Culinary Houston

Lucille’s – A Chili Biscuit and A Night to Remember

Lucille's Famous Chili Biscuits

 

Lucille's InteriorWhen we pondered where to have a special dinner with our good friends –  Read More

Vertskebap – Turkish/German Zagat-Rated Doner Kebabs

Lamb Kebab

Fun, easy-to-read signage and bright colors with long, broad wooden table space and metal stools make this zesty food easy to find and share time with friends and/or co-workers. The many meat and stuffing options – 807, to be exact – make it a great choice for lunch and a creative option for dinner. Berlin-Style Doner Kebabs actually come from a Turkish recipe. Pita bread, Salads, Rice Bowls or Wraps – lunch made your way since you decide the ingredients and delivery method.

Vertskebap
Vertskebap

We are late to this mini-chain’s party as the one on 107 Yale apparently opened in 2014, then one at 1572 Gray, now followed by this one on Westheimer near Wilcrest at Royal Oaks. This street food is immensely popular, and we understand why. Goodies to add to your beef, chicken, beef or falafel kebap range from low-cal hummus, pickled red onions, jalapeno, green olives, lemons, sumac onions, tomatoes, red cabbage, to carrot slaw and cucumbers, with tzatziki (cucumber sauce), hot harissa, spicy cilantro and red pepper sauce, house and herb vinaigrette dressings.

The LAMB!
The Lamb Grill
The Wrap
The Wrap With Lamb and Arugula
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Wide Open Counter With Visual on Ingredients and Access to Your Server
Vertskebap Falafel and Red Pepper Sauce
Vertskebap Falafel and Red Pepper Sauce
Sweet Potato Fries
Sweet Potato Fries

There IS a right way and a wrong way to eat a kebap. “Right” is to get most of it into your mouth.

Right Way - Use the Wrapper
Right Way – Use the Wrapper and Read Instructions

Wrong? Well, here…..let me show you…..

 

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The Floor Below Jack’s Seat at the Table (A Hungry Gentleman’s Dilemma)

And then on Tuesdays, don’t miss the great happy hour – looks like a pleasant, relaxed, unpretentious place to hang out and have a craft beer after a long day.

Tuesday- 5-10 p.m.

We could come back again and again and make a different mix of meat or vegetarian, salad greens and yogurt-based sauces to our heart’s content for years to come. Lunch is satisfying and colorful. You should take a minute to try it!  As they say: Fold, Hold and Behold! Food fun – your way!

Verts

Royal Oaks Centre
11700 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77077
(281) 506-7580
http://www.vertskebap.com
11:00 am – 10:00 p.m.

Bangkok Thai Cuisine – Refreshed

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Three years ago, on a birthday, Sally asked to try a new restaurant tucked along Westheimer, again, hidden in an unremarkable strip center. How she spots these places as we whiz by I don’t know, but Bankok Thai Cuisine, just inside Beltway 8, near Fondren, shelters some down-home cooking and a spicy green curry loaded with vegetables.

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Thai Dumplings

We started with Thai Dumplings – steamed minced chicken and shrimp in a prettily shaped wonton wrapper, served with a ginger sauce.

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Tom Kha Gai

The Tom Kha Gai was a winner to begin – rich with coconut, bits of lemongrass, mushrooms, basil, green onions, chicken and lime.

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Pho Taek – Spicy Seafood Soup

Pho Taek is a combination of shrimp, squid, fish and mussels, in a spicy clear soup. The lemongrass, kafir leaves, tomato, mushrooms, onion, and basil were in a tangy piquant broth that set off the seafood well.

Beef Salad was a bit of a miss as salad is not a typical Thai item, but I liked it. It was full of garlic and salt. Definitely a pungent palate pleaser, but might have been a little heavy on the salt. Fresh cucumbers and red onions bedecked the crisp iceburg lettuce.

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Yum Nur (Beef Salad)

The star of the show was the Green Curry – loaded with eggplant, bamboo shoots, green beans, basil and coconut milk. Spicy hot and just enough rice nearby to keep it cooled down. There are a number of curries on the menu to come back to try – Red, Yellow, Mussamun, Panang, Pineapple (with kafir leaves) – or we commented it would be a nice order to go someday.

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Green Curry

We wrapped up with coffee. Reasonably priced – all with excellent, attentive service. You just knew that Linda, our chef, was a terrific loving person in this kitchen – her heart is clearly in the food. So glad we came back!

