CITYCENTRE restaurant secrets revealed: Some of Houston's hottest chefs demonstrate their tricks
Juicy steaks, big burgers, wood-fired pizzas, healthy salads, fresh pastas, crisp wraps, baked delicacies, international cuisine . . . when it comes to good eats, CITYCENTRE has something for every taste, and that includes both foodies who love to dine out and gourmets who love to cook and entertain at home.
Armed with a camera on hand, we hit three newcomers to the scene at this West Houston lifestyle destination for shopping, entertainment and dining to learn kitchen secrets directly from the professionals who are responsible for turning CITYCENTRE into a hot spot for Houstonians with discerning palates.
Inside the posh Hotel Sorella is Radio Milano (set to open late this summer), a contemporary Italian fine dining restaurant helmed by experienced chef Jose Hernandez. With a combination of comfortable decor plus a high-end approach to preparation and plating, this eatery that focuses on locally sourced ingredients isn't the type where you'll find run-of-the-mill dishes such as chicken piccata.
You may just find something more daring such as this sea urchin tagliatelle with poached lobster tossed in a velvety cream sauce, crowned with zesty gremolata and a hint of pane fritto, which can be served individually or family style. Chef Hernandez shares his recipe below.
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 4 jumbo eggs
- Pinch salt and pepper
- One tablespoon olive oil
Whip the eggs in a food processor for a minute. Add flour, salt, pepper and olive oil, and mix until the dough comes together. If the dough looks a tad dry, add a bit of water. Wrap in plastic and let it rest for about 30 minutes. Roll pasta by hand (Sur La Table also sells pasta machines) to 1/4 inch thick. Cut tagliatelle and let it rest on a plate sprinkled with flour or semolina.
Cook four lobsters (each about 1-1 ¼ pounds) in boiling salted water for five minutes. Shock them in ice water. Clean the lobster, scoop out the meat and place in a pan with olive oil, thyme, salt, sliced garlic and chili flakes. Warm up the lobster on low heat, but do not overcook.
Gremolata and pane fritto
For the gremolata, zest one orange and mix with one bunch Italian parsley finely chopped. For the panne fritto, fry two slices of white bread in a shallow pan with a bit of olive oil. Allow the bread rest in a plate with paper towel to absorb excess oil. Once cool, make crumbs and add salt.
To finish the plate
If using sea urchin, which can be omitted, blend half the urchin with 3/4 cup of heavy cream to make a sauce; reserve half of the urchin for plating. Cook the pasta al dente in boiling salted water. In a separate saucepan, add oil, diced shallots and diced garlic, and cook on low heat for about one minute. Add 3/4 cups of heavy cream plus the sea urchin cream (or 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream if omitting the sea urchin) plus salt and pepper. Add the al dente pasta and cook in the cream for about a minute.
Serve the tagliatelle on a plate and top the pasta with lobster and sea urchin. Finish with a gentle sprinkling of pane fritto and gremolata.
SAL Y PIMIENTA
Having recently opened its doors at CITYCENTRE, Sal y Pimienta, which translates to salt and pepper, is already earning a reputation for offering impressive steaks kissed by the aromas courtesy of a robust mesquite grill.
Charismatic Uruguayan chef Gianfranco Percovich has created an upscale yet casual setting in which to enjoy modern cuisine inspired by traditional South American flavors — hello chimichurri.
- 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoons crushed red pepper
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a food processor or by hand, combine the parsley, vinegar, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper. Process until you have the texture you prefer. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and pour extra virgin olive oil over the mixture. Chimichurri doesn't need refrigeration when it's completely covered with oil. You can also experiment with different herbs to create your own version, including cilantro, mint, basil and more.
Meats: Picanha and Tira de Asado (short ribs)
Picanha is a cut of beef popular in Brazil. It's not widely known in the U.S., where it's referred to as the rump cover, rump cap or top sirloin cap, because butchers generally divide it into other cuts like the rump, round and loin. Sal y Pimienta sources its picanha from Niman Ranch in Alameda, California.
Tira de Asado or flanken-style short ribs are ribs cut crosswise against the bone so that you end up with a few cross-sections of bone in each piece.
Season short ribs liberally with salt and pepper and place directly over coals. Cook, turning frequently, until charred on all sides and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the steak registers 125 Fahrenheit — eight to 10 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for five minutes before serving with chimichurri.
Enter Sweet Paris (set to open late this summer) and be transported to a chic, modern, sleek and warm bistro amid a pedestrian boulevard in the City of Lights. The romance of Paris is all over the French and French-inspired sweet and savory crepes. These creations include traditional nutella and bananas plus adventurous concoctions such as the chicken enchilada crepe, s'mores and the breakfast Mexican crepe with carnitas, queso fresco, refried beans and eggs.
For each crepe sold with the World Food Program logo, Sweet Paris will donate one school meal to a child in need. It's a commitment that owner Allison Young and general manager Al Bueno take very seriously.
Le Tropical Crêpe
- ⅓ cup chopped mango
- ⅓ cup chopped pineapple
- Juice from half a lime
- 1 teaspoon chopped mint
- 4 ounces vanilla yogurt
- Eight slices of kiwi
- Toasted coconut for garnish
- Passion fruit coulis for garnish
Passion fruit coulis
- ½ cup of pureed passion fruit
- ¾ cups sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
For the coulis, combine passion fruit, sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add cornstarch and mix well in saucepan. Once the mixture has thickened slightly, remove from heat and allow to cool.
For the crepe, combine in a bowl the chopped mango, chopped pineapple, lime juice, chopped mint and a sprinkle of sugar to taste. Set aside.
Prepare two crepes from your favorite recipe (store bought is an option as well), cooking or warming on both sides. Fold crepe in half and spread half of the vanilla yogurt on the crepe. Evenly distribute half of the mango/pineapple mixture and four kiwis on the crepe. Fold crepe into thirds, creating a triangle, and place in center of plate. Sprinkle toasted coconut down the center. Drizzle passion fruit coulis back and forth across the crepe. Add a dollop of whipped cream if desired to serve.
So, will you cook at home or dine out? We say leave it to the professionals. After all, CITYCENTRE is minutes away.