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

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

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

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.

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