Impostor

Capriccio moves into the old Routh Street Cafe location, but only conjures sad memories

This is Capriccio's third move--it opened in the old house on Maple, then moved to the reconstructed San Simeon space on McKinney. In December, it moved again, into the old house once occupied by the ever-lamented Routh Street Cafe.

Capriccio's most recent space on McKinney had been completely redone, transformed from the open airy modern '80s-epitome it had been as San Simeon into an Old World-inspired series of cozy rooms. Capriccio's food was not always dependable, but the place was handsome and comfortable and distinctively its own.

Someone should just go ahead and redo the Routh Street building that way--totally, from the inside out. The old house has been home to several restaurants since Pyles and Dayton parted company, but Tonny Foy's original design was so strong, so much a part of the Cafe's identity, that until someone approaches the building with some vigor, the ghost of Routh Street will remain. Unfortunately for the current tenant.

Today, the subtle elegance of the Cafe's lacquered peach walls and brushed steel railings clashes with the frou-frou panes of etched glass, the brocade folderols on the banisters, and the rather incredible La Quinta-worthy art. It's an awful layering of leftovers, and while decor certainly isn't everything, it's hard to live this one down.

On the other hand, who cares? Capriccio's was full at a recent lunch with nearly every table taken, proving that convenience is everything, aesthetics nothing.

We were seated with a drink-a-bunch-for-lunch, all hopping from table to table, conversing with each other from across the room, their phones ringing, the wine flowing. I wish I had their jobs. Mine was to evaluate, though, and I didn't have a good day at Capriccio.

The blue cheese spread served along with light and slightly stale rolls, toasts, and butter at the beginning of the meal was good. As usual, we ordered something from the regular menu and something from the list of specials--which were computer-printed on a piece of yellow paper and clipped to the menu. The menu selection was a plate of capellini in a fresh tomato sauce both too oily and too salty, filled with mushrooms and brightened with the licorice sweetness of fresh basil leaves.

The special, a rack of lamb, had been cooked at too low a temperature, making it not just rare but mushy. It had a nice savory crust, though, and came with a block of polenta. It's a good question--in the land of overcooked vegetables, where if you were blindfolded you couldn't distinguish green beans from mashed potatoes--why those precious little haricots verts are invariably tougher than shoelaces. I suspect it's because they're cooked ahead and re-heated, but it seems a shame and a waste when you're finally served a green vegetable that's green that it should still be inedible.

The only house-made dessert offered, creme caramel, was delicious, smooth and dense, but not heavy like a flour-thickened or condensed milk flan, breaking delicately under the spoon like eggs should, with a nice brown caramel syrup.

--Mary Brown Malouf

Capriccio, 3005 Routh Street, 871-2004. Open for lunch Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. For dinner Monday-Thursday 5:30-10:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 5:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m.

Rack of Lamb $19.00
Capellini $11.75
Creme caramel $4.50

 
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