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houston restaurant week 2008 - reviews

I ate at the grove on Monday:

Apparently they don't want to sell the idea of restaurant week because we were given normal menus and the event was not mentioned. I had to ask for the HRW menus. I can see why. The portions are huge - or, standard American big I guess, depending on your point of view. We tried everything on the HRW menu. Appetizers included the lobster crab bisque and a salad. The arugula/baby greens were fine, and it was enormous, easily split for two. A toasted piece of bread with cheese on the side was ok, but just like my toasted bread with the soup kind of...an after thought. The bisque was heavy on crab flavor, a little fishy, strong spices or roux taste, and thus overall heavy-handed - or maybe actually attempting to finish the portion was a mistake. Mains: organic roasted chicken and roasted salmon on roasted corn. The chicken was excellent, moist, flavorful, spiced. Accompanied with delicious roasted potatoes. The salmon was underseasoned but prepared well. The corn was also underseasoned. Again, both were large portions. Our group ordered two bottles of wine - a Cloudline 2006 ($37) Pinot Gris / Oregon, and a pinot noir Laetitia 'Limite' 2006 /Arroyo Grande ($35). The pinot noir was smooth to perhaps being a little dull, I liked the gris enough.

Dessert - butterscotch flan with seasonal berries or a pie plate: two key lime pie squares, and two pecan pie squares. Key lime pie was lime-tart refreshing and the pecan pie was sweet chewy texture good. I'm not a fan of butterscotch so can't quite comment on the flan. Service was moderately attentive, a lot of large business tables competing for our attention. If you want the $35 to count, the Grove satisfies. I imagine if they do this a bit more they might scale back on the portions.

Aug 13, 2008
tatitraveller in Houston

Casual Catering/Party Rooms in Houston

azuma (japn) on kirby and t'afia (local american) both have private rooms that might accomodate that number, and hugo's (upscale mex) on westheimer will accomodate large parties but they tend to add a lot of fees after the "meal" price is negotiated.

Jun 27, 2008
tatitraveller in Houston

[HOU] Coal vs. wood burning oven for pizza?

perhaps we will plan a trip soon! extra crispy pie all the way around.

Jun 27, 2008
tatitraveller in Houston

Indian food in Houston

i second the recommendation for udipi. excellent vegetarian fare, tasty and filling, for even those who like LOTS of meat. as for indika, i was expecting indian food when i went, so did not enjoy my experience as much. I agree with jscarbor that it is in a separate category, being inventive and non-traditional (see Tabla in NYC for example). Although inventive cuisine is coming to Bangalore so perhaps "traditional" Indian will be changing soon (see gourmet.com's 5 Jun 08 "tampering with tradition" http://www.gourmet.com/travel/2008/06...)

Jun 27, 2008
tatitraveller in Houston

Houston Puerto Rican

visually on the interior it's fun and bright. the people are nice. the cocktails like mojito and pina colada were sweet and cooling. however i would not go back for the food - overall it was average (octopus chewy, beans and rice underseasoned, fish overfried). A few bright spots though, as the cheese plantain, fish plantain fritter things (don't remember name) were tasty. i also got the impression that the large amounts of garlic used in the dishes were coming from a jar.

Jun 13, 2008
tatitraveller in Texas

[HOU] Coal vs. wood burning oven for pizza?

sounds like it's worth a trip out there, but maybe not twice. the answer i now would like to know is if it is better than da marco's or dolce vita's pizza, locations much closer to me.

Jun 11, 2008
tatitraveller in Houston

[HOU] Coal vs. wood burning oven for pizza?

Saw a link in the Chronicle about the ONLY coal burning pizza oven in Houston, New York Coal-Fired Pizzeria (just opened at 19817 Northwest Freeway).

I was intrigued by the last line, "Coal-oven pizza is not for everybody — but if you're looking for old-school, this is it".

Anyone had the chance to compare wood vs coal oven pizza? Why would it not be to the liking of everyone, the burnt crust alluded to in the article maybe?

