Date Restaurants – Part 1

For the longest time I have had a list of places I’ve wanted to try that I felt were only suitable to go to with a date (or with a friend willing to spend for a gourmet meal)  Since I’m terrible at updating this blog, I have compiled a list of notable Houston restaurants and my opinions on them that I have had the pleasure of trying over the past 3 months.

Mark’s (8/10) – Just about everything was amazing at Mark’s and it should have been, considering the price tag.  The service, wine, salmon trio starter – perfecto. I have never had such amazing salmon! Mark’s was in the running for a 10, but I had the pork and – don’t shoot me – it was overcooked and tough.  I set high expectations for a place with a reputation like Mark’s so, needless to say I was disappointed.  I did have a bite of the boy’s beef tenderloin and it was wonderful…maybe he would give it a 10. Overall, very lovely – I would still recommend it for a special occasion – the ambiance is amazing and interior is beautiful.

1658 Westheimer Rd. Houston, Texas 77006 (713) 523-3800 marks1658.com

La Colombe d’Or (9/10) – The reason La Colombe is getting a 9 is because I believe it is more geared towards weddings or events, not as somewhere to eat for 2.  Saturday night – reservations at 8:30, and not another soul to be seen – it was a bit eerie for me but also a bit awesome. I like to pretend it was rented out just for us two. We joked we were in either an 80’s/early 90’s romantic comedy/horror on account of the music, decor and the fact this is also a hotel.  This was a meal of firsts for me: first escargot, first time to be the only couple dining in a restaurant and the first time I ever tried Chateaubriand – come to think of it maybe the first time to eat French ever (outside La Madeline of course). The food was amazing. We started with the duck trio – absolutely divine. And the Chateaubriand was amazing paired with the Bearnaise. I had my favorite bottle of wine to date at La Colombe: Chateau Trotanoy 2006. Hopefully if you go, there are others around.

3410 Montrose Boulevard Houston, TX 77006-4329 (713) 524-7999 lacolombedorhouston.com

Glass Wall (7/10) – Oh Glass Wall, how I wanted to love you.  The menu is so creative and interesting, but I have to say I left with an overall feeling of “meh.” I decided to go with wine pairings wince they were available and I always like to receive wine suggestions (mainly because I still have a ton to learn) – these were spot on my taste. The best part was the beignets and milk for dessert, which were served warm and gooey.  Nothing was exceptionally memorable, but I would definitely like to give the GW another shot. I would say this is better for friends than for a date, but the menu might also be an interesting topic of conversation.  Things can get a bit loud so do your best to snag a booth.

933 Studewood Street Houston, TX 77008-7195 (713) 868-7930 glasswalltherestaurant.com

Pappas Bros Steakhouse (12/10) – I’m from Texas and I love me some steak. For a nice long period of time, if steak was available on the menu – I’d order it. At Pappas, I was in another universe from the moment I walked in the front door. If you couldn’t tell already I’m a huge raw salmon fan so the salmon appetizer (another trio) was absolutely breathtaking.  I had the filet (prepared a perfect medium rare) and is just melted in my mouth – words can’t describe how happy I was at that moment…. which is actually a bit sad.  For sides, we split the Crabmeat Macaroni, Sauteed Mushrooms, Asparagus and mashed potatoes.  This meal was a feast – so much so we enjoyed the leftovers the next day, which were just as good as the night before.  There was not one thing wrong with this meal except that I couldn’t finish it all at once. If you have the chance to go here: go go go.

5839 Westheimer Road Houston, TX 77057-5616 (713) 780-7352 pappasbros.com

Catalan (5/10) – Another one I wanted to love – the Street Food looked awesome.  I actually had an item off the Street food menu – I forgot the area but it was braised pork belly, green onions and watermelon – I was not impressed. I feel like I keep missing the mark  with pork dishes.  I want to love them. Anyway – The tuna appetizer left something to be desired and the calamari was – well, calamari. Overall, I regret not trying the Bone Marrow Service – it seems to be one of the most wonderful items no the menu.  If you want to give it a try anyway, reservations are a must.  This place is crowded and loud.

5555 Washington Ave, Suite A Houston, TX 77007 (713) 426-4260 catalanfoodandwine.com

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Bocado’s Restaurant and Bar

Overall rating: 5/10

Total bill: $19.15 (Ropas Vieja and tip)

After aimlessly driving around in the Neartown/Montrose area due to some dubious road closures, I happened across Bocado’s Restaurant & Bar – a “fine Tex-Mex” joint close to University of St. Thomas.

I gotta say, guys – I was really looking forward to this one.  Walked in about 6pm to find it completely empty, which is a bad sign for a bar next to a college with a happy hour (maybe that’s just me?)

