Thursday, June 22, 2006

Mad About Aries

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more."
-Howard Beale, Network

To bring back the blog, to shake me out of my lethargy, I had to get really mad.

And I am really mad. You see, Aries closed. Scott Tycer has replaced it with a new "casual" restaurant that sells food like burgers and fruit juice. Here is the news:

I loved Aries. It had some of Houston's most interesting food. Tycer loved Aries too, but he did not have much choice. Apparently, in 6 great years, Aries could not make a profit in Houston.

I'm mad because of what this says about Houstonians and food. Aries was one of our best restaurants. It had outstanding wine. It had tasting menus that were ground breaking and often mind-bending. It treated food as an aesthetic end. Yet Houston never completely accepted Aries. Many Houstonians thought the food was "too wierd" or that portions were "too small" (as though we need bigger portions, Fat City).

I'm mad because Houston just does not seem to be able to support creative restaurants for very long. On some recent Saturday nights, I have seen such great restaurants as Bistro Moderne, laidback manor, and Quattro with no more than 10 - 15 patrons.

I'm mad because other cities are different. In New York, I recently went to Thomas Keller's Per Se. Like Aries, the food at Per Se is creative, served in small portions, expensive, and artistic. But unlike Aries, it was nearly impossible to get a reservation. After trying three weeks for a reservation at any time during a 3-day weekend, Per Se finally offered me a reservation that became available -- 10:30 on a Sunday night. Of course, if Per Se were in Houston, there rarely would be any crowd at all, much less on a Sunday night.

I'm mad because I worry that one day we are all going to wake up and find ourselves like Galveston. All the restaurants owned by the Scott Tycers of the world will be replaced by restaurants owned by the Tillman Fertitas of the world. We will eat in exactly the same restaurants where other people eat in Des Moines or Lubbock.

Things have got to change my friends. You've got to get mad. You've got to do more to support and publicize our best restaurants. You've got to avoid bland steak houses and tired franchises. You've got to spend that money in restaurants that care about food -- restaurants whether cheap or expensive that treat food as art and not just substance to fill your gut. You've got to tell all your friends about the really good restaurants, or better yet, take them there. But first get up out of your chairs, open your window, stick your head out and yell, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore."


Anonymous said...

I totally agree, Aries was an very important restaurant in Houston during a certain period. The extermely high quality of food and techniques used on the food were near perfect , at most times than not. It's wise of Tycer to evolve with the times, so to speak, and reinvent a new concept that hopefully diners will flock to. It's hard to say if Gravitas cannibalized Aries, or maybe Aries was already slowing down by that time. I'm looking forward to trying out Pic's seasonal fare.

Anonymous said...

dont sweat the small stuff! I dont - just go and support! tell yout waitperson you saw this on this blog!

Anonymous said...

Glad to see the support for Scott, but "we" are still around - check us out 706 main! laidback manor will do it's best to compare, plus I have spent many days in the kitchen w/ Mr. Keller - but expect something different with "us" - just have faith! But not "blind faith", although "cant find my way home" is one of my favs!!!!!! Winwood is the man!!! So is Scott!!

anonymouseater said...

1 - If Randy Rucker says that Aries' closing doesn't bother him too much, then I guess I will chill out. Chef Rucker is the future of food in Houston, and if he can be optimistic, so can I.
2 - Gravitas may have cannibalized Aries, but it is not Aries. Although it is quite good for what it is, I have yet to have a dish there yet that stood out as bold or original.

Anonymous said...

You are right on target- 110%. Aries should have never become, "Pic," what kind of a name is that anyway, especially for a restaurant? I did try it, and was VERY disappointed. Houston continues to amaze me with it's vast aray of culinary delights, that one can dine at most any evening, and sometimes without a reservation!