“Dedicated to the preservation of the art of our Mama's
- Tony Mandola
It was almost 35 years ago (1982) when Tony Mandola opened his restaurant, Tony Mandola’s Blue Oyster Bar, on the Gulf Freeway… and I remember it well. Later, he had one on Shepherd… and I remember it well, too. However, his location on West Gray became the go-to meeting place for those in the River Oaks area and beyond. I was a regular there for his Mama's Gumbo. He was always kind enough to me to make a plain old Oyster Gumbo (off the menu) by adding fresh raw oysters to steaming hot gumbo just before delivering it to my table… the edges of the oysters were just starting to curl and were at the perfect juncture of cooked and raw.
As there were four of us, we all shared and I have a lot of observations in this review!
So, I started with Mama’s Gumbo. Nice dark roux, as usual, and topped with shrimp, fried crawfish and fried okra. Looked good… tasted good… different, but the same. That’s good.
Spiedini followed. They are mini-roulades of mozzarella and Genoa Salami rolled in pork tenderloin, tossed in garlic and olive oil, then grilled. My first time to try this dish and they are now a go-to appetizer for me (in addition, of course, to the Oyster Trio).
Next was a Crab Salad of seriously jumbo lump crabmeat, avocado, golden beets, mixed baby greens, sliced tomato and sliced boiled eggs. Vegetables were all crispy and fresh and this salad (although I ate plenty more) is a light lunch in its own and perfect for that choice.
Now to something that is one of my “hot buttons” in restaurants in Houston… and I guess, in restaurants all over the country outside of San Francisco. I ordered the Cioppino, which I order whenever I see it on a menu anywhere. Tony Mandola’s Cioppino is actually Cioppino! Well done… it even has the right type of crabs in it. Most I order and try elsewhere are served sans crab and those with crab don’t use the requisite Dungeness crabs as in San Francisco. So, what we have here is classic in that it has Dungeness crab, mussels, shrimp, fish (as in SF, the “fish” varies with the catch brought in by the fishermen that day), scallops, peppers, and potatoes in a rich broth. Loved it.
Gulf Red Snapper Martha
Another at the table ordered Gulf Red Snapper Martha. Fresh broccoli and tomatoes were topped with shrimp, crawfish tails, and crab meat basil a basil wine butter sauce… sprinkled with julienned fresh basil leaves. This Napoleonic presentation of veggies, fish, shrimp and sauce wowed the senses and was as beautiful as it tasted.
Galerie du Cuisine
Stuffed Poblano Pepper
Molten Chocolate Cake
Tony Mandolaʼs 1212 Waugh Drive
Houston, TX 77019
Houston, TX 77019