Ok, so now the Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings issue has really gotten my, well, goat.
(BTW, if you're not interested in reading a rant, please don't read any further. I've really enjoyed the generally positive attitude of the Houston board, and would hate to be the one to spoil it!)
Having been an ABC (American Born Chinese) blessed with parents who took me traveling internationally as a child, I have had the opportunity to taste a lot of really interesting and unique foods. Fast forward to present day, and one of the really fun things about the new American cuisine of the 2010s has been watching chefs pay homage to dishes of different ethnic origin, and I think Houston has been a very interesting place to experience from that standpoint.
However, I find there has also been an evil twin in the vein of fake Chinese Iphones - the masquerading of a simple ethnic dish, dragged out of its street food/comfort food simpleness, dusted off, and gilded with a layer of fake gold spray paint, and sold for five times the value as something innovative and fresh to, and take advantage of an audience that by circumstance doesn't have the cultural background to stand-up, point, and declare that the emperor ISN'T WEARING ANY CLOTHES!
Case in point:
And which Korean college student doesn't dream of Dok (rice cakes) in various forms (in a clear beefy broth with dumplings, spicy and stir-fried with octopus, etc.) while cramming for finals - repurposed in this case as 'dumplings' - giving the impression that someone actually made these by hand, instead of just opening a plastic package of frozen.
Nice simple recipe here, and even the photo looks familiar:
So where does that leave us? I guess it would be like if I went to some remote part of Western China, opened a restaurant for the very rich, sliced up some Oscar Mayer hot dogs, made a pretty design with ketchup, and sold it as "Beef, pork, and Chicken offal force meat, kissed with smoke, touched by a summer tomato coulis on Wonder Bread Toast Points" for $20/plate for half a hot dog. You'd be pissed too if you saw your unwitting friends gulping it down and asking for more. Enraged, if you saw that it was #1 of 100 top best dishes in Xinjiang province.
Now, if on the other hand, the dish had been-
Well, it might have sucked, but at least it would be something truly novel. But, I don't know, I might have to go home and experiment with this idea... :-)
There are beautifully humble fusion creations - I LOVE Kimchi fries served Poutine style with bulgogi and Sriracha mayo!
And there are exquisite, even lyrical, and inspiring dishes like the Stained Glass Sushi Masaharu Morimoto created:
I guess what I'd like to propose is that we lift up our heads from our ricebowls and declare on this thread Houston's excellent and the fake, the fanciful and the fantastic. Call-out the Emperor for his nudity, and declare the pauper's Asian-style crawfish as awesome!
What are your favorite Houston Fusion winners and losers?
(Edited to add a sauce to my biryani omrice idea)
Heh. Agreed - I was feeling too lazy split up the post! But... I hope it addresses the OP question to some extent, especially because I imagine that being one of the two Houston James Beard finalists, Underbelly is probably on most visitors' potential itinerary.
Speaking of which, someone should weigh in on Hugo's (http://hugosrestaurant.net/) for a dinner for two with wine. Can it be done for $100? I think it might be close also...
I think my friends' only regret is that they only had 2.5 days with us and Houston eats, and that we were constantly on the verge of overeating! Likewise, they may be 'Glad to be gone' to let their stomachs return to normal size/capacity... Thank God the Korean Taco trucks were too far away to chase!
Sorry sorry, was out of town and not surfing much!
At the risk of repeating prior posts, this was our itinerary:
Friday - Lunch - Alamo on Navigation (again props to Doobie for the introduction)
Friday - Dinner Teppay for sushi and ramen (the ramen was not up to its usual par for some reason, but it was really packed, so...) Sushi was still awesome.
Nu Cafe for Taiwanese style shaved ice
Saturday Dinner - Underbelly
All-in-all, Underbelly suffered from inconsistency across the menu and overhype. I think I was just really angered by the 'Korean braised goat', which was just slivers of goat. I felt like this was being passed off to people who don't usually eat Korean food as something novel, when in reality, it's just a bit of goat meat with Korean rice cakes drowned in Korean red pepper sauce.
Don't get me wrong, I liked it and I think I would recommend and try it again. But avoid the dishes that I mention above as they're just not anything special.
