Pappas Meat Co./Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/PappasMeatCo/photos/pb.560834420712366.-2207520000.1440087144./669774403151700/?type=3&theater]

With over 200 participating in Houston Restaurant Weeks, diners have a wide variety of choices in terms of cuisine, location, ambiance etc. Despite all of those options, the number don't lie — Houstonians see HRW as an opportunity to get a good deal on steak.

Just look at last year's top 10 donations by restaurant to the Houston Food Bank. It's dominated by steakhouses like Del Frisco's and Mr. Peeples and steak-oriented restaurants like Churrascos.

Sadly, the only steak on offer at these places is typically filet mignon — prized by people who don't really like steak for its mild flavor and being really easy to cut. While my own mother typically orders filet (to my considerable embarrassment), most meat lovers find filet to be mushy and flavorless; that's why restaurants typically serve it with enhancements like bearnaise sauce or covered in peppercorns for steak au poivre.

Perhaps the most shameful example of this is at Vic & Anthony's, which offers a wimpy six-ounce filet as its only steak option on a $45, three-course menu. At least Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse delivers a more respectable eight ounces and gives people the option of spending an additional $18 to get a steak someone who likes meat would actually want to eat: a 16-ounce prime strip or ribeye. Vallone's deserves some scorn for not offering a steak entree without a $9 "supplement," but at least it serves four courses instead of three.

What follows are the most intriguing options for eating steak during HRW. Yes, that includes one filet option, but it's both compelling by itself and featured on a less expensive, $35 menu.

Pappas Meat Co.
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, the Galleria area temple of luxurious, dry-aged Prime beef, does not participate in HRW, but this more casual sibling on the Eastside does. For only $35, diners can choose from a 17-ounce ribeye, a 13-ounce strip or an 18-ounce T-bone that are served with a side of a baked potato. Of course, the beef is graded Choice instead of Prime, but it's still eminently delicious.

Frank's Americana Revival
Sadly, the celebrated chicken fried steak at this River Oaks comfort spot is not on the HRW menu, but steak lovers can still find a worthy entree in the 10-ounce strip from highly regarded local purveyor 44 Farms. Alternatively, the fried chicken and seared grouper also make for an excellent dinner.

Texas de Brazil and Tradicao Brazilian Steakhouse
Both of these churrascarias will bring an all you can eat parade of meat to your table for $35. The price even includes both a salad bar, because consuming a few vegetables prior to gorging oneself will help reduce guilt, and dessert. Just remember that the pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese rolls) are a delicious trick to try to fill you up on bread. Don't fall for it. One other tip: never say no to one last bite of garlic beef.

Arnaldo Richards' Picos
For those who insist on eating filet, Picos is the way to go. The Mexican restaurant in Upper Kirby not only covers the meat in either black oaxacan or red poblano mole, but it also serves it with a cheese enchilada, rice and choice of beans. Factor in that the menu also includes two other courses for $35 and rejoice in the value.

Eddie V's
Admittedly, both the CityCentre and West Ave. locations of this chain are better known for their lively bar crowds and seafood options than steak, but the three-course, $45 HRW menu contains one worthwhile splurge. For $10 extra, diners can opt for a 22-ounce bone-in ribeye as an entree. The same cut lists for $49 on the restaurant's regular menu, which means that diners are essentially getting two other courses for $6.

Harwood Grill
The Upper Kirby newcomer has built its whole concept around serving akaushi beef, which is a Texas product that's related to Japanese wagyu. For HRW, choose from either a ribeye or braised short rib as part of its three-course, $45 menu. Not bad for beef that's even more marbled than traditional Prime.

Pappas Meat Co's HRW menu features an 18-ounce T-bone steak.

Pappas Meat Co./Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/PappasMeatCo/photos/pb.560834420712366.-2207520000.1440087144./669774403151700/?type=3&theater]
Pappas Meat Co's HRW menu features an 18-ounce T-bone steak.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Revisit these 6 classic Houston dining spots during Houston Restaurant Weeks

Classic Restaurant Options

Typically, CultureMap readers want to know about the newest, hottest places to dine. That's why we publish a list of 10 new restaurants to try every month.

However, that doesn't mean people don't also enjoy visiting classic spots that have been around a decade or more. After all, these restaurants set the stage for the city's current dining boom, and their continued prosperity demonstrates an ability to capture diners' attention even as the city has changed.

What better time to visit one of these establishments than during Houston Restaurant Weeks. After all, it's a time when restaurants typically put their best foot forward to attract new diners, and most of the establishments below are serving dinner at the more economical $35 level. Everyone likes helping raise money for the Houston Food Bank, but getting a good deal never hurt.

Arcodoro Ristorante Italiano
This restaurant at the corner of Westheimer and Post Oak has been serving rigorously authentic Sardinian cuisine for almost 20 years. For HRW, it's offering four different, four-course menus: meat, seafood, vegetarian and Sardinian ($45).

While both the meat and seafood menus have their temptations in the form of osso bucco and grilled octopus, one does not simply walk into Arcodoro without ordering the Sardinia fare. Highlights include seared tuna topped with bottarga and seafood soup in a saffron broth that's reminiscent of bouillabaisse. Optional wine pairings are an eminently reasonable $28 and feature vintages grown by owner Efisio Farris' family.

Brennan's of Houston
At almost 50 years old, this upscale Creole restaurant has served as a training ground for generations of Houston chefs, but that doesn't mean it's resting on its laurels. Brennan's mixes classics like turtle soup and bananas Foster with updated fare like blueberry-glazed quail and seared salmon over maque choux on its $35, three-course dinner menu. Feeling really indulgent? Add shrimp, oysters or crab to any entree for an additional $10.

Damian's Cucina Italiana
Look for classic Italian-American comfort fare at this 30-year old Midtown staple that's serving a three-course, $35 dinner menu. Start with a classic Caesar salad or sweet potato ravioli. Entree choices include lasagna bolognese and a six-ounce, mushroom-topped filet mignon. Dessert options include bread pudding and gelato. Gluten free diners also have options with every course.

