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Not only my first time in Houston, but my first time in Texas

Thanks! I hope to be back soon.

Dec 14, 2013
marcus68 in Houston

Not only my first time in Houston, but my first time in Texas

I didn't mention it, but not one single taxi driver seemed to know where he/she was going. On my first morning, I gave the name and address for Gatlin's, the guy had a GPS but had to call Gatlin's twice, and we still got lost — twice!

I'm definitely driving next time!

Dec 09, 2013
marcus68 in Houston

Not only my first time in Houston, but my first time in Texas

And some quick photos:

Gatlin's on the black plate
Virgie's in the white styrofoam
El Real Tex-Mex
Outside the Menil Collection

Dec 08, 2013
marcus68 in Houston
1

Not only my first time in Houston, but my first time in Texas

I just got back home from Houston. Here's my report:

The barbecue was indeed very good. I visited Gatlin's on my first morning (right when they opened, at 11am). The 'three meat meal' looked great: ribs, brisket, and sausage with slaw and baked beans. Truth be told, I found the ribs and brisket a little dry (any chance that the first few orders of the day use yesterday's leftovers?) But this was my first Texas BBQ, and I was happy. The sides were quite good. The surprise for me was the sausage, which I didn't really want (I'm from a German background and am quite particular about my sausage.) It was VERY good.

On my second day I visited Virgie's. I again had the 'three meat meal' with slaw and (this time) green beans. The slaw was so-so, and the beans were pretty awful. They were obviously from a can (mushy), but heated up in some sort of seasoning. The revelation was the meats. Fantastic! I showed up just after 1pm, and the brisket and ribs were nice and juicy — and beautiful. The sausage was great here too.

I had wanted to try Original Ninfa's, but because of time constraints (my wife wanted to do some shopping) I took a shot that the Ninfa's at the Galleria Mall would be similar. Big mistake. I don't remember the last time I left a plate of food virtually untouched (pork carnitas enchiladas with some sort of green sauce). I think the carnitas may have been a week old. Inedible. Fortunately I had a crispy beef taco as a side dish. It was decent, so I ordered a second. The margarita was OK too.

I managed a final lunch at El Real and was pretty impressed. (And made me regret my wasted meal at Ninfa's even more.) I had a puffy taco, an enchilada and a tamale, plus guacamole and some of my wife's cheese enchilada. All dishes were very good — the puffy taco not as good as I wanted it to be, the famous cheese enchilada better than I thought it could be. My margarita was excellent, and my wife, who loves tres leches, pronounced the El Real version the best she'd ever had. I wish I had room for the hot churros.

I also had some very good breakfast tacos at Tacos A-Go-Go on Main Street. I wish I could start every morning with some of those! (My cardiologist, however, would probably discourage the idea.)

Now for my thoughts on my one 'fancy' meal. We went to Brennan's with friends who have just recently relocated to Houston. I don't mean to step on anyone's toes; I know a lot of locals love this place. But I thought it was pretty mediocre. I had the famous turtle soup, which was just OK. My main was a combination of two of my favourite seafoods: flounder stuffed with crab. It was virtually tasteless. It was also covered in so much cream sauce that my friend asked me if I had ordered soup as my main. I also cringed a little when a stale chunk of supermarket baguette was placed on my side dish. My wife did well with her choice of shrimp and grits. Quite good. But none of the rest of the table thought very much about the food. On the bright side, the service great, the atmosphere was very nice, the cocktails and wines were good, the lemon meringue pie was one of the best I’ve ever had, and my wife’s Bananas Foster was awesome.

Some random notes: I had a look at Treebeard’s. It looked good and I will definitely try it next time. I had my first Chick-fil-A sandwich. If you’re new to the south and south-west, give it a try. It’s pretty good for fast food. Next time I will rent a car. The taxi fare to Gatlin’s was $25 from downtown, and the fare to Virgie’s was $45 — each way! I was warned, but it bears repeating: Houston is HUGE! I did manage a cultural outing: The Menil Collection. If you are in anyway partial to modern art, you must visit this charming gallery/museum, including all the associated sculptures and galleries nearby. And best of all, it’s free!

