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

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Red Lion

An English pub in Houston. Red Lion serves up real English patrons, a dark and comfy bar, football (soccer) on the tube, and reasonably priced pub food. I had lamb curry served with rice. Curry? Yes curry. At many pubs in England, the bar food consists of old classics like fish and chips along with new classics like lamb keema. I had the lamb keema today. The lamb was so finely minced, it was more texture than taste. But that's alright, for $12, including a pint of beer, it was a bargain (special of the night).

I highly recommend this dark hole on S. Shephard. The food sucks, but it's the atmosphere and beer that matter here.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Happy Valley (I think) !

Located in the food court of Hong Kong City Mall (outside the Beltway on Bellaire) is a nondescript street vendor type joint serving up some fantastic noodles. We went Friday night, thinking Hong Kong City Mall would be a ghost town at 9:00 p.m. We were wrong. The food court was bustling with activity--like an indoor mini version of Saigon street life.

I'm not really sure if it's called happy valley, but i think it is. Look for the restaurant that serves the kim chi noodles--an excellent dish. Tonight Rekha and I had the dan dan noodles. Dan dan noodles are a Szechuan specialty made of noodles (I think they used rice noodles) topped with a meat and mushroom oyster sauce mixture. It comes with chiffoned cucumber and cold bean sprouts. You mix everything together to get a luxurious rich taste without a lot of meat. An excellent meal for a hungry couple.

2 dan dan noodle bowls and a very large (24 oz?) cup of freshly made sugar can juice... $10. A fulfilling meal with your wife... Priceless.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Bistro Calais

Nestled in the Upper Kirby District area on Bammel (just west of Kirby off of Westheimer) is the cute Bistro Calais. One of the waiters used to work at Cafe Rabelais so first impressions were good. What wasn't good was a nearly empty restaurant at 8:00 on a Wednesday night. In front, they have tables they seem to never use except at brunch on the weekends. Instead, they take you to the back part of the restaurant that overlooks the courtyard.

They serve traditional French cuisine at Cafe Rabelais prices--reasonable. Rekha started her soup and salad dinner with french onion soup--one word--YUCKKKKK! The chef added too much vinegar. I had the duck confit. Quite good even if the fig marmelade was clearly from a can. The french fries also had a good crisp and didn't appear to be steeped in old oil.

The restaurant has potential. But we've been here twice in a few months and they ave yet to fulfill that potential. We'll try again in a few months. If they don't figure it out by then, they'll never figure it out.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

NOTES: Swim Hole in Honduras

Tonight, I've been thinking about travel to Spain. Day-dreaming led me to fantasies of a swim hole in Honduras. Because I was dreaming of Honduras and because I don't have a lot of photos on the site, here's a picture of me and Rekha dressed in next to nothing. I know it has nothing to do with food, but I can tell you I was hungry when Judy took the picture.
Swim Hole in Honduras

Monday, June 20, 2005

Black Walnut Cafe (Rice Village) ! (2nd visit)

On my first visit, I had the pasta. This time, I had the Damn Good Burger... a concoction of double meat, mushrooms, and bacon. A little on the bland side,the bacon gave it just enough umpphhh to take make me like it. Once again, I loved the orange pekoe iced tea served in a real cup made of glass. One day, I'm going to have to do a piece on iced tea and where to taste the good stuff. For now, I'll just note that Black Walnut's iced tea is excellent--especially if you sit on their lounge chair and enjoy the afternoon go by.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Friday Night saw us at the Keane concert. The first act didn't start until 7:30, so we had time for dinner. Since we all had big lunches, we opted for a slew of shared dishes. We tried the good-but-not-great calamari, the good antipasto misto, the doughy pizza, and the excellent pear and garganzola cheeze. If you're looking to make the show, Mingalones is a great place for a hurried meal. They even tell you which dishes are the quickest to make so that you won't miss the opening curtains. Now, if only they made their so-so Italian food excellent, they'd always stay busy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Located just west of the railroad tracks, Bombay Palace just changed hands a few months ago. Rather than a New York ocmpany at the helm, we have the esteemed Kirin Verma, a Houston treasure. Formerly owner of Ashiana, Kirin sold her acclaimed restaurant for a chance to come inside the loop.

The restaurant is still called Bombay Palace, but that will change to Kirin's soon. What will also change is the decor. Gone will be the 1980's business glamour. We were told she intends to put in a wine room and make this place more a reflection of her sophistication.

The food? We had the tandoori feast for two ($55). It's a dish short of a complete meal, but was a great treat anyway. It comes with lamb, chicken and prawn tandoori. The chicken had good juice and the lamb had deep flavor. The prawn, really a shrimp, left something to be desired. It was overcooked and completely bland.

But the stars of the night were not the main courses. Instead, concentrate on two sides: saag paneer and dahl. Saag paneer usually comes soggy with grease. Kirin's saag paneer comes laden with a good cream mixed with spinach taste. The dahl? It was soo well spiced, I didn't recognize the dish despite having eaten it dozens of times.