Lynn's Steakhouse
For almost 30 years, this westside favorite has earned raves from diners for its upscale atmosphere and attention to detail. Lynn's stands out among other HRW steakhouses by a dry-aged New York strip, rather than a filet, on its three-course, $35 menu. That sort of frugality allows diners a little extra cash to indulge in a selection from the restaurant's 11,000 bottle wine cellar.

Ouisie's Table
Southern food may be trendy now, but Ouisie's has been serving up Southern comforts for over 40 years. The restaurant's three-course, $35 sadly doesn't feature its signature chicken fried steak, but saltine and herb-crusted chicken and garlic and pepper-crusted prime rib are tempting alternatives. Just save room for peach cobbler.

The Heights may be 2015's hottest culinary destination, but chef Claire Smith was something of a pioneer when she opened Shade 12 years ago. The restaurant's three-course, $35 offers up the well-executed comfort food that's made it so successful. Options include steamed mussels, heirloom tomato salad, duck leg confit and a grilled flat iron steak served with blue cheese Yorkshire pudding. Don't worry — a no membership fee private club helps imbibers get around the neighborhood's dry status.

Ouisie's has been a staple in Houston for over 40 years.

Photo by Shannon O'Hara/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Ouisie's has been a staple in Houston for over 40 years.
Courtesy photo

Houston Restaurant Weeks lineup: 11 newcomers definitely worth a try

Houston Restaurant Weeks Lineup

Houston is only two weeks away from the annual dining frenzy known as Houston Restaurants Weeks. This year's event runs for five weeks: from August 1 until Labor Day on September 7, but unofficially kicks off today (July 15) when organizer Cleverley Stone publishes the menus of the over 200 participating restaurants.

As always, the premise is simple. Restaurants put together special lunch, brunch and dinner menus at fixed priced points ($20 for lunch, $25 for brunch, $35 or $45 for dinner). When a diner visits a restaurant and chooses the menu, the restaurant agrees to make a donation to the Houston Food Bank ($3 to $7, depending on the menu).

Last year's effort raised a record $1.6 million, which could be shattered given the additional week of dining.

Most of last year's participants have returned, including popular destinations suchs as Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse, Masraff's and the Cordua family restaurnts of Americas, Churrascos and Artista. While they're certainly worth patronizing, the list below takes a look at 11 of the over 20 new HRW participants. They range from established restaurants joining the event for the first time to new restaurants that diners may not have had the chance to try.

One thing to keep in mind is that the list of restaurants isn't complete. Organizers will be adding additional places right up until the event begins August 1. If a particular favorite is missing, keep checking back. Now to the list:

Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar
​The Briargrove Italian restaurant inspired by the Amalfi coast offers a three-course, $45 dinner menu. Starter options include snapper crudo and beef carpaccio. Main courses consist of three seafood options that include snapper ravioli and pan seared tuna steak; those who prefer entrees that walked can choose from paccheri pasta in veal ragout or pork tenderloin medallions with black truffles and mushroom sauce. Three dessert options complete the meal.

B&B Butchers and Restaurant
The white-hot Washington Avenue steakhouse is serving both a three-course, $45 dinner and a three-course, $20 lunch. The dinner menu includes the restaurant's signature sizzling bacon appetizer as well as an 8-ounce filet. Step up to a 16-ounce slab of prime rib for a $20 supplement. At lunch, entree choices include a burger, steak sandwich and salmon. For dessert, don't miss the cheesecake.

The Midtown seafood restaurant offers both a $45, three-course dinner menu and a two-course, $20 lunch menu. At dinner, choose from some of the restaurant's signature items like its top-notch gumbo, Thai curry mussels, blackened grouper, chicory-dusted beef tenderloin and spectacular coconut cake. At lunch, the fried oyster salad looks like the most compelling entree choice.

Jonathan's the Rub
The restaurant has been a well-loved neighborhood destination for residents of the Memorial Villages for many years, but Jonathan's is making its first-ever appearance in HRW. The three-course, $45 dinner menu includes starters like mushroom ravioli and mains like lobster salad and a 14-ounce Prime NY strip served with chimichurri sauce. Finish off with key lime cheese cake, apple cobbler or chocolate mousse.

​The restaurant at the rapidly growing craft brewery offers a three-course, $35 dinner menu. Start with the popular Korean fried chicken or a riff on the Canadian classic poutine. Entree options include shrimp and grits and an 8-ounce steak. Finish with a beer milkshake or chocolate chile stout cake.

Paul's Kitchen
The Upper Kirby restaurant known for its use of high-quality local ingredients keeps things classic on its three-course, $35 dinner menu. Start with watermelon gazpacho, salad or chicken fried quail and waffles. Entree choices consist of shrimp and grits, steak frites or chicken with charred okra. For dessert, choices include lemon poundcake and blackberry cobbler.

Peska Seafood Culture
The stylish seafood restaurant near the Galleria offers both a three-course, $45 dinner menu and a three-course, $20 lunch menu that consist of only savory options: good news for people who aren't into sweets. At lunch, start with ceviche or an oyster trio before moving on to a shrimp taco or yellow tail crostada. Main courses include a pork chop or the daily catch filet. At dinner, start with chef Omar Pereney's signature fruit and flower salad, then move on to lobster capuccino or a soft shell taco. Finish with striped bass trainera or a braised beef short rib.

Prohibition Supperclub & Bar
The downtown restaurant that's home to CultureMap's Tastemaker Awards Bartender of the Year winner Lainey Collum offers a three-course, $45 dinner menu. One could start with something other than six chargrilled oysters, but it would be a mistake to do so. Entree choices include prime rib, pork chop and salmon. Peach cobbler and chocolate torta are two of the three desserts.

