REVIEW- BABA YEGA
Baba Yega has been one of my favorite dining establishments for several years now. A true Houston healthy eating and breakfast institution; that is why it pains me to write this Rant. But I am reminded of the words of Oscan Wilde, “The truth is … never simple.”
On this particular Sunday morning the sky was gray and thunderous. My husband wanted breakfast so a few names were tossed out, but we quickly settled on Baba Yega. Though we had dinner several times recently it had been a few months since we had brunched there and we were pretty excited. The drive there was dreary and the sky kept warning to go home but as we arrived the clouds parted, birds began to sing their songs and we were seated on the covered verandah. How lovely this brunch would be.
Baba Yega had to our surprise expanded and taken over the Herb Shop next door; now a charming nook for the brunch buffet. They enlarged the omelet and waffle bar with cooks and the buffet had many more choices including more fruits and platters of desserts. This was going to be great!
The line at the fresh foods bar was extremely long so I went for the chafers and dished out a cube of some kind of veggie frittata, home fries, soft bacon and then injected into the line and asked someone to pass me an Eggs Benedict (my favorite) and just before the door piled on some of their famous fresh fruit. I sat down, raised my fork with excitement, thunder echoed through the cloudless sky, I looked over my shoulders, took a sip of my mimosa and raised my fork again. I tried to dig in to my favorite breakfast item, but something was wrong, I couldn’t cut through it! I examined.
“What could be wrong”? I thought to myself.
After a quick dissection I discovered the problem. Uncooked Canadian bacon; an untoasted, fresh from the package, English muffin; topped with a lovely poached egg and chunky lemon-less hollandaise! I tasted it. Oh my! I gulped down another sip of four-dollar champagne, with a touch of concentrated orange juice.
“Blah! Surely this is an oversight”, I think as I move on to the next item.
I first eat the odd tasting bacon, then on to a square of dry lukewarm “frittata” with barely chopped broccoli heads and stems and no taste of cheese, herbs, spices or salt, and last the soggy under seasoned potatoes. Now the jig is up, quality has been sacrificed for a larger dining crowd and bigger profits. My husband encourages me that surely the omelets and waffles will be fine.
“Honey, who can mess up these two breakfast staples,” (thunder again and a slight mist of rain).
As we get up our waiter makes his second appearance, asking if we would like to order more drinks (even though our glasses are half full).
“No, thank you.” We have more delicious food to sample!
I wait ten minutes to get to the front of the line before I get to my cook. Once I arrive I ask for a waffle. I’m about to be accept a halfway raw, half of a waffle when I ask for a fully cooked one.
“Sir, can you toast it a little more for me? I like it really brown ,tee hee.”
He throws it in a warmer for the people behind me, grumbles something in Spanish, ours the batter and walks off. The man in line behind me is beginning to lose his patience and now two ladies have skipped the line. These are the makings of a fiasco… The cook returns and the gentleman to my right explains for me in Spanish about the waffle and about the ladies skipping in line. The cook argues and leaves again. The ladies to my right order omelets from the other cook who just finished with two other people. Now I’m losing my patience. Fifteen minutes have now passed since I came for an omelet. The cook is now arguing with a lady in the kitchen. Five more minutes. The man to my right takes the half cooked waffle and leaves The other cook starts my omelet and eventually the cook returns and finishes it and starts another and my waffle as well.
Then I discover there are only two waffle toppings: nuts and banana sauce. Only nutty banana sauce. No whipped cream or sliced fruit or anything a person might want. I search the buffet items to put together something palatable and by then my waffle is cold. I eat it dejectedly and chase it with the rest of my orange champagne shooter. My husband and I pay our forty-five dollars after waiting another fifteen minutes for the check(thunder, lightning) and leave.
On the rainy ride home we reminisce about when restaurateurs in Houston had passion. When they were loyal to the customer and the craft. I think of the great meals I’ve had at so many places that have now turned into chain locations dishing out monotony, or into glorified fast food establishments. I call out to these restaurants and all those still holding true to the culinary arts and challenge them to be original, bring Houston back to the luster and flavor it once had. Make this city a culinary destination because of you! And when you do, make me a reservation, because I am hungry and ready to eat.
by Chef Natasha Treú
2607 Grant St.
Reservations Not Needed under 10 ppl
* Fri & Sat 11am-11pm
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