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9296 Westheimer, Ste. 200
Houston, Texas 77063
281-888-3095

www.bangkokthaihouston.com

 

 

Patisserie Paris Je T’Aime

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What a lovely surprise when we finally opened the door of this tiny shop we had passed by late at night over a year ago! The wonderful smell of fresh buttery puff pastry permeated the air, and we saw, upon closer inspection, beautifully elaborate works of art in the chilled pristine display cases. Just look at this feast for the eyes!

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Fruity Champagne Mousse – Champagne Mousse, Yuzu Lemon, Guava, Lychee, and Raspberry

The recently-discovered French light almond meringue-based confection, “macarons”(from the Italian “maccherone” or fine dough), are a total fascination here. Pastel macarons galore decorate the cases with delicate and unique buttercream flavors like Lemon Basil, Hazelnut Vanilla, Green Tea Matcha, Dark Chocolate, Caramel, Orange Blossom Ginger, Pistachio and Rose Jasmine Darjeeling!

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Praline – Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut Praline Mousse, Hazelnut Praline Cremeux, and Dark Chocolate

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A Sophisticated Birthday Cake Going Out

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Mango Mousse

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And Inside….Yum!

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Limoncello

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Espresso Well-Served

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Madame Huynh Hongnga, Patissier
Hongnga (“Nga”) Huynh Rogers, the most obviously talented proprietor, is not only a Patissier, but a Glacier, Chocolatier, and Confiseur, having received her Certificat D’Aptitude Professionnel from the Academie de Paris, a short eight years ago.  She is gracious, modest and demure with an underlying fortitude, knowing that she is superb at what she does. Since our visit, we have discovered several other “friends” who know of and love the place, but have kept this delicious secret to themselves.😉

Je t’aime “Je T’aime”!

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11660 Westheimer Road, Ste. 107A
Houston, Texas 77077
281-531-1222
http://www.ppjta.com

dgn Factory – Indian Crepes or Dosa Do!

dgn Factory Galub Jamun

Tucked in a tiny strip center near the corner of Fountain View and Richmond Avenue, lies a pleasant surprise for the unsuspecting diner. The third dgn Factory, formerly called Dosa Factory, is a place filled with crisp, hot savory crepes, exciting smells and unhurried service – this is fast food done right!

We were immediately invited to enjoy a free cup of lentil soup and spoon out our sambar (a deliciously complicated South Indian sauce sometimes made with dal, coriander, curry, turmeric, tamerind, red chili) and an equally complex chutney as we waited for our order. As we waited, we chatted with Ike, a congenial friend of one of the three owners’  (Niraj Shah, CEO, George Eapen, COO and an unnamed investor). He told us this was the third of three  (3!) restaurants – Downtown Tunnel, Missouri City and Richmond Avenue – in three years. That is phenomenal growth for any business! It probably stems from their generous charity work with Magnificat House in 2015 and Lone Star Veterans “Service to Serenity” program and the UH Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, no doubt to name only a few.  They also do catering! You will have to look quick to keep up with this successful set.

dgn Lentil Soup, Sambur & Chutney
dgn Lentil Soup, Sambur & Chutney

Manchurian Idli’s came out at once – little rice dough pillows with garlicky, red chili sauce covering batter-fried cauliflower, that went down in a hurry.

dgn Manchuran Idlittles
dgn Manchuran Idlis

Those were followed by Palek Paneer Dosas – fresh light lentil crepes filled with spinach and cottage cheese. And you have to see the Super Paper Dosa to believe it!

dgn Palek Paneer Dosa
dgn Palek Paneer Dosa

Then, we tried the Manchurian Dosas – crepes filled with batter-fried cauliflower. and topped with flavorful Manchurian red sauce (red chili pepper, soy sauce, coriander – perhaps?).

Manchurian Dosa
Manchurian Dosa

We followed the meal with a treat of dough balls, called Gulab Jamun, in a sweet cardamom/saffron syrup – sometimes made with rose-scented syrup – topped with slivered almonds.

dgn Factory Galub Jamun
dgn Factory Gulab Jamun

A Mango Lassi – a yogurt drink enhanced with mango pulp and sugar syrup – an end-of meal treat!

dgn Factory Mango Lassi
dgn Mango Lassi

Carrot Halwa – boiled carrots with white raisins, cashews, served with ice cream was a pleasure compared to the Americanized carrot cake. Lots of true carrot flavor and moist texture.

dgn Factory Carrot Halwa
dgn Factory Carrot Halwa

We rolled along into the sunshine, happy that we hadn’t made the mistake of heading to any of the other many neighboring fast food spots.

dgn Factory

5959 Richmond Avenue, Ste.160
Houston, Texas 77057
713-781-3672

6324 Texas Highway 6
Missouri City, Texas 77459
281-499-3672

Downtown Tunnel
1001 Fannin St. #M110
Houston, Texas 77002
http://www.houston.dgnfactory.com

 

Crescent City Beignets – C’est Si Bon!