Revival Market
Skip the crowds at Coltivare by going to its sister restaurant down the street. The three-course, $35 dinner menu offers most of the recently-introduced menu that's already winning fans. The 13 starter options include both the pickled shrimp and Gulf by-catch salads, as well as buttermilk biscuits or Revival's country ham. Roasted half chicken and a Berkshire pork collar are two of the four entree choices. Dessert choices include lemon panna cotta and buttermilk pie.

Radio Milano
The upscale Italian restaurant in CityCentre is serving three-course menus for lunch, brunch and dinner ($35). At dinner, start with lobster bisque or scallop crudo before moving on to risotto, beef filet or duck. Chef Jose Hernandez is well-known for his desserts, so choosing from the three options could be tough. Best to go with friends and share. On the brunch menu, black pepper spaghetti with rabbit ragu sounds particuarly intriguing.

Sud Italia
This Rice Village newcomer in the former Bistro des Amis space offers three savory courses on its $35 dinner menu. Start with arancini (fried risotto balls) or a fritto misto of fried lobster, shrimp, calamari and vegetables. Three pasta choices are next, including a compelling sounding orecchiette pasta with sausage in pomodoro sauce. Finally, choose from one of three entrees including a stew of mussels, calamari and red snapper.

Radio Milano is a newcomer to Houston Restaurant Weeks.

Courtesy photo
Radio Milano is a newcomer to Houston Restaurant Weeks.
Photo by Julie Soefer

Where to Eat Right Now: Here's a bumper crop of 10 innovative, must-try restaurants for July

Where to Eat Right Now

Even in a month when only one of CultureMap's 17 most anticipated new restaurants of summer 2015 opened, the city's restaurateurs still produced a bumper crop of new options to try. That slowdown offers diners the opportunity to try some of these new bars and restaurants before the deluge of high profile spots becomes totally overwhelming. The rest of the summer is going to be super busy.

Of course, most people will spend August exploring deals for Houston Restaurant Weeks, which means everyone will get even further behind. Thus, the time to act is now. Otherwise, you'd have to cook. What's the fun in that?

After being a little bit inner Loop-centric in recent months, July's edition of Where to Eat Now contains options in both Sugar Land and The Woodlands. How's that for geographic diversity?

Without further ado, here's this month's list of new restaurants to try. As always, these are presented in roughly the order in which I think you should try them.

Chef Austin Simmons's tasting menu restaurant within Hubbell & Hudson may be a little behind schedule, but Cureight officially opened in June. Just as The Pass is hidden behind Provisions, Cureight can be found tucked away in the back of the Woodlands restaurant in a 24-seat, private dining room that looks into the kitchen.

The restaurant's eight-course tasting menu will vary seasonally. For now, Simmons opens with four strong seafood courses: an amuse bouche of hamachi with coconut milk, scallop in apple dashi, an interpretation of the French Laundry classic oysters and pearls and uni carbonara with caviar and king crab. Taking on Thomas Keller is a gutsy move, but the combination of creamy oysters and salty caviar works well. Dry-aged Texas akaushi beef finishes the savory offerings, which give way to intricately plated, well-balanced desserts from pastry chef Nguyet Nguyen for the final two courses.

It would be unreasonable to discuss Cureight without considering where it stands in relation to Houston's two other tasting menu restaurants. Briefly, Simmons's menu is more protein forward than Oxheart and less elaborate than The Pass. At $135 per person, it is also more expensive than either of those restaurants (wine pairings are additional). Still, those with an affinity for adventurous dining will find enough about Cureight compelling to justify the drive from points south. If Simmons keeps Cureight's menu interesting, he will have established The Woodlands' first true destination restaurant.

True to its name, this new restaurant from Tiger Den chef/owner Mike Tran serves a variety of noodle-related dishes. As noted back in May, Mein's decor is a Chinese-style companion to Tiger Den's art deco motif. It's an expansive, inviting space that a perfect spot for a large group to gather and attack the menu.

Dishes are divided into sections consisting of shareable starters (sized small and medium), noodle dishes, rice dishes and noodle soups. Of the starters, don't miss the roasted charsiu pork in a sweet glazed that's balanced with spicy mustard. Both the curry duck noodle soup and house wonton soup delivered strong flavors that made the broth good from first sip to last spoonful. Korean-style black bean noodles (jjajangmyun) and squid ink fried rice are also standouts. Skip the batterless fried chicken. BYOB for now, but check with the restaurant to confirm whether it's received its liquor license.

The Ginger Mule Tonics & Meals
For their fourth Sugar Land restaurant, Robert White and Victor Litwinenko have created an intimate space with an equal focus on craft cocktails and comfort food. The menu has been divided into sections where groups of dishes are available for one price. Highlights include the sweet and smoky barbecue pork shanks and the retro-fun potato sticks. All of the house cocktails are priced at $10 or less, which is a welcome respite from the recent trend towards $12 to $15 drinks.

The Rice Box
The food truck that brought General Tso's chicken to the streets has added a permanent home in the Greenway Plaza food court. The design mimics the truck's bright red paint and includes a few counter seats for those patrons who don't have to rush back to the office. The menu features some important new additions in the form of The Rice Box's first ever beef dish (pepper steak), curry chicken and egg noodles instead of rice. The familiar favorites are there, too, of course, but some of the recipes have been tweaked. Orange chicken that actually takes like oranges (instead of cornstarch and self-loathing at other restaurants) is a particularly satisfying revision. Be prepared for a bit of a wait; office workers are flocking to the newcomer.

Beckrew Wine House
Admittedly, this wine bar that took over the Tasting Room space in Upper Kirby isn't new, but people are still discovering the cozy space created by childhood friends Chris David and Paul Choi who wanted an entrepreneurial companion to their day jobs in the energy industry. David, Choi and general manager William Fuller let their passion for wine dictate selections, which run the gamut from $35 to over $1,000 per bottle but are concentrated in the $50 to $100 sweet spot. With its mix of table, bar and lounge seating, Beckrew's atmosphere has a bit of a clubhouse, neighborhood vibe.

