Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kata Robata and Dessert Gallery

We've been wanting to try this Japanese "fusion" place since the Oyster Throwdown. They were one of the first ones to cook their entries at the throwdown, and we were still eating at the time, so we missed them, but we had heard and read good things, including them being called one of the Chronicle's food critic's best new restaurants of 2009. There was a high end Vietnamese place at this location (Kirby @ Richmond) before that I had wanted to try, but apparently it wasn't working out so the owners switched it to Japanese. I'm getting a little tired of all the sushi/hibachi places that are opening up, but this place is very different and pretty special.

The sushi chef at Kata Robata is apparently one of the best in Houston - supposedly the only person in Houston qualified to prepare fugu (blowfish), which is poisonous if prepared improperly. They have really fresh seafood, put uni (sea urchin roe) on top of anything like it's as common as lemon wedges, and will even serve actual wasabi (at a little extra cost) instead of the usual fake horseradish and mustard mix that's served everywhere else.

Not only is the sushi good, but they have a chef in the kitchen who prepares some really inventive dishes. For people who don't like seafood, there's plenty of pork and beef to be found. Checking out their specials on twitter since we've been has really made me want to go back, especially since we know how fresh their food is and the precision they use in putting everything together.

Ok, here's what we actually ate - we tried to get a nice selection of the variety of the whole menu:

- Tiger eye roll: good, simple roll. It's usually on my list at other sushi places, so it was good for comparison purposes. This one was really lightly fried on the outside so the cream cheese was just slightly warmed, but the salmon was still cool.

- Chopped scallops: mixed with a little spicy marinate and served on top of rice in a little nori pouch. The scallops were very fresh and creamy.

- Yellowtail nigiri: Kimmy doesn't usually go for much of the raw fish, but she's coming around, and this definitely helped push that along. the yellowtail was so fresh and tender that it just melted. Probably could have gone for some more, but we had more stuff coming.

- Uni and King crab spoons: crab topped with a generous bit of sea urchin roe and black caviar, with a sweet/savory dashi vinaigrette. Really delicious bites that leave their flavors to stay on your mind for a while.

- Kakuni pork belly: the pork belly is braised for 10 hours, so it's really tender, and the sauce around it was another sweet/savory broth. I really like the pork with a bit of the mustard that lined the plate - made me wish I had realized the mustard was there sooner, but there was a lot going on on that plate and it was dark in there. The thing that brought the whole dish together though was the super-buttery spinach at the bottom. The butter in the spinach mixed with the sweetness of the sauce around it was really tasty.

- Sizzling Seafood Yakisoba: To be honest, I just ordered a noodle dish because I wanted something to fill me up after all the little plates we were ordering, but this was really good on its own too. The shrimp and squid were perfectly cooked, with a little char on the bottom from the cast iron plate they were served on. And the chef got me again with the sweet/savory thing in the sauce that dressed the noodles. VERY good dish for what I was expecting to be a filler.

We were pretty stuffed after all that, but we noticed the Dessert Gallery next door. I'm not usually one for desserts, but Kimmy was curious to see if they had the pumpkin cheesecake there that she had read about. Sure enough they did, so we went ahead and got a slice, along with a 28 cent cup of super rich hot chocolate since it was 28 degrees outside - a temperature based special they had going on all weekend. Both were very good, the best part of the cheesecake for me was the thin bottom crust which actually tasted and felt like the top of a creme brulee.

Overall, Kimmy and I had a great evening out and really enjoyed the food - not bad at all for a last minute decision on a Friday night.

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Captain Tom's

Captain Tom's, the boat looking place on 1960 is the ONLY place to go in Houston for oysters and micheladas. Ok, maybe not the ONLY place, but it's certainly one of the best. And we've heard the same thing from plenty of people who didn't grow up in Cypress, so it's not because of any kind of Northwest Houston bias or anything, not that we have any. Everything is good here. We usually split a dozen oysters (or two) and their seafood platter, which has fried everything (I like the stuffed crab the best). When it's cold, I like to get a cup of gumbo. Their gumbo is a really good "middle of the road" style. I say that because I tend to like a really dark gumbo, but many people don't, so I can appreciate the best of the lighter side too, and the gumbo at Captain Tom's is one that probably everyone would like.

The oysters are always $4.95/dozen, and they are best when the water is coldest, so when we went before our wedding in December around the time it snowed, they were some of the fattest and sweetest we've had.

If you're not familiar with micheladas, it's a beer cocktail made with whatever beer you want - it's not that important - and a sauce whose ingredients can vary, but the basics are lime juice, hot sauce, and soy or worcestershire sauce. At Captain Tom's, they'll toss a raw oyster in there for you too. One of my favorite beverages, and it goes perfectly with their oysters and seafood, which is why at least half the people there at any give time will be drinking one. We didn't take a picture of it specifically, but you can see it behind our tray of oysters in the last picture below.

