It was a random night running through Grand Prize to meet friends where I ran into a bunch of friends in the industry, it really seemed like everyone was there that night. I said hi to Lyle of The Modular and he introduced me to Philip Speer, the pastry chef of the Uchi Restaurant(s). I had his Fried Milk dessert before at Uchiko and it was great, probably the best part of my previous meal at Uchiko.
Philip invited me out to Uchi Houston to check out the restaurant and their remodeling effort which once housed the beloved Felix Mexican Restaurant. First walk through their doors and it was a great, lively, inviting place. I was a bit disapointed at the available amount of light at the tables, but staff assured me it would be addressed. It’s friends and family service aka soft opening. Today was their second day open for service and frankly they were already in full swing of doing things properly.
Annie and I asked for a few recommendations and away we went..
Yokai Berry: Atlantic Salmon, Dinosaur Kale, Asian Pear, Yuzu
Sake Toro: Salmon Belly, Ikura
Boquerones: Spanish Anchovy
Dewbee Chicken: Short Grain Sweet Rice, Banana Leaf, Thai Chili Vinegar
Wagyu: Torched Seared Beef
Pork Jowl: Brussels Sprout Kimchee, Romaine, Preserved Lemon Crème Fraiche
Foie: Seated Foie Gras, Quinoa
Brussel Sprouts: Crispy Brussel Sprouts, Lemon Chili
Ham and Eggs: Katsu Pork Belly, Yolk Custard, Espelette
Peanut Butter Semifreddo: Apple Miso Sorbet
Lime Cremeaux: Chocolate Croquant, Thai Chili Meringue, Cocoa, Vanilla Lime Gel, Kefir Lime Sorbet
13 dishes later and we were at a nice level of fullness before we headed to the car to make our way to Samba Grille for dinner #2.
I was really satisfied with the level of service and the food mirrored what I’ve had at Uchi and Uchiko, for their second service this is purely unprecedented in Houston. I’m really interested to see how far service has progressed when I head back for one of my 4 reservations over the next two weeks. On my second reservation I’ll be doing the omakase and attempt to compare it to the Kata Robata omakase service.
Houston, TX 77006
Last week I shot off some random tweets about steak in Houston. I’ve been used to going to Strip House for steak and more recently Foreign and Domestic in Austin for their 26oz Dry Aged Wagyu Ribeye for 2. After going to Foreign and Domestic last week with Michael Gaspard, he offered to throw down an all out assault on my senses and told me “you and your friends will need a wheelbarrow”. Little did I know, he wasn’t joking at all.
Our reservation was set for 8:15 on Thursday and we walked in right around that time and lingered a bit before being seated at our table. Menus were handed out and we all chose our steaks, I decided to go with the 22oz bone in ribeye. Not soon after we ordered our main entrees, the onslaught started. Bacon Wrapped Scallops were first to hit the table followed by Hot Smoked Salmon Rillettes and a fantastic Salmon, Tuna and Avocado in a Yuzu dressing. After the 8 of us destroyed these apps, I motioned over to Gaspard and told him a wheelbarrow wasn’t going to be necessary at this pace. I, of course, spoke entirely way too soon. A medallion of foie hit the table for each of us and I literally squealed like a little girl. I absolutely love foie, Uchi’s foie nigiri with quinoa was my favorite. The keyword here is *was*, the Pappas Bros version took the foie to an all new level. The puree balanced the foie’s intense flavor beautifully.
Then our steaks hit the table, a few of us went with the 22oz bone in ribeye, in celebration of CYRUS THURSDAYS he went with the bone in tomahawk wagyu from australia. Just beautiful, in house 60-90 day old dry aged beef. Before I was able to cut into the steak, the sides hit the table, mushrooms, greenbeans, truffle fries, au gratin potatoes, crab mac and cheese and onion rings. Then Gaspard dropped the bomb on us, what I called the foie gangbang. He dropped another medallion of foie on my ribeye, the fat from the foie dripped everywhere on my steak (I just got goosebumps thinking of that very moment). As we wrapped up eating the sides and our steaks, I had to loosen up the belt a notch in preparation for Gaspard’s finishing move, 5 desserts. Vanilla Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie, Turtle Pie, Chocolate Mousse and a Red Velvet Cupcake. A few bites of the cheesecake and I had to throw out the white flag and surrender, I actually had to stand a few times for gravity and my digestive system to put in some work on my system.
I’ve found my new favorite steak place in Houston.
