As its name implies, TRIBUTE at The Houstonian offers more than just expertly prepared cuisine. It pays homage to the city it is named after, its regional neighbors, and the traditions of its guests. There are stories behind the dishes, with a nod to the chefs' backgrounds and cultures that give diners much more than just a great meal.
Much like the hotel has played an important role in Houston's history — as the former home of President and Mrs. George H. W. Bush — TRIBUTE has created its own delicious contribution to the city's dining scene with "Tex-Lex" cuisine.
This combination of flavors inspired by Texas, Louisiana, and Mexico is curated by executive chef Neal Cox (who hails from north of the Rio Grande River), executive chef Gonzalo Campos, TRIBUTE sous chef Juan Tuch (who come from the south), and chef de cuisine Jeff Boudreaux (who is from east of the Sabine River). These chefs believe their food is exactly how southeast Texans love to eat.
Here's a closer look at the history of some of TRIBUTE's best-known creations:
Smoked blue crab fingers
It's not a rule that each meal needs to start with these dainty slivers of smoky goodness, floating in a shallow sea of tomato butter and served with a grilled baguette, but you'll notice nearly every table does. That's because in addition to being delicious the crab is a tip of the hat from chef Cox to chef Michael Cordúa, who is seen by many as a mentor and leader in the culinary community.
Bacon-wrapped Bandera quail
This story begins on a 7,800-acre ranch in La Pryor, Texas, where hotel general manager Steve Fronterhouse and chef Cox were invited to El Mirador ranch toward the end of quail-hunting season. They heard their hunting guide remark that he had eaten so much quail during the season, he refused to eat another bite. After chef Cox prepared his quail with jalapeño Jack cheese and a mezcal glaze, the guide pulled the chef aside and asked to ship some TRIBUTE quail to his house in West Texas.
King's Inn salad
"Established in 1945" is a reference to The King's Inn, a beloved eatery in Riviera, Texas, run by Randy Ware and long-visited by Cox and his family. Chef Cox combined two of his favorite salads, the avocado and the Bombay, from these trips to Baffin Bay into a mound of Romaine, avocado, tomato, olive, and Bombay dressing.
Southeastern Mexico gets its due with a savory pork dish only found in the most authentic of restaurants. Originating from the Yucatán Peninsula, puerco pibil follows the ancient art of slow-roasting in an underground oven. The meat is marinated overnight in citrus juice and seasoned with annatto seed, creating a flavorful dish that has a distinct and vibrant burnt orange color. The seasoned pork is then wrapped in a banana leaf, and placed in the earth and topped with hot coals. TRIBUTE's chefs follow the same traditional marinade and braising techniques, roasting in a traditional oven.
It doesn't get much more authentic than the chef de cuisine's own family recipe. Crispy shrimp is slathered with remoulade and folded in a buttered baguette — so authentic, you might think you're in NOLA.
The wine story at TRIBUTE celebrates the "past, present, and future of what Houstonians love" and begins with rows of back-lit wine lockers at the entrance. The "secret" wine room for four must be reserved in advance and is the city's most intimate celebration hideaway, with its dedicated sommelier and guest-choice playlist for the night.
This is only a taste of what's on the menu at TRIBUTE. The new Tex-Lex Tour experience menu features the diner's choice of five courses for $65, and beverage pairing may be added for $30.
To experience the full story for yourself, make a reservation by calling 713-685-6713.