Food selections are limited but focused on delivering quality ingredients at affordable prices. In addition to a signature selection of flavored honeys, the personal-sized pizzas are a highlight. Try the meat-loaded tres carnes.

Velvet Taco
The Dallas import that blends Torchy's non-traditional tacos with Fusion Taco's global perspective has landed on Washington Ave. Friendly service, late night hours and lots of seating should make Velvet Taco a destination, but taco purists will probably object to the sheer quantity of ingredients stuffed into each tortilla. I'll be back for another crispy chicken tikka and am eager to try both the rotisserie chicken and one of the breakfast options. Fully loaded tots (two kinds of cheese and a fried egg) are practically a meal on their own.

Lincoln Bar & Kitchen
Similar to Beckrew, this new patio bar on Washington Avenue offers a bit of a clubhouse vibe and serves as a refuge for people in their 30's looking for a place to hang out away from places pitched to a younger demographic. Lots of TV hang from the ceilings and long tables encourage groups to gather. The menu consists of classic bar food like fried pork spare ribs, burgers and wings. I particularly enjoyed the deep fried pork tamales, but salads are available for those seeking healthier fare. Weekly food specials like a steak night on Wednesday add to the appeal.

Del Frisco's Grille
The casual, neighborhood-oriented offshoot of the popular steakhouse has opened its second Houston-area location at the new Hughes Landing development in The Woodlands. While the menu will be familiar to anyone who's visited the Upper Kirby location — the Shake Shack style two-patty burger and signature cheesesteak eggrolls are both present and accounted for — the new location offers a couple of significant upgrades. First, the location sits on Lake Woodlands and features an expansive patio with a view of the water. Second, the space itself is larger and better structure with more separation between the expanded bar area and the dining room.

Nationally, the company has vowed to improve the concept's disappointing earnings, but Woodlands residents seem to have embraced the newcomer. Credit the something for everyone menu and polished service for the initial success. The biggest downside is parking; those who don't want to partake of the free valet will have to walk a bit from a nearby garage.

Lawless Spirits & Kitchen
This month's third bar with food is the replacement for the shuttered State Bar & Lounge in the Rice Lofts. Almost a year in the making, the space has been transformed into a bright, stylish room with lots of lounge-style seating. The remodel gives lawless an upscale feel that should make a desirable destination for after work happy hours and pre night on the town revelry. I didn't detect any of the problems with cold food that bloggers Coco Dijon reported on their visit; indeed, both the brisket pot stickers and Korean tacos served as a flavorful, if slightly messy, happy hour snack.

The biggest problem is that all that stylish decor comes at a price; a pint of Lone Pint Yellow Rose is an eye-popping $9, and the cocktails are all $10 to $13. I'll be seeking less expensive options elsewhere, but the well-dressed crowd that populated the space during my visit didn't seem to mind.

Pho Binh Noodle and Grill
Typically, this column serves as an invitation to try new restaurants, but I'm going to break with tradition to discuss the new Pho Binh that opened in the space formerly occupied by Sale Sucre in the Heights. For fans across the city, the name Pho Binh stands for the city's best pho, but all locations are not created equal. Different family members own different locations, and the recipes they use vary considerably. Thus it is that Daniel Nguyen, brother to the owner of the original Pho Binh trailer and uncle to the brothers who own Pho Binh by Night, serves a menu that's different than the other restaurants.

The actual pho retains much of the Pho Binh signature spice mix and is something I'd happily go back for — even if the typical side of bone marrow had been marked out on the menu. Unfortunately, we found the non-pho offerings to be pretty disappointing. Spring rolls lacked the typical mint or cilantro and shaking beef had such an odd texture that my friend refused to eat it. I walked in hoping that even an inferior Pho Binh might still be the best Vietnamese food in the area, but it seems like the restaurant needs to refine its recipes.

Honorable Mention: Melange Creperie
Melange isn't new, but the popular crepe shop has a new location. "Buffalo" Sean Carroll's deal to bring his crepe stand to the site of the Eatsie Boys Cafe may have fallen through, but, as of this week, diners can find Carroll at H-E-B's Montrose Market Monday through Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday brunch will begin soon, as will lunch once Carroll hires and trains an additional crepe maker. Look for Melange's familiar stand by the frozen foods. The menu features the two familiar staples, ham and egg and banana nutella, along with two rotating specials. Do the crepes taste better when the wait for one doesn't require sweating? Signs point to yes.

Austin Simmons may have established a true destination restaurant with Cureight.

Photo by Julie Soefer
Austin Simmons may have established a true destination restaurant with Cureight.
Courtesy photo

Houston's 10 best sushi restaurants: One stands above the rest, but lots of fine choices abound

Houston's Best Sushi

Houston doesn't lack for sushi restaurants. Of course, that's true for most cuisines in this bustling city, but determining what's best presents a bit of a problem.

First, Kata Robata is so clearly above its peers in terms of quality, consistency and overall experience that every other restaurant is competing for second place. Still, the range of price points and locations means that, while Houston lacks a super-expensive sushi destination like Masa in New York or Urasawa in Beverley Hills where diners might pay $400 or more per person for dinner, restaurants around the city offer plenty of options for most diners.

It's also worth noting that sushi in Houston is in a transitional moment.

It's also worth noting that sushi in Houston is in a transitional moment. Currently, Chris Kinjo is building a new outpost of MF Sushi in the Museum District, which will be a contender for Houston's best spot as soon as it opens. In addition, the Galleria will soon be home to two new spots, Sozo Sushi in BLVD Place (just above True Food Kitchen) and Oka Sushi in the former Osteria Mazzantini space next to Caracol. Depending on their quality and price point, they could be solid destinations, too.

One final caveat: this list is designed to be comprehensive rather than definitive. It offers some geographic diversity and caters to different price points. While I suspect these declarations won't spare this list being shredded by the experts at the Sushi Club of Houston, hopefully other readers find it useful.

