Houston food, restaurants and dining review. Urban living, travel, thoughts and other randomness.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Connie's Frozen Custard

12545 Jones Road

Houston doesn't have many custard joints. So when you're in the mood for a smooth, air-free custard, choices are few. Sonics and Dairy Queen will do in a pinch, but what if you want the real thing?

Head out the BFE and check out this yellow store front. Connie's claims to make custard every hour. There isn't any seating so hang out on the small lawn out front and let the custard melt down your cone as you try to beat the sun in taking down some deliciousness.


If you want to take some home, Connie's sells a cold hard hunk of custard that will last about an hour in an air-conditioned car. Custard isn't the same unless it's just above the temperature before it melts, so be forewarned...take-home custard won't taste as good.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Connie’s Seafood Market & Restaurant

2525 Airline Drive

Drink enough michelada (beer + lime juice + hot sauce mixture) and any fried food tastes good. So, the only time you truly know that Connie’s knows its food is just before the first gulp of their incredible michelada. Not even the fun, loud and sometimes annoying mariachi band touring the restaurant will distract from the michelada.

The michelada: Cold beer mug, rimmed with salt, holding what looks like two or three tablespoons of hot sauce and lime at the bottom. Pour cerveza over the sauce and you’ll find yourself addicted. Fortunately, on your way out, you can buy a bottle of the special Connie’s michelada mixture (sans lime) to bring home and impress friends.

Not everything on the menu should be tried. Avoid the ketchup tasting seafood cocktail, the bland gulf coast oysters, and the fish fiet. Though the michelada can block out how bad these items taste, you might not have gulped down enough before its therapeutic effects take hold.

Instead, go for the golden-brown fried shrimp (order by the pound). Or, try the whole fish prepared any way you want including the very buttery and rich scampi preparation. You can choose from red fish, red snapper, catfish and tilapia. For the grilled preparation, splurge on the red snapper. For the fried preparation, go with something hardy and that won’t dry out too fast—like the catfish.

Whatever you order, make sure you have their chicken or pork fried rice. It comes prepared exactly the same way a Chinese restaurant prepares fried rice, with soy sauce and bean sprouts. For some reason, this Mexican seafood restaurant serves better fried rice than most Chinese restaurants.

When seafood inspirations hit and budgets are restricted, there might not be a better place for ocean food—provided you order the michelada.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cullen's

11500 Space Center Blvd. Houston, Texas 77059

Cullen's is a Vegas restaurant landed on a Houston suburb. Surrounded by fields, including Ellington field, this beautiful edifice, houses a dining room that soars like a circus tent muted by browns--lots of browns. The restaurant seats hundreds and is probably the most over-the-top restaurant since Bistro Moderne

We started with the salads. Mine the Caesar Salad and Rekha's the Field Salad. Both salads had good ingredients and flavors overwhelmed by the kitchen's preference of drowning the salads in their dressings. Over-saucing is a persistent theme for this restaurant.

Our waiter steered us towards the steaks for dinner-good choice. Rekha's Sunday Roast consisted of prime rib and yorkshire pudding. The prime rib had flavor, moisture, and good looks. But the connective tissue made it hard to eat. The yorkshire pudding also had good looks, but lacked moisture or gravy.

My "CHAIRMAN RESERVE STEAKS" were listed as a separate category on the menu, apparently equal in importance to the "CHICKEN & DUCK" and "LAMB, PORK, & BEEF" categories. The meat had the musky man-flavor of aged beef. Tender, evenly cooked, and flavorful, I would ask the chef remove, reduce or rethink the thyme used in his 9 spice rub.

The best part of the meal was the Bananas "Not So" Foster. Caramelized slices of banana swimming in a rum sauce. The sauce also holds up the banana coconut icecream and banana bread. Unfortunately, the banana bread flavor couldn't hold its own drowning in the bananas foster flavor of the dish.

