Farrago admits that it a mess of a restaurant. Its website explains that Farrago is a "medley, a confused mixture, jumble, hodgpodge [sic.]."
Aesthetically, this midtown restaurant is a metaphor for a problem so many restaurants have. There is no signature cooking style, except for the absence of a signature style. There is no real innovation. Diversity? Multicultural flavors and styles? Farrago has many. But it doesn't take those diverse styles and make them its own.
Farrago makes an interesting contrast with the nearby REEF. REEF'S dishes are influenced by many different world cuisines, but the chef incorporates world cooking styles and ingredients as an inspiration for new creations. In contrast, Farrago doesn't build on world cuisines. It just appropriates them and throws them together.
It is hard to construct a coherent meal at Farrago. The varied cooking styles include Thai (pad thai), Mexican (tamales), Italian (pizzas, cioppino), Carribean (jerked chicken wings), New Mexican (posole), French (goat cheese brulee), Lebanese (hummus and tabouleh), Vietnamese (Vietnamese Salad), British (fish 'n chips). Just try to find a wine that matches all the different dishes at your table.
Yet something about Farrago is goofy and fun. And a few dishes are outstanding. I keep returning for their posole, the best I have found in Houston. It is a wonderful, thick stew of hominy, pork, and green chiles served with some flavorful grilled bread. It is just difficult to find an appetizer that goes well with it.
On my last visit, I started with curried mussels. Their preparation is much like French bistro-style mussels, but with the addition of curry powder and coconut milk. The flavors in this Thai/French fusion dish were bold, even if the some of the mussels were no bigger than a large pea. My favorite part was mopping up the curry/coconut milk with the Texas toast-styled grilled bread.
I also had tuna tacos, served with rare blocks of tuna, nappa cabbage, and a wasabi sauce served Cuban style with black beans and white rice. The raw tuna was a bit chewy, and did not quite taste sushi grade. Plus the wasabi sauce was a bit runny and sloppy. But the flavors in this Mexican/Japanese/Cuban dish were good, if not quite coherent.
Many of Farrago's dishes are a reasonable approximation of the original ethnic dish. For instance, the pad thai is fairly good. But I can name a number of Thai restaurants that make it better. So if I am in the mood for Thai food, why go to Farrago when I can get the real thing?
The reason I, like so many people, go to Farrago is indecision. Sometimes I don't know what I want. Particularly with a group, it may be hard to please everyone. Except at Farrago. On this crazy menu, everyone will ultimately find something they like.
As a result of its incoherence and lack of true innovation, Farrago will never be one of the top tier restaurants in Houston. Yet there always will be a place in Houston for this wonderful mess of a restaurant.