Really, then, this post is much less a review and much more an airing of the grievances, Festivus style.
First, I am happy to admit that I am generally a total Gadsby Groupie. At its peak, Mrs. E and I were firmly convinced that Noe was the best restaurant in Houston. We loved the setting and decor -- ambient blue is lovely, and appears at Bedford, too -- the service, which was first rate, and, above all, the cuisine. Mrs. E and I know a thing or two about Japanese cuisine, and we were enthralled with the way Chef G worked these techniques, fused with a European style, that produced food that was both elegant, complex, and yet avoided the hoity-toityness regrettably common to fine dining (and food critics, I might add. No one I know, of course. *Whistling*).
We also particularly loved that Chef G tends to eschew heavy usage of butter and cream. See, here's the thing, and this may be the worst kind of gastronomical blasphemy: I'm not all that impressed when a chef loads up butter, cream, and cheese in a given dish. If a chef is unable to load up a dish with butter, cream, and cheese, and make it taste pretty damn good, then they really stink. Note: I have no problem with butter, cream, and cheese. Quite the contrary; I dearly love all three. My point is simply that liberal usage typically underwhelms me. See also: bacon.
In contrast, a chef who understands the loveliness of these items, but uses them sparingly and still manages to turn out incredible food tends to garner my undying admiration. I, aspiring home cook that I am, can manage to make things taste wonderful with butter, heavy cream, cheese, and bacon. I guess the analogy here is to Alison Cook's general suspicion of truffles (and truffle oil). I adore truffles, but I think she is right to point out that adding truffles to a dish is basically Instant Fancy. Make it taste good first, then add just a hint of truffles . . .
Noe gradually decreased in quality as Chef G seemed less present, and, while I think it remains pretty good, it is not what it once was, IMO. So, I was thrilled when Bedford Restaurant opened -- finally, Chef G's own restaurant, with everything directly from his brain and hands. I was doubly comforted when I walked in to dine a few weeks ago, and saw the man himself in the front, talking to some Serious People (investors?). The smile at seeing him present quickly left my face as I realized that he was not actually in the kitchen at that time. Ah well, if you want the Man to cook for you, better reserve a private table . . .
The short of it is, I was underwhelmed. The amuse bouche and appetizer -- butternut squash cappucino -- were quite good. But the main course was disappointing indeed. Perhaps I should have gone with my instincts and chosen seafood, but I was hankering for some pasta, and order the rigatoni with house-made sausage and aged goat cheese. The dish was fine, as far as it goes, but seemed strangely un-Gadsby-esque. From experience, I tend to expect true Gadsby-style dishes to be reasonable-size portions (this harkens back to Gadsby's Japanese training, I am guessing, because portions in Japan are substantially smaller than in Houston), with a gorgeous, artistic, yet almost minimalist presentation. The dish was none of this. It was a giant bowl of pasta, with everything kind of tossed in. Little care seemed to have been taken with the presentation, and it was a huge bowl of pasta. I was not particularly excited to eat it.
It tasted fine; the sausage was well-spiced, and it is, in my mind, impossible to go wrong with goat cheese. But I was not wowed, with either the presentation, the portion, or the conception of the dish itself. From Chef G's incredible culinary mind comes . . . a bowl of pasta with sausage and goat cheese? And it tasted extremely heavy, which I suppose might be expected from the dish I ordered, but seems to lack some key elements of Chef G's cuisine.
Anyway, I'll chalk this experience up to my ordering the wrong dish, and to Bedford perhaps still working out the kinks. I'll be back, of course, perhaps after I scrape together the needed funds to sit at a private table . . .