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Dallas Morning News
Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Mon 6:00pm–9:00pm
Tue–Wed 11:00am–2:30pm
Tue–Wed 6:00pm–9:00pm
Thu–Sat 11:00am–2:30pm
Thu–Sat 6:00pm–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines
Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Not accepted


Rice Area
2442 Times Blvd.
Houston, TX
(713) 520-8841
Café Rabelais
The food’s fine, but the overall evening here is even better

Flickering votives, chalkboards, walls lined with bottles of wine. When done right, as it is here, there is hardly any atmosphere more romantic, more bewitching, than that of a low-key French bistro. You might even forget that you had to wrestle your car between huge SUVs in the parking-challenged neighborhood. And it really is one of the best date spots in the city; servers are attentive but not intrusive, and the hand-written menu board gives the feeling that the night has been crafted especially for you. The French wine list, which is refreshingly half-bottle heavy, is extensive and almost sacrificially well priced. As for the food, it’s competent—even sometimes spectacular. Mussels come in a too-creamy broth with little oomph, but they’re sensual and their frites excellent. The nightly specials are often some of the most amazing dishes, like a plum tart topped with boudin noir and melting foie gras, or rabbit moutarde. In general, meat dishes outshine fish, which, while cooked expertly, are less inspiring.

Where some complain that Rabelais underseasons its food now and then, others might find the restraint refreshing, and anyway, the excellence is in the details. A chocolate silk pie, for example, is made multi-dimensional in texture as well as flavor by a crunchy walnut crust. Like many dishes here, it’s not mind-blowing, but combined with the atmosphere and wine list, it outdoes itself.

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