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Dallas Morning News
Fearless Critic restaurant review
Houston
Food
Feel
Price
8.0
9.0
$65
Spanish
Upmarket restaurant

Hours
Tue–Fri 11:00am–2:00pm
Tue–Fri 5:30pm–11:00pm
Sat 5:30pm–11:00pm
Sun 11:00am–9:00pm

Features Date-friendly, live music, outdoor dining, Wi-Fi
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.riojarestaurant.com

West Houston
11920 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX
(281) 531-5569
Rioja
A decent introduction to Spanish wine and food in a charming, romantic space

Spain has found itself at the butt end of the joke that is the so-called “New World” (or, on this menu, “modern”) winemaking style, made popular in the past couple of decades. It’s the school of inky, ultra-concentrated fruit, aggressive new oak (despite the misinformation on Rioja’s menu about modern meaning less oaky), more residual sugar, and lower acidity than most of the wines that had been historically produced there.

We mention this because, like Spanish wine, tapas are terribly misunderstood in America. Like Rioja’s wine list, which could much better represent the typicity that set the region apart in the first place, its food menu offers the well-known classics, but executes them somewhat haphazardly (fish fillets have come rather ragged and sad, but stuffed piquillo peppers are fine). The paella’s serviceable, but not winning over any Spanish natives; its slightly disjointed taste suggests the components were cooked separately, rather than together, so that seafood and sausage can infuse each rice grain. The warm-toned walls and lovely patio make this place a beloved date destination—best if your date is a sommelier, and even better if neither of you has eaten tapas in Spain, so you don’t know what you’re missing.

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