Gonna keep this review short and sweet – I had an item on the menu that was under the Cuban section(I got all excited about the plantains) called “Ropas Vieja/o” (not sure and the website doesn’t provide these particular menu items) Although it looked much like pot roast, it was completely dry.  The seasonings tasted good and plantains on the side are always a plus, but this was almost unacceptable.  As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I am by no means a food expert, but I doubt the intention of this traditional dish is for it to take approximately 75 chews to get through.  Maybe a little harsh, but if I’m going to order a $16 dollar menu item, I expect quality.

Check it out yourself if you don’t believe me, but then again maybe I should have checked out the Tacos al Carbon as the “The Best Tacos al Carbon you must eat before you die” in the Texas Monthly December issue 2006.

1312 West Alabama Street
Houston, TX 77006-4206
(713) 523-5230

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Oh Hi.

I have taken an unannounced hiatus from blogging on the Houston food scene because I grew uninterested in new food conquests and, more importantly, was on a money saving spree – preventing me from trying certain restaurants that are a bit on the pricier side/that require a date.  Why bother?

In the meantime, I have tried quite a few places on my “cheap/not date” list which I will briefly cover below:

Chatter’s:

Rating: 9 (super prices, food and hummus!)

I have now been to Chatters about 5 or 6 times since I moved to my new apartment which is conveniently located across the street from this adorable little restaurant. This is going to be a staple for sure.  I cannot emphasize how delightful the Chicken salad is – its not too chunky or mayo-ey. Go Wednesday nights for half price bottles of wine. Skip the Pacific Rim Caesar Salad.

Max’s Wine Dive:

Rating: 9 (Great HH prices!!)

I made the mistake of going to Max’s while trying to diet.  Not only did I devour the Drunk Bread, but I proceeded to drink an entire bottle of Malbec.  Genius.  I love appetizer meals, which makes me partial to establishments such as Max’s.  Gotta say the Bocadillo burgers at Oporto’s far surpass the slider at Max’s but other than that, I can’t complain. We also predicted a huge wait (every time I pass Max’s it’s overflowing) but at 5:30, we were promptly seated and served.

We ordered:

Gator Bites – skip skip skip.  we just wanted to say we at alligator.

Max & Cheese – I liked it, others didn’t.  Depends on if you prefer Kraft or gourmet mac n cheese really.

Pan Borracho (drunk bread) – it is so good after 3 glasses of wine.

Sliders (buffalo meat) – skip these and get the Bocadillo’s at Oporto’s

Something else that involved fried jalapenos – yum

Aladdin’s:

Rating: 9 (I might skip the hummus here, a bit authentic.  Is that an insult?)

I recently decided Mediterranean was my fave food genre since I can no longer eat Asian (unless it’s by myself.) I have been to Aladdin’s before awhile ago per a friends recommendation, and this time I went for lunch.  At around $10 you get a heaping plate of freshly prepared meat and sides you choose cafeteria style (so many to choose from and 2 can easily share a plate).  While I am no connoisseur on what Mediterranean should taste like, I do know that I liked every drop of what I put in my mouth.  The potatoes!!! Spectacular. Eat there now.

Taco’s A G0 Go

Rating: 8 (great for cheap a la carte tacos)

Get a Barbacoa taco.  You’re welcome. Next time I’m going for breakfast.

Pros: cheap, quick, funky decor

Cons: hard to find parking (or in general), overrated dessert tacos

Goode’s Company BBQ

Rating: 4

Everything was dry, even the jalapeno cheese bread.  Good and cheap Houston BBQ – where are you? Don’t make me go to Hickory Inn!

Dolce Vita Pizzeria Enoteca

Rating: 10 (for the margherita pizza, anyways)

One of the “more expensive” places on the list, especially for a pizza place, but I couldn’t skip a place boasting “best pizza in Houston”  Thin crust: check. Wood-burning oven: check.  The margherita literally MELTED IN MY MOUTH. Twas amazing.  The “calabrese”, on the other hand, left something to be desired, but I believe that’s simply because my head expected it to be much more similar to pepperoni.  Yes, I eat Dominos pizza people.  I am not cultured enough for the “spicy salami”  One day… one day. The third pizza was the special – I believe it involved leeks and Italian sausage.  Everyone agreed this was not their favorite, but ate it anyways.

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DaCapo’s Pastry cafe

Rating: 5/10

Total Bill: around <$10 for a ham sandwich and fruity Caesar salad combo, cherry iced tea, and no dessert.

Hopefully the desserts are all the rage as they are said to be, but after having lunch, I must say as far as fare, I was left with something to be desired.

I’d been wanting to try this cafe in the Heights for a long time – it looks cute, sells tons of desserts, and has a menu that is what I’m all about: sandwiches.

