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

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cafe Caspian

12126 Westheimer Rd # 100

Tucked away in a difficult to see portion of a strip mall that once housed Phoenecia (it's now located in a huge building across the street), is this bit of Persian goodness. The forest of potted plants in front and the non-descript nature of the strip mall belies the semi-domed ceiling of the interior and the authentic feeling of this Houston institution.

Like many Persian restaurants, Cafe Caspian serves taftoon (flatbread) with feta and herbs. The difference is that the taftoon keeps coming even without prompting and the herbs are usually very fresh.

The entrees are divided into two categories, kebabs and stews. For the kebabs, we like the koobideh (ground beef). I like to add the zereshk (burberry) to the basmati rice to give it some extra zing. If you're expecially brave, order the cherries to top your rice. For stews, Rekha likes the ghormeh sabzi, but she says it's a bit too tangy for continuous eating. Here is the secret: order one stew and and one kebab between two people and share.

My Persian friends disagree quite a lot about what the best Persian restaurant is in Houston, but Cafe Caspian always makes the top three. Not a bad approval rate.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Juice Box

Somewhere on Bellaire (Across from Sinh Sinh)

I'm not sure this place is called Juice Box. It's located in the same strip center as Cafe 101. They serve fruit juices and shaved ice. The difference with the shaved ice here and many other shaved ice spots is that this place tops their ice with fruit cured in simple syrup.

We had strawberry, mango, watermelon and milk on shaved ice. The milk is a misnomer. It's really sweetened condensed milk. Yummy. Shaved ice and condensed milk is great. Add really sweet fruit to the combo and its nothing short of heaven on a hot Houston day.

The place is a busy Jamba-Juice-like space filled with loud Asians having a good time. Come hide from the heat in this Houston wonder.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Korea Garden Restaurant !

9501 Long Point

In the final leg of our "Winter's Sonata" marathon, we decided to honor the home country of this addictive soap: we went to Korea Garden Restaurant. This was our first time at the restaurant, and first impressions were ho-hum. It has the same look and feel of Seoul Garden or any of the older Korean retaurants. Dark woods, a fountain in the middle, and privacy booths everywhere.

We ordered the bulgogi, strips of beef drenched in their marinade. It comes raw to the table, where you have to grill it yourself. The marinade was subtle and brilliant. We enjoyed every morsel. We also tried the Kim Chi Jigae, a concoction of pork, tofu, and green onion. Although the pork was overcooked, the kimchi flavor more than made-up for the oversight.

In fact, it is the kim chi here that gives this restaurant my "!" rating. I don't want to pretend I'm an expert on this Korean specialty, but the kim chi here was strong and good. It had spice and age. It was exactly what I wanted to taste. The other side dishes that came out weren't bad either. They didn't bring out the tiny little deep fried fish I like, but they did have some interesting vegetables.

Service was efficient, if a bit strained. Our waitress spoke very good English and helped us order our food.

Places like Korea Garden, El Rey, Noe, and Cafe Rabelais are the reason I love Houston so much. Variety and quality abound in this city. Korea Garden fits in very nicely.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

NOTES: Rekha's Piedmont

This is Rekha's variation of Pierre Herme chocolate-hazelnut pastry that I enjoyed late last year. We ate it on the stone steps of a church just a hundred yards away from his shop, trying to catch a glimpse of this pastry-chef legend. Rekha's version tasted just as good, if not a better.

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