The most amazing part of this place is the atmosphere, slanted floor, and the servers/bartenders/oyster guys. The same guys have been there for YEARS, and they can shuck 3 dozen oysters, dish out 2 bowls of gumbo, pour 5 micheladas, serve 4 platters of seafood from the ladies at the fryers, all while they're taking your order. Then, when you go to the register to pay, they have some kind of one word check system with the cashier to verify that what you say you ordered is right. One of our favorite places to go when we're already on that side of town, but it's probably worth the trip out there just for a late night oyster fix.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Guest Post

Dear friends,

Since Ryan and I didn't get to really try the food from our wedding, I'd like for someone to email me their review on the food that evening. I want to post a few of guest posts from that day along with any food pictures if you have any!


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Failed Brownies...

I haven't baked anything since Thanksgiving and wanted to bake some brownies. I really wanted some warm, rich, and gooey ones. Instead I tried a recipe even though I didn't have enough flour (I really wanted to bake without going to the store) and it doesn't look right at all.... I followed the recipe (minus the small amount of flour I thought I had enough of) but the amount of vanilla it said was so over powering. I have never thrown away a whole batch of something that I have baked before because normally at least some part of it is good or edible.... but this was not. Rolled it up into a nice log while it was still warm (cleaned up nicely) and threw it away. No photos of this one folks. I'm sure there will be other disasters to share.

33cent hot chocolate and buying a brownie from Dessert Gallery looks really good right about now.... Their special on hot chocolate/tea/coffee is still going until Sunday so go get some very rich good hot chocolate for a steal while you can!

Garden Grove- Disney Swan DisneyWorld

So we didn't take any pictures of our food while we were on vacation except for this one lunch at Garden Grove. You can also chose to have breakfast with some characters here too if you reserve it ahead of time. We went at an off time so the place was really empty. Surprisingly, the food still took a while to make it to our table. The entertaining thing while we were waiting was this older couple that were seated at the table right next to ours. Apparently, they have been eating here often because all the waitresses knew who they were and the old man kept hard candies in his pocket. He handed each waitress a piece of candy and they all chatted about their lives. Ryan and I tried eaves-dropping while eating the bread and butter they brought out. Ryan had braised spare ribs with fingerling potatoes and winter vegetables. I had a sort of Ruben haha. I am not the biggest sauerkraut fan so I had the dressing and sauerkraut on the side to add as I pleased. Of course when Ryan finish my food he puts it all back on. Anyways, the food was pretty good and they had some interesting things on their menu. Better than the food they have in the parks at least. Then again, I think McDonalds is better than the food in the park. I would try the restaurants at the various resorts next time instead of eating in the park- Garden Grove might be one of them again.

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*warning: this post may not be very interesting or sound so nice because Ryan is watching Jersy Shore and I find it distracting and just really... dumb! haha.


Stanton's is a burger place that Ryan and I have been meaning to try out for a long time. Especially since he lived right down the street from it off of Summer Street. It is very easy to pass this place up if you don't know where it is which is why we forget about it so often. Ryan knew how much I wanted to try this place with him and he went without me one day with Jonathan! (I did go to Straits without him so I guess we're even). We both grabbed some lunch there soon after. When we came in, we saw that it was a small convenience store, with an old sofa to wait on while they cook your food, an old computer monitor displaying a slideshow of their food, paper menus, and a regular chatting up with the owner at the check out area. We ordered our food, sat on the old couch, and watched this guy dressed in all sorts of drags holding onto a small radio playing who knows what come in to grab a beer and then sit outside to drink it. Got our food, headed back to our house, and enjoyed it! So much food for the price. The burger was huge and really worth the $3.99. I wouldn't call it the BEST burger we've had but it was good. I'd recommend it.

Find another review of this place here.

Other Burger joints I'd like to try: Hubcap, Sparkle, and Lankford. Ryan has already been to the last two. Maybe he'll post about them.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

TP Banh Bao

When Ryan and I were running errands down in Bellaire for our wedding, we had some time before I had one of my dress fittings. I was huuunnngggrryy but didn't want to eat too much before I tried on my dress. I wanted to find a place that sold some Banh baos or small soft steamed bun filled with typically a hard boiled egg, pork, chinese sausage, mushrooms, etc. Ryan googled for a small banh bao place and stumbled upon TP Banh Bao in the Hong Kong mall. Great! It was in between where we were and where we needed to be so we stopped by. We tried the regular "combo" banh baos- both steamed and fried and then tried a seafood fried one. It was the perfect snack. The fried ones were a little crispy on the outside but still soft inside. We need to try the bbq pork one next time. We'll be back at some point in time. Great thing to grab and walk around Hong Kong Mall if you're there.

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