Unfortunately, I could have made a better sandwich myself. Maybe this is the idea DaCapo’s is going for – a home type feel, like you’re eating in your own kitchen – I SWEAR my Mamaw has the same dishes the sandwich and salad I ordered were served in.

I had a ham sandwich and fruity Caesar salad. I also need not go into detail because they are exactly what you’d expect. Larz opted for the Chicken Salad and a cup of Italian Chicken noodle soup.

Meh.

Now as a Chicken Salad expert, Lauren couldn’t even eat the HALF of the sandwich she got. If that doesn’t say something, I don’t know what does. She would bathe in Chicken Salad if she could.

I will say 2 positive things about DaCapo’s…

1) The cherry Iced Tea was delicious and free refills

2) The Italian Chicken soup was extremely savory.
photo

All I have to say is that I won’t be back unless it’s for dessert and dessert only… soooory.

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Beaver’s

yum

yum

Rating: 9/10 (-1 for the Beaver Balls)

Total Bill: $~25 (pork sandwich, mac, slaw, pomegranate collins and a st. arnolds lawnmower… don’t judge me)

Oh hi, giant sandwich from Beaver’s. God Bless Aubrey for ordering this gargantuan sandwich, although it did take 2 people to finish it off.  I also wish I had taken pictures of everyone’s meal, or at least the Beaver Balls… but whatever.

FINALLY I GET TO GO TO BEAVERS! I had been looking forward to this day for awhile (sad, I know) and it finally came September 15, 2009.

While it doesn’t really look like much on the outside, Beaver’s is like a chic lodge on the inside with a full bar and a generously priced menu.  Everyone that was in my company agreed that we felt we’d spent a day on the slopes and were relaxing for a bite afterwards.

Since I had been so excited to go, I decided to go for things I knew I would enjoy – a Pomegranate Collins (a bit too Collinsy for me.. very sour.. but still enjoyable) and a pork sandwich with slaw and mac n’ cheese. Don’t worry, I’ll get to the giant sandwich above later.

Sandwich: excellent taste, perfect texture for a BBQ sandwich… nice and mushy, but not mushy enough to make the bun saggy and pull apart.  The slaw was a bit different, as I believe it was intended to be, with a more vinegary feel… not the creamy kind you’re used to.  Now, the Mac N’ Cheese.  Me and Mac have a love hate relationship because I LOVE the way it tastes, but I HATE that it has absolutely no nutritional value and that I can’t justify eating it for every meal if I still want to remain “physically suitable.”  Sorry future husband, because you are in for a RUDE awakening of macaroni and cheese for every meal for the rest of your life. Hooray!

….. back to the review: the Mac N’ Cheese was heaven.  It was everything gourmet Mac should be, corkscrew pasta, Parmesan and cheese gratin… like a little ramekin of Heaven!

Onto the Pit Boss Chickwich (pictured above).  The only negative I heard about it was how it sits atop the coleslaw, causing the bottom half of the bun to disintegrate.. let’s be functional, Chef Jonathan Jones, and put it to the side.  How one can even go about eating it remains a physical feat.. so let’s keep the bun together, shall we?

For information’s sake, this is what is found inside the monster sandwich:

“All-natural smoked shredded chicken made sloppy with “Ring of Fire” BBQ sauce, a fried egg, crispy cornmeal onions, cole slaw and pickle.”

I think $15 might actually be a reasonable asking price, since this can easily feed a family of 4.

Since this is a review, not a novel, I will skip to the Beaver Balls.  Don’t order them… unless you like the taste of “fried” with a little chocolate in there somewhere.  It reminds me of Long John Silver’s heinous crumbs.  Maybe we just got a bad batch, but maybe some people just like everything fried.

And don’t get me wrong… Beaver’s and I will see much more of each other in the future.

http://www.beavershouston.com

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Star ‘zza

Star Pizza - Starburst and Marilyn

(Marilyn’s on the L, Starburst on the R)

I have recently rekindled my love for pizza.  I love it so much, I have it once a week in some form or another and since I hastily rejected the Star last week because I’d eaten it recently we had it the next week, forcing me to abstain from pizza for nearly 8 (!!) days.  I’m sooo a trooper.

Rating: 8.5/10

Total bill: <$15 (1/3 large thin crust pizza, garlic bread, and a coke)

After much deliberation the 3 of us split a Large, thin, whole wheat crust 1/2 Marilyn’s (Canadian Bacon, Pepperoni, Onions) and 1/2 Starburst (Ground Beef, Italian Sausage, Pepperoni, Onions, Mushrooms, Green Pepper).

