Mastrantos and its “global tastes” have been tempting me via my Instagram feed for months now.
When I finally stopped in for dinner to try the dish that was tempting me the most, Ragu Bolognese, I found it to be even better in person than it is on social media.
The casual, but elevated atmosphere of Mastrantos and its friendly staff also made the two hours I spent dining some of the best I’ve had in a while.
I loved the little touches, like the sprigs of lavender in a vase on the table, the small candle that was lit upon seating, the leather chairs and strategically placed plants.
Our server was happy to go over the menu and suggest his favorites. If I hadn’t already been sure about what I was going to order, his testament that the Bolognese at Mastrantos is the best in Houston would have solidified it.
The dinner menu is divided into three sections. The first are the small plates, good for sharing; then the pastas, which are made fresh daily in Mastrantos’ dough lab; and lastly, a selection of main dishes.
I started off the night with the Carrots over Carrots, a dish of rainbow carrots laid over carrot hummus. Za’atar spice is used as well as hojiblanca oil.
The carrots were warm and cooked just enough to still be crunchy. The layer of carrot hummus is what made the dish for me. It had a nice saltiness that complemented the carrots.
While Mastrantos has a rotating seasonal menu, the Carrots over Carrots is a staple and I can see why.
The Ragu Bolognese deceptively looks like a simple dish of noodles and meat sauce. The rustic casarecce pasta, which are thick noodles that are just slightly curly, and beef-based sauce is so much more.
The seasonings that Mastrantos used in the Bolognese made it taste different than any other version I’ve had. After tasting mine, my brother said the reason he stays away from Bolognese dishes at restaurants is because they all taste the same, as if they use the same sauce, but the one at Mastrantos was unique and actually made him wish he’d gotten it as well.
But he liked his Roasted Half Chicken dish just as much. The chicken was citrus-roasted and came on top of a bed of grilled corn, sautéed bell pepper and red onion. The lemon cream sauce that would normally come poured over the chicken he got on the side. I also tried his dish, which I dipped in the lemon sauce, and was enamored with it as well.
The chicken was melt-in-your-mouth tender and the citrus added to the chicken’s “oomph” factor.
The night ended with the Apple Crisp dessert, which was a bowl of caramelized apples in a cinnamon sauce with a scoop of vanilla ice cream that had a cinnamon drizzle on top. It was kind of like apple pie without the crust.
What Mastrantos gets away with, and I’m not sure other concepts could, is that the restaurant becomes something else during the day. While during the dinner hours I would call it a classic restaurant, when I visited during brunch I was greeted by a vibe that was much more diner or café.
Instead of a hostess showing us to our seats, it was counter service.
The menu for brunch featured a few items I’d seen on the dinner menu, and a few lunch items, like the burger and fries, as well as breakfast fare.
My dining companion ordered the Heights Sunrise, which came with eggs cooked to your preference, a biscuit, rosemary potatoes, bacon and house jam, which we were told was peach.
When I finally narrowed my choice down, I got the Brunch Tacos. Out of the three options—brisket, pulled pork and avocado and egg scramble—I chose the latter two. I ordered the pulled pork variety specifically because the cashier said it was his favorite.
Each taco came with slices of pickled onions, sprinkled with cheese and wrapped in two corn tortillas. The avocado and egg scramble was my favorite of the two. It was a simple breakfast taco made better by avocado and the pickled onions, which were sweet.
The pulled pork was dark and had a smoked aftertaste. The pork seemed to be too pulled apart, so it was a little mushy.
My companion enjoyed the classic breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes.
The biscuit was huge, so she split it with me. The outside of it made me think the biscuit may be too overdone, but I found it to be pleasantly soft inside and the outside crispy. The jam wasn’t overly sweet, which made me really enjoy spreading it on the biscuit.
By the time I had arrived, Mastrantos was already sold out of croissants, so I took a chance on its carrot cake. The piece of cake was shaped like a cylinder and had just a dollop of cream cheese frosting on top.
Usually my sweet tooth has the better of me, but what I liked most about the carrot cake was its lack of sweetness. The frosting was sweet, but I was able to just use a smidgen with the cake. Without meaning to, I ate the whole piece before finishing my tacos.
Address: 927 Studewood St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
Pricing: $10-$18 for brunch, $10-$27 for dinner
Healthy options: Yes
Star of the show: Ragu Bolognese