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

Friday, July 29, 2005

Rockfish (Westheimer)

3736 Westheimer Road

When Rekha was training in Dallas, she often went to a restaurant called Rockfish. When I ate there, I enjoyed the large selection of fish and the excellent crab. One opened on Westheimer, just east of Weslayan just a few months ago.

When we went, this Rockfish looked just like the one in Dallas, only smaller. We were seated in the relatively busy dining room near a table full of teenage girls. I looked up at the chalkboard specials to find only a chicken special and a salmon special. I thought maybe the list of seafood would make its appearance on the menu. I was wrong.

Rockfish, the self-proclaimed "seafood grill" barely had any seafood! They had tilapia, salmon, catfish and trout. We tried the overcooked, improperly de-veined shrimp cocktail and felt cheated. $7.50 for 6 small shrimp! I felt better across the street at Smith and Wollensky where we paid $5.00 per huge shrimp. They also had crabcake (painfully devoid of crab--if I remember the Dallas restaurant correctly) and a few other seafood dishes. This seafood grill also serves chicken, ribs and steak.

Rekha had the salad with tuna. The salad came out with overcooked tuna. Do you know how bad it sucks to eat overcooked tuna? I had the catfish po-boy and Boston clam chowder. The po-boy tasted okay. The clam chowder tasted fantastic. It even came with one clam still in the shell!

I wouldn't mind coming here for lunch, but dinner deserves more fabulous food. I respect Rockfish's decision to go down-market, but won't be coming back because of the move. There are just too many Mexican seafood restaurants in the same price range that rock harder.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

French Laundry (Yountville, CA) !!

If there is a best restaurant on the West Coast award, Thomas Keller's French Laundry would probably gather the majority of the votes. New Yorkers, being the East Coast Centric, granola-phobic egocentrists they are, would never acknowledge that the West Coast has intriguing food, let alone an award winner.

Rekha got us reservations for lunch weeks ago. For many of those weeks, I could not justify spending money on the flight, hotel, and incidentals ($41 per day parking fee at the hotel), that go along with a trip to San Francisco. Alas, her enthusiasm for the adventure bought my curiousity and off to San Francisco we went.

Yountville is in the heart of Napa Valley. We didn't see much of it. French Laundry is just off of Highway 29 (the oenophiles yellow brick road). We parked along the street and walked in the 100 degree heat in our best Sunday clothes. We had a reservation for 11:15. The restaurant didn't open until 11:11.

The odd lot of us waited outside in the baking heat: an elderly couple with the wife dressed in an aqua business suit with matching hat and gloves, a hispanic couple with the man dressed in his only interview suit, and a upper class family whose attorney father-figure (divorcee, recently married or dating the mother of the two boys) who eventually ordered several bottles of wine.

Finally, entrance into the gastronomic temple. Hushed conversation under low roof, dim light, and an army of waiters. We got one of the few booth tables. The picture below shows our table setting.
French Laundry Pin
There are three menu choices: 7 course lunch, 9 course lunch and 7 course vegetarian lunch. We opted for the entire 9 courses with the $25 foie gras upgrade ($175 per person without upgrade). With a reverential flourish, they came with our amusee, a cheese pastry. Interesting, but hardly ground-breaking
Cheese Pastry
Then came the first course, minced salmon in a wafer cone filled with creme fraiche and hints of chive. The concept was original, but the cone shape made it impossible to taste the wafer, creme and salmon all in one bite.
Salmon in Cone
We followed the inventive salmon cone with the even more inventive cauliflower panacotta topped with Russian Sevruga caviar. The interplay of the sea in the caviar, the earth in the cauliflower, and the fresh air of the panacotta texture brought delight to my tongue.
Russian Sevruga Caviar and Cauliflower Panacotta
All lathered up from the foreplay, they treated me to more foreplay (I didn't get the foie gras upgrade) and Rekha to some heavy petting. Her foie gras with peach gelatin reminded me of Noe's fois gras--a difficult feat considering my love for the foie gras at Noe's. It is a damn crying shame that California will be banning this delicacy.
Foie Gras
Thomas Keller's kitchen (the master was in New York) followed with a halibut that smelled a bit fishy when they brought it to the table. But it tasted wonderful. Thick, fleshy, caramelized on top and delicate all at once.
We followed the fish main course with a Mexican scallop, a rather large scallop with a surprisingly meaty texture. I liked the presentation, seafood on a bed of foam, but, the taste couldn't hold a candle to the scallops we had the night before at a tapas restaurant just off of Columbus Street in downtown San Francisco.
Our third main course was a fantastic duck strangely served with a regular knife. The only guffaw in the whole service, the knife did more damage to the plate than the duck. When the steak knife finally came, the duck's taste improved immeasurably and became my favorite dish of the whole tasting. The experience was enhanced when we discovered that the chef had used a new berry they called a wonderberry. Sort of like a small grape with the texture of a fig and the taste of wine (not grapes). The waiter told us no one knew anything about these berries except that the farmer across the way made them in his spare time.
Duck with Wonderberries
We finally finished our main courses with a piece of grilled ribeye. They told us they used the part of the ribeye with the most marbling and that their beef came from Idaho. I can see why I've never met anyone from Idaho--why leave the state with meat that good?
Idaho Ribeye
We followed these savory delights with cheese. Nothing really interesting (I'm not a cheese expert), except that the presentation had flare... as you can see.
Cheese Course
Finally the desserts. They started off with a hint of the possibilities, mango sorbet with some sort of slightly sweet grainy accoutremont. Then came the fantastic chocolate mousse and vanilla icecream.
Mango Sorbet
Followed by yogart that reminded me of my childhood and an ordinary creme brulee. Finished with a flurry of little sweets... including the caramel I never got to try.
Flurry of Desserts
French Laundry has deservedly earned a reputation as a one of the pre-eminent restaurants in the world. Places like Noe's and Tru's show that they can imitate this West Coast institution. Even so, it's always good to try on the original.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Annabelle's Diner