Chez Beignet for dessert - yum! But watch out for the owner; there are pages and pages of hate on the internet about his odd personality.
Sunday - lunch - Revival Market
Sunday - High Tea at Granduca
Sunday - Dinner
Ok - so - with that aside, let me make some quick suggestions:
These will be very close to $100 with wine, probably closer to $150 for two.
Not for dinner, but great wine bar (and you can make your own smores!):
Not great drinks, but you have to take a walk through (for atmosphere):
Nearer the Galleria, I took my parents to
And we enjoyed it - but again, probably closer to $150 or $175 depending on how hungry and picky you are about your steak. Kind of a cool atmosphere.
Also, consider the Hotel Zaza if you're looking for hip/chic, mainly because you will be in the Museum District, right across from the MFAH. Might be kind of pricey, though. (I have Hotwired Westin in the past
- Have to make a quick plug (not food, OMG!) for
For your drive- pick up a couple Banh Mi at
Finally, this is stepping out on a limb, but we have been trying to get to Chez Nous
Which is near IAH, but have not yet made it because it only opens after 5:30PM, and my wife and I just don't seem to land or pick people up from the airport around that time. Heard great things...!
Anyway, that's a very long and somewhat non-topical but hopefully somewhat helpful post. If you have a bit more time, I can list a few great places in Chinatown to check out for lunch or road food for your drive out to the beach.
Thanks for the updates! (and I can't take credit for the coffee suggestions, because the other Houston 'hounds gave me those suggestions when we moved to Houston last year!)
I will say that the Boomtown boys and girls are a lot of fun - they really love what they do and love talking about it. It's pretty fun to just shoot the breeze with them when it's not too busy. Sometimes you can get beans right off the roaster!
Sorry, I should have warned you about Revival - it's not quite what you expect from the hype, though we still love it. Maybe next time you guys are in town, a few of us Houston 'hounds can get together with you guys and have some charcuterie together!
There remain many unsung delicious little gems around Houston (like the chalupa truck in Canino's market lot on Saturdays) - hope to share them with you again in the future!
Star Snow Ice (specifically the one behind Cafe 101) has really good Taiwanese style fried chicken nuggets and beef noodle soup.
In the same plaza, Nu Cafe Shaved Ice is really great too - they make a big block of flavored ice and then shave it rather than using unflavored ice!
Just heard a great tip this weekend:
Although I was not that impressed with the Greek food at Niko Niko's (good, but not national television good), apparently, what the cooks think is their best dish is their house specialty Char-Grilled Pork Chop!
One more bar tip - again I haven't been, but it's on our list:
Oh, and how can I forget - again a tip from this board - Hugo's is apparently great for their Sunday Brunch Buffet, though that might not fit in your plans. Nevertheless, it may work for your lunch plans in the Westheimer area on Saturday. I remember reading something about James Beard Finalist or something...
Although I've been wanting to go, I know that DoobieWah really likes Houston Dairymaids, and I think they are open 10-4 on Sunday, also just a couple miles away from Revival Market.
Oh and one last thing - unfortunately, it doesn't seem like you will have a chance to hit the Bellaire Chinatown, but if you're planning on taking I-10 back, it might be worth checking out 99 Ranch Asian Market/Food court +/- Super H Mart Korean Asian Market and Food court just for the spectacle.
Lastly, if you're tight on time on Sunday, Revival Market does have locally roasted coffee with a good reputation (Greenway?) and what look to be legit baristas.
Sorry for the overload, but your visit near coincides with a visit from my foodie friends also, so I have been brainstorming their food itinerary too!
It was still open as of last summer when we moved away from STL!
I have friends who do something even more exciting at that restaurant: They bring a bunch of raw ingredients (fresh fish, meats, veg, etc.), and he makes a custom meal out of it for them!
We never had the courage to try this, but I have heard this from multiple friends. His other major specialty is soy braised offal, which is a really popular street food that my wife loves, and that's typically what we have there - simple enough to point in the display case.
Good luck and enjoy!
We've become big fans of Vinoteca Poscol in Westheimer/Montrose. In-house charcuterie with HEADCHEESE (and other things also)! On Sundays, they do roast suckling pig!