Kata Robata
​By any metric, whether it be quality, value for the money, service or overall experience, Kata Robata serves the best sushi in Houston. Kata's quality starts at the top with master chef Manabu Horiuchi (Hori-san), whose expert skills and high standards ensure well-cut fish that's served at just the right temperature. On any given evening, Kata's specials will include fish that's been flown in that day from Japan, but the restaurant also keeps up with more locally-sourced fare like soft shell crab. Sitting at the sushi counter for an omakase tasting with chef Hori remains one of the best dining experiences in the city; pro tip: go on a Tuesday, when the most rare and unusual fish have been delivered from Japan. Beyond sushi, Kata offers consistently intriguing raw and cooked non-sushi options and an extensive selection of sake that combine to make it one of Houston's best restaurants in any category.

Pro tip: go to Kata Robata on a Tuesday, when the most rare and unusual fish have been delivered from Japan.

This restaurant in the Gateway Memorial City complex has only been open for just over a year, but it's already established itself as a top destination for sushi. Credit executive chef Adison Lee, who brings his training from celebrated sushi restaurant Nobu as well as well-regarded stints at Raku and Sage 400. At Kuu, Lee uses fresh fish flown in. Try to resist the impulse to dunk each piece of nigiri in soy sauce; Lee adorns each slice with a little fresh herb or dot of roe that makes any additional enhancements unnecessary. Cooked dishes, like 30-hour braised pork belly and smoked duck, add to Kuu's appeal by demonstrating the same level of attention to detail that makes the sushi so compelling.

​Like Kata, Uchi serves high-quality, well-prepared fish that always includes a mix of staples and seasonal items, but the restaurant has never seemed like a sushi destination. Perhaps that's because the prepared items are so much more interesting that it's hard to imagine any one choosing to go there just for sushi instead of some of the other restaurants on this list. Still, if one can fight the crowds that still flock to this Austin-import, the super-knowledgeable staff will help even the most sushi skeptical diners curate a memorable meal. Just save room for a piece of foie gras nigiri; it's not traditional, but it is delicious.

Teppay Japanese Restaurant
​This restaurant might be the most authentically Japanese in Houston. Just ask the Japanese clientelle who seem to fill the intimate dining room most nights or note that the restaurant's Facebook posts are in English and Japanese. The menu features the usual range of fish along with specials like horse mackerel and bonito that will appeal to those with funkier palates. Service can be indifferent at times, but the quality of the food speaks for itself. Just stick to nigiri or sashimi here. Leave the rolls for other, more Americanized options.

Teppay might be the most authentically Japanese restaurant in Houston.

If Kata Robata is the crown of the Azuma Group's Houston sushi mini-empire, then Soma is the scepter. Like Kata, Soma features high-quality, globally-sourced fish that offers a range of standard species and more esoteric, enthusiast-oriented offerings. Of course, it lacks the magical Hori-san, but that also means it's easier to get in for dinner without a reservation; try doing that at Kata. On the hot side, chef Gabriel Medina is a two-tine Tastemakers Rising Star chef nominee whose ability to blend flavors from across the Pacific with Soma's Japanese perspective means there's always an intriguing new special to try.

Izakaya Wa
​This intimate restaurant that's tucked away off Memorial Drive may not have earned much acclaim outside of its immediate area, but it packs serious sushi cred thanks to owner Akira Asano, was was the long-time general manager of Kubo's in Rice Village and celebrated sushi chef Hajime Kubokawa, the man for whom Kubo's is named. With Kubo-san behind the counter, Izakaya Wa's sushi is fresh and precisely prepared. On the rest of the menu, the grilled and fried skewers offer the mostly Japanese clientele a taste of home.

Kubo's Sushi Bar & Grill
​While Kubo-san hasn't been associated with his namesake restaurant in many years, this Rice Village staple continues to deliver authentic Japanese fare. That starts at the sushi counter, where the highly-trained chefs build on the legacy of predecessors like Kubo-san and Hori-san by being willing to engage diners in conversations about the day's fresh selections. The rest of the sushi selections are fairly convention but well-executed, and the slightly obscure location on the second story of a parking garage adds a little bit of an in-the-know vibe to the proceedings.

Kubo's slightly obscure location on the second story of a parking garage adds a little bit of an in-the-know vibe to the proceedings.

Sushi Miyagi
This small restaurant that's hidden away in the same Bellaire Blvd shopping center that's home to Golden Dim Sum may be the Houston restaurant that comes closest to the small, family-owned and operated sushi restaurants that are a staple in Japan. Dining here feels like being in on a secret, but that comes at a price. First, the owner also serves as the only sushi chef, which means orders can take an hour to arrive if the restaurant is crowded. Second, some reports suggest the hours have recently changed and the restaurant now closes as early as 7 p.m. Consider it a lunch or early-dinner destination. However, diners who can deal with the hassles will be rewarded with a a memorable, satisfying experience.

If Uchi is where the rest of Houston comes to Montrose for sushi, then Osaka is where Montrose residents go for sushi when they don't want to deal with the crowds, valet parking or expense of eating at Uchi. Every meal at Osaka includes a complimentary appetizer and dessert, which enhances the sense of values and reinforces the spirit of hospitality that emanates from the cheerful service. The fish may not be at Uchi's super-premium level, but I've never had a bad meal there. The nigiri options are reliable, and the rolls offer enough variety that anyone can find one to suit his or her taste.

Aka Sushi House
This Upper Kirby staple is one of the few exceptions to the rule that good sushi isn't cheap and cheap sushi isn't good. Aka's generous happy hour — it runs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and reverse after 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and all-day Saturday and Sunday — offers lots of value on sushi, cooked items and drinks. Fish choices encompass all the usual favorites, and a few imaginative rolls keep things interesting for those who don't just want nigiri. Ramen fans take not: Aka's tonkotsu is made at Tiger Den, because they have the same owner.

Sitting at Kata Robata's sushi counter for an omakase tasting with Manabu Horiuchi is one of Houston's best dining experiences.