905 Taft, Houston, Texas 77019

We wanted to try Scott Tice's new restaurant, Gravitas, but ended up at their neighbor's restaurant, Annabelle's Diner. This is a local diner through and through. The decor is eclectic, but filled with artwork depicting dogs. The wait staff is very sociable, if sometimes slow. Everyone seemed to know someone else at the restaurant.

The food? Well, if you're a local, you probably don't go here for the food. It's bland at best. We ordered the crawfish bisque that tasted like a mixture of chicken stock, cream and crawfish. I had the crawfish etouffe. It comes on a huge plate with lots of etouffe, but not a lot of crawfish. It didn't help that this cajun dish had no cajun zest. I had to add quite a bit of tabasco to give it any flavor.

I highly recommend this place if you have a dog (they let you bring them in) and you're a local yocal. Otherwise, stick with Barnaby's (not great food, but better than Annabelle's).

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Vieng Thai

In a crappy part of town sits a relatively good Thai restaurant--Vieng Thai. It's on Long Point, between Silber and Wirt... sort of north of Ikea. Know before you go that the place looks like crap.

We had the papaya salad dressed with lime and abundant with pungent dried shrimp. Be forewarned that the fish sauce used in Thai cuisine, including this salad, packs quite a punch. We also had the standard Tom Yum Gai, a yummy soup with lemon grass, chicken, mushrooms and herbs. It doesn't quite pack the lime punch I like at other places, but it was a good start to the meal.

We also tried the Thai omelette. Essentially, it's an omelette stuffed with pork and herbs. Somehow, the taste moves beyond omelette and into spectacular. Strangely, the most flavorful dish, the beef curry had the least memorable taste. Oh well.

The dish that put this meal over the edge was the sticky rice with ripe mango. It's mango season and it shows. This dish was so good we almost orded two. Try this dump. You'll either love it or think it's crap. That's okay though. It just means more food for me.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Fung's Kitchen (Dim Sum)

I've gone to Kim Son (Sugar Land) for dim sum for so long and have been so disappointed in so many dim sum restaurants (Ocean Palace, Golden Palace, etc) that I didn't sexpect Fung's Kitchen to shine. But shine it did.

They have a wide variety of plates available including things you don't usually find in dim sum restaurants in Houston: duck feet or salt and pepper shrimp. Their carts come often enough and the restaurant is big enough to house the masses that come.

I especially enjoyed the siu mai which I know is fairly basic as a dish, but it is usually a good indicator of the quality of a dim sum restaurant. The shu mai had a wonderfully moist wrap. The pork was just cooked and not overdone. The salt and pepper shrimp had a crunch so good, you could eat the whole darn shrimp--including the head. The chinese broccoli came tender, green and crunchy. The fried items like the shrimp in taro had the taste of the product and not the oil.

A wonderful experience. Though I'd recommend sticking with the less expensive chicken feet rather than the less flavorful duck feet.