Next time I’d like to try Pierson’s & Co. for BBQ, Barbecue Inn for fried chicken, chicken fried steak and ‘side shrimp’, Anvil Bar & Refuge for some cocktails, Danton’s for Gulf Seafood, Hugo’s for regional Mexican, and of course, The Original Ninfa’s for proper Tex-Mex.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to give me all the advice I needed for a great food trip to Houston!

Dec 08, 2013
marcus68 in Houston
2

two days in shibuya looking for sushi. ramen and yakatori

Yakitori:

You can't go wrong with Morimoto. It's quite close to Cerulean Tower. It's at: Hamanoue Bldg, 1F, Dogenzaka 2-7-4
They open at around 4:30pm. Go early if you don't want to wait. They only have something like two tables.

Here's a map:
http://www.picrumb.com/morimoto/

I got the map from from a write up that may be useful for you, but I can't vouch for any of the restaurants it mentions, but like most people here have said, you can't really go wrong, and a map, photo and little write up can be useful if your Japanese is limited, and/or if your geographical knowledge is limited):
http://www.picrumb.com/shibuya/

Nov 25, 2013
marcus68 in Japan

two days in shibuya looking for sushi. ramen and yakatori

For ramen in the Shibuya area, I love Santoka (for salt, soy and miso ramen, plus their awesome pork cheek 'char siu' — it sounds boring, but go for the salt broth. So good.), Kyushu Jangara Ramen (for thick or thin tonkotsu ramen), and Ippudo (also for tonkotsu ramen).

Santoka is on Meji street (3-13-7 Shibuya) http://gmap.jp/shop-8065.html
(They also have a location on an alley off Omotesando street, parallel to Cat Street — by the way, Harajuku Gyoza, across the alley, is also a favourite!

)

Kyushu Jangara is on Omotesando street (1-13-21 Jingu-mae) http://www.sunnypages.jp/travel_guide/tokyo_restaurants/ramen/Kyushu+Jangara+Ramen+Harajuku/623/access

Ippudo (Ebisu) is also on Meji street (1−3−13 Hiroo)https://maps.google.com/maps?q=恵比寿一風堂...

There are literally hundreds more fantastic ramen shops, but these three are places that have been around for a while, and my guests always enjoy them.

Nov 24, 2013
marcus68 in Japan

Not only my first time in Houston, but my first time in Texas

Thanks Jaymes! I have watched a fair bit of food television and have come to realize that the Austin area is ground zero for what is generally considered the best barbecue in Texas, if not the world. My first thought was to rent a car, but at 2+ hours each way into the region, and some pretty good notices for some of the Houston joints, I think I'll leave Hill Country for another time. But that trip is now at the top of my travel wish list!

Nov 20, 2013
marcus68 in Houston

Not only my first time in Houston, but my first time in Texas

If you go, it would be great to hear about your current impressions, particularly about Pierson's!

Nov 20, 2013
marcus68 in Houston

Not only my first time in Houston, but my first time in Texas

Great notes, brucesw! Thank you very much.

My initial 'point of entry' into Texas Barbecue (other than Hill Country in New York City...) was the Full Custom Gospel BBQ Blog. It was the reason for me to initially think I needed to rent a car and head up to Lockhart, or the Austin area. Until I noticed the Region links which lead me to several favorable reviews for Houston BBQ establishments (Gatlin's, Virgie's and Pierson's get 5 stars, Gerraro's and Pizzitola's get 4 stars).

I can't wait!

I know this discussion has veered off into a BBQ talk, but I still intend to eat my fair share of Tex-Mex and Gulf Seafood (possibly with a cajun influence...) The Puerto Rican place kagemusha49 mentioned is also very appealing, as is this 'puffy taco' thing I keep hearing about. And Brennan's is a must too.