Courtesy photo
Sitting at Kata Robata's sushi counter for an omakase tasting with Manabu Horiuchi is one of Houston's best dining experiences.
Photo by Eric Sandler

Where to Eat Right Now: 10 distinctive new restaurants that are definitely worth a try in June

Where to Eat Right Now

After a quiet April, the month of May saw a number of new restaurants open across the Houston area. Having survived last month's flooding, the time has come to stop hunkering down and get out and eat — at least until the heat becomes so oppressive no one wants to leave home.

This month's crop features a new steakhouse with lots of retro touches, the best restaurant to open at a Houston brewery (so far), Montrose's latest dining sensation and mobile crepes by way of Spain and Poland.

This month's crop features a new steakhouse with lots of retro touches, the best restaurant to open at a Houston brewery (so far), Montrose's latest dining sensation and mobile crepes by way of Spain and Poland. This month's list has a strong focus on inner-Loop options, but Spring Branch residents have a new burger joint to check out.

Let's get to it. As always, these are listed in roughly the order I think you should try them, but use your intelligence guided by your experience to determine which are best for you.

B&B Butchers and Restaurant
Locally-owned steakhouses are rare in Houston. For whatever reason, they're typically chains that feature similar menus. However, B&B Butchers, which just opened on Washington Avenue, is a one-off, and the restaurant isn't afraid to be different. That starts with its in-house dry aging program and retail butcher shop where would-be grillmasters can purchase high-quality steaks to make at home. It continues on the menu; all the standard cuts of USDA Prime beef are available, but so is Texas waygu from Gearhart Ranch and old-school steak entrees like prime rib, chateaubriand and Beef Wellington. Even the decor — with its exposed wooden plank ceiling and a large window that looks into the kitchen — breaks the mold from the all leather all the time steakhouse vibe.

At the restaurant's invitation, three friends and I ordered a number of items from across the menu. We liked the carpetbagger appetizers of a fried oyster served over slices of bacon and filet topped with bleu cheese and hot sauce and a steak tartare that could've used another pinch of salt. On the other hand, tuna tartare had an unpleasantly sweet, almost pineapple flavor. At $98, the long bone ribeye for two is a fatty, flavorful steak that's a worthwhile splurge. The sides were a bit of a mixed bag, but the thick cut onion rings are must-try. Overall, B&B may not be ready to join the city's "Big Three" steakhouses of Pappas Bros., Vic & Anthony's and Killen's, but it's the most exciting newcomer since Vallone's opened in 2013.

Karbach Brewing Co.
Houston's fastest growing brewery recently opened the restaurant that's part of its $15 million expansion. It's a stylish, spacious room with a generous patio that's the most complete dining experience at any Houston brewery. Led by former Benjy's chef Joseph Stayshich, the Karbach restaurant serves dishes that are made with some of the ingredients used to brew beer, like malt in the sauce for gnocchi and spent grain in the pizza crusts. The dishes are also designed to pair well with Karbach beers, which are conveniently available on tap at the restaurant — including some one-offs that aren't available anywhere else. At lunch, the menu features salads and sandwiches in the $10-15 range, while dinners offers a few more entrees like a half chicken and butcher's cut steak in the $20-25 range.

I tasted part of the lunch menu with a couple of friends. We agreed that Stayshich's Korean fried chicken, which delivers the right mix of sweet and spicy and crispy,and juicy rock shrimp are dishes we'd happily eat again. Other highlights included an asparagus and arugula salad topped with romanesco cheese and a properly runny egg and the pineapple express pizza with pork belly and bonito. The flavors in the grilled shrimp banh mi came together well, but the bread could stand to be more of a classic baguette and less of a soft roll.

La Grange
Judging by the number of Facebook check-ins and Instagram pictures I've seen, people have already discovered this new Mexican coastal cantina from the folks behind Liberty Station and Cottonwood that has replaced iconic gay bar E.J.'s just off Westheimer. For those who have yet to visit, the interior features lamps found by owners Sara and Rob Cromie during their trips to Mexico and lots of custom ironwork, but it's the large, interior courtyard that's already making La Grange a summertime destination. It's a two-story affair that encourages lingering over a craft beer or an agave-based cocktail. On the cocktail side, don't miss the watermelon fresca and a frozen margarita with plenty of bite. The smoked tomato campechana was too briny for my taste, but both the grilled shrimp and queso (add guacamole) are perfect for sharing.

Mala Sichuan Bistro
Whether one considers it the best restaurant in Asiatown or merely a very good one, no one can argue that Mala Sichuan's arrival in Montrose has been greeted with anything other than rabid enthusiasm. Hour-long waits for a table are not uncommon on Friday and Saturday nights, and the valet for the lot it shares with El Real has been totally overwhelmed (park on the street and walk to avoid the mess). Despite these hassles, I've been three times in two weeks and am confident in saying it's every bit as good as the original on Bellaire Blvd. In addition to Mala favorites like ma po tofu, water boiled fish and spicy and aromatic chicken, the new location features dishes made with an incredibly aromatic green peppercorn sauce that can't be missed. At $10 per bottle of wine and $2 per beer, the cost of BYOB adds up quickly; just make sure whatever you bring is worth the added expense.

Revival Market
After a particularly disappointing dinner at another restaurant where a group of us picked at some shared entrees before ultimately giving up and cutting our losses, we sought redemption at Revival Market's newly-introduced dinner service. Even though it was only its second day, the market-turned-restaurant delivered. Those familiar with Coltivare will not be surprised to find out that Ryan Pera's salads, including a smoked bycatch with cantaloupe and another of pickled shrimp with peaches, are a particular highlight. Yes, one can get spendy with a 20-ounce striploin, but the best entree is a straightforward take on classic beef Stroganoff with housemade pasta. It's a comforting throwback that hits all the right notes. Revival is BYOB for now, but look for it to receive a club license and introduce cocktails and wine soon.