Presidential Gumbo includes Oysters and Okra

For those who seek and follow Houston’s true Southern Creole food, there is a reason to celebrate the return of Crescent City Beignets. Formerly near Lamar High School, this River Oaks-area favorite closed over a year ago, re-opened at 6383 Westheimer and then sold that franchise. Finally, the prized cafe opened again on Good Friday, 2016 – obviously as a result of the prayers of those who had grown to love it and relied on its true-to-New Orleans style.
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This restaurant is much more than mere beignets and chicory coffee, although that is quite enough for some.

Crescent City Beignets
Crescent City Beignets

Take a quick imaginary tour of New Orleans via the huge photos on display as you wait patiently for your Red Beans & Rice.

Imagine A Trolley Ride
Imagine A Trolley Ride
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Jackson Square

The Presidential Gumbo, loaded with Shrimp, Oysters and Okra, is topped with the perfect amount of white rice and arrives at your table steaming hot.

Presidential Gumbo includes Oysters and Okra
Presidential Gumbo includes Shrimp, Oysters and Okra

The collard greens are hammy and laced with onions. A dash of Louisiana hot sauce is all you need!

Collard Greens
Collard Greens
Manager Linda Benoit loves her work
Happy-To-Be-Back Manager Linda Benoit loves her work and her customers

Who wouldn’t love a Muffaletta that looks like this?

Muffaletta
Muffaletta
Face it - We're in Love!
Face it – We’re in Love!

To know Crescent City Beignets is to love her! Glad she’s back.

o
5885 San Felipe Rd., Ste. 200
Houston, Texas 77057

True Food Kitchen: San Felipe/Post Oak Corridor – A Food Mecca

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Super clean windows with invitingly modern tables bedecked with cacti grace the wide open dining space. Showcasing one of Houston’s rare al fresco dining opportunities, True Foods Kitchen opens out from the corner shopping center west of the new Whole Foods Market on San Felipe near Post Oak. Glad we came during the mid-afternoon, as it assured us a quick seat and that we did not compete for parking with business professionals and shoppers.

Bright & Inviting
Bright & Inviting

This is only one of the myriad restaurants located in the small Galleria area bounded by San Felipe Road, Post Oak Boulevard, Westheimer, and Fountain View Drive which includes, but is not limited to: Crescent City Beignets (now open at 5885 San Felipe, near H-E-B), Pronto Cucinino, La Madeleine, H-E-B’s Table 57, Dish Society, Adair’s, Ciao Bello, Pesca, Rise (soon to come), RDG, La Table, Masraff’s, Maggiano’s, Caracol, Piatto Ristorante, Del Frisco Double Eagle Steakhouse, Grand Lux, Peli Peli, Oceanaire Seafood Room, and all the many, many Galleria offerings.

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Fresh Italian Parsley, Thyme, and Pesto Basil Greet Diners

We drove down the miles of offerings of unique healthful “mocktails” like Matcha Horchata, Pomegranate Lemonade, and Kale-Ade and opened with this simple refresher:

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Refreshing Green Tea
Edamame in Truffle Oil
Edamame Dumplings in White Truffle Oil

The find of the day was the Carmelized Onion Tart. With the unique mingling of smoked garlic, fig and Gorgonzola, it was cut into four pieces and though we always split, there just weren’t enough!

Carmelized Onion Tart
Carmelized Onion Tart

Our entrees were healthy and delicious, served piping hot and with a smile.

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Stir-Fried Beef Teriyaki

Red Chili Shrimp, with Gai Lan, Spinach and Sesame Noodles

Red Chili Shrimp With Gai Lan
Red Chili Shrimp With Gai Lan

We wrapped up all of our clean eating with the Spiced Apple and Goji Berry Crisp served with a very healthy scoop of ice cream,  Espresso and Cappuccino.

Spiced Apple and Goji Berry Crisp
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Espresso

We strolled (rolled) on to spend some time in patio lounge chairs as we watched the sunset over the many new Galleria buildings – a lovely ending to a St. Patrick’s Day celebration of “eating of the greens”!

