereotype. Houston's has an awful lot of the stereotype.

For dinner, I started off with the house salad - greens, tomatoes, fresh warm bacon pieces, and a blue cheese dressing. The blue cheese was out of this freaking world. I could seriously drink it... well, drink and eat it since it has enormous chunks of blue cheese in it. Fantastic. Next up, Houston's version of the french dip, which was served with roasted prime rib, cut thin and served rare. The bread is thick and crusty, nicely toasted with a hint of garlic. The meat was tender and cooked to perfection. And there was just a smidge of mayonnaise. Simply put, the best french dip I've ever had. Philly snarked yesterday that calling a sandwich with prime rib instead of roast beef a french dip is like saying the best ribeye you ever had was a filet. I disagree. A french dip is a style of sandwich. Certainly, a cut of ribeye is a cut of ribeye, and a filet is a filet - they are entirely different. But a style of sandwich can be reinvented, just as a milanese can be made with chicken or veal, or a club sandwich can be made with turkey or roast beef. In fact, the original french dip was invented in 1908 and the chef who came up with it used to make it with roast pork, lamb and turkey. Read about it here. My problem with most french dips is not the type of beef used - I happen to love roast beef - but rather, the meat is usually cut too thick and the roast beef is well-done, which frankly, is disgusting. It's like chewing on a piece of rubber. This french dip was sublime.

Next up, we split some key lime pie, which had a lovely graham cracker crust and was perfectly tart. It's true, Houston's is not cheap, so be prepared. And of course, be prepared for a good long wait. Was it worth it? If you enjoy beef, then I'd say hands down, it's worth a trip. And I'm dreaming about that blue cheese dressing, so I'll definitely be back. I can't speak for the other dishes, however, Gena and Mike have had their share of Houston's dinners and attest to the goodness of everything they've tried.

Houston's is a chain, but Riverside is the home to the only New Jersey branch. There's also one in Nueva York at 53rd and 3rd Ave. Check out the menu and reviews here.

1 comment:

  1. G-Doll1:35 PM

    I'm sooo happy you gave the restaurant such rave reviews :-) Mike and I did blather about it, so I was worried!!!!
    Oh and I agree...French Dips are a style of sandwich so they don't only have to be made with Roast Beef!