Fluff Bake Bar
Located in Midtown just a couple of doors down from Kata Robata's eagerly anticipated Izakaya, Fluff Bake Bar gives fans of pastry chef Rebecca Masson a dedicated retail outlet to get their Fluffernutter fix. In addition to Masson's popular creations like unicorn cookies and Veruca Salt Cup|Cakes, Fluff ups the ante with coffee, charcuterie plates and plated desserts. Those with a dedicated sweet tooth will want to schedule a dessert tasting, which offers three plates for $21. Late night hours (open until midnight Thursday through Saturday) and access to the spacious courtyard should mean that Fluff functions as a can't-miss date spot between dinner and a nightcap.

Bonjour Creperie
This new food truck features an unlikely story of culinary inspiration and long-distance love. Czarek Brylski was born in Poland but learned to make crepes in Spain. After opening five creperies in Barcelona, he moved to Texas to be with his American wife, Pamela, who he met when she was a student studying abroad. Now Brylski can be found serving sweet and savory crepes from a van at spots like the West Alabama Ice House. Obviously, diners can't go wrong with a classic like banana nutella, but savory options like prosciutto with arugula and melon,which use a gluten-free batter, make for a light, satisfying meal.

​This recently opened restaurant in Spring Branch applies the farm-to-table ethos to a fast casual burger joint. That means the patties are made with locally-sourced beef from 44 Farms and various toppings come from local farms and suppliers like the Houston Dairymaids. BuffBurger further broadens its appeal with vegetarian, tuna and chicken patties, as well as a selection of salads. After reading an enthusiastic review by the usually reliable Hank on Food, I was excited to give it a shot. While I recognize the quality of the ingredients, my patty arrived well done instead of the requested medium, which mean all the delicious fatty juices were cooked right out of it. Crispy fries and a very chocolate-y milkshake saved part of the experience. I think BuffBurger can pull it together and deliver, but diners who patronize the restaurant are advised to be vigilant about doneness.

Gumbo Jeaux's
This fast casual seafood restaurant that's a Yelp favorite near Bush Intercontinental Airport recently opened a second location at the southern end of the Heights. The menu is a straightforward affair of fried options as well as composed seafood dishes like broiled catfish in a variety of sauces. The fried shrimp, catfish and chicken we sampled all arrived hot and crispy while still being juicy. A bowl of the namesake gumbo had plenty of meat, and a selection of hot sauces perked up the spice level. Given its reasonable prices and fast service, it should work well as both a lunch and dinner stop for anyone in the area.

Rustic Oak
For now, chef Wendell Price's restaurant that's located in a renovated Montrose bungalow near Brooklyn Athletic Club is only open for brunch on the weekends, but the buffet offers enough choices that it merits a shot in anyone's brunch rotation. For $30, diners can choose from all the usual items like scrambled eggs, bacon, breads and fresh fruit. Price also offers made-to-order items like red velvet pancakes and crab cakes that elevate the experience. Lunch and dinner should follow soon, at which point we'll get more of an idea of the cuisine that once earned celebrity fans like Kevin Costner and Denzel Washington.

Need more restaurants to try? Consider these picks from May, April, March and February.

The carpet bagger oysters at B&B Butchers are worth the caloric splurge.

Photo by Eric Sandler
The carpet bagger oysters at B&B Butchers are worth the caloric splurge.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Luxe plastic surgery center injects River Oaks with cutting-edge techniques, posh recovery suites, secret access, and more

A-list treatment

With the holiday season in full swing and many prepping for a new look for the new year, image-conscious Houstonians have a new option for cutting-edge cosmetic treatments and plastic surgery in one of Houston’s most elite neighborhoods.

Nuveau Plastic Surgery + Medical Aesthetics, a local leader in cosmetic medical procedures, has quietly opened a sleek new facility in River Oaks (3720 Westheimer Rd.). Owned and operated by renowned (and board-certified) plastic surgeon Dr. Edward Lee, the facility offers myriad reconstructive surgeries for men, women, and children, as well as beauty treatments, touch-ups, and more.

Aside from top-of-the-line technology, instrumentation, and treatments, the boutique center has personalized service and features to the tony RO crowd. A secret entrance ensures privacy for discreet clients, much like similar operations in Los Angeles and New York.

Another top-drawer feature: Tastefully appointed pre-op and post-op suites keep patients in-house, rather than having to leave posh treatment centers and head to crowded hospital rooms for recovery.

In keeping with Lee’s insistence on a medicine-first approach, anesthesia for patients is provided by Medical Anesthesia Associates, an MD-only group.

A cut above

Notably, the center places a primary focus on plastic surgery, which, for the uninitiated, has a clear distinction from cosmetic surgery. Randy Rakes, managing partner, tells CultureMap that it’s important for clients to understand the difference.

“You have to understand, you have to go through hundreds of hours of training and cases — face and the entire body — to get that board certification, and go through rigorous testing in order to meet that specification,” he says.

Why is that important? The industry, Rakes notes, is rife with practitioners such as “OBGYNs or dermatologists or people who have not really been trained in the art of plastic surgery, who take a class somewhere and learn how to do liposuction or a fat transfer — and then they're ‘experts’ in aesthetic surgery.”

That’s especially key when selecting a provider for highly invasive — and potentially serious — procedures such as facelifts, eyelid surgeries, tummy tucks, liposuction, rhinoplasty, breast lifts and augmentations, breast reconstruction, and more, Rakes adds.

In an era of Instagram beauty demands, more choosy clients are opting for streamlining facial features. To that end, Lee is one of a select few surgeons in the U.S. who regularly performs “V-Line '' surgery. The set of procedures, popularized in South Korea where Lee honed many of his skills, aim to narrow the width of the jawline and the face.

Aesthetics with an expert eye

Lee’s elegant, 5,500-square-foot center is adorned with CASA Houston designs, Italian-influenced finishes, and soothing elements evocative of a modern art museum or luxury spa. The facility houses a Visia Skin Analysis Studio and seven treatment suites aesthetic work such as Botox, microneedling, VI peels, Halo Laser Resurfacing, Moxi Non-Ablative Laser, Broad Band Light Photofacials, Coolsculpting, Emsculpt, and more.