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
5839 Westheimer Road
It’s been a while since I took to i10 and 71 to head to Austin, Texas for more random eats. This trip was with my good friend Mauricio and the places we’d attempt to tackle were Bacon, Quality Market Seafood, Uchi, and Foreign and Domestic Food and Drink. As we met up at Ambush Bar and Refuge at 9am, we departed early to get to Austin early. Normally we’d be heading in for some Snow’s BBQ or even attempt to get into that long line at Franklin BBQ but this time around was just about enjoying the cool 60 degree weather.
Our first stop was Bacon, listed on Eater Austin’s Heatmap of places to eat NOW, it was as eventful as bacon can get. We ordered the obvious favorite, Bacon Fries topped with sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, chives and sour cream. I couldn’t help but be unimpressed with the offering, while thin and crispy the overall dish left a lot to be desired. The cool weather chilled the cheddar cheese that should have been this melted masterpiece into a stiff and clumsy wanna be baked potato. The blue cheese waffle fries at Barnaby’s will keep its place in my heart as I continue my quest for amazing fries.
Since it was the second meal of the day, we decided to go with their breakfast options. Naturally, Chicken and Waffles w/ Brined and Buttermilk battered all natural chicken breast cutlets served on top of a malted vanilla waffle was our go to option with both of us substituting their Bacon waffle in instead. A single tasty chicken breast with a light crispy coating was pretty win, coupled with the light waffle with bacon bits scattered throughout, this version of chicken and waffles was pretty damn good, but far from able to save the poor fries.
3/5: Dublin Dr Pepper and a tasty bacon waffle make for a decent way to start the day.
900 W 10th St, Austin, TX
Moving along I presented Mauricio with options for our next destination, House Pizzeria and Quality Seafood Market. We were both along the same lines in terms of logical planning, we both just had waffles and didn’t want anymore dough in our systems. This meant a nice trip to Quality Seafood Market, a slow drive down 35 to Airport Boulevard and we were parked in a lot that took me back in time. Quaint place, seafood market on one side and a full restaurant with bar on the other. Saturday meant lobster specials for $20. I haven’t had any oysters this season, so I wanted to oysters. At $12 for the dozen it’s more than I’m used to paying at Captain Tom’s but worth the money. Adding in some Seafood Gumbo, Fried Oysters and some Bacon Wrapped Scallops and we were quite full. The oysters varied in size, but tasted fresh, same with the gumbo and fried oysters. I always get worried about fried oysters being gummy from being previously frozen, luckily these were quite fresh and the batter was pretty crispy. Well worth the price of admission.
3.5/5: fresh and “quality” seafood ftw.
Quality Seafood Market
5621 Airport Boulevard, Austin, TX
Following our first two lunches we headed to The Domain for some walking around and shopping prior to eating more. This is where I’d have photos of Uchi happy hour where we ordered Matcha Cure, Bonito Nigiri, The Pitchfork Roll and Foie Nigiri, but I ate it all too fast for my own mind to even think about taking photos. Do yourself a favor and go to Uchi and order Foie Nigiri. 4 Pieces. Do it. Now. Don’t be that couple seated next to me that gave me the face of disgust as I told them to order it. “Isn’t that Duck Liver?” YES, and it’s fucking glorious.
4/5: I love you Uchi
801 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin, TX
Following our 5pm rendezvous at Uchi, Mauricio and I met up Michael Gaspard and his Fiancee at Foreign and Domestic. Foreign and Domestic is my Austin institution, it is, for all purposes my go to place when I enter Austin airspace. If you were to ask me where to go drink, I’d say Second Bar and Kitchen and if you asked me where to eat dinner, I’d say Foreign and Domestic. I have not found a single dish I didn’t like, this has happened over numerous repeat visits, my friends go here just as much as I do, if they aren’t with me, then they go and tell me as its happening in front of them. Ned and Nathan pull out all the stops when we come, and we are better people by eating the food. They put the FUCK in FUCK YES. From the tried and true dry aged wagyu steak to the new beef tongue pastrami on their menu. Foreign and Domestic is the sole reason to return to Austin. I’m looking forward to the day Ned packs his bags and heads to Houston. Trust me, it’ll make your 2013 an epic one.
Foreign & Domestic Food & Drink
306 East 53rd Street, Austin, TX
Welcome to the new Cyrus Thursdays, at least that is what my friend Cyrus proposed we call our Thursday gatherings. From the moment I heard that head chef and partner Ryan Hildebrand would open up a new restaurant in the old club space where most of my Asian friends frequented and shared memories, I was excited. I previously experienced Hildebrand’s cuisie at Textile during their chef shuffles. Hildebrand’s menu was essentially the same, more of the same actually. I was largely unexcited to eat the same menu by a different chef, because it really wasn’t showing off what he could really do in the Kitchen.