Service was slow. Food was slightly inconsistent. The decor needed work. But give Kirin a few months. When her staff leanrs the ropes, the restaurant looks elegant, and the kitchen staff figure out timing, this restaurant will be nationally known and Rekha and I will have to start making reservations rather than just walking in.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Outback Steakhouse (Sugar Land)

Yes. Another chain restaurant. This Outback is just like any other. Wood everywhere. Friendly service. Decent steak. I usually go for the Victoria's Filet here. Essentially, it's a New York strip. I just wish they could cook their steaks so the thing has grill marks rather than the charred surface that normally appears.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Cafe Rabelais !!

Cafe Rabelais in the Rice Village is one of my favorite restaurants in Houston. In fact, it's probably one of my top five in this city filled with good restaurants. The atmosphere reminds me of France. The food is a slight American take on French food (mango in a salad?).

This time, I had the duck breast with hazelnut sauce. The duck was prepared rare and th hazelnut sauce matched perfectly with the earthy flavor of the duck. The potato gratin lended some starch and as always, the vegetables were grilled so that they were cooked, but still crisp. Rekha had the so-so mushroom soup and the very tasty quiche.

The proprietor is French. The menu is on the chalkboard on the wall. The wine-list is fantastic. They even have half bottles for lightweights like me and Rekha. We've had the Pape reds (stunning) and the slightly tart pouilly fuisse. This is the type of place you take your date for romance. It's never failed our happy family.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

NOTES: Rambutan

In Honduras, they had incredible fruit including this beautiful (though not very sweet) rambutan.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Mia Bella (Off of Shephard)

When we came Saturday night, the place had many empty tables, but none unaccounted for. So, we sat at the bar and enjoyed a conversation with the bartender who lives right next door to Mia Bella. We started with the carpaccio. It came smothered in olive oil, capers and Parmesan cheese. I'm not sure carpaccio is typically served with so much cheese or capers, but we appreciated the taste.

I had the Linguini al funghi. Not recommended. The wheat linguini had a dry edge that just didn't taste right. Rekha had the pizza... ho hum... But ignore the pasta and the pizza. Stick with the carpaccio and other appetizers. Make a meal of the appetizers. I'm sure Youssef Nafaa, the owner, won't mind.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Chinese Cafe (Richmond) !

Sometimes, I get in the mood for traditional Chinese food with the smell of grease and peanut oil. When I'm those moods, nothing satisfies more than Chinese Cafe. And, yes, it's called "Chinese Cafe." Today we ordered the special fried rice, the Szechuan beef, pork with bamboo shoots, and dried bean curd with mustard green and soy bean. We ordered all of this for take-out. It took 10 minutes to drive home and the aromas/odors filled my car.

Once home, we opened the tightly packaged goodies and dumped them onto plates for service. For $27 we fed four people and everyone got second helpings. The pork in bamboo shoots had a nice, slightly spicy taste and nice richness from the oil. The bean curd came with very green, very fresh and just done mustard greens and soy beans. The fried rice did not have too much soy sauce and came with perfectly cooked shrimp. What a feast. Highly recommended.


Friday, June 03, 2005

NOTES: Central Market Blood Orange Italian Soda !

Okay, I know I haven't written about restaurants in a while. It isn't as if I've gone domestic and have started cooking my meals; rather, I've only eaten at restaurants I have already reviewed lately. This weekend, I guarantee you a real restaurant review. But how about I make it up in the meantime with a review on Central Market's Italian Soda.

I found the stuff in front of the yogurt section of the Central Market (the one on Westheimer) and had to pick it up because it was BLOOD orange--not just orange--and because it had bits of orange floating around in the bottle. I'm such a sucker for pulp in my juice. As my dad noted today, it has an excessive amount of sugar, but if you're not a diabetic, then this juice is like a perfect combination of Orangina with grapefruit and lemon juice. Yummmy!!!!!!!

I'll tell you a secret... When Rekha and I have our Meditteranean party, we're going to be making a "Sangria" out of this stuff. Just in case Central Market doesn't bring this product back to the shelves, I bought 12 bottles of the stuff. Only one day into the purchase, I'm down to 10 bottles. Get there quick before they run out.

On a completely unrelated note, the caesar salad we made today was a huge hit. Everyone wanted seconds. I highly recommend making the dressing in a wooden bowl.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

NOTES: Haegan Dazs Dulce de Leche !!

Ice cream is such a comfort food. Plain vanilla ice cream on a hot day wakes up the soul and reminds you why summer days feel so good. I like the creamy ice cream devoid of ice, making Haegan Dazs one of my favorites. My preferences also mean that I like gelato.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Haegan Dazs' dulce de leche ice cream. It's like a decadent ice-cream sundae made only of the best vanilla ice cream and caramel. If you told me the cream (it just can't be milk they use) came from the udder of a kobe cow and the caramel was made by an the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory I would believe you. In fact, Haegan Dazs is missing a real opportunity here: I would gladly pay $10 for a pint.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Pico's Mex-Mex Restaurant

After a long deposition, Jim and I had lunch at Pico's Mex-Mex Restaurant. I don't know what Mex-Mex is, but it might point to the inclusion of seafood items in the menu. A little bit of a change from Tex-Mex food which doesn't see the use of much seafood. I had the special today: grilled red snapper topped with avocado and crabmeat. I don't really think the fish was snapper (not quite as flavorful), but the dish did taste good--especially the crabmeat.

This is a nice stop for lunch. It has good ambiance, reasonable prices, and food that everyone can live with and maybe even enjoy.

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