Cullens is out of the way and worth a visit. The food and service won't win awards (at least outside the Houston Chronicle's award), but the combination of jaw-dropping space and respectable food should keep this place busy. Think: good tasting Cheesecake Factory.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Reef

2600 Travis Street

The former chef at Bank runs this classy joint. A former pho restaurant used to occupy the space. It's not a real loss for downtown. The decoration is beautiful. Undulating walls play against the concrete floor lighted with the huge windows looking towards downtown. The pearlescent tables made from poured plastic make this joint swank--even if they use the over-hyped Design Within Reach style lamps.

We started our meal with a few raw oysters. Nicely shucked, the oysters looked beautiful, but missing in liquor. So, all the effort putting the oysters on rock salt and in a rectangular plate was lost because of the mediocrity of the oyster. Not even the spicy tomato water could liven the oysters with the lost liquor.

I had the crispy snapper. The waiter told us it's the most popular dish on the menu. The fish was nicely prepared and had pretty good flavor. It matched well with the chard.

Some seafood places specialize in oysters, mussels, crabs, shrimp or lobster. Few specialize in fish. This one seems to have a fish affinity. I like the emphasis on fish--as displayed by their display of raw fish at the entrance.

A very pretty restaurant with great potential, I'll come back and expect that things will improve.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Shabu House!

9889 Bellaire Blvd

Located in the same shopping center as Juice Box, Fu Fu Cafe, and Cafe 101, this uber-trendy restaurant serves up shabu shabu, a Japanese hot pot. The small restaurant is really one big U-shaped counter with a pot of boiling broth to the right of every seat. The decor is modern and the service is touch-and-go.

Each seat your group occupies requires an order from the menu. Each seat gets a plate of bok choy, greens, corn, glass noodles, tofu, fish dumplings, a shrimp, two mushrooms, sesame dipping sauce and ponzu dipping sauce. All of this food is raw.

You then order one of the items on the menu and any sides you might have an interest in trying or bulking up on. I suggest the 8 pieces of very tender, very thinly sliced beef and a side order of the enoki mushrooms. As the water boils, you start putting stuff in. As the food cooks, you fish it out and dip it in either the sesame or the ponzu dipping sauce.

The broth is made from seaweed and is very light in flavor. My dad dumped a lot of hot oil into the broth to add flavor. I prefer to let the quality of the ingredients speak for themselves. The beef sung beautifully. The very expensive seafood plate came out with frozen scallops, frozen fish, and frozen crab--awful.

You have to work for your food at this restaurant. Efforts are rewarded with good flavor and an entertaining evening. It'll cost between $15 and $25 per person depending on the number of sides you get. Come early and with very few friends, or you'll suffer the waiting required of every patron who came after 6:30 Tuesday evening.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Catalan (Dessert)!

5555 Washington Avenue
713.426.4260

I wrote last time that Catalan's dessert was "quite a letdown." I've changed my mind: they have changed their pastry chef. Julie Hewitt, the new pastry chef has only one thing left from the old menu, the banana bread pudding. From what I've tasted of her new menu, she should get rid of that dish too and add one of her own.

We tried the peach souffle. It comes very warm on a financier and with a side of excellent icecream. The souffle is light and hot like a normal souffle, but filled with peach flavor. You don't bite into it, but let it oooze into every crevice of your mouth hoping that it lasts forever. Warm, delicate, and perfectly balanced, it melts into nothingness, seemingly never going down your throat.

We also tried the new chocolate tart made with some special delicate salt. Salt enhances chocolate flavors, so the idea is really banal, but the fact that they advertise chocolate and salt deserves kudos. it comes on a crust best described as oreo-cookie-crumble like. So crumbly and good was the crust that I sort of inhaled and had the crust go down the wrong pipe. The chocolate itself is decadent--more fudge-like than mousse-like. With the side of crème fraîche, the dessert transcended the mediocrity of chocolate tart and into some nether-world that a Parisien patisserie might achieve. Sort of like the difference between a chocolate croissant at a Holiday Inn and a pan au chocolat at Laduree.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Lee's Sandwiches!