Nov 20, 2013
marcus68 in Houston

Not only my first time in Houston, but my first time in Texas

Oh my god. I'm salivating already. Thanks again to everyone for the carefully considered advice. I really like the details of what the 'specialties of the house' are at each place.

Any thoughts on the best time to start to line up, or length of time I'm likely to wait at a place like Gatlin's? Doing a BBQ crawl seems like it would necessitate good timing. Or perhaps waiting times is not too much of an issue? On the other hand, I've heard stories of waiting 'forever' at popular places.

Nov 18, 2013
marcus68 in Houston

Not only my first time in Houston, but my first time in Texas

Awesome advice! Thanks everyone!

I have a couple of follow up questions:

Is Brennan's very fancy?

I don't doubt that Houston BBQ isn't mediocre. I'm quite excited about sampling the real thing. And I'm willing (and probably able) to put in the time required to experience the better places. That being said, I was wondering what a good strategy is for getting good BBQ: when should I arrive if I can arrive anytime before mid-afternoon? How long can I expect to wait on a weekday? Anything else I should know, etiquette to follow?

I would like to try at least a couple of barbecue places. Any thoughts about my list of options/possibilities:

Gatlin's (obviously)
Virgie's
Pizzitola's
Goode Company
BBQ Inn
Beaver's
Gerardo's Drive-In

All these places seem to be within a 15 minute taxi ride from my hotel, except for Virgie's, which seems to be closer to 25 minutes. (Pierson & Co. also seems to be about 25 minutes away from downtown.) What's your top two or three?

Thanks in advance — again!

Nov 18, 2013
marcus68 in Houston

Not only my first time in Houston, but my first time in Texas

Thank you kagemusha49, mjust and rondi. Great advice. And yes, I probably should have mentioned where I'll be staying. I'll be at a hotel near Texas Ave and Main St.

I will not have a car, but I have been considering a rental, especially if good barbecue can only be had outside the city. (Barbecue is probably my main objective, so any advice in this regard would be especially appreciated!) Gatlin's is now definitely on my list, as is Danton's. As for Mex/Tex-Mex, I have also been reading lots of mentions of El Real and also El Hidalguense and Mexico's Deli. Any thoughts about these places?

Anyway, thanks again for the suggestions. And if anyone would like to add any 'location-based advice', that would be great too.

Nov 17, 2013
marcus68 in Houston

Not only my first time in Houston, but my first time in Texas

I've spent the last couple of hours reading through CH posts for Houston and I'm finding all the 'first timer' and 'best' lists a little too international. I'm currently working in the Middle East (Dubai) and I travel a lot to India, Asia and Europe. I don't want to eat any of those cuisines in Houston when I'm there for only four days at the beginning of December. I want to 'taste' Houston, to get a feeling of what Texas (at least that part of Texas) has to offer in terms of local cuisine.

I feel I should be looking for barbecue, Tex-Mex, maybe some Gulf seafood. But is there a Texan cuisine that can be sampled? (What did multi-generation-locals grow up eating?)

Any guidance, or suggestions in any of these categories would be greatly appreciated!

Nov 16, 2013
marcus68 in Houston

Any Suggestions for the Best Mid-Level Sushi in Tokyo?

Trip Report

I have now returned home from my trip to Tokyo. Here are some notes about the suggestions made to me in this thread, and a great, reasonably priced, sushi recommendation:

Kozasa was indeed very good. The restaurant is VERY hard to find, but inside it is nice and welcoming. The service was very slow. The master had no kitchen help and often disappeared into the back to prepare foods. The only other staff were two women who focused on hosting and serving drinks. The sushi was very good, but very expensive. We ordered 'omakase' and received only nigiri sushi. We also ordered a couple maki sushi at the end. It wasn't a huge amount of food (we went for ramen afterwards). We were three people. We drank two flasks of junmaishu sake and had three beers to start. The bill came to just over 40,000 yen. (My wife and I went with a young Japanese acquaintance who, it turned out, had never previously had 'high-end' sushi. He had no idea about ordering and we missed out on what would likely have been excellent appetizers. But then the already high cost would have been much higher.)

