It's the season for white asparagus
Spring is the high season for white asparagus.
I much prefer white asparagus to green. It has a more delicate flavor -- less bitterness, less vegetation. And it is often softer in texture. Unlike green asparagus, the stalks are grown without light to prevent the plant from producing chlorophyll.
It is not that white asparagus is a great ingredient. It has a slippery, squishy texture. Its flavor is bland and unexciting, yet elegant and refined.
Which is much how I think of Charivari.
Charivari serves authentic, old-school European cuisine. The chef/owner is Romanian, but spent years cooking in Germany before moving to the Texas.
Walking in this restaurant is like stepping back in time to Houston's idea of an elegant restaurant 30 years ago. The dining room is framed by dark red, elegant curtains. Tables have white tablecloths and flowers. This is what fine dining looked like before most high-end restaurants chose a more contemporary style.
Appropriately, the customers at are older. At noon, many white-haired genetlement wear suits with ties and a matching handkerchief in the pocket. It might have more customers if it were located in Tanglewood or Memorial, rather than Midtown.
The White Asparagus Menu
For some reason, I only remember to go to here in Spring, when it serves a special white asparagus menu. For this lunch, I started with a white asparagus soup. The soup was cream-based, with lovely tender chunks of white asparagus. It had very little salt -- a rarity in Houston. The testure of the soup was silky smooth. And it was topped with sprinkles of chives and baby parsley.
My initial reaction was that the soup tasted bland. But after a few bites, I changed that description to "subtle."
It was the sort of dish we do not find very often in Houston. At first, it did not grab my attention. Yet when I gave it my attention, I began to notice simple and elegant flavors that my jaded tasted buds rarely pick up.
A second dish was asparagus risotto. Chunks of white asparagus mixed in the rice made an interesting comparison with the green asparagus spears placed around the edges.
The dish had less flavor than you find in most risottos served in Houston restaurants. But the dish displayed elegant textures. Like the soup, I had to focus my attention to pick up the subtle flavors.
All the dishes I have tried at Charivari are like these. The quality of ingredients is exellent. The preparation reflects the labor of a precise and dedicated chef.
The dishes may not grab you at first, but like great music and literature, they reward sustained focus and attention.