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/l...

Jun 10, 2008
tatitraveller in Houston

Downtown Houston Must Go

I live downtown and frequent these spots by rail and walking. Be aware a lot of places are closed on Sunday.

Downtown: El Rey (cuba/mex), 17 at the Alden hotel (upscale and new chef, open for breakfast too), Vic & Anthony's (15 - 20 minute walk; excellent steak), Les Givral's if you need a cafe sua da on a Saturday, La Carafe (oldest building in Houston, chilled mugs for beer, terrace open weekends), Flying Saucer (usually has the most people, lots of beer), Dean's Credit Clothing (mixed drinks, people watching), Sambuca for the music but I've found the food to be mediocre at best. And check out the new discovery green (http://www.discoverygreen.com/) for urban park and dining (the Grove).

Midtown: 13 Celcius (at Anita & Caroline) for a low-key wine bar walking distance from the rail. they also serve panini and meat/cheese plates. you will know you're close when you smell sweetness in the air from the (i think) fortune cookie factory next door. Open city (southern continental, good sangria and view of the downtown skyline from terrace, a bit of a walk from rail
)i second the other recommendations: Reef, T'afia, Breakfast Klub. (thelma's might be a disconcerting walk as a lot of the area around looks abandoned)

have fun

May 23, 2008
tatitraveller in Texas

[Houston] Best Of List

For authentic street Thai food cooked to order for primarily Thai and Cambodian clientele - Asia Market. 1010 W Cavalcade St. The papaya salad and sticky rice are phenomenal. A tripe and "other stuff" laab is fantastic as well.

I experienced mediocre food both at Blue Nile and Cafe Malay but they may indeed be the best that Houston has to offer in those categories.

I second the Andres Pastry Shop nomination.

Spanish/Tapas - Catalan
Pizza - Dolce Vita
Seafood - Reef

May 19, 2008
tatitraveller in Texas

Closings in Houston?

i thought that bank was revamping and reopening in march but this is rumour...

Jan 16, 2008
tatitraveller in Texas

Good fishmonger in Houston

the hong kong city mall supermarket has a large seafood selection but my experience is mixed. i got a whole red snapper and it tasted super muddy after steaming it. another time i got a beautiful blue fish, oven roasted it turned out delicious. none of the stuff there i would trust as sushi quality however.

Jan 06, 2008
tatitraveller in Texas

Seeking Korean food in Houston

I tried Jangkum Tofu House recently. 9888 Bellaire Blvd Houston 77036
(713) 773-2229

In sum: excellent tofu, decent banchan, weird soft-serve yogurt.

It's in a relatively new shopping center (1 year old) on Bellaire (inside beltway 8). For $10 pp we ate soft tofu stew in an iron pot (sundubu jigae), rice served in a secondary iron pot, a variety of small dishes (banchan), and as much soft-serve yogurt that you might wish for.

The tofu was excellent. The seafood tofu pot included shrimp (head-on), clams and oysters. I ordered "very" extra spicy and it was not that spicy. I also tried the beef tripe tofu stew which I thought was better - the broth was more dynamic (more umami taste), but my partner was disappointed that there wasn't both beef AND tripe, just tripe. It is served with raw eggs which you crack into the stew to cook through.

The banchan: a whole fried fish which was ok, and would have benefited by a dipping sauce, bean sprouts, kimchi, spicy zucchini (the best of the lot), cured tufu slices. Overall, the banchan were tired tasting, if that can make sense.

The soft-serve yogurt gimmick was strange. The machine sits in the middle of the restaurant by the front door and the hum fills the space. The soft-serve does not taste of either chocolate, vanilla, or even yogurt. It's just kind of...cold. But, hey - you can eat as much as you want.

The restaurant was full of Korean speakers at lunch, and the decor is pleasant (korean newspaper print wall paper, bamboo, nice lighting). I think I'll go back to try the bibimbap. If you like tofu, you should check this place out.

