Today the husband and I stumbled upon Pan Y Agua restaurant at 3215 Westheimer. This is in the old Palazzo’s Restaurant building, where I celebrated the big 22 just a few years ago.
The plan had been to eat at Churrasco’s, a South American place, one of the world’s best restaurants. But it was shuttered.
We turned into the empty parking lot at Pan Y Agua. I had to poke my head in the door to see if this place was actually open. Unlike every other restaurant on Westheimer it looked like a ghost town. But inside, a wee bit fancy. The hostess pulled out my chair; the waiter placed the napkin on my lap. I asked about different dishes on the menu, as usual, and the waiter, Manuel, responded kindly.
When the bread came out, the butter had these huge salt crystals on it. Everyone knows I love butter and will bathe my rolls in it with no shame. But this salt-infested butter ruined my bread experience.
With the bread came flat crunchy discs that looked like pappadam, a South Indian staple I’ve eaten since birth. Benjy’s in Rice Village had served pappadam when Sajan and I went there for Valentine’s. Pappadam must be trendy now. Well these flat crunchy discs at Pan y Agua were definitely not pappadam because they tasted like tortilla chips, and I liked them better than pappadam, and the sauce we dipped them in was real good.
Appetizer: Queso fundido. This was pure cheese greasiness with a dab of chorizo on top. We spooned the cheese into tortillas that looked like chapati like our moms make at home. But they tasted like tortillas, not chapati.
Sajan ordered chewy skirt steak with gourmet shoestring french fries, which I adored, and mashed potatoes. Eating one bite of the steak required way too much chewing.
They were out of braised shortribs, so I ordered pechuga, which is grilled chicken, with green rice, which was surprisingly flavorful and not bland or undercooked, and polenta with chorizo. Polenta is ground cornmeal, or as the waiter put it, mashed potatoes but replace the potatoes with corn. Lots of texture, which makes up for a little lack of taste. The chorizo is just a sprinkle but carries a potent aftertaste. The pechuga was super moist and tender. The sauce was satisfying and had a subtle taste of bitterness in a good way that married well to the chicken.
Though the food was well prepared, Pan y Agua just wasn’t my thing. One of those places you might try once. The waitstaff was friendly, the chef even personally asked us about the food, but there just wasn’t anything that compelling about this place. It lacked personality, surprising for its locale on Houston’s Westheimer.