Everyone loves the Rodeo, especially the food, but one cannot live on fried Twinkies alone. Although the weather has yet to turn pleasant, it will, and that means getting out to try some new restaurants.
Now is the time when openings pick up after the post-holiday slowdown. For those who are obsessed with trying the newest places, get caught up now. After all, Mayor Annise Parker has already paid a visit to Weights + Measures, and her schedule is probably a lot busier than yours.
Falling behind is just unacceptable, especially when Houston offers so many appealing choices.
As always, this month's Where To Eat Right Now consists of new or nearly new restaurants that are worth your time in roughly the order that I think you should try them.
Former Haven chef Randy Evans crafted the menu for this restaurant inside the newly opened Tanglewood H-E-B. Of course, one could make a meal out of a few of the 500 varieties of yogurt in the grocery store, but that would miss out on the opportunity to sample Evans's comfort food, as realized by executive chef Allen Duhon.
The restaurant's smoker produces both legit, Central Texas-style barbecue (including peppery, properly fatty brisket) and other dishes like smoked pork belly for a BLT and hot smoked salmon for salads. I'll be back for more of the Korean fried chicken with can't miss kimchi collard green. The chicken is juicy, sweet and spicy — and well-priced at $15 for a half bird with two sides.
Weights + Measures
Generally, I avoid listing a restaurant two months in a row, but my current obsession with Weights + Measures is reflected in the seven credit card transactions I've made there since Feb. 1. Sometimes I swing by for a schnapps cocktail during happy hour and stay for a plate of meatballs or a pizza. Other times its brunch, lunch or dinner with friends.
My current obsession with Weights + Measures is reflected in the seven credit card transactions I've made there since Feb. 1.
Recent highlights from chef Richard Kaplan's specials include a rack of locally-sourced lamb chops served medium rare alongside seasonal beets and parsnips and lightly smoked lamb heart served over couscous. The front of house staff is still learning to manage the crowds, especially during brunch, but the team, led by general manager Isaac Johnson, has so much experience that I'm confident they'll get it sorted out quickly.
Davis St. at Hermann Park
Admittedly, I'm a little late to this restaurant that opened in October in the Mosaic apartment building near the Medical Center, but chef Javani King made a big splash when his crispy Thai shrimp took home two awards the Rodeo's annual Best Bites competition. Those shrimp were among the highlights of a recent visit to Davis St, as were the buffalo chicken spring rolls and two, super-crispy flatbreads.
Roast chicken with flabby skin disappointed, but a thick, juicy pork chop would hold its own against anything this side of the classic served at Perry's. Save room for dessert — a waffled brownie sundae is chewy and crispy, just as it should be.
After a couple of days of invite-only previews, this Italian restaurant from the Fox Restaurant Group, the same people behind True Food Kitchen, opened its doors Tuesday. The menu's strengths are clearly the scratch made pizza and pastas. Fig and prosciutto pizza had a mild sweetness, which was balanced by the salty pork; more importantly, the crust had real-deal char.
Ricotta gnocchi, made in house, are a light complement to the more earthy braised short rib. The staff is enthusiastic but inexperienced. If a drink or dish intended for another table shows up, try to be encouraging. As owner Sam Fox said last week, "We have an organization that's good at figuring it out."
Akamaru Japanese Restaurant
Rarely can a Montrose opening be described as under the radar, but this sushi restaurant has had a very quiet first couple of weeks. During my visit last week, diners only occupied one other table, but this restaurant that sits next to Boheme deserves to be busier.
This restaurant that sits next to Boheme deserves to be busier.
Chef Sano moved to Houston from California last year, and his restaurant offers a selection of well-priced nigiri and creative rolls. A $42 chef's choice (omakase) sushi platter yielded 16 pieces of carefully prepared sushi. The quality compares favorably to other neighborhood spots like Nippon and Osaka, and the price is hard to beat.
The Houston outpost of this Seattle-based ramen shop is still very much in soft opening mode with a limited menu. Still, it's hard to deny the flavorful, creamy tonkotsu stock that's made during a three-day process or the firm, chewy texture of the house-made noodles.
It will be nice to sample the gyoza and other snacks when the menu expands in the next week or so, but the soup is ready now. And it's good.
Chef Jose Hernandez has recently added two tasting menus to this high-style Italian restaurant in CityCentre. I sampled the nine course menu on a recent visit, where Hernandez wowed with dishes such as oxtail consomme with truffle pearls and langoustine risotto with saffron.
At $125 per person, the tasting is a definite splurge, but all of the dishes can also be ordered a la carte. Besides, nine course at Tony's, which is the most direct comparison in terms of an Italian-inspired, fine dining tasting, runs $165. By that standard, it's almost a bargain.
Mary'z Mediterranean Cuisine
After 10 years on Richmond near the Galleria, this popular Middle Eastern restaurant has added a second location on Washington Ave in the former Polovina space. Freshly baked pita emerges from a showpiece oven. Sticking to classics like falafel and shawarma will definitely result in a good meal. I skipped the beef tartare, but it looks good.
Of course, patio weather will bring the option of lingering with friends over a hookah.
The Cajun Stop
This EaDo staple may not be new, but it is where I went for my first taste of crawfish this year. They didn't disappoint — easy to peel and fiercely spicy. Prices are still running around $8 a pound, but they'll start to come down as the weather warms up and supplies increase.
Save a little money by supplementing your meal with one of the restaurant's top notch fried seafood po-boys or a bowl of gumbo. Don't forget the crispy, spicy jalapeno hushpuppies.
This stylish Midtown newcomer is definitely a bar first, but it offers enough of a food menu to make it a destination for a happy hour nosh or a light dinner. Who can resist a BLT made with Fireball-candied bacon? The staff can offer pairing suggestions from the bar's well-chosen selection of craft beers.
Wooster's also plays host to a rotating cast of food trucks on Sundays that offers the convenience of a food truck park with the added benefits of real seating and beverage director Steven Salazar's appealing cocktail menu.