Dec 16, 2007
tatitraveller in Texas

One night/ two days in Houston - where should we go?

Upscale gourmet Italian: Da Marco (montrose area)
sophisticated seafood with excellent wine: Reef (midtown)
Tasting menu: 17 at the Alden Hotel (downtown)

Nov 24, 2007
tatitraveller in Texas

[Hou] Saturday business brunch?

Daily Review Cafe: Great for brunch.

I had crabcake eggs benedict. The crab cake was excellent (crispy on the outside, soft texture on the inside, spicy, more crab than filler), although somewhat small portioned. Good coffee.

We sat on the covered porch in the back. You can hear yourself talk, the service is efficient and friendly, coffee refilled forever. We sat for 3 hrs and they were gracious about us taking up table space.

Nov 14, 2007
tatitraveller in Texas

[Hou] Saturday business brunch?

Brennan's sounds lovely but too upscale for this particular brunch. It is now on my list though.

I decided to go with the daily review cafe. it has brunch, prices mid-range, and it's open saturday. i'll see how it goes!

Nov 08, 2007
tatitraveller in Texas

[Hou] Saturday business brunch?

excellent suggestion! unfort. my guest is going there for a business dinner on Thursday. argh. i will keep looking.

Nov 07, 2007
tatitraveller in Texas

[Hou] Saturday business brunch?

Hi,

I'm looking for a brunch place to go on a Saturday for business (that is, we need to be able to hear each other) within 10 miles of downtown Houston.

Breakfast Klub - too loud
Catalan - closed sat brunch
Dharma cafe - closed sat brunch
Empire cafe - don't like it
brasil - is there something better?

please advise!

Nov 06, 2007
tatitraveller in Texas

Gelato in Houston

17 in the Alden hotel has delicious sorbets. you might be able to order (w/o a meal) in the adjacent bar, A+. i tried cherry, green apple, and mandarin sorbets. pure fruit, not achingly sweet like other sorbets i've tried in houston, reminded me of Berthillon in paris. makes me salivate just thinking about them!

on the other hand, i found the gelato at dolce vita to be too sweet. the strawberry gelato at Nundini i thought had good texture, but the strawberry taste was muted (and just no comparison at all to the sorbets at 17, or Bassett's strawberry ice cream in Philadelphia).

Sep 23, 2007
tatitraveller in Houston

Cafe Pita + (Bosnian/HOU)

On a visit in August (a Saturday night) I found the food to be fresh and homemade tasting. In a word, totally honest. Additionally, the prices are low (less than $20).

Grilled sardines: AMAZING. butterflied sardines marinated for 24 hours in olive oil, and "secret" spices. Some of the best sardines I have eaten. Plentiful serving as an entree accompanied with basmati rice (good quality), and roasted vegetables.

Stuffed cabbage: cabbage pickled for 48 hours and then stuffed with ground beef and rice. Pickled taste reminiscent of kimchi, very filling. Cabbage wrapping was great.

Fried anchovies: whole small anchovies bought that morning, fried with a light batter. Slightly bitter tasting (probably the fish, not sure) but served with plenty of fresh lemon.

Eggplant dip: roasted eggplant - tasted like grilled eggplant but not a super grilled taste I've had in middle eastern places. fresh, with lots of lemon.

The baklava is Bosnian style. Pastry (and filling) are made in-house. The walnut/honey stuffing is very wet compared to middle eastern baklava but much less sweet which made it a great dessert (for me). They also have a version with rose water, more akin to middle eastern baklava.

Turkish coffee - served in a quaint copper coffee pot, and little copper and porcelain coffee cups. It is excellent (for Turkish coffee). I poured a little cold water into my cup to get the floating grounds to fall to the bottom of the cup.

The bread is pita style on steroids (i.e., fluffy) , made every day, sometimes risen 4 times depending on the day's humidity.