Rakes says that his registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and estheticians are elite, by design, as he and Lee insist on credentials. “All of our injectors are licensed in the State of Texas,” he says. “Most places don't have that, the reason being is that they are much more highly skilled than a traditional, regular nurse injector. So they have a much higher skill set. The people who do our lasers and things of that nature have 10 to 15 years of experience, so clients know that they're getting the best possible treatment with the best possible devices — we own every medical device that's considered cutting edge in the industry.”

Facing forward

Rakes, a longtime medical industry processional with a keen eye for trends and technology, says that his clients aren’t just looking for traditional services, but new technologies and treatment, such as PRP and other regenerative therapies. “I think patients are kind of moving a little bit away from the traditional Hyaluronic fillers like Restylane and really looking for something with a more natural approach.”

His treatment teams stimulate collagen with fillers such as Radiesse, “and then we combine that with energy-based devices to even further lift the tissue and work as a synergy between using the injectable and the device, because the combination of both of those things give the patient the best possible results,” Rakes notes. Lee and Rakes also focus facial care on medical-grade skincare brands Alastin, Revision, and Elta MD.

A global scope

Aside from his board certification in plastic surgery, Lee has also trained in craniofacial and pediatric surgery. His medical mission work has taken him to Thailand, Haiti, and Cambodia, where he has performed surgeries for nonprofits such as Operation Smile and Smile Train for those in need.

Those in need of non-traditional treatments can also trust Lee, says Rakes, who points to Lee’s work in the cosmetic and plastic surgery-obsessed Korea. “Some of the Korean techniques are much more advanced than the techniques that are available here in the United States,” says Rakes. “Dr. Lee does a lot of things that other physicians here just don't do.”

Those interested should book early, Rakes advises, as the holiday and new year rush is in full swing. The center offers “pre-buying” slots where clients can reserve space and time. “We’ve been very busy,” says Rakes, noting the local celebs who’ve shared the work they’ve received there on social media. “I think people come here because they know they’re getting the very best treatment and results available.”

Photo courtesy of Nuveau PlasticSurgery + Medical Aesthetics

Nuveau's sleek River Oaks center boasts designs from CASA.

Beloved Houston urban farm toasts local culinary legend with new cooking courses and classroom


For longtime Houston food insiders, Peg Lee needs no introduction. A lifelong local culinary instructor, she has been a fixture in the food scene since the 1970s, where she (often humorously) led cooking classes at Houston Community College.

She was a no-brainer to found and direct Rice Epicurean's cooking school. And the newly launched Central Market made waves in 2001 by enticing her to launch its now wildly successful cooking school, which, thanks to Lee, has lured top national and international chefs and food names.

Along the way, Lee mentored now well-known chefs such as Robert Del Grande, Greg Martin, and Mark Cox.

Quite apropos, the Houston legend is now the namesake for a new cooking school in one of the city's most beloved urban green sanctuaries, Hope Farms. The Peg Lee Culinary Classroom in Hope Farms' Gathering Barn now hosts field trips, classes, tastings, and free cooking demonstrations for children and adults.

Locals can also book the charming space, spearheaded by Recipe for Success/Hope Farms founder Gracie Cavnar, for cooking parties and cooking classes for anywhere from four to 24 students. Those interested can find more information on classes, which center on Cavnar's passion for healthy eating, and more here.

As for the classroom, visitors can expect a white, farmhouse-style kitchen with custom cabinets and high-end appliances, all reflective of a home kitchen. Butcherblock countertops, matte black accents, and farm-made tables and more adorn the space, while a Wolf Induction cooktop, A GE Café Smart Five-in-One Wall Oven, and other state-of-the-art appliances get folks cooking.

Fittingly, classroom water is tied into the farm's new rainwater capture system for the ultimate in sustainability.

“Peg was one of my earliest mentors in the imagining and crafting of what Recipe for Success Foundation would become,” Cavnar noted in a statement. “Then, when we began programing, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work, helping us teach children to cook and bringing her many resources to help us raise money and awareness for our efforts. It is my deepest honor to pay her tribute with the naming of our classroom.”

New craft brewery bringing 'bold American beer,' Texas comfort food, live music, and more to Sugar Land

Sugar land's new craft brewery

Houston’s growing craft brewery scene will add a new outpost in Sugar Land. Talyard Brewing Co. recently began construction on a 15,000-square-foot production and tap room that will open in early 2024.

Located in Imperial, a massive mixed-use development on the site of the former Imperial Sugar refinery, Talyard will occupy a three-and-a-half acre site that will include a beer garden with shaded seating areas, pickle ball courts, a playground, and a stage for live entertainment.

Principals Keith Teague and Chuck Laughter are Sugar Land natives and neighbors who bring experience from the business world to Talyard. In a release, Teague says that intend to serve “bold American beer” paired with a food menu of Texas comfort food made from locally sourced ingredients.

“We want to push the boundaries of style and tradition by combining old practices and new,” Teague added.

Ultimately, the brewery’s 20-barrel brewhouse will be capable of producing 10,000 barrels per year. For now, brew master Sean Maloney is dialing in recipes on a test system. Formerly of 8th Wonder Brewing, Maloney has been working on the West Coast and recently finished the World Brewing Academy’s Master Brewer Program, administered by the Siebel Institute in Chicago and the Doemens Academy in Munich.

“As I’m sure is the case for many ventures like ours, the idea of starting a craft brewery was hatched over beers in the backyard,” Teague said. “Sean attended high school with Chuck’s son, and over the years, we’d see him at family gatherings during the holidays when he was visiting from the West Coast. Those backyard beer sessions turned into area brewery tours together, and eventually the idea of sharing our passion here locally was born.”

Talyard will add to Imperial’s extensive entertainment options. The area also includes Constellation Field, home to the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, a weekly farmers market, and the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center.