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

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Gravitas Revisited

807 Taft
Houston, Texas

I've reviewed Gravits before. Last time I complained about saltiness and a mediocre chocolate dessert. This time, I'd like to herald the saltiness and congratulate the pastry chef on the Chocolate Decadence.

It was busy this time. Saturday and beautiful (but a more mature crowd) filled the room. The chalkboard was covered in wines and the place had a nice buzz. The patio was open and the bar menu was ready. A great start to a good meal. Rekha again went with the soup and salad. I think it was the warm spinach salad with egg and bacon. Tasty and nicely salted by the bacon. She also had a tasty french onion soup that provided a nice modern take on a classic. The french onion soup taste was there, but they changed the texture to make it more of a puree.

I had the grilled fish on a a bed of green beans. Very tasty. Crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside and flavorful throughout. Again, more bacon to salt the sauce, but this time my lips didn't pucker.

We finished with a flourish. The chocolate decadence reminds me of the chocolate lava cake at Bank, but again, with changed consistency. It was more like a compacted souffle (not in a bad sense) than a chocolate lava cake. Quite tasty. I'm going to have to order my own rather than share next time... And next time will be soon.

Bravo Gould and Tice.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Jasmine Asian Restaurant

9938 Bellaire Boulevard

This location is cursed, but the food might be the magic potion. Jasmine Asian Cuisine is tucked into the corner of a strip mall next to Sinh Sinh on Bellaire. Previous to Jasmine Asian Restaurants, three other restauranteurs had tried and failed. This attempt might be the charm. It's run by the same people who own Saigon Pagolac, the seven-course beef masterpiece on the back side of Dynasty Mall (just two blocks away).

The concept for Jasmine Asian Restaurant is the same as Saigon Pagolac: great decoration and great food. Like Saigon Pagolac, Jasmine offers a seven course meal, but with fish as the main feature rather than beef. Not a bad choice since Saigon Pagolac makes the best grilled whole fish this side of the Pacific.

Since it was just me and Rekha, we opted out of the too-much food seven-course meal and instead tried the twice cooked pork (too dry) and steamed fish. The Steamed fish was a flounder or some other thin fish that had too much oil and so the fish tasted overcooked and oily.

We also had the insane bad luck to go so early in the life of the restaurant that they weren't fully staffed. That caused a half-hour wait to order the food, a 45 minute wait for the food and my having to get our drinks refilled. For now, I'll forgive them the service issue since we generally have decent service at Saigon Pagolac, but the bad food makes me weary. I can only hope they get better and improve to the quality of their sister restaurant. If so, watch out Kim Son.


Saturday, October 08, 2005

NOTES: The Art of Iced Tea

Our trip to see the tea plantations in india
I'm addicted to iced tea. I drink between ten and twenty cups a day. I know the caffeine probably makes me do it, but I like to blame it on the taste. In Houston, some restaurants serve an excellent brew: Pappadeaux, Cafe Rabelais, Grotto, and Da Marco's come to mind.

Lipton, the self-proclimed tea experts, claims that 80% of all tea bags sold go into making iced tea. I don't doubt them for a minute. Despite our overflowing pantry stocked with Mariage Freres canisters filled with Buddha Blue or Marco Polo loose-leaf, I drink hot tea once for every twenty times I order or make iced tea. In our pantry I also carry a full line of Middle-Eastern tea bags, floral teas from Thailand, low-quality loose leaf from Vietnam, Lipton tea bags, and even new-age red tea.

The variety in tea is much like the variety in ice-cream. It's nice to talk about other flavors, but most people enjoy and buy a single flavor. For ice-cream, the best seller is vanilla by a mile. For iced tea, only one kind will do--broken orange pekoe.

Orange pekoe comes in many gradients of quality. Most tea lovers like the loose leaf variety. Unfortunately, loose leaf ice tea is really not worth the trouble. the ice in the iced tea deadens the tongue to taste a bit, so the traditionally weaker taste you get with loose leaf tea actually takes away from the full flavor you want in that golden brown liquid. So, you want the low-quality broken orange pekoe tea.

In my experience, the more expensive the tea bag, the more floral the taste of the orange pekoe tea. So, go for my favorite ice tea brand, Lipton. Follow the directons, but understand that starting with cold tap water instead of hot water does make a taste difference.

If you're like me and need a little sweetness in the brew, but not the aching toothe sweetness in a Southern sweet tea, add the sugar into the mix immediately after brewing. If you're at a restaurant and order tea, I find the sugar substitute in the pink envelope dissolves better into the tea. i use only a quarter bag to half a bag per glass of iced tea. If you're at home making this stuff, the key is to NOT put ice in the tea. Rather, pour the tea over ice that is already sitting in a glass. Better yet, refrigerate the tea before pouring it over ice.


Brew the Lipton iced tea according to the directions using only cold tap water. I find that in Houston, using bottled water doesn't make the tea taste any different. I also usually use a bit less water and brew for a bit longer than the directions call for since I like my iced tea with a slight bitter edge.

After brewing the tea, remove the bags and add half as much sugar as you think you like in the tea. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before pouring over ice. Crushed ice is best, but lacking crushed ice, you might want to take a clean hammer to refrigerator ice--the angular ice make a nice texture on your lips as you drink the tea.

If you must have additional sugar, make simple syrup (2 parts water to 1 part sugar). If you must add lemon or lime, try mint instead. If you muddle the mint you'll get a wonderful smell to accompany the taste.

Friday, October 07, 2005


2055 Westheimer

It's been a long time since I've written. The storm interrupted the already fragile habit. So, to begin the habit anew, let's talk about one of my favorite Houston restaurants... Churrasco's. This Houston institution is run by foode philanthropist Michael Cordua.

Churrasco's serves South American food and specializes in a charcoal grilled tenderloin slathered with a chimichurri sauce. It's expensive ($25-$45) and outrageously good. The meat is tender and moist and full of flavor. But just because they serve a mean tenderloin doesn't mean they skimp on the seafood. In fact, I come here for the seafood.

I got the Opereta ($24) a few days ago. It comes with crab claws, two kinds of fish, scallops and grilled shrimp. All of this food is perfectly cooked and comes with grilled vegetable. The renovation at the Churrasco's means that this Houston institution has high style, patio dining and private rooms for large crowds. I don't ever mind waiting an hour for a table here--especially with a nice cocktail.

End your meal here with their world-famous tres leches. You can't be disappointed.

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