eculent opened last year, but I just recently learned about it and ate there last week. I don’t often review restaurants, but this one is unique, local, and has a winery connection!
1. molecular gastronomy
Some people hate this term, but it’s frequently used to describe cuisine that combines science and art with food. It presents food in unusual forms (powder, foam, gel, freeze-dried) with unusual combinations of flavors. eculent adds visual and auditory elements to create “cognitive cuisine.” Explore the “lab” on their web site for more information about the technology involved in making the food. Sometimes this type of food is considered snobbish, but the manager told us directly that the food is meant to be fun. If an elegant meal can be playful, this one was.
2. local focus with 3, 8-course seasonal tasting menus
The 3 menus are:
- “flora” – vegetarian, gluten free, and sourced from within 25 miles.
- “1845” – Texas-inspired (includes meat of course), and sourced from within 250 miles.
- “coast to coast” – sourced within 2,500 miles.
When I ate at eculent, my husband and I ordered “flora” and “1845” and shared everything. The menus had several dishes in common. Consider ordering “flora” even if you are not vegetarian. The meat was excellent, but I find that vegetarian tasting menus are often more innovative than ones with meat. A few weeks before dining at eculent I happened to have eaten at the French Laundry, and I was the only person at my table to order the vegetarian menu there. I was happy I did, because I think the limitation of not including meat drove the chef to create more interesting and unusual dishes. I also find that vegetables are more difficult to prepare well and display the skill of the chef more than meat.
The menus range from $95 to $135. Eating here is not cheap, but is a good value for the meal you get. Many people would spend that much on a fancy steak dinner, but for my money this kind of unique and exciting meal is a far better investment. Sometimes people see pictures of tiny, elegant bites of food and worry that they’ll go home hungry. You won’t! Remember, there are LOTS of little plates coming your way.
3. home-grown veggies
eculent focuses on farm-to-table eating, so all of the greens for our meal were grown on site. This makes them ridiculously fresh and extra delicious. In keeping with the scientific leanings of the restaurant, eculent uses hydroponic growing systems designed by NASA.
4. locally made wine
eculent and Clear Creek Winery share the same owner and the same building. eculent is on the ground level, the winery is on the 2nd level, and the tasting room is at the top. eculent serves wine (and mead, port, etc.), but no beer or liquor. All the wine is made on site at the winery, with grapes coming from California and Texas. You can order by the glass or get the wine pairings that are matched with each course of the menu. The night we went to eculent this included a sparkling aperitif, a glass of white wine, 2 reds, a mead, and a port-style dessert wine. I recommend splitting the wine pairings with a 2nd person unless you have a high alcohol tolerance!
Serving only locally made wine in this case is both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, serving a local product fits perfectly within the farm-to-table ethos of the restaurant and allows wine to be crafted specifically to match the food. On the negative side, the quality of the wine is a step down from the quality of the food. At my meal, between the paired wines and the wines my fellow diners ordered by the glass and allowed me to taste, I tried 7 wines. They were a mixed bag, including a good sparkling Moscato from Texas grapes, a somewhat odd Pinot Gris, a slightly fizzy Pinot Noir, a pleasantly floral Petite Syrah, a very tasty red blend (of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah), an incredible orange-spiced mead, and a fine port-style wine. (Clear Creek Winery will get its own, more detailed post soon.)
5. it’s in kemah ... yes, kemah
I love the Kemah Boardwalk, but it makes me think of tourism, kitsch, dive bars, and bikers, rather than exotic top-echelon dining. I’m thrilled to discover this unexpected gem in my own backyard. Much of the cool stuff that Houston has to offer is stuck inside the loop, so it’s great to have one more thing to brag about in the Clear Lake area.
I loved my meal, and I left wanting to return as soon as possible!