For the evening: Although not a great place for drinks Nouveau Antique Art Bar is a pretty great place to check out for their massive collection of Tiffany-style Art Nouveau lamps.
After checking out the lamps, I would promptly head to 13 Celsius Wine Bar for laid-back yet hip wine bar atmosphere. Tons of affordable by the glass with a really very helpful and engaging staff. Also nice munchies (small selection but excellent charcuterie and cheese), but not quite substantial enough for dinner.
Revival is definitely legit. And, like any charcuterie worth its (oops) salt, they will let you try pretty much everything. Although I think not everyone on this board likes it, I really enjoyed the Mangalitza Hot Dog!
For coffee (credit to the 'hounds who sent me these places to begin with) - we really like Catalina Coffee (probably within short driving for you) and Boomtown Coffee (a bit further ~15min.). I think some of the 'hounds meet at Boomtown for brunch on Sundays - can I get a chime in? Actually, if you're heading to Revival - both are reasonable distance.
Okay, my recommendation for Sarah Place is on probation. We had a beef and eggplant casserole that was good, but the squirrel fish was in a gloppy, gooey, over-the-top sweet and sour sauce, and pork belly with tofu was pretty over-salted and very short on pork belly. Garlic stir-fried pea shoots were good as were the Sichuan style green beans. Service was below even Chinese-restaurant level awful.
My friend recommended the place for their Eight Treasures Duck (which you have to order in advance), so we might go try it again, but 3/5 is kind of rough, especially when there are so many places still to try!!!
Is it possible that they no longer let you edit your posts? Well, I can't figure it out, so here's the name of our favorite Korean (not in Bellaire)
Go Hyang Korean Restaurant
Ah, I see, you have to edit within a period of time. Anyway, thanks DW - it's not a comprehensive list... yet.
We like Cafe 101 on Bellaire right before Sam Houston, but it can be hit or miss, and I've heard people can have issues with attitude from the service.
In the same plaza, we also like that particular Star Snow Ice for beef noodle soup, fried chicken nuggets, and Dan dan noodles.
Mamak is also pretty good, though I'm not Malaysian, so I can say whether or not it's authentic. I think it was better than Banana Leaf... There's some juicy gossip about chef going to the other side of the plaza and opening up the competitor restaurant, but I can't confirm or deny...
Cafe Kubo has great ramen after 5PM on the weekends (no idea why about the choice of timing).
There's a boba/noodle place right next to Cafe Kubo which we sampled once that was quite good, but I can't remember the name. Either way, a walk through this plaza is definitely worthwhile.
Used to like Korean Village, but had a couple not so great experiences and realized it's probably more catered to the Chinese palate.
On the other side of the street (Bellaire), we really liked Xiong's which has tremendous sized portions for cheap - I think the best dishes were the beef noodle soup and spicy wontons and fried chicken nuggets (sense a theme?). Didn't like the Dan dan so avoid that.
Second the vote for San Dong - definitely a favorite - also good for takeout steamed buns and frozen dumplings (big fat ones!).
Haven't found a bad Chinese bakery yet, so can definitely recommend One Ping and Six Ping bakeries.
Agree on Mala, though they can be stingy with their portions of pork bung if you're into that (like we are).
Further west is Pho Ga Dakao which specializes in chicken pho as well as Hainan Chicken rice - awesome on both counts!
We like Pho Danh in the Hong Kong City mall. Often a line on the weekends, especially Sunday lunch time.
Had hit and miss meals at Ocean Palace - I think it's about how much you're willing to spend (I was a guest both times, so...)
Heard good things about Sarah's Place, but have not been yet.
Not in Bellaire, but we loved Teppay. Excellent fish and excellent tonkotsu ramen, very nice sushi chef. One menu all in Japanese - always a good sign!
Also not in Bellaire: North of Super H Mart is a really authentic Korean place just called "Korean Restaurant" but unfortunately, I don't have the address on me right now. I'll edit this post later when I ask my wife.
Is it weird that I can identify with this and can see myself quitting everything and opening a ramen shop in Houston?