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1700 Post Oak Blvd.
Houston, Texas 77057
281-605-2505

Tony’s: Express Business Lunch for $25? At Tony’s?

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If you find that I’m raving too much in this article, then you’ve never been to Tony’s!

This isn’t aimed at the major account rep with an expense account who wants to take his best customer to Tony’s.  The restaurant IS, but this article isn’t. This article is about the guys in the office who say, “Where do we go for lunch today?” The answer, with a straight face, is “Tony’s has a two-course Express Business Lunch for $25.” Now, if you’ve never been to Tony’s, that won’t mean anything. If you HAVE been to Tony’s, you’re out getting the car started. Much of what you pay for at Tony’s is, in my opinion, the smoothest and most on-point service in Houston. The service could be no better if you spent $200.

The Express Business Lunch is comprised of three two-course lunches with choices of Soup of the Day or Salad and a beautiful entree.

Soup the Day was a Potato Leek Soup. I would have been happy with half as much. With exquisite flavor, it seemed like the more I ate… the more was there. Courses arrived with no intermission. At least none until you were ready.  Unlike many of the unique and intriguing soups at Tony’s, this one looked like Potato Leek Soup!

The salad choice was called Insalata Siciliana with Arugula, sliced multi-colored mini grape tomatoes, orange segments and an Italian dressing. Though I ordered soup, I accepted my host’s offer to steal salad from his plate. Wonderful. 

Insalata Siciliana

I tasted the Grilled Chicken Giardino. It was a whole grilled chicken breast with no sauce (no sauce was needed, though). It was rosemary scented and adorned on one end with mixed local garden greens, including, but not limited to, sliced heirloom tomatoes and some crisp peppery arugula. It was sprinkled with caprino (an Italian goat cheese) which, in my opinion, gave the salad a unique Italian touch that you seldom see in Houston. While the flavors of the chicken AND the salad were enticing, chicken is usually not my first choice when also offered snapper and ravioli. This was certainly not the ho-hum chicken that one gets at most other restaurants! Far from it.

Grilled Chicken Giardino

Snapper Francese was my favorite by far. Creamy and lemony with an English pea, cremini mushroom, red bell pepper and bianco sauce… the Snapper Francese, alone, was worth the trip.

Snapper Francese

Ravioloni Di Manza is one if the creamiest raviolini I have ever tasted! I have never seen or tasted short-rib-filled raviolini, but when the rib meat is roasted into submission before being stuffed into raviolini, it is sublime! That’s in addition to the fact that the two raviolini are huge! As luck would have it, I ate this dish ONE DAY before National Ravioli Day! 


Ravioloni Di Manza

Blackberry Dream (a perfect Angel Food cake with Limoncello Cream) was NOT part of the Tony’s Express Business Lunch, but I had to show it as I had to try it. Absolutely “dreamy” and on the dessert menu, it’s worth the extra purchase.


Blackberry Dream

And now an introduction to my host at our weekly lunch get-together host and my good friend, Chuck Gardner… a principal at Birraporetti’s next to the Alley Theatre downtown and a big fan of Tony’s.


Chuck Gardner

No review of Tony’s can be written without congratulatory mention of Chef Kate McLean. Her name is linked to an article about her and Tony’s by Alison Cook. You would have to search far and wide to find a Chef de Cuisine so capable and polished who was hired at the age of 29 by Master Restaurateur, Tony Vallone.


Chef Kate McLean  Photograph Courtesy of Tony’s

I found the service and the Express Business Lunch to be well-prepared, well-presented and well-served. I will be back soon with my wife to try the evening dinner, as the menu has changed slightly since our last visit. Never hurts to please your wife. To keep up with Tony’s is to keep up with the one of the finest restaurants Houston has to offer. 

3755 Richmond Avenue
Houston, TX 77046
713-622-6778
http://www.TonysHouston.com

Emporio Brazilian Café… a quick and authentic Brazilian lunch

Emporio Brazilian Café... a quick lunch.


Out Westheimer between Kirkwood and Dairy Ashford is a little haven of “comfort food”. Yes, Brazil is a land of comfort food… and this small café is a good place to indulge the desire to get away from square plates, Napoleonic presentations and trendy stackable entrees. Portugal left more than a language in Brazil and that laid-back attitude toward life is evident in the food. A few years years ago (they’ve been open for ten+), we enjoyed this little Brazilian café and thought about it for lunch again today. As we parked, we wondered if they still had the traditional and wonderful cheese bread that we still remembered from our first visit here. Antony Palmiera and his Brazilian-American wife Carla have maintained a level of quality in their food to a point that if everyone in the restaurant was talking about me, I wouldn’t know it, as I don’t speak Portuguese (but It appears that many of their customers do).