Friday, July 08, 2005

NOTES: Meditteranean Madness, Part 2

Last year we had a paella party. This year, about two weeks ago, we had another one. Rekha, in her usual splendid manner, made a cornocupia of tasty treats. This year, instead of using normal rice, she used paella rice, infused with that wonderful taste/smell of saffron. It made all the difference in the world.

UN-authentic Sangria:
Mix equal parts Three Thieves Red Wine ($12) and Central Market's blood orange Italian soda. Serve very cold with frozen fruit as ice. Picture of the finished product below--hidden in the dessert table

Dessert Table

Here is the menu:

And the paella... MMMmmm... For those of you interested in how we made it, we seared all the meats first. Then we added the meat, saffron rice, and stock to the paella pan for about 45 minutes. We followed by placing the entire pan in the oven for about an 45 minutes covered.
Rekha's Fabulous Paella

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

NOTES: Mocha Cake

This is Rekha's wonderful mocha cake. If you like the looks of this, wait until I post Rekha's pistachio cake.
Rekha's Mocha Cake

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Da Marco !!!

I wanted to write this review a month ago, but waited until today because a review without photos won't do this place justice.

Da Marco has been in business for five years. Located in a SMALL house strangely located on a sliver of land on Westheimer, this restaurant serves up Italian fare so fine, national magazines have come calling. You must have reservations on the weekends and you must be prepared for the haute attitude of the servers. Given the quality of service and the food, you can forgive the arrogance.

But let's get to the meat of the matter--the food. Marco, the chef and owner makes Italian so alive with flavor and beauty, it dances on the tongue and demands reverence with every bite. Our meal tonight, to celebrate PR and Ooma's anniversary (my in-laws), had good conversations interrupted by the always impeccable food. Here are the highlights.

Artichoke alla GiudeaArtichoke alla Giudea
Artichoke alla Giudea is one of Da Marco's signature appetizer. It's an artichoke heart softened in chicken broth and then fried. You can eat the whole damn thing including the crunchy bits--a rather embarrassing realization given the wasted morsels from our last meal here. The frying caramelized some of the sugars and the lemon butter sauce gives this dish a punch that will prepare you nicely for the meal ahead.

Peppers and anchoviesPeppers and anchovies.
The anchovies glisten with olive oil. The taste reminds me of the Mediterranean. This is how a novice should experience anchovies for the first time. Combine the slightly chewy texture of this fish with the frise and the moment becomes magical.

Raviolo, Ricotta, Egg & TrufflesRaviolo, Ricotta, Egg & Truffles
A classic combination, truffles and egg yolk, Da Marco again keeps the recipe simple and the taste profound. As Rekha said, "when you cut into the egg [the egg is inside the raviolo], the egg yolk runs and emulsifies with the butter and truffle oil." How magical is that?

Sea Bass with Grapefruit & Aceto Tradizionale
Sea Bass with Grapefruit & Aceto Tradizionale
It felt like I had never eaten sea bass before. I can probably never truly enjoy sea bass quite like the way I enjoy it at Da Marco. The filet is a thick 1 to 1.5 inch. The fish flakes into large chunks and then further flakes into crab-like pieces. The sweetness paired with the grapefruit and sauce takes my breath away. When I ate this fish, I could not speak. I devolved into the flavors and wonder what deal with the devil the chef has made to so perfectly brown and cook the fish. I'm not the only one who heaped such praise on this hunk of fish. Shamaa, my sister-in-law, said it was the best fish she has ever eaten.

Our meal ended with a flourish. Rekha had the delightfully light meyer lemon pudding cake. Richard, our very kind server, told us it was the most popular dessert, with one patron eating two orders every time. We understand the need. I had the chocolate genovese, essentially a refined chocolate mousse cake. I especially enjoyed Madagascar vanilla gelato that accompanied the dish.

Da Marco is the best Italian restaurant in Houston. It surprises the taste buds within the confines of traditional cooking combinations. The restaurant is so good, I have to forgive the arrogant staff (other than our truly outstanding waiter, Richard) who must act that way in the knowledge that they serve some of the best food in Houston.

For the best deal, try their business lunch. Three courses $22. It's a steal.

Copyright Huan Le 2005 - Powered by blogger
Il ya une abondance de maisons de courtage de detail offrant des tailles Forex compte au moins 100 $ forex recherches sont necessaires avant l'ouverture d'un compte de trading et de depot grande variete de plates-formes de negociation