I did find another 'mid-level' sushi place on this trip that I whole-heartedly recommend. It's a little out of the way, but if you lack Japanese language and/or sushi ordering experience, it's an ideal place. Although it's the kind of restaurant for locals, where everything is in Japanese, they employ a cute young girl as a hostess/server who happens to speak perfect English. She could guide you through the appetizer and drinks menu, and assist with your sushi course selection. We had some delicious white fish tempura (sanma, I think) seasonal vegetables in a yummy sesame dressing, one huge oyster each and a fantastic selection of sashimi. We followed the starters with the omakase nigiri course, which was really good. (Some diners were ordering cooked dishes. The braised fish head looked awesome.) We finished with about three extra nigiri each and one maki each. We drank several beers and had at least a half dozen flasks of junmaishu sake. The bill was just under 40,000 yen for all three of us. The place is called Sushi Kurami. The address is 3-5-6-103 Kachidoki, Chuo-ku, tel. 03-3534-9598. The master, Kimihiko Kobayashi, used to work at the well known Sushi Dai at Tsukiji. It seems a little out of the way in Kachidoki, but it's actually just a short taxi ride from Ginza (where we had drinks afterwards). I will definitely be back!

I also ate at Tamoiyanse, the Kyushu izakaya. Because they focused on Miyazaki cuisine, a good deal of the menu was for chicken dishes. Their well know chicken and leek hotpot (tori-negi nabe) was a highlight. They also served perhaps my most favourite kyushu dish of sweet soy braised porkbelly with egg (the name escapes me at the moment, the menu refered to the dish as pork ragu). Speaking of the menu, it had English translations of all the dishes (very rare for izakaya), although the translations often seemed like they were done by Google Translate, and somewhat confusing.

I really wanted to get to Sushi-ya Uoshin in Shimokitazawa, but I didn't have time.

Thanks again to all for your help!

Feb 07, 2012
marcus68 in Japan

Any Suggestions for the Best Mid-Level Sushi in Tokyo?

Thank you Ninisix. I managed to get a reservation at Kozasa, but I will definitely keep Sushi Taichi in mind for next time, or maybe for another day on my trip.

Jan 23, 2012
marcus68 in Japan

Any Suggestions for the Best Mid-Level Sushi in Tokyo?

Thanks again Silverjay! I managed to secure a reservation at Kozasa for Thursday night and at Tamoiyanse for Friday night. My week is shaping up nicely!

Jan 23, 2012
marcus68 in Japan

Any Suggestions for the Best Mid-Level Sushi in Tokyo?

Awesome! Thanks Silverjay.

When you say Nihonshu, do you mean sake or shochu? I'm more of an imo-shu man — and I believe they call it Nihon-shu down in Kagoshima.

(Sorry, I mis-read your Kozasa review post date. Your first post, after you couldn't get in, was a year and a half ago.)

Jan 22, 2012
marcus68 in Japan

Any Suggestions for the Best Mid-Level Sushi in Tokyo?

Thanks, Silverjay. Coincidentally, I will be staying at a friend's home in Shinsen. I also just read your review of Kozasa and it seems like an excellent choice. My only concern is that, while your bill was in my price range, your visit was a year and a half ago. Tabelog seems to imply it's rather more expensive (not 100% sure, I don't read kanji). But I will try to go regardless.

Also, in regards to your Kozasa review, have you ever been to たもいやんせ? I need a good local izakaya too, and I love me some kyushu-ryori and imo shochu.

Thanks again!

Jan 22, 2012
marcus68 in Japan

Any Suggestions for the Best Mid-Level Sushi in Tokyo?