Although it is 17 miles from me, this is the neighborhood bistro I wish I could walk to any night of the week. It is located in a strip mall, off of Beltway 8, next to a liquor store which helps with the BYO status. it is small with 15 tables or less. Omer the owner/chef (I presume) is unassuming and extremely friendly, which made the experience even better!

Additionally they were supposedly opening a Bosnian food store nearby. EVOO from Montenegro (same stuff they use in the resto) will be available for sale.

Sep 17, 2007
tatitraveller in Texas

[Hou] Bossa downtown closed?

Last week I noticed that Bossa was closed, but a sign in the window states"renovations".

The Houston Chronicle reports that Bossa is actually closed permanently. Anyone know?

Tatiana

Aug 26, 2007
tatitraveller in Texas

Farmer's markets in Houston?

There is a good summary of farmer's markets at this Houston Food magazine site:
http://www.my-table.com/section/news/...

In comparison to farmer's markets elsewhere in my experience (MA, VA, PA, NY), at least the three I've visited here have been disappointingly limited (for selling local). Rice Univ on Tuesdays (same as onion creek cafe sat.), 3000 Richmond (Bayou city; wedn & sats), and Airline drive offer no co-ops and strangely not much fresh produce. I'm hoping this is because of the rain this summer, but there aren't more than...5 produce sellers at the first two locations. If you want soap, prepared foods etc. that's another matter. Good local cheese at the Rice Univ farmer's market on Tuesdays. I'm used to seeing at least 10 farmers who harvest within 300 miles of "city x" all selling fresh corn, tomatoes, peaches etc. etc....and I haven't found the venue yet in Houston. Does someone know of a secret gem?

Jul 20, 2007
tatitraveller in Houston

[Hou] Thai grocers Thai food

the three kinds I mentioned are located in the fridge in the back, to take home.

Jun 11, 2007
tatitraveller in Texas

[Hou] Thai grocers Thai food

In my quest for authentic, spicy, thai food I went to Asia Grocery (1010 W Cavalcade St Houston, TX 77009; around the corner from the airline dr mexican market), recommended by the owner of a thai restaurant in rice village. Not only a grocery store, but it also has authentic thai food prepared in the back (and upon request).

it looks like a run-down 7-11 with bars over the doors but if you cook thai food, and eat thai food, this market is good. fresh galangal, ginger, chilis, kaffir lime leaves, mint, thai basil, (2 other fresh greens i didn't recognize) frozen krachai, pink dried shrimp, roasted chili flakes, 1lb of mung bean sprouts for $1, fresh noodles! 3 types of freshly prepared roasted chili paste (roasted red chilis and garlic with some sugar), a jalapeno roasted chili paste, and a third, lighter red one). in the back is a kitchen where i requested sticky rice and papaya salad, spicy, made on the spot ($5). One of the cooks was placing at least 3 lbs of fish in a huge pot for fish stew. I sampled a vegetarian stew of mushrooms, bamboo shoots, greens, and sweet potato (spicy!) perhaps prepared for the two monks who came in when I was checking out. freshly made mini bean cakes with yellow bean paste, not too sweet, and flaky pastry. I will be back!

(having recently moved here i've been having some difficulties finding northern thai/lao food. although the owner of this market recommended thai gourmet on richmond. anyone been?)

May 26, 2007
tatitraveller in Texas

a week in houston: restos near rice, & restos near hilton downtown?

I will be spending a week in Houston, part of the time near Rice univ. and part of the time downtown. I will have a car.

As my first impression of food in Houston - could people please suggest places to eat in both locations? I am looking for excellent food, but it can vary from the $5 fantastic pho place (or tacos, or spicy thai/lao papaya salad etc.), to excellent 3 course meals in a dining room. If this question has already been broached, please point me to the link on chowhound.

Thanks!
Tatiana

p.s. a few good bars/gastro pubs (good draft; or wines by the glass) would be helpful too!

Nov 12, 2006
tatitraveller in Texas