Cool Restaurant Surprises
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve noticed the alarmingly escalating temperatures in our beloved city. As we approach the unbearable mosquito dictatorship that marks a full-blown Houston summer, it's time to check out refreshingly cool drinks and dishes at some of the city's best restaurants.
Here are some great options to eat chill:
My meal at Sparrow was one of the best I’ve had in a long time. Executive chef and owner Monica Pope’s farm-to-table method, which, let’s face it, has been beaten to death (according to cult foodie favorite Andrew Zimmern anyway), really made a difference in these dishes.
Up until now, I thought restaurant newcomer Lucille’s had the best tomato salad in town.
Many restaurants use fresh local ingredients, but they don’t foster those characteristics the way Pope does. Tapas-sized dishes allow one to sample a variety of appetizers, entrees and sides.
The standout of the bunch was the heirloom tomato and burrata salad. The burrata was fresh and creamy but not overwhelmingly rich. The dill flowers in the salad were an interesting combination with the tomatoes. The crab remoulade was a deconstructed sushi roll and the addition of almond sashimi made the rich avocados even more sinfully indulgent. The bulgogi quail legs remind me of something they would serve at a Korean bar as a savory snack to munch on while sipping on soju or Hite.
The only letdown of the night was the wild ivory king salmon. The blandness did not help the nature of the tough texture of the fish. Qualities in other dishes, such as the juicy tenderness of the pan seared beef heart and the earthy flavor of the wild boar tenderloin, more than made up for the salmon though.
Although L’Olivier’s main focus is traditional French cuisine, its spring gin-based orchid sangria paired perfectly with all the fresh produce featured in the spring menu. Out of the trio of salads I preferred the blue cheese one while my companion liked the beet salad the best.
Chef Olivier Ciesielski added Danish cheese in addition to Roquefort to mellow out the aggressiveness of the Roquefort. The avocado pancakes were a bit of a disappointment with the pancakes becoming soggy under the crab and mango chutney, and the entire dish getting overwhelmed by onions.
Triniti’s cocktails program is just as focused as the exceptional food.
However, the raviolis were cooked perfectly — the skin was al dente, and the saltiness of the pancetta offset the mellow pea filling. Similarly, the saltiness of the duck legs brought flavor to the beans and tomatoes.
The star of the night was the pan-seared halibut. While I first thought the seaweed salad was unnecessary, Olivier is a master with fish and the reduced soy garlic sauce added a twist to the classic dish.
The meal ended with strawberry soup with a scoop of pistachio ice cream. Time was of the essence as you hurry to eat the ice cream before it melts into the warm strawberries with specks of basil.
The legend of the Cordua family does not escape most people in Houston, if not in the nation. And the father and son team Michael and David Cordua do not disappoint with their new spring menu.
They're not afraid to get meaty. Grilled sous vide beef short rib tacos, speckled with queso fresco, malted onions, crispy tempura mushrooms stand out — even in a city full of tacos.
David Cordua’s fresh corn (instead of the traditional masa) tamales topped with foie gras, candied pecan and agave tamarind glaze had me breaking my bootcamp diet. There was no way I was leaving that table without popping at least two or three of those babies in my mouth.
The shoe string fries which accompanied the prime rib rival the much acclaimed Belgian fries from the recently-closed Jeannine’s Bistro, and the bearnaise sauce it was served with is a welcome change for those with an aversion to mayonnaise or aioli.
Despite my protests that I was about to teach a bootcamp class in a couple of hours, Cordua insists on ending my meal with something sweet. The Besame Mucho alfajores were just the thing — tiny cookies filled with dulce de leche satisfied my sweet tooth and there was no threat of tasting it a second time when it came time to do my push ups.
My mother always kept tomato plants at the house, and as someone without green thumbs, I always missed our housemade summer tomato salads. Up until now, I thought restaurant newcomer Lucille’s had the best tomato salad in town. Triniti’s tomato salad served with a silky blue cheese panna cotta and candied walnuts might just be my new favorite though.
Triniti's standard salmon and tuna dishes are spring-afied with accompaniments like cara cara oranges, fennel puree, pea shoots, lime chips and caper berries. The real stars of the new spring menu, however, are Triniti’s seasonal cocktails.
The Big Fig has been transformed into the Big Apricot, and the pineapple pisco porton and cucumber filled Tinto de Verano is cool and refreshing. The Old Fashioned is now the New Fashioned, reinvented with blood orange and brown sugar simple syrup. Served with Triniti’s famous infused spherical ice globe, the intense citrus flavor is complemented by the warm sweetness of the orange peel brown sugar simple syrup. Triniti’s cocktails program is just as focused as chef Ryan Hildebrand’s exceptional food.
Enjoy these delicious cocktails and dishes before the sweltering heat of summer forces you to the pool with an ice cream sandwich in hand.