I appreciate your reply, MoGa.

Perhaps I should have explained that I am not a Japan newbie. I lived there for a couple of years a decade ago, and return frequently. I have tried many of the places at Tsukiji, including Daiwa and Sushi Dai. Ten years ago the wait was perfectly fine, but these days, I'm too old for that sort of thing. But more importantly, I really do need to be able to have my 'mid-level' sushi meal in the evening.

But maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree. Is there perhaps no 'good-value' sushi at this price point? I'm not expecting sublime, but I thought maybe I could have a nice evening with 'very good' sushi at this level.

I will check out Sushi Gin.

Jan 22, 2012
marcus68 in Japan

Any Suggestions for the Best Mid-Level Sushi in Tokyo?

Hi everyone. I'd love some help with a sushi recommendation:

I spent a lot of time searching and reading through chowhound posts, but everything seems to be about the best 'cheap' sushi or the best superlative, 3-star sushi. But if I missed a thread somewhere on this topic, please point me to it.

I would like to have some mid-level sushi. I don't want to spend 3000 yen and I don't want to spend 50,000 yen or more. I would like to eat some good value sushi in the 10,000 to 12,000 range (give or take 20,000 yen). I know it's debatable whether or not this price range should be termed 'mid-level' — I just don't want cheap and I don't want astronomical. Also, I would prefer to pay for the food rather than the decor. I will be going with a Japanese friend, so language will not be an issue. Ideally, somewhere broadly between Ginza and Shibuya would be great.

I will be in Tokyo next week, for a week. I would like to have a weeknight dinner (although outstanding lunch specials could be fit in on other days!) Since the trip is soon, it needs to be a place where I could to get in at short notice (ie. not super popular).

Thank you!

Jan 21, 2012
marcus68 in Japan

Trentino-Alto Adige / Lago di Garda (having difficulty finding recommendations)

I will be staying in the south-west corner of Trentino-Alto Adige province, which incorporates the top bit of Lake Garda.

Recommendations for this province tend to be around the big cities, especially Trento, which is fairly far from where I will be. Recommendations for Lake Garda tend to be for places to the south - in Lombardy and Veneto Provinces. I will be a fair distance from both of these 'recommendation zones'. I will be to the west of Riva del Garda, around Lago di Ledro.

Does anyone know this area or have any suggestions about where to eat?

Jul 08, 2011
marcus68 in Italy

Your Favorite Pizza in Italy--worthy of a train ride or a long wait in line

In Naples, Da Michele is probably the best if you want a standard margherita or marinara and Di Matteo is very good as well. However, my favourite is Trianon (diagonally across from Da Michele) for their 'D.O.P.' pizza. I always considered pizza one of my favourite foods, but this particular pizza was a revelation.

In Rome, I really like Pizzarium. It's very good, but completely different from Naples pizza.

Extra tips:

If you find yourself anywhere near the main station in Rome, particulary in the morning, make a trip to Panella at Via Merulana 54-55. Before my first visit, I didn't know Italian pastries could be so good. They make good savoury sandwich-y things too. Don't miss the weird espresso + zabaione concoction they make there in the mornings.

In Naples, try to visit one of the 'Mexico' coffee shops. I'm not a super coffee connoisseur, but the coffee there was awesome. Don't be put off by the name - this is a real Naples coffee shop.

-----
Da Michele
Via Cesare Sersale, 1, Naples, Campania 80139, IT

Di Matteo
Via Tribunali, 94, Naples, Campania , IT

Trianon
Via P. Colletta 46, Naples, Campania 80139, IT

Pizzarium
Via della Meloria, 43, Rome, Lazio 00136, IT

Jul 07, 2011
marcus68 in Italy

Naples Espresso

Once I found Mexico (the Naples coffee chain) I kept going back. I'm with you - the city had possibly the best standard of coffee in the world...