I am very sad to say that it appears the lady who makes corn tortillas is no longer at El Bollilo on Airline - assuming I went to the right store. This is the one across the street from the huge open produce market on one side and spice market on the other, right?
On the bright side, they were selling freshly made flour tortillas, and you can actually watch them making and grilling them!
The police officer there told me his favorite corn tortillas are at ... wait for it... Gerardo's! Just another great reason to go back for more tamales, carnitas and barbacoa!!! I did notice that their tortillas were especially fragrant.
Will definitely have to try Jaymes' favorite place soon. Speaking of which - picked up a pound of Rancho Gordo Bolita at Revival Market. Wow. I think these have converted my wife into a bean lover too! Mind you, she was not at all a Mexican food fan before we moved to Houston...
Not sure if this is what "Houston is known for", but I was stuck in the Galleria area for 5 days without a car last May, and I found that the weekday 'executive' lunch specials (~$15-20) at Tango Malbec (http://www.tangomalbec.com/) and Sage 400 (sushi/Japanese http://www.sage400.com/) were really great - though I was stuck in the Courtyard Marriott in that plaza. Meant to try Burger Palace, but never got around to it...
Someone else recommended a little stroll to Central Market (Brucesw, I believe) - which I did even though it was ~30min walk one way - and I enjoyed that a lot. Picked up a bunch of stuff from the extensive olive bar, a baguette, cheese, coffee, and a freshly squeezed fruit punch and had a nice picnic in the hotel room after watching a bunch of high school kids come in for Prom at the Westin. It's a long trek (that I don't necessarily recommend unless you really need to get out and walk like I did), but I enjoyed the car/people watching to the high-end strip malls nearby.
Honestly, I think the longer I live here, the more speechless I get about what "Houston is known for" other than pretty awesome food of all kinds!
Ooh! I'm definitely in! I've been wondering about the Asian places too - never been there either. I do know that I have not enjoyed the giant Chinese buffet type places that happen to serve crawfish. It often seems a kind of add-on thing.
I remember doing some research last year before moving here and someone had recommended some places just on the outskirts of town...
My wife loves German bier, and I've been dying to go also, so I'm sure we're up for it!
Oops - I suppose I just missed my cue - Wife took me to a little 'Taiwanese street food' place called 'Star Snow Ice' - I know there are a gazillion of these, but in particular this one is in the Dun Hua Plaza on south side of Bellaire just inside Sam Houston. Long lines, so you know it's gotta be good. Excellent beef soup noodles and fried spicy chicken nuggets.
Oh, wait, the thread is about getting together. Well, holy frijoles, I can't believe I didn't know there was a FB group! Just submitted my membership request!
Along the lines of crawls or meetups - sure, if you guys want to try Chinatown-Bellaire, we'd be happy to help coordinate since we have some, but need more experience there!
Brucesw and Jaymes- thanks for the suggestions! We had a great little taqueria in St Louis near our house, but the dry flavorless tortillas always left something to be desired. When we hit a local taco truck after moving to Houston, my wife suddenly became a tortilla snob, exclaiming that her outlook on Mexican food had completely changed with that sweet fresh aroma.
After reading that piece that you cited, Brucesw, I guess I'm ethically (and gustatorily) bound to support the local tortilleria!
I agree with Brucesw - I think the hardcores say that Mala isn't what it used to be, but we've liked it. I thought they skimped on the blood tofu, but you know, you can't always win.
Something that is really hot right now in the Bellaire Chinatown is Taiwanese casual food - stuff people buy at street carts in the metro Taipei area like fried pork chop, spicy salt and pepper chicken nuggets, beef noodle soup, stinky fried tofu, etc.
Although my wife doesn't like it anymore (don't get the beef noodle soup, she says), we used to got Yummy Kitchen regularly - where you can definitely get stinky tofu. She actually also liked Star Snow Ice (for hot food) in the Dun Hua plaza near Bellaire/Sam Houston. I liked both the beef noodle soup and spicy brisket hot pot at Cafe 101 in the same plaza, and frankly, based on lines around the other restaurants in the area, you probably can't go wrong with most of those eateries in that plaza.