The Marilyn’s is hands down the best pizza at Star.  I usually like to order new things off the menu at places I frequent, but I can’t bring myself to change my order. The 3 of us literally fought over who got to take the one slice of it left home (I won!).  Furthermore, I know that Star is famous for the “deep dish” pizza, but the thin crust is money. I prefer my pizza to be thin and crisp, with minimal sauce – this is perfect.  It’s not soggy, and it’s not burned. Finally, go for whole wheat crust.  I find it to have a better flavor than the white, and it’s healthier! Or is it?  I don’t really know, but it makes me feel better about scarfing down

As for the Starburst… well, it was pretttttty good, but it just doesn’t compare to the Marilyn’s.  It is also OVERFLOWING with mushrooms and green peppers.  I am not exaggerating (the picture just doesn’t do it justice) . So, if you don’t like veggie pizzas, don’t go for the Starburst.

Another gem that was ordered at Star was the cheese bread:

sdaf 001

I mean…. how could you possibly NOT like this?! It’s garlic bread with cheese on it that’s broiled to have the little brown cheese spots on it.  It’s crunchy and garlicky, and probably has 5000 calories a slice, but it was scrumdiddlyumptious.

Dear Star Pizza,

Thank you for opening a location less than 2 minutes away from my apartment.  I shall be a loyal customer for life because of your reasonable prices and delicious Marilyn’s pizza.

Love,

Kelsey

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Sushi Edition: Blue Fish II and Kubo’s

Oh you know, just eating some sushi.

Oh you know, just eating some sushi.

One of my favorite things (among several others) about when Emily comes into town is that I get to eat sushi. Since her trip in town was extra long, we got to eat sushi TWICE. Jackpot.

I’ll keep the Blue Fish part short, as I was not impressed. Emily and I went to the Blue Fish House II in Sugarland (sorry, no pictures!) and ordered a veritable smorgasbord of sushi for sampling and a couple glasses of wine.

Rating: 5/10

Total Bill: <$15 (splitting everything below in half and a glass of white wine)

We chose:

  • Green salad (with Ginger Dressing) $3 (both of us ordered this)

The dressing was nice, but not my favorite ginger dressing (Benihana’s!)

  • Cutie hama roll – yellowtail, avocado, onion, flying fish roe, sprout, with mayonnaise ($6)

Although this was Emily’s choice, I liked it better than mine. It had an okay taste, and I enjoyed the onion.

  • Jade roll (6pcs.) – eel (but I subbed in red snapper), flying fish roe, seaweed salad, cucumber, special sauce ($7)

Def expected this to be the pièce de résistance of the meal, but I was totally disappointed.  Em liked it, but still wasn’t wowed.

  • Alaska roll – fresh salmon, avocado ($4)

Pretty solid, but I hate to say my favorite roll of the night was not a specialty roll.  Specialty rolls are what make a sushi place memorable.  Well, that and freshness.

For sushi in the Sugarland area, you can’t beat Japainero’s, located in Town Square. Excellent signature rolls!!

——————————————

Onto Kubo’s in Rice Village.  I’ve read before it should be a staple in the Houston sushionista’s diet, so I gave it a go. Ironically, I did not end up ordering sushi but did end up sampling some of Emily’s – I was impressed.

Rating: 8.5/10

Total bill: >$15 (Edamame, Tonkotso Ramen and Iced Tea)

  • Edamame ($4)

Typical and yummy.  I love this appetizer.

  • Tonkotsu Ramen – Pork Based Traditional Egg Noodle Soup with Braised Pork, Boiled Egg and Spinach ($8.50)

While it is not a substitute for Phở by any means, this ramen is also nothing like ramen noodles you buy for 15 cents at HEB.

Tonkotsu Ramen

Tonkotsu Ramen

Clearly, I don’t like the pickled pink things (yes, I am legit) or the boiled egg, the broth was so good – light yet savory. I often save the soup for being sick or cold weather, but I had always wanted to try Ramen at a Japanese place and I was very satisfied. A+!

As for the sushi,  Emily chose to have:

  • Tiger Eye roll (5 pc.): (this might not be 100% accurate, but) Salmon, cream cheese, fresh jalapeno, and masago ($7.50)

Emily was literally obsessed with the Tiger Eye roll.  It’s that bit of fresh jalapeno that does it for me personally.

  • Spicy tuna (8 pc.): spicy tuna on the inside, rice and masago on the outside ($6.50)

Spicy tuna delivered quite nicely, as the spice wasn’t a completely wasabi saturated taste. Verrrry nice.

Spicy Tuna, Tiger Eye, and soy sauce: Oh My! (i'm dumb)

Spicy Tuna, Tiger Eye(top), and soy sauce: Oh My!

That caption is kinda dumb.  Anyways, its 4:45 am and I can’t sleep. I’ll see you again soon, Kubo’s.

Side note: I want some Pho soon. Real soon.

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