Brazilian Beers and a Caipirinha

When in Brazil, do as the Brazilians… and the Brazilian counter to the margarita is the Caipirinha. This icy cocktail is made with Brazilian rum Cachaca, lime juice and sugar. The drink, incidentally, is offered in several flavors at Emporio, including passion fruit, coconut and cashew. The bar is actually geared to produce tropical drinks and the festive cocktails add to the relaxing atmosphere. If you aren’t into tropical drinks, the bartender can pour you a plain old Scotch… or a Brazilian beer or like for me… iced tea.


Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

The basket of bread placed on the table when you arrive is sort of the secret handshake of the Brazilian diner… full of Pão de Queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread. These hollow, light cheesy clouds are the perfect beginners at Emporio and had the food service not been so prompt, they would have been sure to have sold us the additional basket of them for $2.00.

The menu is actually as varied as the regional offerings to be had here and they range from seafood, to beef to chicken dishes… and lots of grilled items. Don’t expect anything even remotely resembling Mexican food… all hot and spicy. Don’t expect waiters wandering around dressed in costumes, ceremoniously delivering grilled beef on the tip of a sword… and don’t expect the high prices that go with the gauchos in costumes, either. DO expect lots of olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and delicate sauces. Expect Yucca flour as a condiment, as well as cooked yucca, plantains, white rice and black beans.


Brazilian Empanada Platter


Chile Infused Olive Oil

Empanadas (pasteis) are over the top here and are a recommended starter. The Brazilian Empanada Platter is what we ordered and while we weren’t planning to stuff ourselves to death at this meal, we were SO happy that we ordered this combination, because we might have missed an outstanding dish if we had ordered individual empanadas. The platter includes one each or beef, chicken, shrimp (if you only order one… this is it, I am told), cheese and hearts of palm. The hearts of palm empanada is traditional… and the shrimp one was so good, according to Sally, I wasn’t allowed into it. I enjoyed drizzling the chile oil on the empanadas… but am not sure that was their idea.


Feijoada (bean stew)

Feijoada (bean stew), if you ask a Brazilian, is hands-down the national dish of Brazil. You really should order it here if this is a learning experience for a curious diner. Remember, I said “comfort food” earlier. We ordered it first and the generous bowl of black beans, pork, sausage, cured beef and pork ribs is really, really rich and is served with white rice, collard greens sautéed in olive oil and garlic (I could live on the collard greens) and fried plantains. Remember that this dish is served with white rice… is meant to be eaten with the rice and is seasoned for the combination of the two. Sprinkling the accompanying Farofa (yucca flour) on it is the usual and it is a pleasant and interesting condiment.

Picanhana Chapa (Beef Tri-Tip)

Next, we ordered the specialty – Picanha na Chapa (Beef Tri-Tip) and, again you will receive  a generous serving of rice and black beans. The beef is cooked to order and arrives as it was ordered (medium rare). This grilled beef is, again, a very traditional Brazilian specialty and it is typically marinated in olive oil, coarse salt and garlic… then grilled. It is served with rice, black beans, farofa and French fries. While the tri-tip, along with the beans and attendant farofa are authentic and delicious… I would have liked to see a little more attention paid to the potatoes. It’s a small thing, but I don’t want to rave so much that I sound like a paid PR guy.

We just stopped in for a quick lunch and will certainly be back again.  We recommend that you head out Westheimer and give Emporio Brazilian Café a try. The extensive menu, much still untried, is reviewable on their website below. Enjoy!

P
Houston, TX
Phone: (281) 293-7442

http://www.brazilian-cafe.com/


Spring Makeover for Culinary Houston!

To better share our travels and tables with you, we start the season with a fresh look.

IMG_1909Come travel with us as we take a peek into the kitchens of some of Houston’s newest, oldest, best and favorite haunts. We will share recipes of some of our (and your) favorite dishes.  We will open the door for those of you who are looking to share your culinary skills and experience in the kitchen and service throughout the restaurant world. We will present new homegrown Texas products and local artisans. We love to share good dining experiences with our friends and family. Join us, follow us, befriend us, tweet us and share us with your friends – won’t you, please? We would love for you to follow us for future contests and promotions.

Let us know what you think!  Happy Spring!

Our Italian Table

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