11210 Bellaire Blvd., Suite 113 @ Boone Road
281.933.9988

In the heat of battle that is the normal workday, there comes a time in any peon's Tuesday (or Monday or Wednesday) when it becomes necessary for one people to throw off the shackles of Community Coffee and seek the darker, richer pastures of outrageous and expensive coffee. Such was the injustice of today's heat, workload, and exhaustion, that I not only threw off the chains of office coffee... nay, I launched that lame weak coffee straight into the bowels of the stainless steel sink.

And for more caffeinated pastures, I sought the lustful, addictive nectar of Lee's Iced Coffee aka Vietnamese Coffee. Vietnamese coffee is usually made by dripping dark strong coffee through a metal filter into a small coffee mug filled with 3-5 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. When the cup is half full with equal parts coffee and condensed milk, the concoction is stirred before getting poured over a tall glass of ice. The result is a dark brown liquid that can palpitate the heart of any mortal.

Lee's Coffee is prepared differently. At the counter, they hand you a plastic cup filled with ice and the brown liquid: no waiting for the coffee to filter into anything. All an exhausted traveller need do is stick a straw in and imbibe. Like any good drug, you can't just stop at the first sip. I usually don't make it back to work with any Lee's Coffee left in the cup.

Nothing else is good at this place except the coffee. Nothing else matters. At night, Vietnamese people sit around, drink in the good stuff and talk about life. It's the absinthe of my parent's generation. It kills the braincells and inspires creativity all at once. There is no better drug today. Drink some. Join the dark brown side of the force.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

?? Tofu Restaurant

Bellaire, Behind Sinh Sinh

This place has a good variety of small side dishes, though the flavors need a bit more spice. The kim chee wasn't quite punchy enough. The seasoned mushrooms had a nice tang. The cucumbers had a pretty good spice. The fish tasted fresh.

We ordered a combination. You choose one tofu based hot pot. We had the one with kim chee and beef. Next time, we'll order it extra spicy. It tasted better than Tofu Village, but not as good as some places on Long Point. Rekha also had the BBQ ribs. Again, not quite as good as Tofu Village, but still pretty good.

So this place is pretty good, but individual dishes aren't the best in town. Despite a lack of "best" anything, we'll come back because the combination of beautiful decoration (modern and unique Korean look), good value ($13 for the combo), and pretty good everything, makes this restaurant pretty compelling.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Heights Camphouse Bar-B-Q

2820 White Oak Dr
713.861.2033

Rumor has it that cops frequent this barbecue house. When we went, a cop was the only other customer. The restaurant has the feel of a run-down, small-town cafeteria. Almost like someone forgot to tell the owner that they need to make changes after 30 years of deterioration. The atmosphere here reminds me of Biba's, meaning there is no atmosphere.

We had the barbecue ribs and sausage. The ribs were spicy and tender. The sausage was very flavorful and quite good. We had a side of salad with what appears to be homemade and yummy ranch dressing. We also had their famous beans and don't know why they are famous.

Camphouse Bar-B-Q
There isn't enough business at night to make such a run-down joint interesting to frequent at night, but the food is cheap and pretty good--so we'll come for take-out.

NOTES: I Love Art Car Parade


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pollo Campero

5616 Bellaire Blvd
713.395.0990

Instead of KFC or Popeyes, try Pollow Campero. Started in Guatemala, this fast food fried chicken joint has spread thoughout Latin America and now the United States. They marinade their chicken and bread it in a way that makes the chicken flavorful, tender and tasty. The fried flavor can best be described as fried in lard--which if you don't know, is a fantastic compliment. The chicken comes out not greasy, but still full of flavor.

You can have your chicken with fries, plantains, or fried rice. The fried rice sucks and the plantains are medioce. Ignore the sides... The real gem here is the chicken. Order the $4 worth of chicken and get gelato at Paciugo's for dessert.

 
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