Lastly, on the other side of Bellaire is San Dong Noodle house - not very nice on the service, but the dumplings, steamed pork buns, fried buns, etc. are pretty awesome. I splurged and had the dumpling and beef soup which was huge soup dumplings PLUS tender spicy braised beef shank in a spicy broth.
We are still exploring... About one restaurant in Chinatown a week!
Here's a good guideline: Another Chinese friend of ours once said, if there's a line, that's where you want to eat!
When I finally got to meet DW in person at Dona Tere - I told him I really enjoyed his writing - as I'm sure you all do! I enjoyed reading his account just now as much as I enjoyed being there!
Agree with Jaymes and DW's account thus far - the one part I'll add is the culinary assault that occurred when we walked into Gerardo's. Gerardo (?) or otherwise his Chef de Cuisine realized we were REALLY into food, and started handing my wife and I each a taco stuffed with barbacoa, then a HUGE piece of fried sweetbreads, and then a huge chunk of carnitas!
Lucky for me, my wife had already overindulged on the dulce tamale at Dona Tere and I got to eat the other half of her Barbacoa taco and her carnitas. She later confessed to me that she ran and hid, worried that Gerardo would keep handing her more food!
I'm a huge fan of braised porkbelly and that's what the barbacoa reminded me of - oozy warm and fatty gelatinous goodness mixed with firm meatiness, well-seasoned and just begging for a bit of salsa, squeeze of lime and onions in a warm corn tortilla. "Unctuous" was the word DW used, and I agree. We bought a pound, and I think I'm going to tear into it tonight!
Definitely loved the fried sweetbreads (had a hint of pepper) as well as the carnitas, and will have to make another trip to have them fresh on the premises. Also on that list will be the Chicharrones and more of the awesome habanero sauce that DW was raving about!
Tongue-in-cheek (so to speak) aside, it's a humble lunch counter type of hole-in-the-wall, but the warmth of the staff is really incomparable. Kind of like stepping into the kitchen of the Mexican Abuelita you never had... Can't say enough great things about it.
Thanks to Jaymes and DoobieWah for taking us around - and Mrs. Neo and I owe you guys the next round. Also, really glad Anness could make a cameo appearance too!
On a side note - this was not part of the Tamal Crawl, but I wanted to give props to another place. I discovered a little place called El Rey in Baytown, which is run by a mostly El Salvadoran family (moved here from Northern Virginia, incidentally). Had some of their pupusas which were ok - maybe I'm not a pupusa guy, but the show stopper for me was the package of something that was leaking orange oil all over my passenger seat on the drive back to town. When I finally opened the green leaves (lotus? banana?), my arm was dripping in the fat, and wow, warm, masa, fatty meatiness, some vegetable, slight spiciness, amazingness. I inhaled it and wanted more.
If you're in Baytown, check it out:
So, next, Korean or Chinese anyone? A new thread?
Bumpin' up Jaymes' post!
TAMAL CRAWL 2013!
Be there or be square. Or just without Tamales. Or without tamales with us.
So... it sounds like 2/2 is a good day for at least Doobie and Jaymes...? How do we communicate off the board?
Also, since I'm not from here nor do I have a Mexican background, would love some tips about where/what to get for accoutrements for Tamales!
Yes yes yes! What do you think of planning for February to give us some time to plan, or should we just keep it informal? (2/2, 2/23 in particular look good for me).
We live on Fannin in the Museum district in an apt building that has some nice common space that can be reserved if that serves as a good central area to meet....?
I didn't want to be the lone voice of dissent, esp since I'm new to the group, but I can't make it for 12/29 either. Will it be near impossible to get Tamales in January?
Otherwise, I guess I vote for 12/15 after 5PM... But if something else works better for everyone else, I'll just have to admire the photos and descriptions!
Whoa whoa whoa! I haven't been on for a few days, and clearly I missed the RSVP deadline! When and where are we talking about? I'm also happy to help out with the buying chores...
Interested! Was just going to suggest another Tamale run!
Someone just told me at work that Arandas on 59 North right outside downtown has good Tamales, though the rest of their food is not good. (In fact, this someone says someone else at work has been passing the tamales off as homemade!)
Oooh. Nice! Will definitely check out the trout next time at HEB!
