Spanish-Italian fusion close to home
Specializing in the fusion of Spanish-Italian cuisine, Merche Restaurant opened nearly three years ago in hopes of bringing an upscale dining experience to Northwest Houston residents.
Located on the campus of North Cypress Medical Center, Merche is open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch in which bottomless mimosas are the fare.
The owner of the hospital, Dr. Robert A. Behar, started the restaurant to compliment the service of the medical center.
"The hospital was created to provide an upscale experience for patients," said Stacy Thornton, director of marketing and public relations for the hospital. "We wanted to do the same thing by offering an upscale restaurant to this community. There are a lot of chain restaurants here and we wanted to bring in something to provide a nice dining atmosphere for the people in the area and patients."
The menu is a mix of traditional, old-world flavor with modern preparation and technique. Many of the items are one-of-a-kind culinary creations such as the bison ribeye ($27), ravioli putanesca with salmon fillet ($19) and the wood-fired ahi tuna steak ($22), said Antonio Llamas, manager.
Another popular dish is the wild mushroom ravioli ($15), which is homemade ravioli stuffed with an assortment of wild mushrooms in a rich port wine and morel mushroom cream sauce.
Some of the dishes are the owner's family recipes while others are ones he found.
"He travels all around the world," Llamas said. "If he likes a dish, then he brings it to the restaurant. The customers get educated when they come here because most of these dishes you can't even find in Houston."
Featuring a custom brick pizza oven, signature rotisserie chicken and an extensive wine list, Merche is known for its relaxed dining atmosphere, Llamas said. Customers can choose to either dine indoors or outside on the patio, where a large fireplace and water wall serves as the backdrop.
"A lot of people say that they like how they don't have to drive to The Galleria or uptown or downtown for a great restaurant because it is right here in Cypress," Llamas said. "They don't have to spend 30 minutes on the freeway to have this kind of dining experience. There is nothing else like Merche around here."
From rehearsal dinners to corporate gatherings, Merche aims to fulfill guests' needs. A private dining room with a capacity for up to 30 guests can be used for intimate parties and meetings free of charge.
Merche also offers a catering service that features gourmet pizzas, sandwiches, entrees, desserts, party platters and more.
To reward its regular customers and entertain new ones, the restaurant alternates between a wine tasting event and a wine dinner every month.
"There is a pretty good balance of customers coming in from the hospital and nearby neighborhoods," Llamas said. "Lunch tends to be people from the hospital and more people from the community come by in the evening."
- The bison ribeye is a 12-ounce grilled buffalo steak topped with a brandy peppercorn sauce and accompanied by celery root potatoes au gratin wilted greens ($27)
- Gnocchi with a Merche pink pesto sauce: Potato gnocchi served with Merche pomodoro parmesan cream pesto sauce ($14)
- Penne fra diavlo alla estillo roberto: San Marzano tomato-based sauce with basil, garlic, red chili pepper and a hint of cumin, oregano and smoked paprika, tossed with penne al dente, Kalamata olives and wood-fired grilled shrimp ($16)
"The atmosphere was relaxed and elegant at the same time. We had a wonderful waiter and the food was incredible. We will most definitely be back." —Carol Carlson
"We had a wonderful dinner, the service was great and the food was impeccable. Our waiter did a wonderful job letting us know about the specials of the day and checked that everything was okay. Nicely done, Merche." —Joy McVean
Merche–North Cypress Medical Center, 21208 Hwy. 290, Cypress, 281-949-5999, www.mercherestaurant.com
- Mon.–Thu. 11a.m.–9 p.m.
- Fri. 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
- Sat. 4–11 p.m.
- Sun. 10 a.m.–3 p.m.