The Pass Introduces A Smaller Tasting Menu That’s Lighter On The Wallet, Too

When The Pass side of The Pass & Provisions opened five years ago, there were two tasting menu options: five courses or eight. At the time, it was such a rare experience in Houston that most diners likely thought, “If we’re going to do the deal, let’s do it right.” The five-course option was largely ignored and later removed from the menu, while eight courses grew to nine.

Times change, as do diner needs and perceptions. So, chefs Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner decided to bring back the five-course option and eschew the nine-course one. The five-course is only $65 per person plus tax and gratuity. (With wine or cocktail/beer pairings, the cost is still a modest base price of $105.) Reserve pairings with higher-end, more exclusive wines will also be an option soon. Diners can guide the experience and make the meal more sumptuous by adding additional dishes, called supplements.

Rabbit at The Pass
The “Rabbit” course at The Pass, with wild bay leaf, favas, morels and jus. Photo by Ralph Smith

“Diners seem to be less likely to want to sit down for a three-plus hour meal, says Gallivan, “and while some still do, our new menu format gives the guest a little more flexibly from both a time and financial standpoint.”

There’s a vegetarian menu as well that historically has matched its omnivore counterpart in style, texture and flavor.

One thing will not change, though: the dramatic, over-the-top platings that make The Pass such an interesting experience. Menu names are often a vast simplification of something much more grand. The“fish taco” is a good example.

fish taco The Pass
A “fish taco,” The Pass-style. Photo by Ralph Smith

“We thought, let’s call it a fish taco, and people will immediately identify,” said Siegel-Gardner, “even though they know it’s not going to be the traditional preparation. It’s only a taco in the sense of the way you eat it. It represents flavors and textures we love—crunchy seaweed, the umami of uni and avocado in the place of guacamole.” It’s also served on a huge swath of dried seaweed that dwarfs the creative offering.

Over the past five years, The Pass has served dozens of ambitiously conceived dishes such as this, which begs the question of how the chefs keep coming up with unusual but palate-pleasing ideas.

“I think one of the biggest challenges of being a chef is handling the often self imposed, pressure of staying creative and keeping guests excited about their experiences,” said Gallivan. “Throughout the past five years, our menus have evolved in a number of ways from many different sources of inspiration. That said, our outlook on tasting menus in general I think remains constant; they’re what we consider the most comprehensive way for a chef or restaurant to speak to the guest, to take care of them, to allow the guest to put themselves in the restaurant’s hands.

Gallivan concluded with this thought: “At the same time, we try not to take the food or ourselves too seriously. We put a quote on the wall from Marco Pierre White to always remind us: ‘At the end of the day, it’s just food, isn’t it?’”

The full current menu at The Pass is available online.

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