Well.... Since you asked about getting sketched out: There were two incidences. The first, the guy didn't know what he was doing, and ... I guess missed the head when he knocked the fish (a catfish, which 1 has a very primitive nervous system and 2 is dang awesome when braised with hot bean sauce and tofu!). Well, the guy was so nervous, he gutted the thing and threw it in a plastic bag and gave it to me. Throughout the rest of our shopping, the poor thing kept wiggling in the cart - because IT WAS STILL ALIVE. Gutted, but alive. It wiggled in the cart, wiggled in the car, wiggled on my cutting board before I stuck it in the pot. It was really tasty, but both my wife and I were traumatized by that experience!
The truly sketchy experience didn't involve a live fish - which is why after this I insisted on only buying whole live fish. I bought a pomfret (while still in St Louis), hoping to try a new fish - up to then I had only steamed tilapia, striped bass, and roasted salmon or steelhead trout. Plus, I had dreams of tea-smoking those little delicious things. Well, the gills weren't obviously nice, but the eyes still looked clear, so I felt pretty good about the purchase. Nope. Steamed it, but it had a nasty off flavor, and went straight to the trash.
Problem was, I had invited my not-yet-wife over for dinner, and thankfully in Chinese style, I had a few other dishes as back up, but that was sorely disappointing - if not downright embarassing!
I had one other bad experience with a whole mackerel that I tried to roast - and it was just off. That being said, it was one in 10, and the others were fantastic.
What I realized then was that some Asian markets do have the unsavory practice of freezing, thawing, and... re-freezing their fish. As a result, I'm never sure if the sunken eyes are due to previously thawed or ... previously thawed and frozen and rethawed again! I suppose I could do the sniff test, but in the midst of all the other fish and sometimes fish guts, it's hard to be sure what you're smelling...
Anyway, I LOVE mackerel, but you can only get it dead, and I have been missing that rich salty tastiness after a quick oven broil. So... I'm looking for advice on a new reputable source. I'm excited about the places you guys mentioned, and will definitely be reporting my experiences!
Thanks for all the suggestions!
I have a confession: We live in walking distance of Airline - I had no idea it was there - BUT I'm going there TODAY!
I will also confess that we have previously been sketched out by a couple bad experiences at Chinese markets with whole fish back when we lived in St Louis. Now, I know, this isn't St Louis, and a live fish is a live fish, but I haven't been able to bring myself to buy a fish yet at Ranch 99 or other Chinese market. This is despite the fact that my favorite way to eat fish is whole, steamed with sweetened soy, scallions, and ginger... (mmmmm)
Ok, so it's just me and the wife this year for Thanksgiving, and we're both volunteering half the day so no crazy Turkey plans. I'm loving reading all the Thanksgiving recipes, but as I came across recipes including oysters, my mind started wandering - Where should I buy oysters?
So, Houston, where do you buy your fish, oysters, clams, mussels, crawfish, or shrimp?
Extra points for whole or live seafood!
Well, I'm new to Texas bbq - learned about bbq from my time in Virginia, but grew to love Eastern Carolina (pork shoulder with spicy white vinegar based sauce) - so I wanted to see what everyone's thoughts were on a place I just tried.
Based one someone else's rec for coffee, I ended up driving 20min. south from Hobby after landing down to Pearland Coffee. Picked up a couple pounds of their beans, chatted briefly with roastmaster, then noticed an amazing smell of hickory coming from next door:
Looked like a tiny mom/pop type place - apparently the owners are ?Cuban. Recs from other people in line included the 1/2 baked potato with chopped beef ('moist' brisket!) with all the trimmings (sour cream, cheese, green onions!). This was awesome! Had sliced brisket and sliced chicken plus two sides (yellow rice and pinto beans). Chicken was excellent with or without the sauce as were the two sides. Still unsure about the brisket - soft and tender, but a bit dry and maybe less smoky than I would have preferred, although I forgot to ask for the moist cut (had too much fun talking to the folks in line with me - super friendly people).
Anybody else been there? Can you help me calibrate my Southeastern BBQ taste buds?
BTW, since this topic refuses to die (in its various incarnations) should we have a sticky?