Jul 07, 2011
marcus68 in Italy

North/West Lake Garda

I'm desperate for some recommendations for simple places to eat, west of Riva del Garda. I'm visiting some German relatives holidaying near the village of Bezzecca, near Lake Ledro.

My relatives assured me the food is great there - and then I found out that they eat at the same 'amazing' pizzeria every night. I like pizza, but...

I won't have my own car, so I can't ask to be driven too far. Since the family will be staying in a simple cabin and plan on eating pizza every night, I can't ask them to splash out on anything too expensive (although I'd be happy to treat on a couple of nights). Anything rustic, better than average and/or with some local specialties would be ideal.

Any help, suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Please don't make me eat pizza every night!

Thanks in advance!

Jul 04, 2011
marcus68 in Italy

Hamburg, Berlin, November...

Thanks!
Are there any specifics about getting around/getting the most out of the Fischmarkt? Is there a good time to get started?

I'm starting to pack now. Tomorrow is my last day at home. Thanks to everyone for the great tips!

Nov 10, 2010
marcus68 in Europe

Hamburg, Berlin, November...

Thanks once again Phoenikia, and to Linguafood too (I've read many of your informative posts already).

I expect to visit a Konditorei each afternoon. Werkstatt der Süße sounds like the perfect place!

I do speak German, not fluently, but enough to get by and understand the important bits of text on websites. So the links are great.

One question: I have been intrigued by Rogacki since I saw it on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. It was at the top of my list before I started to look around online. I never seems to be mentioned anywhere. Is it worth a visit?

Unfortunately, I only have three days in Berlin. I know it's not enough. Usually I'm happy to explore the food scene on my own, but wanted to get some knowledgeable advice because my time is so short. By the way - I'll be staying near Checkpoint Charlie.

I'll be in Hamburg next Friday afternoon and Berlin a few days later! Yay!

Nov 06, 2010
marcus68 in Europe

Hamburg, Berlin, November...

Thank you phoenikia!

This list definitely gets my mouth watering! My father was from East Prussia (the former Tilsit) and I haven't eaten Konigsberger Klopse since my grandmother passed away over fifteen years ago. I will absolutely try Marjellchen.

Thanks again. A list of local specialties is exactly what I was hoping for!

Nov 05, 2010
marcus68 in Europe

Hamburg, Berlin, November...

All great suggestion, and definitely all within the level of cuisine I'm looking for. But although I'd agree that Doner is now definitely part of the German food scene, I was hoping for slightly more 'Teutonic' delicacies to sample. I live in the Middle East and travel frequently to New York. This is simply to say that I frequently get my fill of other Middle Eastern foods such as Falafel and kebabs, as well as 'American' specialties like pizza and burgers.

Oh, and nothing wrong with a bit of 'best Currywurst' debate. I plan to try as many as possible!

Thanks again!

Nov 05, 2010
marcus68 in Europe

Hamburg, Berlin, November...

My wife and I will be in Hamburg and Berlin for a few days in mid-November. We're interested in 'local specialties' rather than fancy foods on this short trip. Any top tips (especially for things like the good currywurst) would be greatly appreciated. Also, we will be in Hamburg on a Sunday and hope to experience the Fischmarkt early in the morning. Any advice on how best to go about this would be great.

Thanks in advance!

Oct 24, 2010
marcus68 in Europe

Good Tokyo Izakaya with an English Menu?

Thanks for all the recommendations. It seems I now have quite a few choices. I'm leaving for my trip soon and I'm looking forward to some nice, diverse izakaya meals.

The Gurunavi site is quite fun to look at. It surprises me how many English listings there are. However, I assume these are essentially advertisements, or listings done by the establishments themselves. I think I'll probably be trying some Chowhound recommendations first. I think I'll leave Andy's for when I'm in the area and looking for a fun time with friends.

Thanks again to everyone who posted on this thread.

Apr 27, 2009
marcus68 in Japan