Rodeo Best Bites

A surprise winner spices up Rodeo Best Bites culinary competition

Surprise winner spices up Rodeo Best Bites culinary competition

Merlion winners Teresa Alvear, Brooke Villanueva, Ray Villanueva, Caleen Worthern, Kandyce Langley at Rodeo Best Bites
Merlion on 4th winners Teresa Alvear, Brooke Villanueva, Ray Villanueva, Caleen Worthern, and Kandyce Langley. Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
Rodeo Best Bites Mostly Chocolate
Chocolatier Dany Kamkhagi from Mostly Chocolates. Photo by Eric Sandler
Rodeo Best Bites Killen's STQ
Killen's STQ poses with its belt buckles. Photo by Eric Sandler
Rodeo Best Bites Batanga
Batanga chef Rishi Singh with owners Ianne and Brian Fasthoff. Photo by Eric Sandler
Merlion booth at the Rodeo Best Bites competition
Merlion on 4th, a Thai restaurant in Seabrook, upset some of Houston’s highest profile restaurants to claim the top prize at this year’s Rodeo Uncorked! Best Bites competition. Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
Rodeo Best Bites Richard Kaplan Weights Measures
Weights + Measures executive chef Richard Kaplan. Photo by Eric Sandler
Rodeo Best Bites Cane Rosso Dino
Cane Rosso served arancini and pasta. Photo by Eric Sandler
Merlion winners Teresa Alvear, Brooke Villanueva, Ray Villanueva, Caleen Worthern, Kandyce Langley at Rodeo Best Bites
Rodeo Best Bites Mostly Chocolate
Rodeo Best Bites Killen's STQ
Rodeo Best Bites Batanga
Merlion booth at the Rodeo Best Bites competition
Rodeo Best Bites Richard Kaplan Weights Measures
Rodeo Best Bites Cane Rosso Dino

Moonlight wasn’t the only surprising winner Sunday night. Over 1,500 miles away from the Dolby Theater at NRG Center, Merlion on 4th, a Thai restaurant in Seabrook, upset some of Houston’s highest profile restaurants to claim the top prize at this year’s Rodeo Uncorked! Best Bites competition.

After reviewing entries from this year’s 111 participating restaurants, a panel of media judges selected Merlion’s shrimp raap prik in red curry sauce as the winner in the Lone Star Entree category, edging out the pork belly burnt ends from Killen’s STQ. Merlion also took second place in the Tasty Tradition category.

Although Killen’s STQ missed the top prize from the judges, the restaurant featured the night’s longest line, as attendees waited patiently for a taste from chef-owner Ronnie Killen’s latest smash hit. With Killen and long-time sous chef Teddy Lopez serving the dish, STQ’s pork belly burnt ends earned the People’s Choice award voted on by the event’s 6,000 attendees.

Mostly Chocolate took the top prize in the Two Steppin’ Dessert category for its hazelnut crunch and goat cheese chocolate, moving up from a third place finish in 2016.  Chocolatier Dany Kamkhagi also took home the top prize in the Tasty Tradition category.

Hearsay Gastro Lounge in Market Square made a strong impression as a first-time participant. The popular restaurant earned third place in the entree category, and the top rookie award, where it competed against restaurants ranging from Snooze: An AM Eatery and Neapolitan pizza restaurant Cane Rosso to Steak 48.

Several of the restaurants that didn’t win also served strong dishes. Highlights included Picos shrimp with pumpkin mole, Weights + Measures’ acorn squash gnocchi, buffalo short rib grilled cheese from The Union Kitchen, and a smoked short rib tamale from Gracia Mexican Cantina, the Mexican sibling to Pearland’s popular Grazia Italian Kitchen.

If attendees felt bad about missing the Oscars telecast, at least they had delicious food and over 400 wines to choose from. Credit to emcees Michael Garfield and Samika Knight for only announcing the correct winners, which is more than we can say for the Oscars.

The full list of winners via the Houston Chronicle:

Lone Star Entree
First place: Merlion on 4th — Shrimp Raad Prik
Second place: Killen's STQ — Pork belly burnt ends
Third place: Hearsay Gastro Lounge at Market Square — Southern-fried Texas quail on sharp cheddar grits

Trailblazing Appetizers/Starters
First place: Revolver Kitchen and Bar — Achiote-braised pork sliders
Second place: Snooze, an A.M. Eatery — OMG French toast bites
Third place: Cotton Culinary — Duck roulade

Two Steppin' Dessert
First place: Mostly Chocolate — Hazelnut and Pop Rocks
Second place: Crave — Red velvet mini cupcakes
Third place: Brio Tuscan Grill — Mascarpone cheesecake

Tasty Tradition
First place: Mostly Chocolate — Hazelnut and Pop Rocks
Second place: Merlion on 4th — Shrimp Raad Prik

Top Rookie
Hearsay Gastro Lounge at Market Square — Southern-fried Texas quail on sharp cheddar grits

Showmanship
Overall: Cupcake Kitchen
Most Creative: Brother's Produce