A Hidden Gem

Last night my wife and I decided to go out and have a light dinner and then try out a wine bar that we thought was new. Due to a miscommunication we ended up at a place called Sushi Coast for the light dinner. This place was disgusting, and if I don’t end up with some sort of intestinal parasite, I will be amazed.

There are some quite decent sushi restaurants in the Bay Area of Houston, and two that are very good. As we couldn’t decide on which one to go to, it was decided that we would try something different. Due to me believing that we could go to a place that didn’t exist, and my wife misinterpreting the description of my imaginary sushi joint, we ended up at Sushi Coast.

As we pulled up it came to both of us that we had eaten there before, and had been less than impressed. We went in anyway. Bad mistake. Our waitress was obviously untrained and, while probably a perfectly nice person, temperamentally unqualified to be a server. After being seated and handed a menu, she hovered over us, clearly expecting us to order from the 4 page menu immediately, so I asked if they had a wine menu. She pointed to the front page where there were a grand total of five choices. Three reds, a white Zin, and a Chardonnay. Apparently someone there was an expert at pairing wine with fish.

At this point I was ready to leave. Looking up and seeing that two large televisions were both turned to the Fox News channel didn’t do much to assuage my fight-or-flight instincts. Instead, I ordered the Chardonnay and picked out a few pieces of sushi. As the memory is making my stomach churn a bit, I will not go into much detail about the alleged meal, but suffice it to say that the fish was not what I consider to be sashimi grade, and might possible have been fresh a few days earlier. Happily for everyone involved, no one had the audacity to ask me how things were as we made our escape.

As the Friday evening crowd was quite sparse, I am at least hopeful that they will soon be out of business before they kill someone.

With our stomachs less than sated, but our hunger tempered by queasiness, we headed for the “new” wine bar. I had seen the sign for the Chelsea Wine Bar when I had driven by earlier in the week. As soon as we walked in I knew that I had found a new favorite wine bar.

The place is funky and unpretentious. There is impressive art and books everywhere, and it even has a very well-stocked jukebox that features everyone from Mingus to The Clash. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable without any pretense. I plan to spend many hours in the place.

As I was not familiar with many of the wines, and they were out of what I initially chose, I placed my fate in the capable hands of our server, the lovely Emily. She did a very nice job of finding some very nice selections for me. The replacement for the Bordeaux that they were out of was a very tasty Pinot Noir from close to the same region. A request for her favorite Malbec gave me another enjoyable glass, and my final request for a glass of her favorite red in the joint was so good that I bought a bottle before we left.

Our other server was Mathew, and while not quite as lovely as Emily, he is a lot of fun to talk with. He was comfortable discussing almost any subject, and also seemed very knowledgeable about wine. In addition, you could tell he really loves the Chelsea and is a good ambassador for the place.

As we were still hungry due to the bad meal earlier, Emily prepared us a nice snack platter featuring a tasty selection of cheese, meats, olives, nuts and loaf of warm bread. One of my pet peeves is being served bleu cheese at a wine bar unless I have ordered Champagne or port. The Chelsea’s cheese plate did not invoke my peevishness. Wine bar staff should know better, and apparently the Chelsea staff does.

For those of you lucky enough to be experiencing the wonderful Houston summer, the Chelsea is a great place to cool off. It is located at 4106 NASA Pkwy (El Lago, TX) right next to the popular watering hole Boondoggles. It is right on the water, and a seat on their porch or in their upstairs room provides a very nice view.

They also have a great selection of beers on tap, and serve up a variety of Espresso drinks. If the owner of the Chelsea is reading this, he should give Emily and Mathhew each a raise. Oh, by the way, this new wine bar has been open for over a year.

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