We now fast forward to a new year, it’s early January and the restaurant has had its soft opening, a few preview dinners to keep the team busy and ready to go. After reading positive tweets and news stories around the web, a few friends and I felt the strong PR force at work trying to hype up the restaurant to what seemed like an over inflated level. We all know Hildebrand is talented, but would the restaurant meet the hype? I’ve had some great memories in the old Crome / Pravada spot, some good, some horrible but they were memories and I was hoping Triniti would make some new ones. Our reservation for 9 was set at 8pm, I came from Anvil, so I was already in a great mood, the entrance to the parking lot is horrid (lowered cars don’t even try it, park on a side street behind the houses or close to the Randalls off Kirby). The valet parking? Complimentary. The door? Large and frosted. The hostess to your left, but your eyes are drawn to the bar behind them, the dining room, to the right. It’s simply fucking gorgeous, if you open a restaurant from this point out, this is your benchmark. I normally could care less about decor as I let food dictate the experience, however Triniti, you’ve beat all the levels with extra lives to spare.
We were seated at a table with full view of the bustling kitchen, I caught a glimpse of Hildebrand and had a short wave hi before taking a look at the cocktail menu. As I said, I just came from Anvil, did I need another drink? Probably not, but I can’t pass up a great Sazerac. Their menu was simple in execution and well laid out, in true “Cyrus Thursday” fashion we ordered a lot of food:
amuse: salmon tar tare with cream fraise and caviar
risotto: bay scallop, pork belly, corn
foie gras ‘breakfast’: brioche toast, bacon, quail egg, fig syrup
veal broth: leek, king trumpet, shaved wagyu, foie gras dumpling
texas quail: duck sausage stuffing, sea island red peas, white cheddar grits, port
sirloin: truffle, brown butter, cauliflower
ribeye: marble potatoes, spinach, sun dried tomato choron
tortellini: sweetbreads, tofu, parsley root puree, sweet scallion broth
striped bass: adzuki, saffron rutabaga, shallots, bok choy, red wine
diver scallop: chickpeas, blood sausage, glazed root vegetables, confit onions
pheasant: bacon, smoked fingerlings, confit, stone fruit mostarda
brussel sprouts: lemon oil, dungeness crab, chorizo
kale: farm egg, pancetta, lemon, olive, white anchovy, pecorino romano
chocolate tart: brown butter ice cream, sea salt
pistachio semi freddo: pistachio paste, chocolate shortbread
cones: selected sorbets & gelatos
roasted peach: honey comb ice cream, vanilla biscuit
rootbeer crème brulee: poached figs, rye ice cream
boxes: boxed chocolates and macaroons
mignardises: marshmallow, chocolate, mango
As the dishes hit the table, it was like the waitstaff of the restaurant had been there for much longer than 2 weeks, my friends questioned how long they were open, a true testament of what we can look forward to at Triniti. As service moved along, Fred Zennati, Director of Operations came by to check up on us and offer a handshake and hello. Dish after dish came out and exceeded any ill notions that I came in with, hell the first bite of the salmon tar tare amuse changed it. The first sight of the risotto had me craving more pork belly with perhaps a crispier skin, the corn popped inside my mouth and the rest of the risotto went down faster than a shot of fernet. My veal broth and tortellini were impressive but not nearly as impressive as the small unassuming kale with anchovies and what would manifest as a nice small breakfast on top (toast, egg and pancetta). I really wanted to order another kale, but the pistachio semi freddo was calling my name.
The gorgeous space elevated the service and food to a new level that Houston is and should now be competing on. This dinner service was one of the best service-wise that I’ve had in a very long time. I’ll be back for lunch service soon enough, I don’t think I’ll ever get over the fact that the space used to be one of my favorite clubs, but I’ll slowly push out the old drunken memories with new memories of sazerac’s, kale and pork belly risotto.
4/5: gorgeous space is gorgeous. tasty food is tasty.
sidenote: As a parting gift, I headed to the bar to get Hildebrand a shot of fernet in celebration of an excellent dinner only to find out there was no fernet branca at his bar. Chef assured me fernet would be making his way (hopefully sooner than later) to this bar. Cheers!
Triniti Restaurant and Bar
2815 South Shepherd
Houston, Texas 77098